By: Challenge of the Americas PR
The 2014 Rotax Challenge of the Americas program reached the halfway point of the championship chase, hosting rounds three and four at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale, Arizona. The premier winter series on the west coast welcomed over 100 drivers in the seven Rotax Max Challenge categories, competing for the prestige of a race win, with others focused on closing in on the championships to be awarded at the beginning of April. For a handful of drivers, a title is just two races away from reality following their performances over the February 21-23 weekend in the Copper State.
Holeshot Drive Systems Senior Max
Two drivers swept each day of competition, both striving for the championship title after leaving the Tucson weekend 1-2 in the standings. Jake Craig was untouchable during Saturday’s Round 3 action, scoring a perfect day. Craig came on strong late in qualifying to steal the pole position away by three hundredths of a second. The Round 2 winner inched away from the field in the Prefinal, pulling out to a three-second advantage. He led all 25 laps of the Final, while posting the fast laps of the race, for a perfect score of 120 points on the day. The fight was for second, with defending series champion Phillip Arscott holding on for his third straight runner-up finish. Senior rookie Blaine Rocha was in position for his first podium finish, but a blocking maneuver on the final lap cost him the position, awarded to Louie Pagano. Rocha was placed in fourth, with Roger Ralston Jr. edging out Mason Marotta for fifth in a photo finish.
Arscott responded the following day, posting his own perfect score to retain the championship lead heading into the series finale. Arscott was the quickest in qualifying, earning the spot by six hundredths over Marotta. Arscott dropped to third in the opening lap of the heat race, but quickly retained his position at the front. He then drove away with the fast laps of the race to a two-second gap over Craig. The 2009 US Rotax Grand Nationals champion then crept away from the field early in the main event. Craig and Pagano attempted to match his pace, but dropped back. Arscott’s lead was just over three seconds ahead of Craig at the checkered flag, who was removed from the results for a technical infraction in post-race inspection. That moved Senior rookie Jim McKinney to the second step of the podium, after he ran down Pagano for position on course. Veteran Matt Johnson came from 24th on the grid to place fourth, with Canadian Bryce Choquer in fifth.
Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
Matching their victories from the opening rounds in Tucson, Austin Versteeg and Christian Brooks were the two drivers claiming the top step of the podium in Phoenix. Versteeg was on point throughout the opening day of action, sweeping the on-track sessions, and earning maximum points toward the standings. The Utah driver was three tenths clear of the field in qualifying, which translated into a three-second win in the Prefinal. Versteeg went wire-to-wire in the Final, pulling out to a six-second advantage. Callum Smith was a new face among the top drivers, and drove his way to the second position in the final lap. He was removed from the results following post-tech inspection, promoting Christian Brooks to second and Junior rookie Sting Ray Robb to third. Kyle Wick finished fourth, while Phillippe Denes drove to fifth.
Brooks turned things up early on Sunday, as the Round 2 winner secured the fast time in qualifying. Versteeg fought back in the heat race, taking over the top spot from Brooks to earn a two-second win. Like the Sunday feature in Tucson, the main event was punctuated by an incident involving two primary players. Both Brooks and Versteeg took their turn at the point, before they were joined by a charging Sting Ray Robb. Versteeg and Robb fought for the lead on lap 17, and the two locked wheels, sending them both off the track. This allowed Brooks to inherit the lead, with Denes trailing. Denes led on the final lap, before Brooks went deep in turn 11 to steal the lead. Junior rookie Jeff Fulham trailed the lead group for much of the race, and attempted to slide past Brooks for the win, but it was not enough. Brooks held on for his second victory of the season, while Fulham recorded his best series finish, one spot ahead of Denes. Wick was fourth, while Versteeg fought back to fifth.
Energy Corse America DD2 / CRG-USA DD2 Masters
Championship leader Gavin Reichlet began where he left off in Tucson, at the point, as he swept the opening round in Phoenix. The New York driver secured the pole position in qualifying, turning that into a two-second advantage in the Prefinal. As in the opening rounds, the action was heated early on in the main event, as Sabre Cook challenged for the lead. She led early on, relegating Reichelt to second. He responded by taking over the position on lap five. The two, joined by Christian Bird, ran nose-to-tail for the remainder of the race, with Reichelt earning his third straight victory. Bronson Eggert was fourth, with Matt England fifth.
Reichelt came back the following day to up-end Cook in qualifying once again for five crucial championship points. Contact, however, shuffled up the field early on in the Prefinal, with Cook able to escape with the lead and the win. Reichelt recovered to second, as did Bird in third. Action heated up in the Final, with Cook and Bird exchanging the lead several times, before Reichelt began making his way forward. With two laps remaining, Reichelt tried for a move past Bird for the lead, but it backfired, allowing Cook to slide through. She then drafted past Bird for the lead. Reichelt tried to follow, but failed, with the two making contact. This allowed Phoenix driver Bailey Murphy to inherit the second spot, as Cook drove to her first DD2 victory in Challenge history. Murphy was removed from the results in technical inspection, promoting Bronson Eggert into the second spot, as Reichelt was classified third. England ended up fourth, with Lee placing fifth after Bird retired following the contact.
