For the final stop in the ROK Cup USA regional championship season, we head to New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana for the Midwest Championship’s second round. This is the seventh race for the ROK Cup staff this season after four races in Florida to start the year, followed by a one-off Epcot Challenge race at Epcot Center in July and the first round of this Midwestern Championship in Pittsburgh last month.
The Midwestern Championship will come to a conclusion this weekend and those lucky enough to win their respective categories will receive entry tickets to the ROK Cup International Final in Italy in October. All drivers will also be able to carry their points to the U.S. National Final in just three weeks in Orlando for a shot at becoming the United States National Champion.
The weather forecast shows a real possibility of some rain on Saturday and Sunday, so the great slicks or rain tire dilemma could put mechanics and drivers on their toes. Heat will also be a factor with temps in the mid 80’s with 70-80% humidity.
Senior ROK Talent Gets a Boost
AJ Myers will be back in Senior ROK for the first time since the opening Florida round in Palm Beach, back in March. This time piloting a TB Kart (iKart previously) which proved lethal the last time he ran the chassis at NCMP for the SKUSA SummerNationals in late July where he won six of the eight premier shifter sessions, including the two finals. This weekend he will be in the single speed category which he won’t be the favorite; that label belongs to Ryan Norberg.
Just as Myers did in shifter at the SummerNationals, Norberg was just as lethal in the premier single speed category. The Orlando, Florida resident currently leads the ROK Cup Midwest Championship in Senior ROK and will look to cap off his regional championship this weekend, adding to his Florida Championship two months ago. With the way NCMP keeps karts together with the long draft down the straightaways, Myers and Norberg should likely be nose-to-tail most of the weekend, showcasing two of the biggest talents in North American karting.
The two Florida residents are the clear favorites, but New Jersey’s Mark Boos leads the best of the rest. Boos ran very well at the last round in Pittsburgh, just a touch off the pace of Norberg. If he can find that extra bit, he can use the NCMP draft to make himself a real threat. Bradley Zilisch too ran well in Pitt, finishing third, and will look to learn from his Team Felon teammate Norberg.
Myers Joins Budjoso in the Fight for Shifter Senior
In the first Midwestern round Final, Shifter Senior was thoroughly dominated by Checkered Motorsports PCR driver Andrew Budjoso. Pitt Race is where Budjoso calls his home track, so it wasn’t too surprising to see him excel, but at 11-second margin of victory, it was eyebrow raising. The PCR Pilot struggled in the heats, however, showing that there is room for improvement and he’ll need to be near perfect this weekend as he won’t be the favorite this time around.
That moniker will belong to AJ Myers, who will run double-duty this weekend for TB Kart USA in both Shifter Senior, and as previously mentioned, Senior ROK. After a short hiatus from national competition, Myers let the country know he still has plenty of race left in him after a dominating weekend a month ago for the SKUSA race. Shifter karts has been Myers’ strong suit in recent years so anything less than a win here would figure to be a disappointment for him.
Gonzalez Finding his Footing in Junior
Only five months into his Junior karting campaign, Tyler Gonzalez is starting to find his place amongst the best. As many agree to be the next big OGP star, he started the year in Cadet competition in Florida and made the move to Junior to start the ROK Cup season in March. The growing pains seem to be behind Gonzalez and now he’s one of the favorites each weekend he enters the kart. The Tony Kart pilot swept the weekend in Pittsburgh in round one and now returns to NCMP after his encouraging run here at the SummerNationals in July.
Zachary Hollingshead, the Junior ROK Florida Champion, Dylan Gennaro, and Giano Taurino will park under the OGP tent with Gonzalez and all figure to be in the mix for podium spots after the team swept the podium in Pittsburgh.
One kart outside the OGP camp we have our eyes on is Maks Kowalski, a Franklin Motorsports/Merlin driver that runs very well in Midwestern competition. Kowalski beat Gonzalez both days at the SummerNationals here.
Gold Leads the Benik’s into New Castle
The hottest driver in Cadet racing is no doubt Reece Gold. After a frustrating ROK Cup Florida Championship where the Florida driver had one win after another slip through his grasp, he regained traction once summer started with wins around the eastern side of the country in the sport’s biggest races. Gold was right in the mix at round one, picking up the win after a slew of penalties to drivers around him. Now back at NCMP after a double-win SummerNationals a month ago, Gold will lead the Benik squad into Indiana.
Tyler Maxson, Luca Mars, Rylee Engel, and Elio Giovane are the rest of that squad and all should be real threats to win, especially Maxson and Mars. Two ‘outsiders’ that have legitimate chances at spoiling the party are Caleb Bacon and Nicholas Terlecki. Both were inside the top five at Pitt Race and both competed a month ago at the SKUSA round where that experience could come in handy this weekend. Terlecki is coming off a double second-place outing with Franklin Motorsports in his latest Route 66 regional race and we’ll see if he continues to fly the Merlin colors this weekend, or his usual Birel ART red.