Title contenders more defined as premier winter karting series hosted two rounds at Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Arizona.
The 2016 Challenge of the Americas continued with its championship series on February 26-28, returning to the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale, Arizona. The 7/10-mile course welcomed over 100 drivers, increased by a few entries from the opening weekend last month in Tucson. The intensity on-track and the weather amplified from a month ago, as blue skies and 80 degree temperatures set the stage for the seven categories that continued their championship chase - five representing the Rotax Max Challenge with two Shifterkart divisions. Those drivers that have a shot at battling for the titles at the series finale in Northern California next month were determined after Round Three and Four completed at the famous Formula K Raceway.
The championship chase is set to go down to the wire in the Nash Motorsportz Senior Max division with another unpredictable weekend of racing in the books. Each day of competition provided some dramatic moments, and helped to tighten up the title contenders to about seven drivers. Among them is Round Three winner Christian Brooks, who went from zero to hero in the exciting 25-lap main event. The Round Two winner suffered a mechanical problem in qualifying and was stricken with a flat tire in the Prefinal, putting him at the back of the 24-kart field for the Final. Brooks put in a championship performance, fighting his way through the entire field to claim the checkered flag over Canadians Coltin McCaughan and Kellen Ritter. McCaughan returned the following day as the driver to beat, leading qualifying and Prefinal. A mechanical issues in the opening laps of the Final put the title contender on the sideline, thus allowing visiting South African driver Jordan Sherratt to take the reigns. The third-place finisher at the 2015 Rotax Grand Finals led all 25-laps, holding off a charging Brooks and Texas driver Nathan Adds.
Nick Brueckner kept his streak intact following the two rounds of racing in the Rolison Performance Group Junior Max division at PKRA, extending his perfect score to four. The 2015 vice-champion led every session in both rounds of competition on the weekend to increase his point lead heading to the series finale in April. Canadian Matthew Taskinen ran second with Junior rookie Hannah Greenemeier earning her first series podium on Saturday. The two swapped positions alongside Brueckner on Sunday.
The competitors in the Cambrian Go-Karts Masters Max championship chase are looking up to Mike Jones. The Texas driver took over the championship lead with his two win performance in Phoenix. Jones fought his way to the front of the field by the end of the main event on Saturday, besting David Pergande and Billy Cleavelin. He backed it up with a sweep of the Sunday round, leading all sessions to earn maximum points. Cleavelin added another trophy with a second place finish while defending series champion Paul Bonilla ran third.
Shifterkart divisions took part in the second event with the Challenge series, welcoming two new winners. PKRA regular Kolton Griffin took advantage of the home track knowledge to score his first series victory in the Energy Kart USA Shifter Senior category. Griffin ran away with the win over Tucson double winner Jake French with Harold Gottsacker IV earning his first series podium in third. Griffin led qualifying and the Prefinal on Sunday, but lost the holeshot to begin the main event. French took control and led all 25-laps for his third win of the series. Griffin ran a close second with Jacob Neal placing third. Darren Elliott evened the score in the win column and the championship standings for Dallas Karting Complex Shifter Masters division. Elliott came back from a mechanical DNF in the Prefinal Saturday to win the main event over Tucson double winner Ryan Kinnear with Juan Garcia in third. Elliott came back to win comfortably on Sunday over Kinnear and Nick Firestone. Kinnear and Elliott are tied in the point standings heading into the series finale in Sonoma.
Austin Torgerson became another first time series winner in the Go Kart Hero Mini Max class. Torgerson outlasted the competition on Saturday, holding off a charging Dustin Salaverria with Cooper Becklin finishing third for his first podium result of the season. Tucson double winner Marco Kacic bounced back from a crash Saturday to lead the way in Round Four. Kacic won the Prefinal and Final, helping to keep him in the championship lead. Torgerson finished second with Salaverria capping off a two-podium weekend in third. Ashton Torgerson extended his win streak to three in the Ruthless Karting Micro Max class. He swept the action in Round Three, besting Carson Morgan and Brock Boyse. Sunday, the streak came to an end with Morgan able to beat Torgerson to the checkered flag with a last lap pass. Aden Rudolph was right there in the battle, completing the podium for his first in the series.
A digital magazine featuring photos of all top-three finishes in all the Challenge of the Americas races at the PKRA event in Glendale, Arizona can be found HERE.
Pre-registration is open for the finale event for the 2016 Challenge of the Americas program, set for April 1-3 at the Simraceway Performance Karting Center in Sonoma, California by visiting Registration.RotaxChallenge.com. The host hotel is the Best Western Novato Oaks Inn with the Group Name ‘Rotax Challenge’. Room block cutoff is March 18. More information can be found under the Schedule & Tracks menu of RotaxChallenge.com.
This year’s final two rounds will be different from the past two seasons at the ‘wine country’ facility. The ‘Reverse National’ layout will be the course for the three-day event, running the track in the opposite direction that the series has competed on for 2014 and 2015. This will also be the same course utilized for the 2016 United States Rotax Grand Nationals, scheduled for August 3-6. For more information on the 2016 Challenge of the Americas, be sure to bookmark www.rotaxchallenge.com and their Facebook page.