The first race of the 2015 season is in the books as the Rotax Challenge of the Americas has invaded the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. It was very windy and cool to start the weekend, but when it came time for the Finals on Saturday the sun was out and the wind faded away, it was time to get down to business.
Excellent racing a theme on track Saturday as for the main categories, the races went down to the wire.
Qualifying was tight in Rotax Senior as Brendon Baker (Nash Motorsports/TonyKart) nipped Louie Pagano (2Wild/TonyKart) by 0.035 seconds for the pole-position with Mason Marotta (RPM/TonyKart) only 0.072 further back. Of the top-20, only two karts didn’t come from the OTK factory as Jake Craig (RaceLab/Formula K) was sixth and Chance Stephens (Zanardi) was eighteenth.
An exciting Prefinal set the tone for an action packed Final. When the dust settled in the opening laps Baker and Marotta had built a small gap over Pagano, Luke Sellikan (RPG/Kosmic) and Craig.
However Baker and Marotta diced for the lead around lap ten allowing the following three to catch up and make it a five kart race for the lead. These five duked it out in the middle portion of the race allowing Bryce Choquer (BBR/TonyKart), Blaine Rocha (RPG/Kosmic), Jonathon May (RPM/FA Kart) and Cedrik Lupien (RPM/Kosmic) into the mix.
Over the final five laps these ten drivers went to town, putting on a show. The lead was never held long and it all built up to a wild final lap. Trouble began coming to stripe for the white flag when Baker rolled slowly to the line and out of power with a tossed chain. A little further down the track karts went three wide into turn four with Choquer forced into the dirt and his race over as well. Up front Marotta and Pagano were neck and neck and when the checkered flew it was Pagano taking the win over Marotta and Lupien, who entered the final lap in ninth place, carving his way through the mayhem.
As the drivers arrived into the pit lane everyone had to catch their breathe as most of those in attendance congratulated the drivers on an incredible race, including series owner Andy Seeseman, who was all smiles.
Unfortunately for Pagano and Marotta their celebrations were cut short after technical issues altered the results. Pagano was a complete DQ while Marotta received a five position penalty. This moved Canadian Cedrik Lupien to the top of the podium in his first race as Senior Max driver with Craig and Sellikan joining him in the trophy celebration.
Rocha wound up fourth followed by Christian Brooks.