Entering the weekend, British Columbia’s Kellen Ritter was fourth place in the CAN-AM Karting Challenge Rotax Senior Championship and wasn’t enjoying the best of seasons, having yet to win a CAN-AM race.
The season finale at Pat’s Acres in Portland, Oregon, well that was a different story and while he didn’t have to worry about the battle for the Rotax Grand Finals ticket, considering he already had one, he wanted to put down his best effort to close out his North American season.
Ritter took the pole-position in qualifying over fellow Canadian Matthew Taskinen. The championship hunt featured Mason Buck, Matthew Taskinen, and Kyle Dupell all gunning for the title and entering the weekend separated by only 11 points.
The heats on Saturday were all dominated by Ritter, with some pressure from Luke Selliken in a pair of them. Ritter was in control and quickly closed the championship gap, but rain on was on the agenda for Sunday. Taskinen on the otherhand had a horrible Saturday, struggling on his starts and wound up ranking fifth, losing points to leader Buck.
A dry PreFinal saw championship implications as contact was made between the group and Taskinen took the high route on the exit of turn one, diving through the grass and tossing up a storm of dirt. Selliken eventually took the win, but a nosecone violation knocked him back and put Ritter back on the pole-position for the Final. Taskinen would move up to second on the Selliken penalty but was penalized two spots for the opening lap incident, losing valuable championship points.
After an entire weekend of dry racing, the rain came falling down for the Finals on championship Sunday.
Before even getting the green flag, Taskinen’s kart came rolling to a stop just before the final corner. Quickly jumping up and reaching around the motor, it was obvious that his chain had fallen off. While the field went green, Taskinen stuck his fingers into the tight confines and quickly got it back on and started the race nearly half a lap down. Obviously disgruntled, Taskinen came in too hot to the first corner and ran off the track, setting him back and even further.
Ritter got off to a great start and took the lead, while the battle was on the RMCGF ticket. The racing was hard early one behind Ritter, Selliken and Walker Hess, who jumped out to an early advantage. Buck, Dupell, Jacob Gulick and Adam Smalley traded the fourth spot back and forth until Gulick drove a little too hard into corner six, spinning Buck around.
Only a couple laps later, it got worse for Buck as his championship went up in smoke with a failure, pulling to the side of the track in turn two. Heartbroken.
Suddenly, Taskinen had an outside chance at coming back, even though he was now lapped by the leaders Selliken and Ritter.
One small mistake by Selliken with five to go allowed Ritter to get by his teammate and resume the lead, but with two laps to go, Selliken regained the top spot and from there, he never looked back, killing Ritter’s chance at the perfect weekend. Behind, not enough changed for Taskinen to gain anymore spots at the checkered flag, it was all sealed up.
Selliken took the win. Ritter finished second and jumped up three spots to take the championship. And with a fourth-place finish, Dupell secured enough points to take home his first Rotax Grand Finals ticket, joining Team USA. Taskinen and Buck wound up tying for third in the overall standings.