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Rotax Max Challenge USA Nationals-Saturday Report


Following a year of work and preparation, everything came to a conclusion for the ninth running of the Rotax Max Challenge USA Grand Nationals as all the drivers and teams put everything on the line in the final day of action to score a national championship. The Oklahoma Motorsports Complex in Norman, OK provided the back drop for yet another dramatic finish to the Rotax Grand Nationals with the tough 7/10-mile circuit challenge a number of competitors while weather also played a huge part. In the end, only seven drivers were crown National Champions with 10 drivers being given the honor to represent the United States of America at the Rotax Grand Finals in Egypt.

A scary start to the Prefinal for the Senior group as drivers near mid-pack got together jostling for position as the green flag waved. Two spun off track as they reached flagman Matt Long and clipped the young head starter. Taking a major fall, Long was able to get up after a couple seconds of composing himself. The race was red flagged so medics could attend to the Indiana native and he was able to walk away from the horrific collision, though expected to be extremely sore tomorrow morning.

Phillip Arscott went untouched to score his first Senior national crown and return to the Rotax Grand Finals
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

At the restart, a gaggle of karts got together as Joey Wimsett (Intrepid) was able to use the outside line to get around pole sitter Phillip Arscott (Tony Kart). Arscott quickly reassumed the lead on the second lap in turn four after looking into turn one, however, had to pull back for the yellow flag in the first turn. As the beginning laps clicked off, the clouds began to drop some moisture and changing the conditions of the 18-lap race. Arscott and Wimsett looked to use their wet weather expertise to stay out in front as Arie Ouimet (CRG), Andy Dunne (Birel) and Victor Pedrosa (Tony Kart) made up the top-five. The drivers nursed their machines around the wet track as the rain continued to fall with a number of mid-pack drivers spinning off. Ouimet was actually gaining on the top two as they continued to swap the lead. Wimsett took control of the point as Ouimet closed in on the bumper of Arscott. On lap nine, Ouimet made the pass through turn 10 for the second spot and set his sights on Wimsett. The top three then began to shuffle the lead as they met lap traffic along the second half of the race with more rain falling. At the checkered, Arscott took the win ahead of Wimsett and Ouimet. Pedrosa was able to get up to fourth in the final laps ahead of Dunne in what would be the only wet race in the rain on the day.

Arscott and Ouimet were able to push the inside line by Wimsett as they went through the opening corner for the Final. A number of drivers were sideways from mid-pack on but most continued on. Arscott’s lead was about five kart lengths after the first lap as Ouimet was fighting off Wimsett. Ouimet went back to fifth with Wimsett leading a train of karts, including Pedrosa and Dunne, to advance up the order as Arscott continued to stretch out his lead in the early portion of the 27-lap Final. Lap five, Pedrosa was able to draft by Wimsett for the second spot as Dunne began falling back with a tire slowly deflating but continued on until lap 11 when he retired. That put Ouimet and Garrison Masters (CRG) up to the top-five for the time being. Lap 11, Wimsett got a great run and was able to get inside of Pedrosa, working by as they exited the turn four-five-six combination and bringing Ouimet with him. Three laps later, Pedrosa got inside off Ouimet for third in the same area that he lost his two positions.

At the halfway mark, Arscott had stretched out to a four-second advantage over Wimsett as he ran very consistent laps times, all within a tenth of a second. Lap 18, Pedrosa went back into the second position while a charging Geoffery Roberti (Tony Kart) broke into the top-five after starting 22nd, getting by both Ouimet and Masters. On lap 25, Wimsett got a great run down the straight to again retake the runner-up spot but Pedrosa returned the favor just a few laps later. Wimsett, who seemed to be hurting on bottom-end speed, tried to take over the second spot nearly making contact slowed him to a near stop. That allowed Roberti a possible chance at stealing third from Wimsett. Leading all 27-laps, Arscott sealed the deal with the checkered flag to earn the national championship and make his second straight trip to the Grand Finals. Pedrosa crossed second with Wimsett holding off Roberti for the third podium step. Ouimet was able to track down Masters and score a top-five run. For his efforts, Roberti was awarded a four-day course at the Bondurant Racing School, awarded to Arscott last year.

