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January 28, 2012 News
EKN Trackside: Gatorz Challenge of the Americas - Tucson Saturday Report
 


The opening round of the 2012 Gatorz Challenge of the Americas was an exciting start to the new year. The Musselman Honda Circuit is playing host to the series for the first time in its five year history and provided the perfect backdrop to start the season. Bright sunny skies gave the perfect weather conditions with a slight wind keeping the mechanics busy. The Gatorz staff kept the action moving throughout the day as a number of great races took place. The big winners on the day included Senior Max victor Luke Chedliegh, DD2 winner Fritz Leesmann, and Parker Thompson in Junior.

Buddy Rice Karting Senior Max
Split into two groups, the first group saw fast lap setter from Friday’s timed session Phil DeLaO (Top Kart) set the bar after he was penalized for being underweight. Running in the first group did not hamper his speed, as he posted a 51.108 toward the end of the session. A host of drivers attacked the track quickly in the second group, but no one was able to overtake DeLaO for the pole position. 2010 Junior series champ ended up second as Canadian Luke Chudleigh (Maranello) jumped to the third position late in the timed run. Kyle Spaulding (FA Kart) was fourth with Parker McKean (Kosmic) fifth.

The front three broke away to begin the 17-lap Prefinal with DeLaO leading Chudleigh and Pagano. As the laps wound down, DeLaO set a blistering pace to pull away from the other two, eventually taking the checkered by over five-seconds out front with the fast lap of the race on his final circuit. Chudleigh finished second with Spaulding able to join the fight and finished third ahead of Pagano. 2010 vice-champion Mason Marotta (Intrepid) advanced from eighth to fifth.

With 35 karts in the field, some contact was expected at the start of the 25-lap event. When the green flag waved, the gaggle of karts shuffled into the opening corner. As they came out the following corners, Marotta held the lead with Chudleigh, Spaulding, Kevin King (CRG) and McKean. Both DeLaO and Pagano were shuffled back outside the top-10. The lead pack sorted themselves out until the battle began around lap four. Marotta was shuffled back to fourth while DeLaO and Pagano charged forward. With the leaders shuffling around, DeLaO was into fourth by lap six and running down the front three that were able to break away, including Chudleigh, Spaulding, and Marotta.
 

Luke Chudleigh came through on the final lap to take the Senior Max victory (Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
Luke Chudleigh came through on the final lap to take the Senior Max victory
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)

Spaulding appeared to be the quickest in the lead group, working his way to the point. DeLaO, however, was the fastest driver on track and eventually caught the group. Once into second, he and Spaulding pulled away. Lap 20, DeLaO pulled the trigger and passed for the lead. Spaulding fought back, retaking the spot in turn 11. They remained unchanged until the final lap. As they made their way through the esses and onto the back straight-away, contact was made and the two spun around. This allowed Chudleigh to work through the mess and into the lead. Completing the final corners unchallenged, the Canadian scored the victory. Marotta came through in second with King third. King would be penalized three spots for contact mid-way through the race, putting Nick Rivellini (CRG) to the third step of the podium. McKean and King capped off the top five. Spaulding continued on to finish sixth ahead of Pagano while DeLaO was left stranded on the track.

Overdrive Motorsports DD2 / BRK Engines DD2 Masters
The DD2 categories began the qualifying for the opening round of the series with both divisions on track at the same time with a combined entry total of 10 drivers. Fritz Leesmann (CRG) led the way through the session as he did in yesterday’s timed session before coming in underweight. Now properly scaled above the minimum weight, Leesmann posted a 50.115-lap to secure the top position, unable to break the 50-second mark. Canadian Daniel Burkett (LH) was second in the session with some consistent lap times, still two-tenths back of Leesmann. Bronson Eggert (Birel), Austin King (PCR) and John Wallace III (Energy) capped off the fast five. John Crow (Arrow) led things for the Masters category over Canadian Mark Wheeler (PCR), Jim Carey Sr. (Arrow) and Mike Urban (Arrow).

