February 20, 2011 (Fontana, Calif.) – If you want to change your perceptions of what Southern California weather is like, you may want to visit the region whenever the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas makes its customary trip to the Calspeed Karting Center at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. For the second straight year, racing action was forced to be postponed from Saturday until Sunday as torrential rain led to the formation of Lake Calspeed – which is too deep to be forded by any of the 102 Rotax karts entered for the weekend.
As rain fell on Saturday afternoon, the downpour became too heavy during the Rotax Junior final to consider attempting the final two mains of the day for Rotax Masters and DD-2. Their races were ultimately postponed to Sunday morning.
SATURDAY – Round 3
Despite being only three karts strong, the Micromax field had the strangest start of the day when all three karts spun in the first corner of the final. Griffin Dowler was the first one to get his kart pointed in the right direction and he drove away from Conner Wick and Cody Dempster, taking the first win of the day.
Felipe Fraga led the thirty-nine kart field aat the drop of the green flag, with Louie Pagano, Tyler Wheeler and Joey Wimsett giving chase. Fraga began to build an advantage while Wimsett worked his way past Wheeler and Pagano and began to cut into Fraga’s advantage. Lapped traffic came into play as Fraga zigged and Wimsett zagged to take the lead just past the halfway mark.
Once in front, Wimsett began to pull away from Fraga and the two ran in that order until the finish, with Wimsett and Fraga making it a CRG one-two with Bobby Kelley making an impressive run up to third with Scott Saunders in fourth. Keeping his championship hopes alive after a miserable day until the final, Stepanova Nekeel charged through the field from his 38th starting position to finish fifth.
With dark clouds on the horizon, the question was not if, but when the rain would fall for the Minimax final. Kyle Wick was the polesitter with Royal McKee off-pole, Sting Ray Robb third and Austin Versteeg fourth. Wick and Versteeg were on wets, while McKee and Robb were on slicks.
As the green fell on a dry track, all the drivers on wets fell to the back of the field. McKee led Robb and Kami Moreira-Laliberte in the early stages. McKee was able to pull away from the field but as the rain began to fall with four laps left, Robb spun out of second place, but it was too late in the race for the drivers on wets to make any real progress – and their rain tires were trashed after running on a dry track for eight laps.
McKee kept his kart going straight on a very wet track over the final three laps to take the win – his first of the season. Charging through the field towards the end of the race, Garret Gulenchyn and Nicky Hays would finish second and third.
The entire Junior Rotax field entered the track on wet tires as the rain turned into a heavy downpour. Parker McKean was on pole ahead of championship leader Parker Thompson and Southern California locals Jake Craig and Dakota Dickerson
McKean’s lead was short-lived, however, as he pushed wide on the slippery surface and fell to seventh. Craig made the inside line work, however, as took the lead over with Thompson in second and Matthew Moniz making a good start to move into third. Moniz needed a few laps to work past Thompson for second, leaving him in the perfect place when Craig made a mistake and lost three spots.
The new leader, Moniz, was shadowed the rest of the race by Thompson, but try as he might Thompson couldn’t make a pass happen and he chased Moniz all the way to the line. Moniz earned his first win of the season, with Thompson second and Artie Carpenter – who had one of the more exciting runs of the day – finishing a fighting third.
With the substantial rainfall leaving track conditions difficult to race on, the Saturday Masters race was moved to Sunday morning with the track conditions starting wet but quickly drying. John Crow was on pole with David Busby and Scott Falcone second and third – all on slicks – but fourth-starting Mike Daniel was on rains.
Excitement happened right from the start as Crow spun entering turn one, jamming up most of the field but allowing Busby to get away from the field before a lap was even completed. Daniel’s gamble on wets seemed to be helping as he was up to second, but as the track continued to dry he would fall down the order. Bill Kann ran second with Falcone third in the early stages until he spun, allowing Ron Rosetti to move up to third.
At the checkered, Busby had a massive gap and cruised across the line to take the victory, with Kann in second and Rosetti third.
As he did in the first race in Phoenix, Nicholas Latifi dominated the Saturday DD-2 race, leading flag to flag. Behind him, Jim Busby Jr. held off Bronson Eggert for second as the two battled throughout the race.
SUNDAY – Round 4
Unlike the Saturday race, the Sunday Micromax main had a trouble-free start and Griffin Dowler jumped out to the lead ahead of Cody Dempster and Conner Wick. Dempster, however, quickly took the lead and eased away to take the win, with Dowler finishing second and Wick in third.