Defending DD2 Masters champion Alan Rudolph extended his series win streak from last year to nine, sweeping the two rounds at his home track in Phoenix. Rudolph ran unchallenged for the entire weekend, setting up for a championship weekend in Sonoma, and a third straight trip to the Rotax Grand Finals as part of Team USA. DD2 Masters rookie Ben Johnston drove second all weekend, with Colorado driver Mike Urban in third. The $1350 bounty still remains open to those willing to take on the challenge of beating Rudolph on track in either of the two main events in Sonoma (both drivers must cross the finish line). A large portion of that bounty is the entire weekend entry fee ($1050) to the Sonoma rounds, which will be returned to the winner courtesy of the Challenge. A set of practice tires ($300 value) has also been put up by the MAXSpeed Group.
Nash Motorsportz Masters Max
Championship leader Donald Durbin Jr. extended his point lead following a sweep in the action on Saturday. Durbin secured the pole position by a mere six hundredths of a second over last year’s PKRA winner Ken Maxfield. The two went back and forth throughout the 17-lap Prefinal, with Durbin holding off a late challenge from Maxfield for the win. The two-man show continued in the Final, as Maxfield paced the 2013 Masters Max champion. Taking over the lead on lap 17, Durbin drove away to his second series win on the series, as Maxfield held on for second. Justin Peck held off Larry Hayashigawa for the final podium position, as Fisher crossed the line in fifth. Both Hayashigawa and Fisher were removed from the results for carburetion infractions, moving Jacob Zamora and Steve Wiener into the top-five.
Maxfield stepped up his game on Sunday, coming away with the fast lap in qualifying for the pole position. He cleared the field by two tenths of a second, with Brian Phillipsen coming on late to the second spot, dropping Peck and Fisher down the order, with points leader Durbin in fifth. Durbin fought his way forward, reaching Maxfield by the halfway point. After taking over the lead, the polesitter fought back, and secured the lead to the checkered flag. Durbin finished second, but was moved to the tail of the grid for the Final due to a clutch infraction. Contact in the opening corner shuffled up the field, with Maxfield and Phillipsen breaking away. Maxfield paced the field until Phillipsen took over the top spot on lap 16. From there, the California driver led the remainder of the race for his first Challenge victory. Maxfield kept it close in second, with Fisher earning his first podium finish in the series. Durbin recovered to finish fourth, with Hayashigawa in fifth.
BBR Karting Mini Max:
Jacob Blue Hudson added to his Challenge win total for 2014, earning both feature victories in Phoenix. Round 2 winner Dylan Tavella was the top qualifier, as Hudson posted the second quickest lap of the session. Hudson held off a charging Payton Durrant for the win in the Prefinal, setting up for another exciting feature. After a five driver fight, Hudson and Tavella locked up to pull away for a duel to the finish. Hudson held off Tavella to the stripe, recording his second win of the season. Canadian Griffin Dowler trailed in third, recording his first podium of the season.
Hudson began the following round qualified fifth, working his way to second behind Tavella in the Prefinal. After a five driver fight for the win, it came down to Hudson pulling away in the final few laps of the Final to secure the victory. Brown finished second for another podium trip, with Filip Niemkiewicz scoring his first top-three result of the season.
Black Flag Racing Micro Max:
Jak Crawford put himself in position to clinch the Challenge championship early in the Sonoma weekend, besting the field in both feature races. Crawford fought his way from a poor qualifying run outside the top-15, and into fourth during the Prefinal. Working his way into the lead before the halfway point, Crawford drove to a three-second advantage for the win. Top qualifier Sebastian Davis was second, with Prefinal winner Max Wright in third.
The three-time race winner began where he left off on day two, with Crawford at the top of the time charts in qualifying on Sunday. After he edged out the competition in the Prefinal, he added a fourth feature win by outrunning Davis and Ethan Arndt to the stripe.
For a complete recap of the action at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale, Arizona, view the new Digital Magazine at RotaxChallenge.com. The Rotax Challenge of the Americas would like to thank Ribtect, Acceleration Kart Racing, K1 Racegear and Precision Karting Technologies for their support in the podium ceremonies and prizes during the drivers meeting.
The third and final stop of the Challenge is scheduled for April 4-6, at the Simraceway Performance Karting Center facility in Sonoma, California. Pre-entry for the finale weekend opens March 5, with all prices held at the same rates experienced in 2013, for all competitors in the seven Rotax Max Challenge categories. Online registration can be found at the RotaxChallenge.com website or through a PDF Form.
Continue to watch www.rotaxchallenge.com for updates as the season continues or to enter for your chance to be part of the Challenge. You can also find them at their new Facebook page by searching Rotax Challenge of the Americas.
About Rotax Challenge of the Americas:
The Rotax Challenge of the Americas series is a growing international Rotax Max Challenge series hosts over 140 drivers each weekend from all across the United States, Canada, and other surrounding countries. The six-round championship takes place from January to March with three weekend events, taking drivers to Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona with the season completing in Sonoma, California. Series champions in the four premier categories will earn tickets to the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals and the United States Rotax Grand Nationals. Click over to www.rotaxchallenge.com for more information.