EKN Trackside: 2020 Challenge of the Americas – Tucson Sunday Report
Calvo ends weekend with three victories while Pickett completes sweep
Oliver Calvo won three times in Tucson, twice in Senior 100cc and in Sunday's Senior ROK main event (Photo: EKN)
The ROK Cup USA Challenge of the Americas closed out the opening weekend of 2020 on Sunday at the Musselman Honda Circuit. Round Two was completed around the Tucson, Arizona circuit with perfect racing weather greeting the over 100 entries all weekend long. A number of drivers were able to complete a double win weekend, including GFC’s Hunter Pickett in the Shifter Senior ROK while Oliver Calvo ended with three victories in total in Senior ROK and Senior 100cc.
Calvo completed zero laps in the Prefinal and Final on Saturday in the Senior ROK division and thus, Sunday brought new hope to his bid for the championship battle. Calvo (LEM / Praga) set fast time in qualifying, edging out Saturday winner Jake Drew (FW / CompKart) as the two battled in the Prefinal. Calvo came away with the win and the two resumed their fight in the Final. Drew settled in behind Calvo for the 22-lap event, but never was able to challenge for the lead. Calvo secured his first COTA victory in the category. Drew and rookie Liam Letzsch (CB / FA Kart) completed the podium with Bijoy Garg (SSM / Exprit) and Ryan Martin (RWR / CRG) rounding out the top-five.
The Senior 100cc was a complete sweep on the weekend for Calvo (LEM / Praga) to set himself as the championship leader after the first event. Calvo set fast time and won the Prefinal cleanly, but was challenged in the Final. Defending champion Colby DuBato (PKS / Ricciardo) kept on Calvo’s bumper throughout the 22-lap race, taking over the lead late in the race. Their fighting late in the race allowed Toby Longenecker (Aluminos) – who started 15th and fought his way forward with fast laps of the race – to close in on the closing laps. On the final circuit, Longenecker was able to go from third to first for a brief moment until Calvo took back the lead. Calvo showed the way to the checkered flag for his third victory of the weekend. Longenecker held off DuBato to the line for the second spot. Eddie Shimmon (GFC) had his best result of the weekend in fourth as did Baden Dunn (FDM / CompKart) in fifth.
Hunter Pickett (GFC) put in a masterful performance in Shifter Senior ROK on the weekend. Pickett never relinquished the top spot all day Saturday, and continued on Sunday. Never putting a wheel wrong, Pickett scored the fast time in qualifying, won the Prefinal unchallenged and motored away on the opening circuit of the Final. After 22 laps, Pickett established a 3.3-second advantage to complete the weekend sweep. The fight was for second early with rookie William Ferguson (SSM / Exprit) holding off Jake French (FGM / Birel ART) early, as the 2019 Junior ROK champion kept the position to earn his first podium finish. Cole Shade (GFC) won the battle for fourth over Kolton Griffin (Pure / Tony Kart).
The Shifter Master ROK was a great category to watch all weekend long. On Sunday, two-time series vice-champion Nick Firestone (GFC) set the tone with fast time in qualifying and held on to win the Prefinal with a host of drivers behind him challenging for the position. Firestone grabbed the holeshot with Ben Schermerhorn (Birel ART) jumping from fifth to second over Jimmy McNeil (Aluminos). On lap three, McNeil was able to grab back the second spot and then the took the lead from Firestone on the next circuit. McNeil would put the pace down to get away from the field, establishing a 2.5-second advantage to take the checkered flag and earn his first COTA victory. The fight continued behind him for the second spot, with Neil Joseph (Cameron / CRG) securing the spot ahead of Saturday’s winner Kevin Woods (RWR / CRG). Mike Jones (DKC / Sodikart) came from the tail of the field after a DNF in the Prefinal to finish fourth, pushing Schermerhorn to fifth and Firestone to sixth.
Thing were shaken up in the opening lap of the Master ROK main event. Saturday victor and Prefinal winner Billy Cleavelin (RPG / Kosmic) made a slight mistake on the opening circuit, driving off course at turn four, falling to the tail of the field. Tim Meyer (HRT / Kosmic) came out with the lead but only for a couple laps until defending champion Derek Wang (BBR / FA Kart) took over the spot. Wang was able to pull away as the drivers behind him battled hard for the second spot, allowing him to establish a sizable lead quickly. Eventually, top qualifier Nick de Graaf (VemmeKart) assumed the position and tried to reel in Wang. The gap closed as the laps went on, but not enough time allowed de Graaf to challenge as Wang crossed the line as the winner. All the fighting early allowed Cleavelin to close back up quickly and knife through the field, coming across the checkered flag in third. Erik Jackson (JHM / Tony Kart) ended up fourth with Adam Dowler (Tony Kart) in fifth. Dowler was removed from the results for improper tires, moving Meyer to the position.
Junior ROK nearly saw a sweep on the day with Saturday winner Enzo Deligny (RPM / Tony Kart) setting fast time and winning the Prefinal. Deligny pulled away to a good lead early in the 22-lap main event, until Frankie Mossman (Nash / FA Kart) ran him down. By the final circuit, the fight was on. Mossman through it inside of Deligny in turn two, and came out with the lead. Mossman held on through the final corners to reach the checkered flag first for his first COTA victory. Deligny settled for second with AJ Zarcone (RPM / Tony Kart) earning another podium finish on the weekend in third. Macy Williams (CB / FA Kart) was fourth with Alex Berg (RPM / Tony Kart) coming up from 10th to fifth.
The Master 100cc race came down to a two driver battle. Nick de Graaf (MMK / Italkart) was able to fend off Saturday winner Tim Meyer (HRT / Kosmic) for the victory in the main event. Prefinal winner Stephen Brucker (JHM / Exprit) ran third with Dana Estes (VemmeKart) fourth and Reynaldo Nieves (FDM / CompKart) fifth.
Alex Berg (RPM / Tony Kart) was able to complete the weekend sweep in the Junior 100cc category. Berg drove to a 6.3-second advantage in the main event with Kiefer Peet (Redspeed) in second and Andrew Chapman (FDM / CompKart) completing the podium as Jacob Hoover (Birel ART) retired one lap early in fourth.
Christian Cameron (Tony Kart) scored the overall victory in the Mini ROK/Micro ROK race group. Cameron won by over three seconds ahead of Tristan Young (VemmeKart) and Alex Rantala (CRG). Nico Sarphati came out as the winner in the Micro division ahead of Kyle Drysdale (Nitro Kart) and Cypress Andruss (Formula K).
The ROK Cup USA Challenge of the Americas now focuses on the month of February, where Round Three and Four will be contested on the CalSpeed Karting facility in Fontana, California. The February 21-23 event will see numbers increase with the local contingent expected to boost numbers in all the 10 categories competing. EKN will be trackside once again for complete coverage.