EKN Trackside: 2019 Challenge of the Americas – Tucson Sunday Report
Becklin scores second victory of season as Pickett doubles up on weekend
The second half of the 2019 Challenge of the Americas is underway as Round Four completed Sunday at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. The warmest day of the weekend with bright sunshine over the near 8/10-mile circuit that is replicated after the Suzuka track in Japan. The track provides for great racing, and the near 100 drivers on hand did just that throughout every session, closing out the second event of the premier winter series on the west coast.
Cooper Becklin has established himself as the top driver in the championship chase for Senior Rok, scoring his second victory of the season. The Senior rookie came from third on the grid to drive away from the field with Prefinal winner Jake Drew (HRT / Kosmic). The two swapped the lead a few times until Becklin (GKH / Birel ART) secured the spot and drove away to a 1.1-second advantage over Drew. Top qualifier Jim McKinney (Ruthless / Exprit) was able to secure the third spot after Saturday podium finisher Jordan Redlin (EsTeam / VemmeKart) retired with two laps remaining. That moved Saturday winner Wesley Boswell (Tony Kart) up to fourth with fast lap of the race and Bijoy Garg (SSM / Exprit) into fifth.
Hunter Pickett has found the sweet spot with the new GFC chassis this weekend, earning both victories in the Shifter Senior Rok division. Pickett drove away to wins in the Prefinal and Final, highlighted by a nine-second advantage in the 22-lap main event. The fight was for second with top qualifier Ron White (RWR / CRG) coming from 14th on the grid after a DNF climbing his way through to earn the runner-up spot once again. He held off Kol Bailey (GFC) for the position at the line, with Keawn Tandon (DR Kart) and Prescott Campbell (MRC / Aluminos) completing the top-five.
Rod Clinard (CRG Nordam) has a commanding lead in the Shifter Masters Rok division, picking up a third victory on the year. Clinard was able to grab the Prefinal and Final wins. The main event was holding off a charging Mike Jones (DKC / Sodikart). Clinard led all 22 laps with Jones making it a Texas 1-2 finish. Colorado driver Ben Schermerhorn (Birel ART) bounced back from a DNF in the Prefinal, coming from 14th to finish third, recording fast lap of the race. Top qualifier Victor Jimenez (RPG / Tony Kart) ended up fourth with Jason Campbell (DR Kart) a close fifth.
The most competitive class of the weekend was the Masters Rok class. The Prefinal was a great preview of what was to come in the Final, as the top four crossed the line scrambling for position. Derek Wang (FTK / Tony Kart) set fast time in qualifying and came out of the Prefinal with the victory. Erik Jackson (VemmeKart), Saturday winner Billy Cleavelin (RPG / Kosmic) and Nick De Graaf (VemmeKart) were in the hunt all day, and continued to challenge for the victory in the Final. Wang led a majority of the race with the other vying to be the lead challenger. De Graaf assumed that role, and was able to grab the lead with a few laps remaining. Wang challenge De Graaf multiple times into turn one, and was unable to reclaim that top spot. De Graaf grabbed his first win of the year with Jackson slipping past Wang to give VemmeKart a 1-2. Timothy Meyer (Kosmic) was able to join the fight late thanks to the heavy racing, working past Cleavelin for the fourth spot. Cleavelin did earn the fast lap of the race, which could help in the title chase.
Colby DuBato (PKS / Ricciardo) continued his podium streak in the Senior 100cc division, grabbing his first victory of the season. Sunday was a perfect day, earning maximum points toward the championship chase. DuBato was able to get away clean in the Final, as Logan Calderwood (Tony Kart) attempted a charge but did not close in enough to challenge. Jackson Dunn (CompKart) won the battle for third over Forward Direction Motorsports teammates Everest Fedler (FA Kart) and Saturday winner Adam Kasick (CompKart), who lost a chain at the final corner and coasted across the line. Jimmy Gregory (K&K) claimed his fourth victory on the year in the Masters 100cc division, again voted as the favorite driver of the weekend by the paddock.
A fourth different driver has won in the four different rounds in Junior Rok, as Ethan Ho (APM / RedSpeed) secured that elusive Challenge victory. Ho started second in the main event as Liam Letzsch (CBM / FA Kart) set fast time in qualifying and won the Prefinal. After few laps battle, Ho assumed the lead and drove away to lead the majority of the 22-lap Final for his first series victory. Letzsch was able to win the battle for second over Round Two winner William Ferguson (SSM / Exprit) with Saturday winner Macy Williams (FDM / FA Kart) in fourth. Hallie Schroeder (Ruthless / Exprit) won the fight for fifth.
Enzo Deligny (Tony Kart) evened up the score on the win column in Mini Rok, scoring his second of the season. Deligny fought with two-time winner Logan Toke (Top Kart) all day, as Toke grabbed the advantage in qualifying. Deligny held the top spot at the end of the Prefinal, and jumped out to a big lead early to pace the field for all 16 laps in the Final for the victory. Toke was regulated back to fifth during the race, as Anthony White (CRG) charged from 11th on the grid to solidify himself on the second step of the podium. Ian Qiu (PDB), who posted fast lap of the race, won the fight for third to grab his first Challenge podium over Ryan Cassels (VemmeKart).
The streak continues for Filippo Sala in Micro Rok, earning a fourth straight victory. Sala (VemmeKart) was unable to sweep the day as Zachary Walrod (Benik) grabbed fast time in qualifying. Sala ended the session fourth, but drove his way to the win in the Prefinal. Sala led all 16 laps of the Final for his fourth victory in 2019. Gage Jarvis (Benik) was second, posting fast lap of the race, as he trailed Sala all race long. A jump start penalty would take Jarvis off the podium, moving Sydney Cassels (VemmeKart) to second and Walrod to third.
Challenge of the Americas closes out the 2019 championship chase to decide who earns the Rok Cup International Final and ROK the RIO tickets at the Simraceway Performance Karting Center in Sonoma, California on April 5-7.