|November 02, 2006 News
|Rotax Grand Finals 2006 Team Gearbox Preview – DD2
With a little over two dozen drivers from the United States, Mexico and Jamaica set to represent America’s Team Gearbox squad in two weeks for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals 2006 in Portugal, it’s time to have a look at the pilots who will take to the track in the DD2 category.
To discuss this year's event, click HERE for the Official EKN Discussion Thread.
To follow the event through EKN reports and results, bookmark HERE
| Jordon Musser|
Hometown: Coppell, TX
Occupation: Race Car Driver
Hobbies (besides karting): Engineering
Years Racing: 5 years
Rotax Max Series: North Texas Kartway
Grand Regional Finish: 1st
Grand National Finish: 1st
Musser, the three-time Rotax Senior Grand National Champion (2002-2004), will be the leader of the team as he attends his fourth Rotax Grand Finals. The former professional RC car driver burst into the karting world by winning at the 2002 Rock Island Grand Prix to qualify for the Rotax Grand Nationals. There, he shocked the paddock by taking a dominate win under the tutelage of mechanic Erik Kullenberg.
Along with taking two more Grand National victories, Musser continued to keep his karting skills sharp at the North Texas Kartway, along with now competing in the ICC division in the Southwest Regional Cup. This year, Musser moved to the DD2 division and won a dramatic Grand Nationals while driving with one hand as the shifter linkage broke, forcing him to shift with the other hand.
The Texas A&M Engineering student has learned a lot over the past few years while trying to earn a degree and paying for school, living expenses, and karting all on his own. Musser has an ‘engineering mind’ when it comes to racing, questioning everything in order to find the right set up each time he hits the track. Musser is also looking to begin racing a Spec Miata in SCCA competition in the near future and is focused on making the Runoffs podium in ’07. Before that happens, he’s looking to add a world title to his CV at this year’s Rotax Grand Finals.
| Justin Melton|
Hometown: Flower Mound, TX
Hobbies (besides karting): 360 Sprint cars, four-wheeling
Years Racing: 4 1/2 years
Rotax Max Series: North Texas Kartway
Grand Regional Finish: 3rd
Grand National Finish: 2nd
Along with Musser, Justin Melton has a lot of experience for his young age, especially went it comes to the Rotax program. The two-time RM1 Grand National Champion will be making his fourth trip as a driver to the Grand Finals. After winning the Rotax Junior Grand Nationals in 2003, the Texan moved up to the RM1 division in ’04, where he has been the top driver in the U.S. over the last few years.
Melton got started in karting after watching his cousin have fun racing around the local tracks. From there, he began racing at North Texas Kartways in the Junior Sportsman division and the rest is history.
Along with karting, Melton spent the 2006 season running in the O’Reilly American Sprint Car Series in the Sooner Region with the help of his dad, Mike Melton. In the future, Justin hopes to be running a USAC Midget or USAC Sprint car, possibly even a stockcar. Heading overseas, Melton hopes that his experiences in the past Grand Finals, along with his patient skills on the track, will help him leave Portugal with a high finish.
| Curtis Cooksey|
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Occupation: Kart Racing, Owner - Acceleration Kart Racing
Hobbies: Supermoto Racing, Motocross, Mountain Biking, Video Games
Years Racing: 15 years
Rotax Max Series: Gatorz Karting Cup
Grand Regional Finish: 7th
Grand National Finish: 3rd
A veteran in this sport, with an IKF Formula C title on his record, Curtis Cooksey got his start in karting when he was 18 when his dad bought him a couple karts after he broke his femur racing motocross bikes. In his first race in Lindon, UT in 1991, Curtis ran a Yamaha class. He had no clue what he was doing, but enjoyed every second of the experience. After a year in the KT100 division, Cooksey moved into shifter karts and that’s when he really fell in love with karting. In 1999, he established Acceleration Karting in Las Vegas to help kart racing grow and get the respect that it deserves.
This year was the first season that Cooksey battled in the Champ Car Rotax Kart Challenge, racing in the Gatorz Karting Cup. At the Grand Nationals in September, he was at the front all weekend long, finishing third in all three sessions (Qualifying, Prefinal, and Final), earning him a spot to Portugal. Also this year, the former IKF Shifter Grand National champion earned a victory at the Miller Motorsports Park Summer Shootout in Stock Honda, along with a runner-up finish in Rotax Senior. Simply put, the addition of Cooksey gives the American team a solid 1-2-3 punch.
