January 15, 2011 (Glendale, Ariz.) – The kickoff of the fourth Gatorz Challenge of the Americas saw over one hundred karters descend on PKRA’s Formula K Raceway just north of Phoenix, Arizona.
With so many entries spread over six groups of racing, it was no surprise to see the amount of close-quarters racing with several classes having their wins decided after last-lap heroics. With particularly strong turnouts in Junior Rotax, Minimax and Senior Rotax, those classes featured non-stop action from the drop of the green flag till the drop of the checkered. Each main would prove to be a fitting start to what will no doubt be an exciting 2011 Gatorz Challenge of the Americas season.
Apollo Motorsports Micromax
Preston Anderson jumped into the lead as the six-kart Micromax field streamed into the tricky turn one and turn two complex on PKRA’s Formula K Raceway. Griffin Dowler, Fowler Keesling, and Conner Wick gave chase.
Keesling waited a few laps to make an attempt on Dowler, drafting past him down the backstraightaway for second place. Not long after, he repeated the same move when Anderson was slow through the kink that lead onto the backstraightaway. As Keesling went past, Dowler followed him through to demote Anderson to third.
Keesling stretched his lead throughout the race, while Anderson later retook second place from Dowler. At the checkered flag, Keesling crossed the stripe with a 3.492 second advantage over Anderson, who had a similar margin over Dowler in third. Cody Dempster finished fourth with Wick in fifth and Logan Keesling in sixth.
Overdrive Karting Junior Rotax
Jake Craig got the jump on pre-main winner Parker Thompson to grab the lead in the early stages of the race, with Thompson dropping to second. Jim McKinney would inherit third place after he had contact in turn one and took a shortcut to turn three. Matthew Moniz passed McKinney for third at the end of the first lap.
Craig and Thompson began to pull away from the field, and battle for the lead throughout the race with passes in turn one and turn two. While the two battled, Moniz was able to cut into their lead, and he made an aggressive pass on Craig into turn two to move into second. Less than a lap later, he got a run on Thompson and drafted past him into turn one. His lead, however was short lived as Thompson retook the lead in the same corner a lap later.
After all that excitement, Moniz couldn’t get close enough to mount another challenge, and Parker Thompson crossed the finish line to take his first win in his first Junior Rotax race in the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas. Moniz was second with Craig right behind in third.
Holeshot Racing Products Minimax
Austin Versteeg jumped out to the lead of the Minimax main with Royal McKee and Colton Herta right behind. Kyle Wick, however, quickly jumped into the frey when he passed Herta for third at the end of the first lap. Also at the end of the first lap, McKee drafted past Versteeg for the lead into turn one.
Wick continued his charge when he and McKee banged wheels through turns one and two, advancing up to second position. Later that lap, he got a run on Versteeg down the back straightaway and got past to take the lead.
The trio ran nose-to-tail until they had a lap and a half to go, when they encountered lapped traffic in the infield. Wick made his way past, but Versteeg made contact with the lapped kart, spinning both. McKee made it through but lost ground to Wick, who now had a couple of seconds in hand as he took the white flag. Wick held on to take the win, with McKee crossing in second and Versteeg able to bring his kart home in third.
Tony Kart West Senior Rotax
A ragged start saw Felipe Fraga jump out to a big lead at the start of the Rotax Senior main, with Scott Saunders second and Noel Dowler third. Immediately getting a big advantage, it looked like the main would be a repeat of the pre-main which Fraga dominated flag-to-flag.
But on a charge through the field was former series champion Stepanova Nekeel. From his 14th place starting position, Nekeel was up to second place by the ninth lap and was cutting into Fraga’s lead. Finally getting close enough to get in the draft, Nekeel dove past Fraga for the lead into turn one.
A few laps later, however, Fraga retook the lead and Saunders followed him to demote Nekeel to third place. The leading group caught lapped traffic, and after making their way past, Saunders saw an opportunity into turn one and dove under Fraga. The two made contact with Fraga going off the track on the exit of turn one and Saunders taking the lead back. Noel Dowler was up to second and Nekeel stayed in third place with Ben Schermerhorn right behind in fourth.
Saunders stayed at the front until the end, while Nekeel took second place from Dowler with Schermerhorn crossing the line right behind Dowler in fourth. However, after the race, Saunders was placed behind Fraga in the final standings as a result of their contact, and Nekeel was named the winner with Dowler second and Schermerhorn third.
One Racegear Rotax Masters
Local driver Bill Kann led the Rotax Masters race from the green flag with Ian Thomas and Larry Hayashigawa giving chase. Thomas’ race, however, was short-lived as he pulled his kart off on the opening lap with braking problems.
Charging from the back was Scott Falcone, who was leading pre-main until being black-flagged when his rear bumper detached. It took him only seven laps to get up to second position, but Kann had a five second advantage by that point. Falcone chipped away at that lead throughout the race, down to 2.1 seconds on the final lap. However, that was as close as he would get, as Kann took the win with Falcone in second. Ken Maxfield outlasted Larry Hayahsigawa in a race-long battle to finish in third.
Rolison Performance Group DD-2 / Arrow Karts DD-2 Masters
Nicholas Latifi cruised to the DD-2 class win, leading the 25 lap main flag-to-flag. Behind him, Bronson Eggert battled with Derek Wang for second place in the early stages before taking the position for good. Afterwards, Wang had to content with Jim Busby, Jr. to hang on to third position.
At the checkered, Latifi was the winner with Eggert in second, Wang third, and Busby, Jr. in fourth. However, Eggert was DQ’d for weight, putting Wang into second and Busby, Jr. in third.