Paddock Insider: 2021 Challenge of the Americas – CalSpeed
News and notes from Fontana
EKN’s Paddock Insider is part of our Trackside coverage, bringing you notes, updates and breaking news as it happens. The article will feature notes from trackside at the 2021 Challenge of the Americas presented by Royce & Baxter at the CalSpeed Karting facility during the February 26-28 weekend. EKN Managing Editor David Cole is trackside in Fontana, California to provide insider info will not be seen anywhere else. Please feel free to comment and discuss our coverage and today’s action in the EKN Global Members Discussion area below.
The Champs Are Here
This weekend, a total of six champions from 2020 are here this weekend. Shifter ROK champion Hunter Pickett (GFC) sat out Phoenix and is making his 2021 Challenge debut this weekend. Also making their 2021 debuts are Senior ROK champion Jake Drew (RPM / Tony Kart), moving over to Senior 100cc, Mini ROK champion Tristan Young racing in Junior ROK, and Micro ROK champion Nico Sarphati (GFC) making his Mini debut at the Challenge. Two-time Masters ROK title winner Derek Wang (EOS) and Shifter Masters ROK defending champ Kevin Woods (RWR / CRG) were both in Phoenix, with Wang picking up two victories to start out the season on top.
This weekend for Challenge of the Americas, we have a total of three father/son duos racing on the weekend. Under the Forward Direction Motorsports tent are two pairs, including Steve Dunn and Jackson Dunn along with David Fedler and Everest Fedler. Each pair are racing in the Masters 100cc and Senior 100cc categories respectively. Steve and David are new to karting, having raced Briggs 206 at home and made their 2-cycle debuts at the PKRA event last month. All four drivers were racing in Phoenix, with a third pair joining the mix this weekend. Carlos Calderon has been a longtime Aluminos driver, and nearly pulled off the victory at ROK the RIO last year in Masters 100cc. His son Mateo Calderon is making his Challenge debut, starting his third year behind the wheel. Family again is why many of us are in the sport. Karting gives us time together with dad and mom, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, along with grandparents.
Trash In the Wind
The majority of the paddock was already setup by Thursday with teams and drivers taking part in the unofficial practice day run by the track. Unfortunately, strong winds with gusts up to 60mph blew through the paddock Wednesday night, Thursday morning. The GFC operation suffered the most loss, with their full tent and ez-ups getting the brunt of the damage from the winds. Thankfully, the paddock stepped up to provide them with spare tents to use for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The majority of the teams had their canopy removed overnight Thursday as the winds were still strong when the sun went down. Today, the wind has died down with the sun shinning as the temperatures are expected to reach the mid 70s.
As of this morning, Challenge of the Americas is welcoming its largest event in the 14-year history of the program. Now into the fourth season under the ROK Cup USA banner, the program has eclipsed the 140-mark for entries with 145 as of Friday morning. The 10 divisions will compete this weekend, with Senior 100cc over 30 and the two shifter categories both around the 20 driver mark. What is also new for the Challenge is the track direction, competing around the Grande layout clockwise. For many of the locals, it is nothing new but those out of town and Challenge regulars it will be a day of learning the layout.
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EKN Global Members Discussion:
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Cool to see the Challenge of the Americas maintaining their growth amidst the COVID restrictions. I expect they’d have topped 165 or more if more Canadians could have come down to participate. This bodes extremely well for the finale in Sonoma and the 2022 edition of the series. Have fun everyone! I wish I was there.