EKN Trackside: Cold Stone Rotax Pan American Challenge 2014 – Saturday Report

Claman-Demelo and Cooper in position for victories, with Brueckner and Schiavo securing pole positions for Prefinals

Saturday at the Cold Stone Rotax Pan American Challenge was about survival. Three rounds of heat races for all seven categories at the GoPro Motorplex took the drivers from qualifying to race mode, setting the stage for Championship Sunday. For some, it was maintaining their position through the day, while others hoped to recover from a tough outing in Friday’s timed session. The weather was perfect, and the intensity continued to increase as we worked through the day, with the final heat races turning up the pressure and the final chance for drivers to gain positions for the Prefinal grid.

Two wins put Zachary Claman-Demelo on the pole position in Senior Max (Photo: Studio52.us)

Two wins put Zachary Claman-Demelo on the pole position in Senior Max (Photo: Studio52.us)

CRG-USA Senior Max
The top-seven broke away to begin the opening heat race for Senior Max with polesitter Dan Roeper (Birel) pacing the field. Dalton Sargeant (CRG) was up to second early, but he and Thomas Issa (Kosmic) were shuffled back and off the lead draft. Roeper continued to lead the way until Kyle Kirkwood (Tony Kart) put on the pressure. Kirkwood took over the lead on lap four, but was shuffled back two laps later to fifth. That put Zachary Claman-Demelo (Intrepid) to the point with Roeper looking for a way back to the front. Lap eight, Roeper was into the lead but Demelo fought back the following lap, and the two made contact at the hairpin. Zachary came away with the lead as Roeper lost ground and eventually lost second to Kirkwood, who fought his way forward the previous laps. At the checkered, Claman-Demelo scored the win over Kirkwood and Roeper. Roger Ralston Jr. (FA Kart) and Elliot Finlayson (Tony Kart) made up the top-five.

Kirkwood made it look easy in the second heat as he went green to checkered for the race win. At the drop of the green, he held with Roeper through the opening corners and took the lead at turn four. From there, fast laps of the race helped him to pull away to a two-second victory. The fight was for second with Roeper, Demelo and Sargeant. Demelo moved to second on lap three, but Roeper fought back late in the race. His attempt back-fired, with Demelo and Sargeant dropping him back to fourth as they completed lap nine. Demelo held on for second with Roeper moving past Sargeant for third in the final corners. Luke Selliken (Kosmic) crossed the fifth but was penalized three positions for contact, moving Ralston to the position, Finlayson to sixth and Canadian Marco Signoretti (Energy) to seventh.

Fireworks began at the start of the third heat, beginning at the front. Contact between Kirkwood and Sargeant sent the OGP driver turn backwards in the middle of the field. Nearly everyone missed him until the final few making hard contact with him. Thankfully no one was hurt but both frontrunners and a few others were done for the race. Out front, Roeper and Demelo were along out front and ran nose to tail until the end. On lap nine, Demelo made a great move in the hairpin, taking over the lead and securing his second heat win of the day to lock up the pole position for the Prefinal. Roeper would be denied for a third time, and moved to the outside pole position for Sunday morning’s race. Five drivers fought for third with Finlayson able to hold off Ashley Rogero (Tony Kart), who continued to get quicker as the day went on and took advantage of the opening lap melee. Ralston was fifth with Morgan Healey (Tony Kart) putting two female drivers in the top-six.

Behind Demelo and Roeper on the starting grid for the Prefinal will be Ralston and Finlayson, with Kirkwood ending up fifth and Thomas Issa (Kosmic) sixth.

Ben Cooper was perfect through the three DD2 heat races (Photo: Studio52.us)

Ben Cooper was perfect through the three DD2 heat races (Photo: Studio52.us)

Dallas Karting Complex DD2/DD2 Masters
Super Pole winner Ben Cooper (Birel) prevailed in the opening heat race for the win. Both Ed Brand (Intrepid) and Fred Woodley (Maranello) worked past the three-time world champion, however by lap the halfway point, it was Cooper back at the front. Brand was able to secure the second spot from Woodley on lap seven, as the top three drove away. Canadian national champion Jeffrey Kingsley was fourth, after avoiding a spinning Eugene Brittz (CRG) on lap two. Fifth place was won by rookie Nathan Adds (Sodi Kart), holding off a charging Jonathan Kotyk (Tony Kart). Masters top qualifier Andre Fonseca (CRG) led all 10 laps in their race win. Florida Winter Tour champion Luis Schiavo (Intrepid) came on late, coming up just 57 thousandths short at the checkered flag. Elvis Stojko (Maranello) was third with Camilo Matiz (Tony Kart) fourth and Scott Roberts (Tony Kart) back to fifth.

