Saturday featured a full day of heat racing at the Sofina Foods US Open of New Orleans where drivers in eight categories went to battle in three separate progressive heat races to help determine the starting grids for Sundays main events at NOLA Motorsports Park, host of the opening round.
A handful of drivers enjoyed perfect days under beautifully sunny conditions, setting themselves up on the pole-position for their respective Finals on Sunday. Unlike the Florida Winter Tour, the US Open drops the Pre Final race for a fourth heat race instead, with drivers lining up for their Final races based on the points they gained in all four heat races, with the grid for each heat race based on the finishing position of the previous heat race.
Florida driver Oliver Askew, who has made the switch to Rotax Senior this weekend, was unchallenged as he powered his BirelART machine to victory. He has shown a pace that is yet to be seen by his competitors. After qualifying second, Canadian Gianfranco Mazzaferro managed to stay up front with his teammate while Trenton Estep and Rinus Van Kalmthout, both teammates at Koene USA will fill out row two. Row three will also feature a pair of teammates as Canadian Kellen Ritter and American Walker Hess have put their Rolison Performance Group karts inside the top-six.
It was an interesting day in Rotax Junior, the largest category of the weekend. Aside from Nick Brueckner claiming all of the heat wins, the racing was top-notch as these young drivers duked it out for position. There was also a mysterious DNS from Mathias Ramirez in heat three, failing to show up and surrendering his front row starting spot. Aidan Keel, Reece Cohen, Dylan Tavella and Matthew Latifi completed the top-five after the heat races, with Tavella scoring an impressive result after a DQ in one of his heat races.
In the lone shifter kart racing this weekend, Nick Neri was unstoppable on Saturday after losing out in a great battle on Friday with Sabre Cook. Cook had a challenging day, finishing third in the rankings after being beat out by Austin Wilkens. Ryan Kinnear leads the Shifter Masters contingent, ranking fifth overall with fellow Master Chris Jennings right behind him, sixth overall.
Precisely Canadian Jeffrey Kingsley has controlled the Rotax DD2 field after he enjoyed heading the field all day. Dev Gore brought a challenge forth in the final heat race, creating an exciting battle through the opening laps until Kingsley finally broke free and cruised to the heat win. Gore will line up on the outside of row one, while DD2 Masters driver Nathan Mauel starts third. Michael McCarthy and Rhett Thomas complete the top-five.
James Egozi and Carson Morgan clashed all day in Micro-Max racing with the two trading heat wins. Egozi narrowly edged Morgan for the pole-position on Sunday with Ashton Torgerson, Branyon Tiner and Diego Laroque also in the mix.
After qualifying on the pole-position yesterday Mike Rolison had a challenging day in Rotax Max Masters, crashing out of a heat race and making contact with another driver while pushing hard for the lead, ranking fifth when everything was settled. Scott Roberts topped the standings and will lead the group to green on Sunday with Derek Wang alongside. Billy Cleavelin and Zach Rouse fill out row two ahead of Rolison.
Finally, Tyler Gonzalez nearly had a perfect round of heat races in Mini-Max, winning three of four, finishing second in his other heat. He will be on the pole with fast qualifier Jak Crawford second and Austin Torgerson third. Jeremy Fairbairn and Arias Deukmedjian have also been in the mix this weekend setting up for a great battle in the Mini-Max Final on Sunday.
All of the action from New Orleans can be streamed on Motorsport.com on Sunday with the Finals kicking off at 9:25AM local time.