Cody Hodgson held off a late charge by Troy Castaneda to win the DD2 crown
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Things got dicey into the opening corner of the DD2 Prefinal as the field entered the turn with Thiago Parazinho (CRG) spinning from his third starting spot, shuffling the field around him and collecting Erik Jackson (Arrow). Out front, Cody Hodgson (Tony Kart) was able to sneak away from the field to establish a large lead in the first circuit as the rest of the field began a battle for second. James Carey (Arrow) benefitted from the turn one contact to slide into second until Troy Castaneda (CRG), Matthew Ostiguy (CRG) and Nathan Mauel (CRG) were able to work by in the opening laps. Hodgson cruised to the win by just over a second ahead of Castaneda. Ostiguy ran third with Parazinho recovering to finish fourth ahead of Mauel.

Hodgson and Castaneda were able to get away cleanly to begin the 27-lap feature while Ostiguy and Mauel slotted in behind with Parazinho falling back to fifth the first time by the stripe. The front three ran nose to tail as Mauel fell back into the grasp of Parazinho, who drafted by on lap four to secure the fourth spot on-track. Parazinho then began clocking in the quick laps of the race at the time to run down the front three. Moving into third on lap 9, Parazinho settled in behind the front two as they ran near identical lap times. The three ran nose to tail with no one making a mistake and no one able to gain an advantage anywhere on the track. In the closing lap, Hodgson was able to pull out a larger advantage with Parazinho putting a little more pressure on Castaneda. With two to go, Castaneda dropped the fast lap of the race to pull away from Parazinho and close in once again on Hodgson. They then swapped the fast lap of the race in the final laps with the victory coming down to the final corners. Castaneda was able to put it inside of Hodgson at turn 12 and they exited the final corner side by side. Getting to the line with a little bit of contact, Hodgson had the victory by 0.133-seconds to score the national title. Parazinho came across third with Ostiguy fourth and Carlos Duenas (CRG) coming up for fifth. Scoring the DD2 Masters title was January Grove (CRG) as she was the top driver the entire event and held off Roger Bonham for the national crown.

Mike Daniel benefited from a disqualification to be awarded the Masters title
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Pole sitter Andy Seesemann (Birel) was a little slow at the drop of the green as Paul Bonilla (Birel) and Mike Daniel (CRG) were able work around in the opening corner with Jim Busby Jr. (Arrow) and John Crow (Birel) making up the early top-five. At the halfway mark, lap traffic bunched up the lead group, allowing Crow to go from fourth to third and move Seesemann one spot back. This brought the CRGs of Russell Hamel and Brad Smith into the mix and making it a seven kart lead group. After numerous looks to the inside down the front straight, Daniel pulled the trigger with three laps to go to overtake the lead. From there, he held off Bonilla for the win. Hamel was able to briefly hold the third spot but Crow was able to retake the position. Seesemann followed through, putting Hamel back to fifth with Busby and Smith right behind.

Daniel held the advantage getting through the first corner with Crow able to squeeze by Bonilla for the second spot as the field slotted in behind to begin the 27-lap Final. The top three were able to break away as Hamel, Smith, Seesemann and Tyler Brooks (Kosmic) battle for the fourth position. Once Brooks got into the position, he led the group to close in on the lead pack. As that happened, Crow looked inside of Daniel but was unable to make a move as the lead pack became six. Brooks - posting the fast laps of the race early, was able to slide by Bonilla for third as they went through the banked inside section of the circuit, looking for some drafting help to close the gap on the front two. Lap eight, Crow was able to make a pass stick to take over the lead while Bonilla and Seesemann were able to push by Brooks for third and fourth. Crow establish a good lead as Daniel had to fight off Bonilla. Behind them, Smith worked himself into fourth ahead of Seesemann and Brooks. As the race progressed, Crow’s lead grew larger as Daniel continued to hold off Bonilla until Smith was able to get inside at turn one for the third spot on lap 21. Smith then took his turn at pressuring Daniel for the second position for the remainder of the laps. Crow would go on to take the checkered flag for what he thought would be his first Rotax National Championship until he was removed in tech for a spark plug issue. That put Daniel, who held on to second, on top of the podium as with the national crown. Smith - with the help of former national champion David Odenthal wrenching on his machine - moved to the second step with Bonilla joining them in third. Busby advanced up to fourth with Hamel able to edge out Seesemann for the fifth spot.