Cooper added a second heat win with a flag-to-flag performance in Heat #2. Cooper got away quickly as the fight for second continued through the 10-lap event. Woodley was into the second spot as Reichelt and Brand were shuffled back. The other four karts of the top-five fought hard the entire time, with Brand using his experience to fight his way into the second spot. Kingsley ended up third over Woodley and Reichelt. Schiavo found more speed in the second heat, taking the win in Masters. Fonseca led early until Schiavo took over the point and scored the win. Stojko, a three-time world figure skating champion – improved as well, moving past Fonseca for second. John Cariato (Intrepid) was fourth with Matiz in fifth.

Just like he has shown all event, Cooper was on rails in the final heat race. Reichelt made his best start of the day, and stuck with the veteran for a few circuits until he fell back into the clutches of Kingsley and Brand. Cooper scored the win by three tenths, as Brand and Kingsley picked up the pace toward the end to record fast laps quicker then Cooper. Reichelt ended up fourth with Woodley in fifth, not showing the same pace he had in the morning sessions. Schiavo won his second straight heat in the Masters class, bringing Stojko with him. Fonseca fell to third with Matiz and Cariato making up the top-five.

Row one for DD2 will be Cooper and Brand, with Kingsley and Woodley in row two while Reichelt and Alan Rudolph (CRG), improving in each heat race after starting 13th, beginning the Prefinal in row three.

Junior rookie Nick Brueckner will lead the Junior Max field in the Prefinal (Photo: Studio52.us)

Junior rookie Nick Brueckner will lead the Junior Max field in the Prefinal (Photo: Studio52.us)

PSL Karting Junior Max
Karts were all over the place at turn one to being the opening heat race. During the opening lap skirmish, pole sitter Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) spun in turn one, sending the field flying around him and collecting a number of drivers. As they completed the opening lap, Nick Brueckner (Tony Kart) was in the lead with Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) trailing in the second position. The top five drivers were together with Darren Keane (Tony Kart), Aiden Keel (Birel) and Trenton Estep (Tony Kart). Keane was into the second spot at the halfway point, staring into a half-second advantage Brueckner was holding. Keane closed the gap but never made a move as the top-five remained unchanged with Brueckner scored the win. Team USA member Austin Versteeg (Kosmic) came from 32nd to 10th in the race, earning the hard charger award and helping his cause for a better starting position on Sunday.

It was a better start for the Junior field in Heat #2, with no major issue through the opening lap. Gangi led the field to the green and remained at the point for the 10-laps. Brueckner slotted into second, and kept on the bumper of Gangi the entire way. Gangi ran the fast laps of the race to keep the top-five at bay, scoring the race win. Estep was third with Keane in fourth and Robb fifth. Versteeg had another stellar drive, picking off a few positions at the beginning a then a handful at the end to sit 14th.

The third and final heat for Junior Max was a barn burner. Gangi and Brueckner have showed to be the top two, and went to battle in the final 10-lap event. Gangi led after the opening lap with Brueckner taking over on lap two. Gangi responded on lap six, and the two made contact on the exit of the hairpin. Brueckner continue on in the fourth position with Gangi further back. Estep slid through for the lead Keane into second. On lap seven, Brueckner made a great move at the hairpin to go from fourth to second, with Gangi fighting his way to third on lap eight. On the final lap, Gangi and Brueckner went at it again in the hairpin, this time making hard contact. Brueckner nearly went over as he they made contact, but both continued on. Up front, Estep scored the victory with Keane in second. Brueckner continued to third with Samuel Lupien (FA Kart) moved to fourth with Robb in fifth. Gangi ended up 10th.

Brueckner will take over the pole position for the Prefinal, with Estep moving up to the front row following his heat win. Keane and Robb fill out row two, with Aussie Jack Black starting fifth and Keel in sixth. Gangi will start the Prefinal seventh after his two finishes that were 10th and 14th.

Max Papis remains perfect in Masters Max (Photo: Studio52.us)

Max Papis remains perfect in Masters Max (Photo: Studio52.us)

Orsolon Racing Masters Max
Top qualifier Max Papis (Tony Kart) led all eight laps of the opening heat race. Scott Roberts (Tony Kart) pressured on the opening lap, but he was under attack from a charging Chris Bogart (Tony Kart). The order would remain unchanged to the checkered flag, with Papis holding a two-second advantage. Chad Wallace (Kosmic) moved to fourth from sixth with John Robischeaux (Kosmic) dropping to fifth from third.

‘Mad Max’ was on point once again in Heat #2, leading all eight laps of the race. Roberts was able to defend the second position, but just did not have the speed Papis did. Bogart moved up to third this time, with Wallace coming through to fourth and Robischeaux down to fifth again.

