EKN Trackside: 2018 Challenge of the Americas – PKRA Preview Part 1
New era for premier west coast winter series begins in Phoenix
The 2018 season is well underway with the first month nearly behind us. The second EKN Trackside Live event takes the crew west for the opening weekend of the Challenge of the Americas. The premier west coast winter series kicks off a new era of the program at its Arizona home, the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale on January 26-28. The 11th season of the Challenge begins a new look, as the Vortex Rok engine platform is now the powerplant of choice for the series, in addition to the Briggs & Stratton 206 divisions to make up the 2018 program.
The sound may be different, however, the sights will remain the same with the familiar fun and competitive atmosphere established by promoter Andy Seesemann with one of the best organization staff trackside for the Challenge. World trips were a major prize for the Challenge since the beginning and remains a part with the move to Rok. Tickets to the Rok Cup International Final world competition at the South Garda Karting facility in Lonato, Italy will be awarded to ALL Rok champions at the Challenge of the Americas in 2018. Seven drivers will have a chance to compete at the famed event in October against the best Rokkers in the world.
eKartingNews.com is back for a seventh straight year with Challenge of the Americas to provide industry-leading coverage from each of the three events for the 2018 season. Those karting enthusiasts not in attendance can listen from home or on the road to the EKN Live broadcast at www.ekartingnews.com/live with Rob Howden providing the play-by-play call. Daily reports and updates on the EKN Social Media network will fill up your timeline throughout the weekend.
In the first of two previews for the Challenge of the Americas Phoenix weekend, EKN looks at the Junior, Mini and Micro Rok categories as well as the two Briggs divisions.
The Junior Rok category will be one to watch over the three weekends as it is projected to be one of the largest contested. International driver Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart) has returned to the United States after spending most of 2017 in Europe. The New York driver is scheduled to be among the top contenders in Phoenix, coming off a runner-up at the Florida Winter Tour event in Palm Beach last weekend. A handful of Challenge regulars are looking to defend the home turf, including former Cadet champ Austin Torgerson (Tony Kart), Cooper Becklin (Birel ART), and Ethan Ho (Tony Kart). Torgerson won the West Coast Rok Shootout series in Sonoma last year, looking for more hardware in 2018.
The Briggs 206 categories have been a great addition to the Challenge program. Last year in its series debut, the grassroots engine package saw big fields battle in Senior and Junior competition. This year, more is expected in the non-championship category that races for weekend prizes only with one main event on Sunday preceded by three heat races over the two days. The weekend in Phoenix is an invasion from Canada with half the field coming from the country up north. K&K, a chassis manufacturer based in Canada, is fielding five drivers in the Senior category – Joey Buzza, Justin Goerz, Jimmy Gregory, Ryan Martin and Rob Kozakowski. PKRA regulars Jim McKinney (FA Kart) and Jenson Altzman (Exprit) will look to defend their home turf. Austin Torgerson (Tony Kart) is pulling double duty, now racing in the Briggs Senior class after shining in the Junior division last year. More drivers are expected to enter on-site.
Four different states are represented in the Briggs 206 Junior class. Oregon’s Ashton Torgerson (Tony Kart) is pulling double duty, just like his brother by racing both Rok and Briggs in an attempt to win three times on the weekend. Timmy Trostell III (Margay), Cole Tuttle (Tony Kart) and Baden Dunn (Praga) represent Colorado with Boden Barnwell (OTK) the lone California driver. Toby Longenecker (Gold) and Tyler Ruth (OTK) are the hometown favorites from Arizona.
The Mini Rok division has a number of young Cadet drivers from the western half of North America set to do battle. Ashton Torgerson (Tony Kart) is a former Micro champion at the Challenge, expected to be among the quick drivers in Phoenix. Kai Sorensen (Benik) and Logan Toke (Top Kart) are two of the top drivers from California, set to challenge at PKRA for the wins. Texas driver Chase Gardner (Vemme) is coming off top-10 performances at the WKA Daytona KartWeek event.
As with the Challenge, the Micro Rok category is one that will see growth in the coming months and years as the Rok Cup program is introduced to the younger drivers in the sport throughout North America. Two drivers are entered for Phoenix with local driver Gage Jarvis (Benik) and Colorado’s Rye Myers (Atomica).