EKN Trackside: 2022 Challenge of the Americas – Sonoma Preview
15th season of program to decide its champions in wine country
The 15th season for Challenge of the Americas is set to close out this weekend at the Sonoma Raceway. Rounds Five and Six are to be contested over the March 25-27 weekend at the Sonoma, California facility. Nearly 100 entries are set to battle in the eight championships that will be decided following the action on the weekend. On the line are tickets to two different events, including a chance to compete at the ROK Cup Superfinal at the South Garda Karting facility in Italy this October along with entry into the ROK Vegas event later this year.
The Sonoma Raceway karting circuit is among the most picturesque in North America. Situated at the southern end of the facility, it looks over the drag strip and road course, along with the valley and portions of the San Pablo Bay to the east. The 7/10-mile ‘National’ layout is the standard circuit for COTA each year, swapping directions with the ‘clockwise’ selected for the 2022 event. New is the updated ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’ section of the course, with a more defined turns for the Tic and the Tac corners, making them more of 90-degree turns rather than the straight-through, curb-jumping combination that it has been for decades. That and the many passing sections on the course should provide another great setting for the 2022 championship finale.
eKartingNews.com is proud to be entering the 11th season of Trackside Live program with Challenge of the Americas. EKN’s own Rob Howden will be calling the action all weekend from Sonoma. Those unable to attend can listen in to the live broadcast – presented this weekend by Comet Kart Sales, Kart Republic and Racelab. Bookmark www.ekartingnews.com/live and follow the EKN social media channels for more throughout the weekend in California.
Two drivers stand out in the ROK Shifter championship chase. 2020 champion Hunter Pickett (GFC) holds a 58-point advantage over Jacob Gulick (GFC) heading into the final two rounds. Pickett claims the home track advantage as Gulick begins his second season in the shifterkart ranks. Each have a victory while Pickett has four straight podium finishes to open up the year. Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / EOS) is third in the championship, over 100 points out of first. It is also his home track, and has a chance to build off his first podium in the class from PKRA. Also racing at home includes veteran Ron White (RWR / CRG), Cody Hodgson (Aluminos) and Remo Ruscitti (Italian Motors / Italkart) making his 2022 debut.
Three drivers are within 70 points in the ROK Shifter Masters title chase. Veteran karter Cliff Kujala (Pure Karting / Tony Kart) holds a 63-point advantage over two-time defending champion Kevin Woods (RWR / CRG) with longtime series contender Nick Firestone (GFC) in third. Kujala has three podium finishes along with a victory at PKRA. Woods was the other driver to win in Phoenix, however, has two DNF finishes to go with his two podium results. Firestone has one podium result, needing more to contend for the title in Sonoma. Tucson double podium finisher Nick George (Visalia / Aluminos) is returning after missing PKRA, along with Fernando Diaz (GFC). NorCal driver Patrick O’Neill (RWR / CRG) could be a factor for the podium all weekend as well.
Derek Wang (FTK / EOS) is preparing to make history by becoming the first driver to claim a four-straight Challenge championship. Wang is riding on a four-race winning streak in the first four rounds of 2022 in the Masters ROK class. Near maximum points have him leading by 85 points over three-time runner-up finisher Christopher Mann (Ruthless / Kosmic). Veteran and former champion Billy Cleavelin (RPG / Kosmic) has three straight podium results going into the series finale, with both looking to end Wang’s streak. Carson Bowers (CompKart) is the only Senior ROK driver entered on the weekend with no drivers scheduled for the Junior ROK division.
The championship is unknown in the Senior 100cc division with point leader Jake Drew (GFC) not competing in Sonoma due to a conflict with his ARCA West program. That promotes Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / EOS) to the top of the championship standings. Sioukas has four straight podium finishes, with one runner-up and three third-place results. He leads last year’s champion Liam Letzsch (GFC) by 57 points as the top two contenders. With Drew out, Oliver Hodgson (J3 / CompKart) is the only other winner from 2022 in the field riding off his two sweeps at PKRA. He is only 146 points back from Sioukas, and with another two sweeps, could steal the title.
Four different winners over the first four rounds is the highlight of the Junior 100cc class going into the series finale. That puts the title chase in a close match with the top-five separated by only 81 points. Round Four winner Christian Cameron (AKR / Tony Kart) leads by 16 points over Cooper O’Clair (J3 / CompKart). Round One victor Alex Gonzalez (Nash / EOS) is third with Tristan Young (VemmeKart) and Round Two winner Preston Lambert (GFC / Trackmagic) in fifth. Through in sixth place Stephen Eisert (SSM / Exprit), and anything can happen. Both O’Clair and Eisert were winners at Sonoma last year, in which this class had six different victors over the six rounds.
While the same driver has won the Master 100cc main events over the first four rounds, it has been an exciting season thus far. Ian Koentges (FDM / CompKart) has stood on top of the podium in all four rounds to enter the series finale as the championship leader. Texan David Pergande (JH / Kart Republic) is second, 84 points back with Mike Weatherman (FDM / CompKart) and Preston Newberry (FDM / CompKart) within 97 points. All have led races and earn pole positions. The exciting battle will conclude in Sonoma with the 10 other drivers looking to end Koentges’ streak.
The title chase for the Mini ROK division should go down to the wire with the top-five drivers sitting within 53 points going into the final two rounds. Two-time winner Gage Korn (Race Factory) leads by two points over Matteo Quinto (RPM / Tony Kart). Turner Brown (GFC) is third, welcoming everyone to his home track in Sonoma. Ashton Woon (Parolin) has won twice, however, suffered a DQ in Round Four. That will count against him as he will be unable to drop the race, thus needing to put in a solid weekend for a chance to steal the crown. Fifth is Braylon Underwood (Race Factory), searching for his first podium result of the season.
Cason Hodge (SSM / Exprit) has a perfect score over the four rounds in the Micro ROK, looking to clinch the championship on the weekend. Julian Sanchez (GFC) is the only other pre-entrant in the class, which will run together with Mini ROK.
Tune in to the EKN Live coverage on Saturday and Sunday with Round Five and Round Six broadcasting all day. Follow the website for daily reports and the EKN social media channels for photos, videos and updates.