The Prefinal was a done deal for Leesmann as he had no trouble from the drop of the green. Leading all 17 laps, Fritz scored the win by over four-seconds with a great race for the runner-up spot going on behind him. Burkett, Eggert and King battled early with Eggert losing the draft toward the end. The final few laps saw King challenge Burkett for the second position, but nothing came of it as they crossed the line in that order with Wallace in fifth behind Eggert. Crow duplicated Leesmann’s performance in the Masters category, driving away to a near six-second win over Wheeler. Carey finished third with Urban retired after one lap.

Challenged early, Leesmann was just too strong on the day and drove away once again in the 25-lap Final. Burkett got the jump on Leesmann, literally, as he jumped the green flag. Getting by Leesmann in turn three of the opening lap, leading the field for a short time before Fritz gained it back. From there, Leesmann drove away to a nine-second victory to sweep the action for round one. Burkett and King battled hard the entire time for the second spot with King getting the edge at the line. Burkett was penalized 10 seconds for the jump start, but still finished third as Eggert fell off the pace near the end, placing fourth over Matt Ostiguy (CRG). Crow swept the action in DD2 Masters, placing sixth overall in the race, as he outran Wheeler by six seconds. Carey completed the podium with Urban in fourth.

Billet Performance Group Masters Max
Close and tight racing is expected this weekend in the Masters Max category by yesterday’s practice sessions. Qualifying for round one was no different with the top-six all within four-tenths of a second. Paul Bonilla (Arrow) led the way with a fast lap of 52.728, as he edged out defending US Rotax Grand Nationals champion Brent Harper (Swiss Hutless) by 0.132-seconds. Steve Dzurilla (Birel) was third in the order, just nipping out defending series champ Scott Falcone (Arrow) for the inside of row two to start the Prefinal as Larry Hayashigawa (Energy) completed the fast five. Following post-session tech, Harper was removed from the results for an engine violation, moving Ken Maxfield (Arrow) to fifth and Harper back to 13th to start the Prefinal.
 

Fritz Leesmann swept the first day in the DD2 category (Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
Fritz Leesmann swept the first day in the DD2 category
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)

Bonilla missed out on a great race, as the pole sitter drove away to the victory in the 17-lap Prefinal. Behind him, six drivers battled hard for the second spot. Early on, Falcone held the spot but was pressured by Dzurilla and Derek Poirier (Intrepid). Harper came charging from the back and joined the fight, bringing Hayashigawa with him as Maxfield brought up the end of the train. Three wide action shuffled up the group numerous times as they exited turn one, providing some great dicing as they dove into the esses of turn two and three. Eventually, Harper knifed his way to the second position with Falcone on his bumper. They would end that way about two-seconds back of Bonilla. Dzurilla was fourth with Poirier in fifth over Hayashigawa and Maxfield.

While the day did not begin on the positive side from Harper, it ended on a high note with the reigning US champ scoring the victory in the main event. Bonilla jumped out front of the field as Harper dropped to third behind Falcone. Once he retained the second spot, Harper set his sites on closing on the leader. Once to Bonilla, Harper was able to work around and extend to about an eight-tenth lead when the checkered flag fell. Bonilla settled for second with Dzurilla putting in a great drive to round out the podium over Poirier and Maxfield.

Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
A full field of 37 drivers was split into two groups for qualifying with the faster group going second. Leading the way from the drop of the green flag was defending series champion, Canadian Parker Thompson (Tony Kart). Quick out of the box, Thompson came in about the halfway point to make some changes to his machine and was able to better his time to 51.284 to secure the pole position. Arizona driver Micah Hendricks (Intrepid) laid down an impressive lap to sit second after the session. Jake Craig (CRG) was third in the order with Zacharie Scalzo (LH) and Luke Selliken (Kosmic) capping off the fast five.