Nick Neri earned his second Rotax National Championship, his first Junior crown
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Contact in the Prefinal opening lap caused a major pile up, including pole sitter Jesus Rios Jr. (CRG) as everyone was pushing the limits into the corner. All drivers got back underway but up front Mason Chelootz (Top Kart) came out with the lead with Alec Udell (Top Kart) and Nick Neri (Tony Kart) showing the way behind. Neri however was quick on the draw as he first got by Udell and then Chelootz on lap two for the lead. The Birels of Sage Karam and Jake French made it a five kart battle for the lead with Karam drafting by Udell at the end of the front straight to move up to third on lap four. Making a pass for second the following lap, he then put his head down to attempt to cut into Neri’s seven-tenths lead. Neri however was just too quick as he kept extending his lead. The battle for second changed as contact between Chelootz and French put them off track and out of the top-10. This put Udell into second but a slow front left tire leak hindered his pace, allowing Karam and Rios - from 13th on the opening lap - to scrap for second. A three wide maneuver put Karam into the second spot from fourth as Udell went from second to fourth. Rios kept third and pressured Karam to the line but would not make anything happen. Neri took the win by seven-seconds with Karam crossing second. A great recovery for Rios, who posted the quick laps of the race, put him on the inside row two for the feature with Udell and Phil DeLaO (CRG) - another driver involved in the opening me lay - coming back to finish fifth.

Karam was able to get the jump at the drop of the Final green flag but as they exited the corner, Neri and Rios were both able to get by to show the way. Neri’s time up front was short-lived as Rios was able to draft by for the lead after crossing the stripe for the first time. Neri returned to the point on lap five with a similar pass down into the first corner but they were able to break away from the rest of the top-five despite the swapping for position. Neri then began to stretch out to a good lead as Rios fell back into the clutches of Karam. Lap nine, Karam was able to work by for the position and put a couple kart lengths between them. Ringel then became the driver to watch as he posted the fast laps of the race to move forward from fifth, up to third with a pass on lap 11. The next time by, he closed in on Karam and looked like a rocket as he shot by Karam down the front straight. Neri continued to lead as Ringel pulled some distance on Karam but was unable to track down Neri. Karam meanwhile kept looking back to check on the progress of Udell, who kept it close to Karam’s bumper. The driver on the charge however was 14th place starter Louie Pagano (Birel) as he joined a four kart fight for the fifth spot that included Rios, French, and DeLaO. Things changed for the third spot as on lap 24 contact between Karam and Udell allowed Pagano and French to join in the fight for third. Neri would run unchallenged to the victory as he crossed the line over two-seconds ahead of Ringel. On the final lap, heavy contact was made between the four drivers fighting for third, resulting in Karam spinning off course. French came out on the better half as he got to the line to finish third ahead of Udell and DeLaO with Pagano back to sixth. With Neri taking the trip to the Grand Finals with the Florida Winter Tour championship, Ringel, French and Udell will join him in Egypt along with Challenge of the Americas champion DeLaO.

