EKN Trackside: 2022 Challenge of the Americas – Sonoma – Saturday Report
Pickett and Sioukas defend home turf in penultimate round of championship
The penultimate round of the 2022 Challenge of Americas was completed on Saturday at the Sonoma Raceway. Round Five was contested at the Sonoma, California facility under sunny skies with strong winds bringing on some challenge for the competitors in the west coast winter program. A number of championships were more defined while drivers helped to extend their championships lead going into the final round on Sunday. Those that won on the day included many who call Sonoma their home track, including ROK Shifter driver Hunter Pickett (GFC) and Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / Tony Kart).
The SwedeTech Racing Engines ROK Shifter class saw GFC sweep the day. Championship contender Jacob Gulick (GFC) was able to post fast time in qualifying, however, it was point leader Pickett that came away with the Prefinal win. That was after Ron White (RWR / CRG) pulled off the holeshot from P3 to lead the first half of the Prefinal. Pickett was able to get around, and won the pole position for the Final. The holeshot of the Final went to Pickett with White slotting into second. Gulick took over the second spot after White went deep into turn one after the opening lap. Eventually, White went back to the second spot while Pickett continued to stretch out his lead. At the checkered, Pickett took the win by over three seconds with White holding off Gulick. Ryan Martin (RWR / CRG) posted fast lap of the race, working up to fourth with Keawn Tandon (GFC) in fifth.
The Forward Direction Motorsports Senior 100cc battle was a three driver fight with point leader Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / Tony Kart), double PKRA winner Oliver Hodgson (J3 / CompKart) and last year’s champion Liam Letzsch (GFC). Sioukas set fast time in qualifying while Hodgson came away with the win in the Prefinal. Hodgson and Sioukas went back and forth for much of the 20-lap Final. On the final circuit, Sioukas made his move at turn one. Letzsch was able to follow through to grab second and went after the lead in the inner section. With an over-under, they went side-by side on the exit of the inner 180, with Hodgson making it three-wide toward the kink and then into the final corner. With the inside line, Sioukas was able to get off the final corner with better momentum, and reached the checkered flag for his first victory. Letzsch came away with second and fast lap of the race ahead of Hodgson. Christopher Martin (KC / Tony Kart) was fourth with Jack Doyle (SSM / Kosmic) in fifth.
Two-time defending champion Kevin Woods (RWR / CRG) was able to add a second victory on the season toward trying to claim a third straight title in the Ron White Racing ROK Shifter Masters class. It was not a perfect day as Nick George (Visalia / Aluminos) set fast time in qualifying. Woods was able to grab the holeshot in the Prefinal to lead all 14 laps. It was a repeat in the main, leading all 20 laps and the only driver to post a sub-50 second lap in the race, driving away to a nine-second advantage for the victory. Behind him was a fight for the second position, with Alan Morte (RWR / CRG) coming off two podiums at PKRA for a runner-up result by beating George. Double Tucson winner Jimmy McNeil (Visalia / Aluminos) drove up to the fourth spot, dropping championship leader Cliff Kujala (Pure / Tony Kart) to fifth.
The streak continues for Derek Wang (FTK / EOS) in the Odenthal Racing Products Masters ROK category. Wang set fast time in qualifying however was battled by Christopher Mann (Ruthless / Kosmic) for the top spot in the Prefinal. Mann led the first five laps until Wang took over and scored the win. Former series champ Billy Cleavelin (RPG / Kosmic) slipped into second early in the Final behind Wang, pressuring him the entire 20-lap distance. In the end, Wang led all 20 circuits for his fifth straight victory with Cleavelin and Mann joining him on the podium. Curtis Morte (SSM / Exprit) ended up winning the fight for fourth ahead of Samuel Porter (Racelab / TB Kart). Carson Bowers (CompKart) was the lone Senior ROK driver on the day.
Four-time P1 Engines Masters 100cc winner Ian Koentges (FDM / CompKart) was able to grab a fifth straight. The day was a battle early on with Josh Buttafoco (GFC) stealing the fast time in qualifying. Koentges got the jump in the Prefinal and drove to the race win. Buttafoco spun on the opening circuit of the Final, which allowed Koentges to get away early on. He would lead all 20 laps, driving to an eight-second advantage to clinch the provisional championship. The fight for second went down to the wire, with Preston Newberry (FDM / CompKart) holding off Mike Weatherman (FDM / CompKart) for runner-up spot. They were joined late in the race by Brett Harrelson (Nash / EOS), who made a bold move into the Tic-Tac-Toe section. He spun at the exit of Tic, collection David Pergande (JHM / Kart Republic) in the process. Both were able to continue on battling for position in the final corners. Buttafoco was able to slip by for the provisional fourth spot but was penalized two spots for a jump start. That promoted Harrelson to fourth, with Scott Formanek (SSM / Exprit) to fifth.
It was a wild one in the Nash Motorsportz Junior 100cc class. Up front, Stephen Eisert (SSM / Exprit) was set on becoming the fifth different winner on the season. Eisert set fast time in qualifying and won the Prefinal, and showed the way for much of the Final. Round Four winner Christian Cameron (AKR / Tony Kart) was the top challenger. With three laps to go, Cameron took the point and led the final three laps for the provisional win. A penalty for contact early in the race took the win away and dropped him down two spots to third. That promoted Eisert to the top of the podium, making him the fifth different winner on the season. Round Two winner Preston Lambert (GFC / Trackmagic) was promoted to second. Multiple wrecks in the second half of the race mixed up the order with Archer Eversman (FDM / CompKart) in fourth and Jessynta Taylor (Kosmic) in fifth.
Gage Korn (Race Factory) came into the day leading the championship, and was able to leave with maximum points on the day to help extend his point lead in GFC Karting Mini ROK. Korn swept the action on the day, setting fast time in qualifying, while winning the Prefinal and Final while posting fast lap of the main event. Korn led wire-to-wire in the 16-lap race to a 2.4-second advantage. Turner Brown (GFC) drove to the second spot with Ashton Woon (Parolin) crossing the line in third. He was stopped scoring after lap 13 for not yielding to the meatball flag for a broken rear bumper. That promoted Ty Fisher (Racelab / JV Kart) to the third spot, who fight his way forward from the back after contact in the Prefinal. Matteo Quinto (RPM / Tony Kart) ended up fourth with Braylon Underwood (Race Factory) in fifth. Julian Sanchez (GFC) was able to win for his first victory in the VemmeKart Micro ROK Final. Four-time winner Cason Hodge (SSM / Exprit) was second.
Sunday at the Sonoma Raceway will host the sixth and final round of the 2022 Challenge of the Americas championship. Weather may be an issue with officials moving up the timeline to try and get all the action in before wet weather is forecasted to happen.