Thompson would score the victory in the Prefinal, but it was not without some effort. At the start, he was shuffled back to the fourth position as Craig pulled out of the opening corner with the lead over Hendricks and Scalzo. After Thompson got settled back down, he worked by for third and then the second position, beginning to run down Craig who established a solid lead. By the mid-way point of the 17-lap race, Thompson caught and passed Craig for the lead. Craig settled into second until the closing laps when he worked back around for the top spot. On the final lap, Thompson got a great run down the long backstraight, drafting by Craig for the lead and holding on to the spot through the final corners for the win. Craig settled for second with Hendricks five-seconds back in third. Scalzo was fourth with Selliken winning the battle for fifth. Hendricks however was removed from the results after tech and was put to the back of the field for the main event.

No better way to begin your title defense then with a sweep in the opening round. Thompson completed that with a victory in the 25-lap main event. Getting away at the start, Thompson drove unchallenged to victory by over five-seconds. The margin of victory changed after the race with second place finisher Craig getting penalized 10 seconds for jumping the start. That moved him back to seventh in the final order. That put Selliken up to second with Scalzo winning the final spot on the podium over Blaine Rocha (Arrow) and Austin Versteeg (CRG). A great drive was put in by Hendricks, charging from the tail of the field. Up to 13th by the halfway mark, Micah advanced to ninth when the checkered flag waved to salvage some points in the championship hunt.
 

Defending Junior champ Parker Thompson began his defense with victory in round one (Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
Defending Junior champ Parker Thompson began his defense with victory in round one
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)

BBR Karting Mini Max
The final group of the qualifying order was the Mini Max category. Out of the gate quick was defending US Rotax Grand Nationals champion Christian Brooks (Energy) as he posted the only lap below the 55-second mark. His 54.447-lap put him nearly eight-tenths ahead of Horatio Fitz-Simon (CRG). Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) was third in the timed session with Nicky Hays (Birel) and Royal McKee (Energy) rounding out the fast five.

While not challenged in the qualifying session, Brooks had his hands full in the Prefinal as Robb picked up the pace to challenge for the win. The two ran nose to tail with Robb taking the lead a few times before Brooks would retake it. At the line, Brooks held Robb off for the win. McKee advanced to third with Jeff Fullham (LH) up to fourth and Hays back to fifth after Fitz-Simon retired on the final lap running in the top-five.

Brooks proved to be too much in the feature and scored the opening round victory. At the drop of the green flag, Brooks and Robb pulled away from the field. Lap by lap, Brooks stretched his lead over the 18-lap event. By the checkered flag, Brooks had a three-second gap over Robb for the win. McKee controlled the third position, challenged late in the race by Fitz-Simon, who came up from the 12th starting spot. Jessica Dezall (PCR) capped off the top-five.

Apollo Motorsports Micro Max
The Micro Max began its third season as part of the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas, starting with Sophia Price (Kosmic) leading the way in qualifying. Her 1:00.723 lap was two-tenths quicker than her closets competitor. Derek DesLauriers (Energy) was second with Corbin Emery (Birel) a close third. Marco Kacic (CRG) and Griffin Dowler (Tony Kart) were near identical on the clock to round out the fast five. Price would lose her pole position spot after technical inspection after the session, putting her to 11th on the grid for the Prefinal, moving everyone up one position.

With the pole position, DesLauriers had a clean path in front of him for the Prefinal. From the green flag, Derek led all 10 laps and pulled out to 5.456-second victory. Kacic ran alone for the second position to move up to the front row for the main event. A great battle for third ended with Jacob Blue Hudson (Energy) up from fifth into the position over Emery, Cody Dempster (CRG), and Dowler.

The Final for Micro Max saw some shuffling around with heavy racing, attrition, and penalties. Up front however it was the same two out front as DesLauiers pulled away to the victory over Hudson. Price ended up on the final step of the podium over Dempster with Wick capping off the top-five.

Everything will reset for tomorrow as round two takes place on Sunday, with drivers able to redeem themselves, or extend their championship goals. Be sure to listen live at http://www.ekartingnews.com/live , beginning at 9:20am MT / 11:20am ET
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