Ethan Low scored an emotional win in the Mini Max category
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Mini Max
Blake Berryhill (Intrepid) was able to work around pole sitter Derek James Sobel (FA Kart) to begin the 18-lap Prefinal. One driver spun in the opening corner, Pietro Fittipaldi Da Cruz (Tony Kart) after starting sixth, falling to the tail of the field. Four karts made up the lead group with Ethan Low (Birel) and Michael Womack (Birel) joining the fight. Sobel was able to work up to the lead around lap five, taking it from Low. Though the top four stayed in line, a group of three karts began running down the leaders near the halfway mark, including Trenton May (CRG), Dalton Sargeant (Kart Mini) and Patricio O’Ward (Arrow). The final lap was exciting with the fireworks beginning in turn nine when Womack spun around and everyone scrambled to avoid him. Then into turn 12, a group of karts were collected after contact - including Sobel, Berryhill, Sargeant, Jordan Perry (CRG) and others. At the line, it was Low that took the Prefinal win with May, O’Ward, Womack after recovering, and Drew Setzer (Birel) completing the top-five.

Starting third, O’Ward was able to slid on the exit of the first corner to come out with the lead to begin the 18-lap Final. O’Ward was quick on cold tires as he stretched out to a nearly one-second lead over Low and Womack. His deficit however vanished as he was caught by both and Thomas Issa (CRG) for a four-kart fight for the lead. Low took over the lead before the halfway mark with O’Ward settled in on his bumper while Issa moved up to third ahead of Womack. The lead group grew to eight as four more drivers were able to run down the leaders including May, Cole Glasson (FA Kart), Kyle Kirkwood (Birel), and Sobel who advanced up from the 19th grid position. The group ran static until the two to go signal was given. That was when O’Ward pulled the trigger, sliding by Low for the lead into turn 11. Low came back down the straight to draft by O’Ward into turn one. Low ran a defensive line around the remainder of the track and though he tried, O’Ward was not able to get alongside the leader. Low edged out O’Ward at the line by 0.054-seconds. Womack got to the line third with Issa and Sobel rounding out the top-five. Sargeant put in a good run as he came from 26th on the grid to end up ninth.

Recovering from a penalty in the Prefinal, Logan Sargeant came from last to first in the Micro Max feature
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Micro Max
As he did in all the heat races, Logan Sargeant (Kart Mini) dominated the Prefinal, taking the 10-lap win by over 15-seconds however a disqualification for running a towel on his radiator during the warm-up lap put him at the tail of the field to start the Final. This gave Jacob Drew (CRG) the win with Anthony Gangi Jr. (CRG) up into second. Juan David Buitrago (Tony Kart) was third with Joshua Sirgany (Tony Kart) and Devlin DeFrancesco (FA Kart) completing the top-five.

With Sargeant’s disqualification, Drew and Gangi led the field to the green flag for the start of the main event. With a damp track and most everyone on slicks, Gangi had the jump into turn one but spun alone with a number of drivers also spinning. Coming to the line for the first time, DeFrancesco was shown leading the way with Buitrago and Sargeant making his way up to third after avoiding all the carnage in the opening corner. Sargeant was on his game once again, first getting by DeFrancesco, who lost the lead to Buitrago, then taking the lead before the halfway mark. As the race continued, the track began to dry and Sargeant was quicker each time by the stripe. Sargeant took the checkered flag first, coming from the final position on the grid to score the national title with a win by just over 10-seconds. Buitrago was second with DeFrancesco completing the podium. Juan David Bonilla (PCR) came from ninth to fourth with Michael d’Orlando (CRG) rounding out the top-five.

With the event complete, the seven national champions have been decided and the America’s Team for the December Rotax Grand Finals event in Egypt selected. Arscott, Pedrosa, Wimsett, Wes Phillips from the Challenge of the America - Hodgson, Castaneda, Parazinho - Neri, Ringel, French, Udell, and DeLaO - along with one Masters to be determined will fly the American colors at the event to look to bring home the gold in what is considered to be the ‘Olympics of Karting’. For others, a year ahead of planning and preparing for the 2010 Rotax Max Challenge USA Grand Nationals is in the future with information on the location of that event to be announced in the next two months. To check out the complete coverage of the week, visit the Event Page and check out the posts in the Official Discussion Thread.

Article Credit: ekartingnews.com
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