The top two positions were the same in the final heat race, with Papis keeping a perfect score after two days by winning Heat #3. The margin was over three seconds, with Roberts in second. Robischeaux was third with Bogart running fourth until he retired early, moving Chad Wallace into the position with Derick Boyle (Intrepid) in fifth.

Enzo Fittipaldi retains the pole position in Mini Max (Photo: Studio52.us)

Enzo Fittipaldi retains the pole position in Mini Max (Photo: Studio52.us)

Race Tech Development Mini Max
Enzo Fittipaldi (Tony Kart) led all 8 laps of the opening heat race, with a six kart lead pack behind him. Riley Dickinson (Tony Kart) was the hard charger of the leaders, coming from seventh on the grid to end up second ahead of Michael d’Orlando (Tony Kart) and Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik). Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) came from ninth to fifth with Filip Niemkiewicz (CRG) in sixth. The hard charger of the race was Lance Fenderson (Benik), the fast driver in final practice, who was unable to start his engine at qualifying. Fenderson drove from 25th to 10th in just eight laps.

Michael d’Orlando broke up the perfect record for Fittipaldi, scoring the win in Heat #. Fittipaldi was shuffled back to third on the opening lap with DeFrancesco and d’Orlando moving past. Fittipaldi jumped to second and with a push from d’Orlando, moved into the lead as DeFrancesco dropped to fifth. The top two broke away to settle the race, with d’Orlando moving into the lead as they took the white flag. Fittipaldi tried a few times to get inside, including the final corner, but d’Orlando shut the door. DeFrancesco fought back to third, with Harry Coulton (Birel) improving to fourth after a wreck in Heat #1. Fellow Mini rookie Nicholas d’Orlando was fifth as he worked past Niemkiewicz in the final stages of the race. Fenderson improved to finish 13th.

A long train of karts made up the early lead group for the Mini Max category in their third heat, once again led by DeFrancesco early on. By lap three, Fittipaldi was back into the lead with his drafting partner Michael d’Orlando right on his bumper. The lead group shrunk down to just five with two to go. Michael put the pressure on Fittipaldi once again, but Enzo fended off the attempts, scoring his second heat win and the pole position for the main event. D’Orlando will start in second once again following his runner-up result. Canadian Matthew Latifi (Tony Kart) recorded his best result of the day, fighting up to third with DeFrancesco fourth and Dickinson fifth.

The front row remains the same to open up Sunday’s racing, with DeFrancesco still third and Dickinson up to fourth. Niemkiewicz and Latifi will go from row three.

Reece Gold remains the pole sitter in the Micro Max category (Photo: Studio52.us)

Reece Gold remains the pole sitter in the Micro Max category (Photo: Studio52.us)

Carolina Motorsports Park Micro Max
Reece Gold (Tony Kart) and Jak Crawford (Benik) on the front row. Around row three, Juan David Martinez (Intrepid) was sent sideways and made the field scramble around to avoid him. Out front, Gold, Justin Arseneau (CRG) and Crawford set the pace for the 8-lap event. Dillon Defonce (FA Kart), Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart) and Sebastian Montoya (Birel) locked up and were able to reel in the top three by the completion of lap three. Montoya would be the only driver to move up the order, with Gold holding on for the win over Arseneau with Crawford third. Montoya worked up to fourth with Ugochukwu fifth and Defonce in sixth. A great drive was put in by Tyler Maxson (Tony Kart) and Humberto Porrata Jr. (Birel), coming from 17th to eighth and 20th on the grid to finish 10th.

Crawford jumped out to the lead to begin Heat #2, as Gold fell back to third on the opening lap. Arseneau went off on lap three, mixing up the lead group as Crawford and Gold hooked up and broke away. A group of three began closing with Ugochukwu leading the way. Gold moved to the point as the white flag waved, with the top-five now together. Ugochukwu found his way into second, and was able to work past Gold for the lead and the win. Gold settled for second with Crawford third. Montoya finished fourth with Defonce fifth.

Gold would once again fall back once again at the start, dropping to fifth as Arseneau moved to the point. It was short-lived, as Montoya took the point for a lap before Ugochukwu moved his way to the point, with Arseneau falling to the tail of the train. Crawford would become the fourth different leader, taking the position on lap five, and holding on to the win. Ugochukwu finished just seven thousandths off in second. Montoya was third with Gold and Arseneau making up the top-five.

The point tally after the three heat races put the same top two on the front row for the Prefinal, as Gold and Crawford finished in a tie, with the breaker going to the Super Pole winner. Ugochukwu improved to start third with Montoya up to fourth. Areneau and Defonce will start from row three.

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