EKN Trackside: 2019 Challenge of the Americas – Tucson Saturday Report
Boswell makes bold return as Pickett scores his first at the Challenge
The first half for Challenge of the Americas 2019 season is closed out, with the Round Three contested at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. The first day with no rain for the premier winter series on the left coast after two days of wet weather racing at CalSpeed last month. Today was mostly cloudy with the sun peaking through at times, with temperatures in the 60s and less wind then what blew through during Friday practice. The near 8/10-mile course provides great racing, and we saw that all day long. Qualifying sessions were close, and the racing was clean throughout the categories.
It appeared to be a tight field for the win in the Senior Rok qualifying session with the top seven within eight hundredths of a second with championship leader Colby DuBato (PKS / Ricciardo) at the top of the time sheets. Cooper Becklin (GKH / Birel ART) and Senior rookie Eddie Shimmon (SM / Tony Kart) were top-three, separated by one hundredth. Veteran racer Wesley Boswell (SM / Tony Kart) entered just to provide more coaching opportunities with Shimmon on Friday, and was talked into racing for the weekend. Boswell was eighth in the session. The Prefinal began with drivers within the top-eight getting together at the opening corner. Everyone continued, but shuffled up the field. Eventually, Boswell put himself at the front to score the win over Jace Denmark-Gessel (RPM / Tony Kart). From the pole position, Boswell laid down consistent laps to pull away from DuBato, who jumped out to second early. The 2003 SuperNationals winner led all 22 laps for the victory, out front by three-seconds. The fight for second went down to the wire as Becklin took the spot with Jordan Redling (EsTeam / VemmeKart) grabbed the third spot of the podium over Bijoy Garg (SSM / Exprit) and Dubato.
The GFC chassis dominated the day in the Shifter Senior Rok division. Hunter Pickett set fast time in qualifying as the only driver to dip below the 49-second mark over his teammate Kol Bailey. It was Bailey with the holeshot win in the Prefinal with Pickett able to jump back to second after falling behind Ron White (RWR / CRG) early. Pickett pulled off the holeshot victory in the Final, jumping out front and leading all 22 laps for his first series win, and the first for GFC chassis. White was able to hold off Bailey for the second step on the podium with Zach Pettinicchi (VRP / Formula K) fourth and Prescott Campbell (MRC / Aluminos) in fifth. Championship leader Brian Keck (RWR / CRG) was in the top-five fight until contact dropped him to the tail, finishing 13th.
Shifter Masters Rok point leader Rod Clinard (CRG Nordam) extended his advantage at the top of the standings with a sweep of Round Three. Clinard was challenge all day by Florida driver Victor Jimenez (RPG / Tony Kart). While he kept the pressure on, Jimenez was unable to work past Clinard at all throughout the day. Leading wire-to-wire, Clinard won by 1.5 seconds. Former series champion Mike Jones (DKC / Sodikart) came up from sixth to grab the final step on the podium ahead of Friday top driver Nick Firestone (DR Kart) and Nathan Stewart (DKC / Sodikart).
Former series champion Billy Cleavelin (RPG / Kosmic) helped his chances at another shot at the title with his second victory of 2019. The day was a challenge, yet a sweep for Cleavelin for Round Three. After edging out Nick De Graaf (VemmeKart) for the fast time in qualifying, Cleavelin held off Derek Wang (FTK / Tony Kart) for the win in the Prefinal. The Final included all three getting away from the field to decide the winner. De Graaf, who ran the quickest lap of the race, took the lead for a few laps until Cleavelin retook the spot. The veteran was tough to get back around, and held on for the victory. After De Graaf missed out on his shot at Cleavelin, Wang took advantage to steal the second spot from De Graaf. Defending champion Erik Jackson (VemmeKart) trailed in fourth with Tim Meyer (Kosmic) in fifth.
The race in the Senior 100cc class was one of the great races on the day. Round One winner Adam Kasick (FDM / CompKart) set fast time in qualifying before dropping to fifth in the Prefinal as Everest Fedler (FDM / FA Kart) took the win in the Prefinal. It was nearly a different leader every lap in the Final, with five drivers in the lead pack. Fedler and Logan Calderwood (Tony Kart) were leading the most, until Kasick knifed his way to the point. He led the last few laps, holding off the challenges to grab his second victory of 2019. Fedler grabbed second with Colby DuBato (PKS / Ricciardo) keeping his podium streak intact, jumping from fifth to third in the last lap. Cooper Becklin (GKH / Birel ART) was fourth with Calderwood dropping to fifth. Jimmy Gregory (K&K) ran unchallenged in the Masters 100cc division.
Forward Direction Motorsports took two wins on the day, as Macy Williams grabbed her first series victory in Junior Rok. Ethan Ho (APM / RedSpeed) set the pace all day, posting fast lap in qualifying and leading throughout the Prefinal. Williams started the Final third, and latched on the bumper of Ho once the green flag waved. Williams studied Ho for the first 20 laps, before making her move. Ho began running a defensive line but left enough room as Williams dove to the inside at turn five. She would defend strong on the final circuit, reaching the checkered flag first for the victory. Ho settled for second, his third straight podium, with Round Two winner William Ferguson (SSM / Exprit) completing the podium. Liam Letzsch (CBM / FA Kart) was fourth with AJ Zarcone (Fullerton) completing the podium.
It was a sweep on the day for Mini Rok championship leader Logan Toke (Top Kart). Toke was top qualifier and led wire-to-wire in the Prefinal to start the main event from the pole position. Round Two winner Enzo Deligny (Tony Kart) challenged Toke in the Final, and led the majority of the race. Toke was able to slip past Deligny on the final circuit, reaching the checkered flag first. Deligny was able to steal the bonus points for fast lap of the race, with Anthony White (CRG) beating Ian Qiu (PDB) for the final podium spot. Ethan Thorne (VemmeKart) completed the top-five.
Filippo Sala (VemmeKart) kept his win streak alive, grabbing the third victory of the season in Micro Rok. Sala swept the action on the day, leading wire-to-wire in both the Prefinal and Final after setting fast time in qualifying. Zachary Walrod (Benik) jumped from third to second at the start of the Final, taking the runner-up spot with Gage Jarvis (Benik) beating Sydney Cassels (VemmeKart) for the third step on the podium.