The premier category, Rotax Senior, had five or six solid hitters this past weekend that all took their time at the front. In the final though it would come down to a battle between two former champions. It is no secret that since winning the National title and the SKUSA Pro Tour in 2014 Jake Craig has had his ups and downs never really consistently finding himself at the front of the grid. After a tough start to the 2016 season Craig made the switch back to OTK and this time with Ryan Perry Motorsports.
Without the presence of Kirkwood at the event Oliver Askew was the favorite and he delivered with pole position, and two heat race wins. The other heat went to Christian Brooks who like Craig has made the switch back to an OTK frame. In the final Askew jumped out to the early lead with Craig in tow and the two slowly pulled away from Brooks. With three laps to go Craig made his move and it wasn’t until the final corner where Askew made one last attempt. The two drag raced to the line making slight contact and Craig coming out on top by just .004 of a second. Brooks rounded out the podium in third for Nash Motorsportz.
In the Junior category Michael d’Orlando looked like he had the field covered that until Saturday morning when Aiden Keel and Dylan Tavella showed up to play. After finishing second for the first time all weekend in the prefinal, Michael d’Orlando got shuffled back from his outside starting position at the start of the final. Once the first lap settled Keel led Tavella and d’Orlando had fallen all the way back to sixth and over two seconds behind the leaders.
While the leaders battled d’Orlando was turning impressive times three to four tenths of a second quicker than the front duo. Because of this the PSL Karting driver was able to make big inroads on them, which put the pressure on them. Keel, feeling the pressure made a mistake exiting turn one that allowed d’Orlando to slip. Out front Tavella kept his head down and focused putting in very consistent laps. In the end d’Orlando was only just able to get within striking distance, but needed a few more laps to really challenge for the win. Tavella now makes this three big wins in a row and adding a third Rotax National title to the list.
The Masters category never fails to deliver exciting racing and this weekend was no different. The final included multiple passes for the top four positions, but one driver managed the race better than anyone else. If you have ever met Derek Wang, you know he is one of the coolest cats in the paddock and this “cool” continues on the track as it is very hard to pressure him. Derek never fell out of the top two spots and after a lot of battling in the early stages of the races was able to take the lead back on lap twelve and hold onto it until the finish. Behind him John Bonanno ran most of the race in third and fourth, but in the closing laps was able to jump up a few spots to take second ahead of Scott Roberts and Billy Cleavelin who was Wang’s biggest challenger in the first part of the final.
The duo of Austin Torgerson and Tyler Gonzalez went blow for blow all weekend with the two talented youngsters trading the top spot nearly every race in the Mini Max category. In the Final Gonzalez led flag-to-flag, although Torgerson was able to keep him honest in second always ready to pounce. In third Arias Deukmedjian added to his list of podiums this year. Jak Crawford was fourth followed by Ashton Torgerson in fifth.
As with a few other races in the weekend, the first few laps can really dictate the outcome of the final. In Micro Max this happened with a bunch of action early on that allowed by Diego LaRoque and James Egozi to pull out a massive lead over the rest of the field. For the most part the two worked together until the gap was big enough to start the fight. The two drivers exchanged positions a few times, but LaRoque each time would put himself back at the point taking the win and closing out a near sweep of the weekend. Seven seconds behind Josh Pierson beat out Torgerson and Tiner for third.
In the Rotax DD2 and DD2 Masters Final, Christian Munoz rebounded after a bad start taking the lead back after making contact with Dev Gore in the final corner. Gore would fall back to fifth, but was able to work his way back to second by the time the checkered flag flew. After the race Munoz was given a five second penalty giving Gore the victory and a ticket to the Grand Finals. In the DD2 Masters race, Nathan Mauel went untouched to win the final and his first National Championship.
Eight Members added to Team USA for Rotax Grand Finals in Italy
All seven US Rotax Grand National Champions earned positions on Team USA to compete at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Napoli, Italy this October. With some of the winners already qualified, the following have been added to this year’s squad: James Egozi (Micro-Max), Arias Duekmedjian (Mini-Max), Jak Crawford (Mini-Max), Ashton Torgerson (Mini-Max), Dylan Tavella (Junior Max), Jake Craig (Senior Max), Christian Munoz (Rotax DD2), Luis Schiavo (DD2 Masters) and Derek Wang (Max Masters).