For his first trip to the Grand Finals, Cooksey wants to perform his best as well as learn from the event in order to come back to the U.S. and win the 2007 Grand Nationals. Along with his wife Brooke, Jeff Nelson will be in the paddock helping Cooksey toward a Grand Finals title.
| Greg Thek|
Hometown: Miami, FL
Occupation: Racing Instructor
Hobbies (besides karting): NA
Years Racing: 17
Rotax Max Series: South Florida
Grand Regional Finish: 2nd
Grand National Finish: 4th
Greg Thek began his racing pursuits initially in karting at the age of 12 in Southern California. During his early karting years, he collected over 100 podium finishes, including many wins at all levels. This list included several club championships, a pair of IKF Regional Championships, and several temporary circuit pro race wins.
As he progressed into formula cars, Thek attended the Jim Russell Racing School, and was a finalist in their Graduate Runoffs. The following year, he completed a partial season in the Formula Russell Championship, collecting three wins, two second place finishes, and two-third place finishes for the year, despite having a limited schedule. He again ran a partial season the following year, this time in the Barber Dodge Series. Out of the four races completed in that season, Thek took a win at Road America, and also earned a second and a third place finish, maintaining a very high finishing average once again.
While continuing his racing pursuits, Greg works part-time as a racing instructor at the Skip Barber Racing School, as well as an instructor for automotive training/corporate events. After an eight-year absence from karting, Greg is happy to be back in the purest of motorsports with Homestead Karting, and is proud to be one of the drivers earning a spot on America’s Team for the Rotax World Finals in Portugal
| Nathan Mauel|
Hometown: Broken Arrow, OK
Occupation: Student, Northeastern State University-BA
Hobbies (besides karting): Riding my Yamaha FZ6-S motorcycle, fishing & some golf
Years Racing: 10 years
Rotax Max Series: KART Southern Regional
Grand Regional Finish: 4th
Grand National Finish: 5th
The 22-year old Northeastern State University student got his start in karting back in 1996 in Tulsa, OK aboard a 1974 Margay with Briggs & Stratton power, finishing second in his class. Since then, Mauel has competed in both sprint and speedway karting in the Briggs and Yamaha classes before moving to the Rotax division.
Mauel will be making his third appearance at the Grand Finals (’03 and ’05) with tough runs at both events, being a victim of turn one incidents in Egypt in his first outing while mechanical problems took him out while running 13th in Malaysia. In 2004, Mauel finished second at the Grand Nationals, but was not elected to the Grand Finals team per the rules set at that time by the Rotax Challenge.
Mauel loves the competitiveness in karting, along with the friendships he has created over the years. Traveling with his dad to each race and having fun is also what keeps Nathan involved in karting. Being level-headed and respecting others is Mauel’s philosophy on winning and he looks at Jimmie Johnson as someone in motorsports he admires for his positive attitude to racing and his connection to the fans. Mauel’s goals, other than doing well at this year’s Grand Finals, include graduating from school and being able to race full time.
Nathan would like to thank his sponsors: BA Lawn & Garden, Beason Motorsports, ChairCarePatio.com, Custom Powder Coating, Eric's Offroad, GoFaster Kart Racing School, MISI Kart Products, and mom & dad.
| January Grove|
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Occupation: Director of Staff Management - Taos IT Consulting
Hobbies (besides karting): Traveling
Years Racing: 3 years
Rotax Max Series: The Works & Marin Karting/AMD
Grand Regional Finish: 4th
Grand National Finish: 6th
January Grove is the first female pilot to represent the United States in the seven-year history of the Grand Finals. January came across karting by accident. While on vacation in Thailand, she saw an outdoor kart track. She rented a kart to try it out and fell in love. As soon as she got home, she began investigating where karts race around here hometown of San Jose. After attending a few kart schools at various local tracks, she began to race competitively.
In her very first Grand Nationals in 2004 at the XPLEX, Grove finished fifth in the RM1 (DD2) division. An 11th place finish at last year’s rain-soaked event didn’t stop her as she bounced back to finish sixth in September at Road America.
She will bring her determined skills to Portugal with her and will try to be consistent all weekend to move up through the field in her first trip to the Grand Finals. Grove would like to thank AMD and Marin Karting for their financial contributions to get her to this year’s Grand Finals.
Alejandro Cortinas (Mexico)
Driver bio to come shortly