January 17, 2011 (Glendale, Arizona) – The second round of the 2011 Gatorz Challenge of the Americas would not be short on excitement, as days of testing and one day of racing would come to a head during Sunday’s mains. As ever, the tricky turns one and two on PKRA’s Formula K Raceway would set the stage for most of the overtaking and incidents throughout the day, with that section deciding the outcome of several of the day’s races.
Apollo Motorsports Micromax
Saturday’s Micromax race was a close-fought affair from the drop of the green flag until the checkered, but Fowler Keesling made sure the Sunday race would be different as he jumped out a huge lead on the opening lap, leaving the rest of the field a couple of second behind before he finished his first lap.
Preston Anderson and Griffin Dowler ended up having an entertaining battle for second that had the assembled crowd cheering at each pass and repass as the two traded the position throughout the race. It looked like it would be decided in the final corners of the race, PKRA’s tricky Daytona and La Source, but on the white flag lap Dowler spun as he attempted to make a pass on the outside of Daytona stick. Keesling handily took the win, with Anderson finishing a ways behind in second and Dowler, once he got his kart pointed in the right direction, finished third.
Overdrive Karting Junior Rotax
Jake Craig led the field at the start of the main, chased by Parker McKean, Jonathan May and Jim McKinney. Craig began to pull away but all eyes were on the kart starting in ninth, Parker Thompson. Thompson had spun earlier in the day at the start of the pre-main, dropping to last but working his way up to ninth.
Craig held his lead throughout the first half of the race with McKean and May not far behind, but it wasn’t long before Thompson caught and passed May, then McKean, then set his sights on the leader. May then had an off exiting turn twelve which dropped him far down the order.
Thompson seized an opportunity in the draft down PKRA’s back straightaway to take the lead into turn one, but Craig instantly took in back with a late pass in turn two. Thompson made another attempt and made this one stick, but for a few laps Craig stuck right on his rear bumper. Over the final few laps, however, Thompson began to pull away and would take his second Junior Rotax win of the weekend, with Craig not far behind.
The battle for third would prove to be equally entertaining as McKean held off McKinney, Joseph Schwager, and Matthew Moniz. In the end, McKean would take third.
Holeshot Racing Products Minimax
Polesitter Austin Versteeg was unable to convert his pole position to a race lead at the start of the Minimax main, as Kyle Wick got the drop on him to take the lead followed by Scott Huffaker, Colton Herta, and Royal McKee with Versteeg right behind.
McKee and Versteeg quickly worked through the group to move up to the lead, with Versteeg taking the point from Wick on the fourth lap. It wasn’t long before McKee took it back, and throughout the race the two were trading the lead – and banging wheels – almost every lap for the race win.
With Kyle Wick hanging out in third waiting to capitalize on a mistake, McKee and Versteeg traded paint throughout the final couple of laps and it was Versteeg who survived the final two corners to take the win, with McKee right behind and Wick in third. Huffaker hung on for fourth and Christian Brooks finished fifth.
Tony Kart West Senior Rotax
Felipe Fraga was the driver to beat in the Saturday race before he was knocked out of the lead, and won the Sunday pre-main. At the drop of the green, however, Stepanova Nekeel got the drop on him to take the lead with Fraga dropping into second. Behind him, Louie Pagano, Joey Wimsett, Austin King, and Bobby Kelley gave chase.
Fraga needed two laps to take the lead back, but Nekeel, a former Gatorz Challenge of the Americas champion, had plenty of speed left and the two exchanged the lead several times. In one exchange in turn one, Fraga took the lead back but Nekeel was tripped up and lost second place to Wimsett. Wimsett, who had a nasty crash in the Saturday pre-main, gave chase but Nekeel took the position back and quickly caught Fraga. The final pass for the lead came on the ninth lap, when Nekeel took the lead in turn one and began to slowly pull away from Fraga.
After the frantic opening of the race, the rest of the race was somewhat uneventful – in stark contrast to Saturday’s race – and Nekeel took his second win in two days, with Fraga in second and Wimsett finishing third. King finished fourth, with Pagano in fifth.
One Racegear Rotax Masters
Local driver Bill Kann had swept the day up until the main began, after taking pole position and leading the pre-main flag-to-flag. Colorado native Scott Falcone started off-pole in the final and nearly got the drop on Kann but Kann held him at bay throughout the race’s opening stages.
Ian Thomas ran in third and was able to stay with the two leaders throughout the first third of the race before he began to slip back. Falcone attacked early, taking the lead with a pass in turn one, but Kann answered back two laps later. The two ran in that order until the latter stages when Falcone took the lead back in turn one, held off an attack from Kann in the same spot the next lap, but Kann muscled his way past exiting turn two.
However, on the next to last lap, Kann made a mistake exiting turn six and Falcone seized the opportunity, diving under him to take the lead. Kann had one last shot at Falcone, diving into turn one on the final lap, but Falcone’s defensive line allowed him to stay ahead and take the win – incidentally, one year after winning the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas race in Phoenix. Kann was right behind in second, while Thomas ran a relatively quiet race to finish third.
Rolison Performance Group DD-2 / Arrow Karts DD-2 Masters
Nicholas Latifi had been untouchable on Saturday but Derek Wang seemed to have found the speed to race with him, as the two broke away from the rest of the DD-2 field from the drop of the green flag.
While Wang spent most of the race right behind Latifi, Bronson Eggert, who had been a DNF in the pre-main with a mechanical issue, had a long battle first with Kelson Penn, and then with Jim Busby, Jr., to work up through the field.
Things got very exciting when, with two laps remaining, Wang made a late pass on Latifi in turn one that stuck. However, five corners later, Wang made a mistake allowing Latifi to sneak back into the lead. Wang wasn’t done, and pulled off another late pass in turn one with one lap remaining, but Latifi crossed him on the exit and took the position right back.
At the checkered, Latifi held on to take his second win of the weekend, with Wang right behind in second and Eggert in third. January Grove would win DD-2 Masters.
The third and fourth rounds of the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas will be held next month on February 19-20 at the Calspeed Karting Center in Fontana, California.