EKN Trackside: 2022 California ROK Championship – PARC – Race Report
Wick and Shrader score Senior victories in one-off special event
After narrowing the focus of his California ROK Championship to a single event at the Pat’s Acres Racing Complex due to a packed West Coast schedule, promoter Andy Seesemann welcomed a passionate group of local and traveling racers to the iconic Oregon facility for a shot at winning a full entry package to the ROK Cup USA’s ROK Vegas event. When the dust settled on Sunday, GFC Karting’s Kyle Wick (Trackmagic) and Rolison Performance Group’s Caleb Schrader (Kosmic) stole the show in the Senior classes and will head to Las Vegas in November with one more goal to fulfill.
Wick dominated the action all weekend in the ROK Shifter class, qualifying on pole on Saturday morning ahead of winning all three heat races with ease. It was not as easy as it sounds as Wick was bested on the holeshot department in the first two motos by Jacob Gulick (GFC). Wick quickly advanced to the lead and swept the heats to lock down the pole for the Prefinal on Sunday morning. Wick dialed in his start line launch procedure on Sunday, jetting away from the P1 grid position to dominate the Prefinal and Final en route to a 7.918-second win over Gulick. The battle in the final was between Joey Wimsett (DR Kart) and Connor Wick (GFC), as the younger Wick pressured his veteran competitor throughout the 22-lap distance. Wimsett did not falter and held Wick at bay to take third. Cameron Egger (V&R / Croc Promotion) completed the top-five.
Caleb Schrader’s run to the win in the Senior 100cc class was character-building, as the Rolison Performance Group driver was strong through Saturday’s heat races, but a motor issue in Heat 3 required an engine change that also came with a drop to the back of the 19-driver grid for the Sunday morning Prefinal. Schrader drove up to third during the 16-lapper but was issued a 10-second penalty for avoidable contact that dropped him back to 10th. Schrader was on the move quickly in the longer 22-lap main event, and eventually pulled away with Zak Meyer (RPG / Kosmic) to fight for the win. Schrader came on top of this scrap and scored an impressive 0.191-second win. Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / EOS) stormed from the tail of the field after losing his chain in the Prefinal, posting the fast lap of the race during his drive back up to third. Aaron Farhadi (EOS) stepped up to the plate on Sunday to take a strong fourth, ahead of Zach Franzke (Kosmic).
It was a competitive weekend in the ROK Shifter Masters class. Local drivers Thomas Riddle (V&R / Croc Promotion) and Rusty Lingle (V&R / Croc Promotion) led the way through qualifying and the three heat races. Missing from the action was Fast Friday driver Justin Williams (CRG), who was at a wedding on Saturday. He returned Sunday and put himself up with the top two in both the Prefinal and Final. After some bumper to bumper action to open the Final, Lingle was able to escape, driving to a 3-second victory. Williams ended up second with Riddle in third. NorCal’s Jim Kidd (Aluminos) made his second straight trip to PARC, keeping the top-three close early until settling back in the fourth spot. Stephane Gaudreau (Aluminos) completed the top-five.
In the Masters 100cc class, Mike Smith (VMI / Gillard) used all of his local knowledge to dominate the weekend’s action. The CalSpeed Karting track manager grew up just miles from the track but has not been on the PARC circuit in over 10 years. Smith quickly got back to his roots and dialed things in. Smith was not challenged all weekend, aside from missing the setup for qualifying to end the session in P3. After securing all three heat race wins and the Prefinal triumph, Smith ran away to a 11.674-second win over fast qualifier Lindsey High (Kosmic). Scott Formanek (Exprit) dialed in his program over the three on-track days and fought hard with High for second, and he capped the podium in third. Rene Bine (Kart Republic) was fourth with Jeff Bays (Kosmic) losing a tire on the warm-up lap. Chad Wallace (Redspeed) was the lone entrant in the Masters ROK.
Similar to the Master class counterpart, the Junior 100cc division was another sweep by one driver – Rolison Performance Group’s Caleb Gafrarar. Fresh off a top-10 performance at the FIA Karting Academy Trophy in Italy, Gafrarar made the long journey across the Atlantic and continental USA to Portland for the week. It was a solid start to the weekend with fast time in the qualifying session and leading every lap of the three heat races on Saturday. Sunday began with a wire-to-wire performance in the 16-lap Prefinal. The 22-lap Final was the first time on the weekend Gafrarar was not P1, as Alex Rantala (GFC) and 2022 Challenge of the Americas champion Christian Cameron (AKR / Tony Kart) dropped him to third at one point. Rantala took the lead with Cameron slipping past, only to lose the spot a few corners later. Gafrarar was now on the challenger role, looking for a way past Rantala. All three had similar pace, however, Gafrarar was the only driver to dip into the 46-second bracket. Lap 18, Gafrarar made his move for the lead, and secured the top spot, driving away to a six tenths advantage at the checkered flag. Rantala settled for second with Cameron in third. The battle for fourth went down to the wire with Stephen Eisert (SSM / Exprit) earning the position ahead of Mexican driver Javier Herrera (RPG / Kosmic).
In the combined Cadet race group, a last lap incident between Jackson Gibson (RPG / Kosmic) and Jack Bowdish (Race Factory) opened the door for an unexpected race winner in Mini ROK. Bowdish and Gibson ran together all main event and the fight came to a head over the final laps. Gibson pulled the trigger on the penultimate lap in the left-hand turn 10, making a slick move to take the lead for the final circuit. Gibson did not defend in the right-hand turn four hairpin on the final circuit, and Bowdish attacked the opening to re-take the point. Gibson tried to replicate his turn 10 move for the lead and the win, but was a little late on the dive, and the two drivers connected and spun off-track. This benefitted Colt Schlotthauer (Race Factory), who had been pushed hard in third to catch the lead duo. With their contact, Schlotthauer cleared the incident scene with the lead and a 2.626-second win over Eric Doan (Exprit). Bowdish was able to continue and crossed the line 15 seconds behind in third.
Cason Hodge (Exprit) topped the Micro ROK field, having run nose-to-tail with his SpeedSense Motorsports teammate Doan all race. Max de Guzman (Formula K) finished second ahead of Axel Bowdish (Race Factory) and Jaxon Benham (Kosmic).
The weekend event was run flawlessly and, as always, it’s a positive to state when the track action is done that the race did not see a red flag. The winners of the categories all received a full entry package to the ROK Vegas event in November, including the race entry, tires, and fuel. The second and third place finishers also received support programs from ROK Cup USA.
For us at EKN, it was a pleasure to spend some time at one of the most iconic tracks in American karting. The Pat’s Acres Racing Complex is a jewel in the sport, and is owned and operated by a family who has dedicated itself to this sport for the last 25 years. If you’re a national racer, you’ve highly likely been at an event with at least one member of the Egger family on the staff. CRC promoter Andy Seesemann and PARC track owner Chris Egger are already making plans to add to the weekend program in 2023, all with the goal of making this event a must-attend West Coast racing stop. EKN will most certainly be part of the equation.