For the second day in a row, Felipe Fraga lined up first for the Rotax Senior main, with Pagano second and Bryce Choquer third. Saturday winner Joey Wimsett lined up fourth with local driver Andrick Zeen fifth.
Fraga and Pagano jumped ahead of the field from the start, with Choquer up to third and Bobby Kelley jumping up to fourth. Fraga and Pagano began to pull away from everyone else but deeper in the field, Scott Saunders was moving his way up through the field while the top three drivers began to string out.
With thirty-nine karts on the track there was plenty of action in the middle of the field, but Fraga made it look easy as maintained a gap on Pagano and didn’t make any mistakes as he picked his way through traffic. After leading all the finals of the 2011 Gatorz Challenge of the Americas but not getting a win, Fraga finally broke through as he took the win ahead of Pagano. Saunders completed a late-race pass on Kelley to take the final spot on the podium.
Saturday winner Royal McKee lined up on pole ahead of Austin Versteeg, Christian Brooks and Justice Lepe. At the drop of the green, McKee and Versteeg held station but Brooks and Lepe went backwards, as Nicky Hays jumped from fifth to third at the start with Scott Huffaker right behind.
The action was fast at the front of the field, as Hays was looking to get to the front and get there in a hurry. After passing Versteeg, Hays went past McKee in the track’s hairpin. A lap later, McKee took the lead back in the same place and Hays fell under attack from Versteeg. Twice, Versteeg attempted a pass on Hays in the pit turn, and twice Hays shut the door and the karts made side-to-side contact.
Hays retook the lead from McKee and not long after, Versteeg pulled off the track with a thrown chain ending his race. Kami Moreira-Laliberte was up to third as a result which Christian Brooks right behind.
More drama came later in the race as McKee was given a mechanical black flag when his rear bumper came adrift of his kart while he ran in second place, battling with Brooks and Laliberte. Hays took his first win of the season, with Brooks in second and Laliberte third after McKee pulled off the track on the penultimate lap.
For the second day in a row, Parker McKean lined up first for the Junior Rotax main ahead of Parker Thompson. Jonathan May lined up third and Dakota Dickerson fourth. At the drop of the green McKean held his lead while May passed Thompson for second.
May waited a few laps before making a pass attempt for the lead in the hairpin. A few laps later, Thompson passed McKean and then May over the course of one lap to shake up the order again. The top five karts – Thompson, McKean, May, Jake Craig, and Dakota Dickerson – were running in a line.
Dickerson moved up two positions as a result until May got into the back of him also entering turn one, meaning May would receive a penalty.
At the checkered, Thompson took his third win of the season, with McKean second, May third, Craig fourth and Dickerson fifth. After May’s penalty was assessed, however, Craig was promoted to third and Dickerson to fourth.
The front row was very different than the front row of the ‘Saturday’ Rotax Masters main as Paul Bonilla was on pole ahead of Scott Falcone, Steve Dzurilla, and John Crow.
Bonilla held his lead at the start while Dzurilla jumped to second and Crow to third with Falcone falling to fourth. From the first corner, however, Bonilla and Dzurilla broke away from the field and began to run away from the rest of the field. The field settled into a rythm until the middle stages of the race when Dzurilla passed Bonilla in turn one and Falcone passed Crow for third place. Shortly after, however, Crow pulled his kart off track and rejoined but had fallen to ninth.
In the final couple of laps, the battle between Bonilla and Dzurilla heated up as Bonilla took the lead back and Dzurilla took it back with two laps remaining. Bonilla couldn’t find another opportunity to take the lead back, and Dzurilla took the checkered flag as the winner with Bonilla second and Falcone a ways back in third.
Rolison Performance Group DD-2 / Arrow Karts DD-2 Masters
Nicholas Latifi led the field to the green with Bronson Eggert, Matt Ostiguy, and Jim Busby, Jr. giving chase. The group ran in a train until the late stages when Eggert took a stab at the lead, making the pass in the hairpin. Latifi didn’t waste any time in retaking the lead with a pass into turn one
The battling allowed Ostiguy and Busby to get close. Busby was able to pass Ostiguy and then demoted Eggert to third, and with two laps to go, all four karts were running almost nose to tail. As close as they were, no one made another attempt and Latifi took his fourth victory of the year, with Busby in second and Eggert third.