The kickoff to the 2011 karting season for Tony Kart West was this past weekend at a location familiar to them – PKRA’s Formula K Raceway in Glendale, Arizona, for the season opener of the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas. The team, which was nine drivers strong and would compete in five of the series’ six classes, was looking for a strong start in what was sure to be a very competitive weekend.
The transition from Cadet to Junior classes is a large one, but the team was confident that Parker Thompson would be able to handle the transition and remain as competitive as he was throughout 2010 in Cadet karting. Thompson however, gathered the first two wins of the season for the team as he took pole position on both days before impressively winning each main in close battles. However, his Sunday win was all the more impressive as, after qualifying on pole, Thompson spun in the first corner of the pre-main and fell to the back of the field.
Getting his Tony Kart pointed in the right direction, he rallied from 19th to ninth by the end of the pre-main, and worked up to the lead of the Junior Rotax field by the halfway point in the main. After a close battle, Thompson took his second win in two days. Also running strongly in Junior Rotax was Jonathan May, who qualified thirteenth on Saturday but picked his way through the field impressively to finish fifth in the main. On Sunday, he qualified tenth but worked his way through the field to finish third in the pre-main and ran in that spot throughout the first half of the main before going off track. He would ultimately finish ninth, right ahead of teammate Kyler Repella, getting a strong tenth in his first Gatorz Challenge of the Americas weekend.
Tony Kart West’s new weapon in Minimax, Royal McKee, had an eventful weekend in his first outing for the team. McKee finished second in the Saturday main, after he was caught up in a crash when the lead battle he was a part of encountered a lapped kart with a lap and a half remaining. In Sunday’s main, McKee had a titanic battle throughout the final where he swapped the lead in a drafting, wheel-banging battle throughout the race. In the end, however, he would finish second for the second straight day.
Also grabbing two podiums was Micromax driver Preston Anderson. They may be the smallest but the Micromax karts put on a great show and Anderson was in the mix of things, finishing second on Saturday before he had a race-long battle for the second spot in Sunday’s main. The battle went down to the last corner on the last lap, where Anderson was able to hold his advantage while his competitor spun trying to take second away. For the second day, Anderson stood on the podium.
Masters driver Larry Hayashigawa had a strong weekend, narrowly missing the podium in Saturday’s main when he finished fourth. He would finish sixth on Sunday after narrowly avoiding an opening lap crash that caught up half the field.
It was not to be a strong weekend for the team’s three drivers in Rotax Senior. While things started strongly for Matt Johnson as he qualified third on Saturday, mechanical issues hampered him in the pre-main before he finished 15th in the main. Teammates Devin Lindsay and John Wallace were caught up in crashes on both days in each main, as was Johnson on Sunday.
“We had some real highs and lows this weekend, but we were excited to see Parker get two wins and to get Preston and Royal on the podium,” said Buddy Rice, owner of Tony Kart West. “It’s always nice to start the year on a positive note and that’s what we had with six podiums in our first weekend. Unfortunately we had nothing but bad luck in the Rotax Senior race as Matt showed in qualifying we really had some speed with our Senior package. But that’s how it goes sometimes, and we’ll be ready next month at Calspeed.”
Photo Caption: Parker Thompson takes his second Junior Rotax win of the weekend. (Sean Buur)
About Tony Kart West
Owned by Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Tony Kart West, LLC is an official importer of Tony Karts and OTK Kart Parts. Tony Kart West services 13 dealers across the western United States, in addition to competing in several series including Gatorz, IKF, Championship Karting International, and SKUSA. To learn how you can race for Tony Kart West call 1.877.TONYKART, or e-mail Seth Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org , or Marc Miller at email@example.com . The team’s website is at www.tonykartwest.com.
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