EKN Trackside: 2022 Challenge of the Americas – PKRA Preview

Middle portion of 15th season of winter west coast series hits Phoenix

The second event of the 2022 Challenge of the Americas takes place this weekend (February 25-27) at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association. Rounds Three and Four of the 15th anniversary championship season will be contested at the Glendale, Arizona facility with unusual cooler temperatures forecasted for the weekend. Over 120 entries in the 10 categories competing will take on the challenging PKRA circuit.

The Challenge has visited the Phoenix Kart Racing Association 12 times in its past 14 seasons. The facility is owned and operated by the club, which has called the ‘Formula K Raceway’ home since 1982. It became nationally known in the late 90s, and has hosted many major events during its 40-year history. The facility is a multi-configuration, with the national circuit measuring out to 3/4-mile with 12 turns in the clockwise direction. It features a long straight, banked corners, esses and off-camber sections.

eKartingNews.com is proud to be entering the 11th season of Trackside Live program with Challenge of the Americas. Legendary voice Tim ‘Chappy’ Chapman will be calling the action all weekend from Phoenix. Those unable to attend can listen in to the live broadcast – presented this weekend by Franklin Motorsports, OTK USA, and Parolin USA. Bookmark www.ekartingnews.com/live and follow the EKN social media channels for more throughout the weekend in Arizona.

Kyle Wick is not racing at PKRA in ROK Shifter, giving Hunter Pickett the championship lead (Photo: EKN)

The championship in the ROK Shifter division is up in the air with the non-attendance of double Tucson winner Kyle Wick (GFC / Trackmagic). As confirmed in the EKN Driver of the Month article for January 2022, the 2021 series champion will not compete the full Challenge, focusing on another program for the remainder of the season. That has opened the door for 2020 champion Hunter Pickett (GFC) to take over the championship with his two runner-up results in Tucson. Shifter rookie Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / EOS) sits second with Jacob Gulick (GFC) now third.

The same can be said in the ROK Shifter Masters class as the top two in the championship are absent from the pre-entry list. Double Tucson winner Jimmy McNeil (TV / Aluminos) and second in points Nick George (TV / Aluminos) are not scheduled to compete. Thus, Jonathan Vitolo (GFC / Trackmagic) is the point leader heading into the weekend. He has 2021 PKRA winner Cliff Kujala (Pure / Tony Kart) and defending champion Kevin Woods (RWR / CRG) to contend with on the weekend and moving forward in the championship.

Maximum points was earned over the opening two rounds of the series by Derek Wang in Masters ROK (Photo: eKartingNews.com)

Derek Wang (FTK / EOS) made history last year with his record-setting third championship. He is on his way to a fourth if he can match the perfect weekend put in at Tucson once again in Phoenix. Wang dominated the Masters ROK division last month and holds a sizeable lead over Christopher Mann (Ruthless / Kosmic) and former champion Billy Cleavelin (RPG / Kosmic). Both along with the rest of the field will need to find Wang’s kryptonite in Phoenix.

Tristan Young (VemmeKart) will once again be the lone Junior ROK driver at the event while Senior ROK is welcoming three local drivers in Carson Bowers (CompKart), Bailey Murphy (CompKart) and Jonathan Neudorf (CompKart).

Jake Drew (GFC) was able to double up in the Senior 100cc category in Tucson to begin as the championship leader. His advantage is only 18 points over double-duty driver Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / EOS) with Jacob Hoover (AKR / EOS) a close third. Defending champion Liam Letzsch (GFC) sits fourth in the points, with a victory at PKRA last year. British driver Oliver Hodgson (J3 / CompKart) could be a wild card, making his series debut in the category this weekend along with a handful of local drivers with home track knowledge.

The top nine drivers in the Junior 100cc standings are all within 100 points. The top three separated by just 24 points heading into the midway point. Alexander Gonzalez (Nash / EOS) won the opening round in Tucson and leads the championship over Cooper O’Clair (J3 / CompKart) and Parker DeLong (Tony Kart). Round Two winner Preston Lambert (GFC / Trackmagic) is fifth behind Christian Cameron (AKR / Tony Kart), a winner from the 2021 season.

Jake Drew leads the Senior 100cc standings with two wins in Tucson (Photo: EKN)

While not on the entry list, two-time Tucson winner Ian Koentges (FDM / CompKart) is slated to compete in Phoenix in the Masters 100cc category. He holds a 39-point lead over double podium finisher David Pergande (JHM / Redspeed) with Mike Weatherman (FDM / CompKart) in third. Brett Harrelson (Nash / EOS) and Preston Newberry (FDM / CompKart) were right there all weekend and should be factors in Phoenix as well.

The standing in Mini ROK is the most competitive of the season thus far as 11 drivers are separated by only 100 points. Matteo Quinto (RPM / Tony Kart) was not able to earn a victory, but did land on the podium twice in Tucson to leave as the championship leader by one-point over Turner Brown (GFC). Round Two winner Ashton Woon (Parolin) sits third, only six points out of first. Gage Korn (Race Factory) was the opening round winner and found himself on the sidelines early in Round Two. He is sixth in the points behind Braylon Underwood (Race Factory) and 2021 Micro ROK champion Jaxon Porter (Benik).

Cason Hodge (SSM / Exprit) had a perfect hold on the Micro ROK field in Tucson, earning a perfect score on the weekend, and is looking to continue that in Phoenix. Julian Sanchez (GFC) will be the only other driver returning with three new drivers scheduled to compete at PKRA this weekend; Cam Becker (Race Factory), Paxton Romero (FDM / CompKart) and Rocco Simone (VemmeKart).

Be sure to follow the EKN Social Media channels as we provide you with results, updates, photos, videos and more from the second event of the 2022 Challenge of the Americas at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association in Glendale, Arizona.

EKN Global Members Discussion: