From the Tower: Rotax Challenge of the Americas 2015 – Phoenix

Picture perfect weekend in Phoenix as series championships continue chase

2015 Rotax Challenge of the Americas logoThanks to our popular EKN Trackside Live program, we spend our entire racedays up in the tower, watching every on-track session, so not much time is spent roaming the paddock for the stories. This new ‘From the Tower’ column provides us with the opportunity to delve deeper into some of the interesting stories develop over a race weekend, those that may or may not have been included in the daily race reports. – DC

Beautiful weather greeted the EKN staff in Phoenix this past weekend for the second stop of the 2015 season, and for the Rotax Challenge of the Americas. Nearly 100 drivers took part in the third and fourth rounds of the six-race championship series, set to crown champions next month in Sonoma, including four ticket to the 2015 Rotax Grand Finals. It was nearly 100 degrees difference from that of the northern portion of the United States and parts of Canada to the picture perfect conditions in Glendale, Arizona at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association.

Daily Wrap

This weekend, EKN launched a new segment as part of the Trackside Live program. The ‘Daily Wrap’ videos give you a video recap of what happened, with words direct from the voice of EKN – Rob Howden, along with interviews from the key drivers or winners on the weekend. Below are the three ‘Daily Wrap’ videos from the weekend.

Track Tough to Tame



The circuit in Tucson last month provided some of the best racing the Rotax Challenge of the Americas has seen in its eight year history. Moving northwest to the PKRA circuit, the weekend became a battle against the track more then the other competitors. The surface is smooth, but the back and forth nature of the layout challenges the drivers strength and endurance. Passing opportunities are limited, so drivers need to be quick and decisive when overtaking another driver. Consistency was key, along with finding a dancing partner for the fast lap in qualifying to keep yourself toward the front.

The qualifying sessions for the Senior Max category were quite embarrassing. Rather than trying to lay down the quickest lap possible, drivers seemed to worry more about who they were following or around. It seems the art of laying down the perfect lap without effecting others on the track has been lost. Finding the right area of the track, judging the distance behind another driver to gain that draft, while not be hampered by a possible mistake not of your own. Luke Selliken seemed to learn from Mike Rolison of the RPG stable, scoring the pole position both days without any incident.

Rookies Continue to Shine

Christian Brooks has remained near the front of the field both weekends, claiming his first victory on Saturday (Photo: EKN)

Christian Brooks has remained near the front of the field both weekends, claiming his first victory on Saturday (Photo: EKN)

The winter programs allow the young rookies to develop quicker and prepare for the upcoming summer season of racing. This year, a few drivers have taken the opportunity of the Rotax Challenge of the Americas and put themselves onto the big stage against the big names. Christian Brooks is no stranger to winning, having scored the 2011 Mini Max US Grand Nationals victory, and was the 2012 Challenge Mini Max champion. The Nash Motorsportz driver came within three points of winning the Junior Max title last year, and has been successful in other programs across the country. Entering his Senior rookie season, Brooks adapted well to the front of the field having raced many of the same drivers in the Junior ranks in previous years. The 14-year-old solidified his shot at the championship and Rotax Grand Finals ticket by earning the victory on Saturday. Staying out of trouble Sunday, he landed on the podium for a third straight race and retains the championship lead heading into the finale. The youngest in the field is showing the maturity of a champion, and his final test comes in Sonoma.

Crawford's kart during the repair time before the restart of Sunday's main event (Photo: Jak Crawford)

Crawford’s kart during the repair time before the restart of Sunday’s main event (Photo: Jak Crawford)

Brown is among the younger drivers in the Junior Max field, and finished on the podium Sunday during his debut in Tucson. The Ryan Perry Motorsport driver backed it up in Phoenix, ending the practice day Friday as the quickest driver. He went on to finish runner-up in both Prefinals and then third for each of the main events this past weekend. While the overall title is likely out of reach, Brown will enter the finale third in points with a chance to finish the year on the championship podium.

Keeping with the youthful spirit, Mini Max rookie Jak Crawford is also making headlines this season. The Texan won all six main events in Micro Max and the nine-year-old was given a waiver to compete in the Mini Max division this season. Crawford has adapted to the larger chassis after testing during the winter, and is showing great race craft in the first two weekends. The Nash Motorsportz driver has landed on the podium three times in the four main events, and finds himself in contention for the championship. The runner-up on Sunday nearly was missed after getting involved in the red flag incident, and needing several sets of hands to adjust his chassis after getting damaged in the wreck.

Four Races, Four Different Winners

Sunday's victory was Mason Marotta's first in Senior Max since the opening weekend of the 2010 series in Phoenix (Photo: EKN)

Sunday’s victory was Mason Marotta’s first in Senior Max since the opening weekend of the 2010 series in Phoenix (Photo: EKN)

All but the Micro Max category will see the championship go down to the wire, which is still mathematically available depending on the results of the finale weekend. Two of the six categories however have more than three drivers in the championship chase, thanks to the diversity of the race winners. In the Mini Max category, six drivers enter the finale within striking distance thanks to the four different winners in the opening four rounds. The last time it happened was since 2011, when five drivers won the first five Finals, only to see eventual champion Royal McKee earn his second of the year at the finale. For the Senior Max division, the last time five different drivers won in the opening rounds was back in 2010 (Menezes, Marotta, Coplen, Nekeel, Wimsett). Justin Coplen ended up earning another victory that year. In 2012, the Senior Max class had five different winners as well, but Aussie David Sera swept the Phoenix round that year. Like we saw in 2014 with the Senior and Junior titles going to the last lap of the last race, we may see that doubled for the finale this year in Sonoma.

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