EKN Trackside: 2018 Challenge of the Americas – PKRA Preview Part 2
Chase for Rok Cup International Final tickets 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.
Yesterday, EKN provided the first of two previews for the Challenge of the Americas Phoenix weekend, including the Junior, Mini and Micro Rok categories as well as the two Briggs divisions. Today is the review of the Rok Senior, Masters, Shifter Senior and Shifter Masters categories.
A number of drivers have used the Challenge of the Americas to launch their international karting careers. This year, a new name is projected to join the list of prominent Challenge champions. The Senior Rok division has a number of drivers looking to establish themselves at the top level. Colin Neal has already gotten the 2018 season started off at the top of the podium, winning at the WKA Daytona KartWeek. The VemmeKart USA driver from Ohio is making the trek west to compete in his first Challenge event. A handful of local drivers are looking to start the championship chase off right, including Jim McKinney (FA Kart), Matt England (Vemme), Jenson Altzman (Exprit) and Bailey Murphy (Deadly). Other drivers from Colorado and California make up the 10-drivers entered.
The Challenge has always welcomed big fields and talented drivers in the Masters category. Moving to the Rok engine, it remains among the most competitive divisions with a solid list of drivers slated to compete in Phoenix. Last year’s Masters vice-champion David Pergande (Tony Kart) is back, searching for the top step of the championship podium. Erik Jackson (Vemme) is a national champion in karting, making a return to the Challenge in 2018. Jonathan Silva (CompKart) is among the top Masters drivers in the country, set to make a Challenge debut in Phoenix. Adam Kasick (CompKart) has shown speed before on the national level, ready to take on the Challenge. Aside from Pergande, all other drivers either hail from California or Colorado.
Six-speed action returns back to the Challenge with the Shifter Senior and Shifter Masters divisions. The Senior category is a great mix of young talent, looking to shine in the quickest engine package available under the Rok program. Nicky Hays (Ricciardo) is a two-time California champion, making the move to the shifter ranks. Alex Keyes has spent the last few years at the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, making a return to his roots and the Challenge. Zach Pettinicchi (Tony Kart) is another California title winner, looking to add to his experience behind the wheel at the Challenge. Enzo Prevost (Aluminos), Alejandro Marquez (Formula K) and John Nielsen (Tony Kart) also hails California. Ryan Martin represents Team Canada. The Masters group should be a battle all weekend long with local driver Nick Firestone (DR Kart) and Jason Campbell (DR Kart) taking on Californian Kalvin Chen (CRG) and Canadian Rob Kozakowski.