Last Saturday’s Rotax Grand Nationals Final at Newcastle Motorsports Park found Stepanova Nekeel out front with a big win in the highly competitive, premier Rotax Senior Class.
The win secures a second consecutive trip for Stepanova to the Rotax World Finals, this year at the famous La Conca track in Lonato, Italy. A really stoked Stepanova exclaimed, “I figured I couldn’t top being on last year’s America’s team in Egypt, but this year to win the National Championship and get a trip to Italy is even sweeter!”
It didn’t start out looking like this would be the year. “I had some real challenges early on with the chassis we brought from Seattle. We struggled in practice, and my dad and I were close to strangling each other. I finally decided I had to change chassis. My dad said if I wanted to go that direction, it was all on me. So, I managed to beg and borrow to get $950 cash to buy a used TonyKart, and we went to work. I wasn’t real fast right away, but as the last few practice sessions and the heats progressed, we figured out how to make the kart work pretty well.”
Starting 6th in each heat race, Stepanova drove hard, but kept his nose clean, ending up with two 4th’s and a 5th place. That put him in pretty decent shape for the 43-kart pre-final, starting on the outside of the 4th row. The prefinal start was not very kind to a couple of the front runners, and Stepanova got tangled up in the mess, too, emerging out of the first corner shuffled back into 13th place. Things started clicking as the laps went by, and he worked his way up to finish the pre-final in 4th. The final saw Stepanova hit his stride, slotting into 2nd by the end of the first lap, and tracking down the leader who had gotten away, and then passing for 1st place in lap 8 of the 19 lap race. He proceeded to put a gap on the field and never looked back, taking the win easily.
“Changing our chassis late, and since I’d never been on a Tony before, we decided to treat the heats and pre-final like practice. We made changes to the chassis between each race, getting a little faster every time. I have to say I got a great deal on a used chassis, all the sweeter since I had to spend my own money.”
Despite spending his own money to win the race, Stepanova would like to thank his dad for the rest of the help he got. He’d also like to thank Blake Choquer of BBR (bbrkarting.com), Mike Rolison of RPG (mikerolison.com), and a big endorsement for SfN Necollas (write firstname.lastname@example.org for more info). “I’m going to have to change my SfN Necolla to the green and white TonyKart colors now,” reports Stepanova.
Stepanova is looking forward to the Rotax World Finals in Italy, returning to the international stage with high expectations. “Rotax has gotten really competitive in the U.S., with a lot of the fastest drivers with national resumes to prove it,” according to Stepanova. “I think this year the U.S. Team has a chance to do as well or better than last year, when we produced the best showing for the U.S. ever.”