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ROK Cup Orlando: What to Watch for

The elite ROK drivers in this country are in action this weekend.

Rubens Barrichello is well out front in the ROK Shifter Championship.

Although this is the first official event of the year for ROK Cup Promotions, it's the fourth and final round in their Florida Championship. That's because ROK Cup USA partnered with MAXSpeed Entertainment from January rough March to have their first three events run in collaboration with the three rounds of the Florida Winter Tour ROK Cup series. The incentive in it all was that drivers who competed in all three rounds got entry into this fourth round for free. We’ll see numerous drivers take advantage of that deal this weekend in Orlando.

The weather does not plan to play any spoiler role this weekend with temperatures in the mid to high 70’s in ideal Florida weather. The championship points from the FWT to the ROK Cup have changed a bit based on the different scoring methods and which we’ll have our eye on this weekend as the racing unfolds on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will be a packed day with qualifying and three heats for the seven categories, which gets everyone in order for Sunday’s Pre-Final and Final.

The ROK Cup USA Florida Championship closes on their fifth season after this weekend before heading north for the Midwest Championship next month, and here are some story lines to keep your eye on this weekend.

Who Emerges in Shifter?

The championship in Shifter ROK Senior is all but decided after Ruben Barrichello (OGP/Tony Kart) had a tremendous first three rounds. His participation this weekend seals up his fate in that regard, but the race itself is wide open. AJ Myers (TB Kart USA) and Danny Formal (DRT USA/DR Kart) were two of his closest rivals in the first three rounds and are both ready to go this weekend. Mathias Ramirez (Andersen Racing/Birel ART) and Nicholas Hargraves (International Racing/Tony Kart) have the speed, but have yet to break through to that upper tier in this category; and this weekend will give them that opportunity.

If you’ve read any of our previews before, we’ve mentioned the name Jimmy Cabrera (AKT Racing/Kosmic) as a possible X factor in the last two rounds. We’re going to take that stance yet again as he’s shown time and time again that his pace is strong enough to win, but keeping it up throughout an entire weekend is yet to be seen.

Ryan vs Ryan

We were on hand in Ocala back in March for the third round of the FWT Rotax championship and got to watch Ryan MacDermid not only defect from his PSL Karting team over to OGP, but then also giving his former teammate Ryan Norberg all sorts of trouble in the races with some aggressive driving and just simply outpacing the American star on occasion. Norberg made it known he was none too happy with the tactics put forth by the Canadian and we’re going to see this weekend if the four weeks in between races was enough to cool down this budding rivalry of it only added more air to this fire.

Arthur Leist
Arthur Leist will be right in the middle of the growing rivalry between MacDermid and Norberg.
Photo Credit: Nick Leone/Kart360

Among those two as favorites this weekend will be Arthur Leist, who also competed in the first three rounds as Norberg did. Leist has the ability to hang with Norberg, but winning on Sunday has been his trouble spot. We’ll see this weekend if Orlando is his track to buck that trend.

Deep Junior Field

With 24 drivers entered, Junior ROK will be the largest category of the weekend and with that naturally comes the most depth as well. Tyler Gonzalez (Speed Racing Concepts/Tony Kart), with all of his winning this winter, will come in as our favorite to win, but has possibly eight other drivers that could take the win. Leading the contenders would be Eduardo Barrichello (OGP/Tony Kart), Dylan Gennaro (OGP/Tony Kart), Matheus Morgatto, and Arias Deukmedjian (Deuk Spine/Kosmic). Those four all tasted some sort of victory in the first three rounds whether it was heat races, pre-finals, or finals. Gennaro, specifically, has really stepped up his game as the season has gone on and has emerged as possibly Gonzalez’s nearest threat.

Tyler Maxson (Speed Racing Concepts/Tony Kart) had a stellar third round in the FWT Rotax championship and was matching his teammates (Gonzalez) pace for much of the weekend despite being the young rookie in the category. We’ll see if that experience has put a little more confidence in his step this weekend. Zachary Hollingshead (OGP/Tony Kart), Sebastian Montoya (Montoya Racing/Birel ART), and Diego Ramos (Kosmic) have all been known to rise to the top and we’ll have those names on our radar this weekend as well for the Junior ROK win.