2023 ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour – Tropicana Field – Round 1 – Sunday Report

2023 ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour – Tropicana Field – Round 1 – Sunday Report

Daily Report by: ROK Cup USA
Photos by: Canadian Karting News

After a cool and overcast day on Saturday, ROKKERs returned to the track Sunday with warmth and sun as the first main events of the season got underway just before 10am. With high winds expected later in the day, tuners and teams would be put to the challenge in changing conditions as they all aimed to start their 2023 Florida Winter Tour off with results that could potentially propel them to being crowned the series champion.

ROK VLR Junior
With his prefinal win yesterday, Steven Miller (Chad Dokken Racing) led the field to the green flag alongside Leonardo Escorpioni (Zanella Racing) while Christian Cameron (PSL Karting) and Ernesto Rivera (Rolison Performance Group) occupied row two. Receiving the green light the first time, it was elbows out as VLR Junior drivers navigated the first complex of corners but Miller retained the lead. Cameron jumped to second as he was by Escorpioni as Diego Ardiles (Rolison Performance Group) and Rivera rounded out the top-five. Out early were Anthony Martella (Speed Concepts Racing), Shun Sekiguchi (Supertune) and Payton Westcott (Nash Motorsportz) whom all retired due to contact. Miller led by nearly one second at the end of lap five with Escorpioni over a second ahead of Ardiles in third. Escorpioni would go purple that lap to close the gap to only half a second as it was shaping up to be a two-driver race at quarter race distance. Cameron was able to advance forward to a podium position but 2.8 seconds in arrears of the lead duo at mid-race distance. Escorpioni had closed the gap and was on the rear bumper of Miller as Rivera down in fifth was the fastest driver on track. A couple of big movers deeper in the field saw Jordan Filer (Goodwood Kartways) gain thirteen positions in ten laps while Ava Dobson (Team Benik) was up twelve and into the top-ten. Rivera snuck by Ardiles for the fourth position with five laps to go as Miller and Escorpioni continued to run nose-to tail up front. With two laps to go, Escorpioni made his bid for the lead and immediately went on the defensive over the final lap. Looking to keep the point and earn the FWT win, Escorpioni scored the win ahead of Miller, Cameron, Rivera, and Ardiles. Salvador Della Vecchia (San Antonio Racing) was the biggest mover gaining fifteen positions and into the top-ten. Following the race, both Escorpioni and Cameron were given penalties for occurrences on track handing the win to Miller who was joined on the podium by Rivera in second and Escorpioni in third.

ROK VLR Senior
Helio Meza (Iron Rock Motorsports) took the lead early but by corner four, Wes Duchak (Rolison Performance Group) had disposed of him as the VLR Senior drivers were battling hard early. Haopeng Zhang (Supertune) had a great opening lap moving from fifth to third early on as he was in a podium position after only two laps. Meza was back by Duchak on lap four and instantly went purple and opened a half of a second gap on Duchak. The same lap, Gracian Rzedzian (Tecno Kart USA) was able to sneak by Zhang for third while a lap later, Brayden Domingue (Iron Rock Motorsports) did the same as he moved to fourth. A few more laps as the fastest driver on the track, the gap up front for Meza was nearly one second after eight laps while the best battle on track was the one with drivers running fourth through sixth. While first through third had more than 1.5-second gaps between them, it was a stagnant main event for the drivers battling for the podium positions. Jed Perkins (Perkins Racing) moved into the top-five on lap twelve as Zhang dropped two positions to seventh. With five circuits to go, Meza was on cruise control up front with a growing lead as he looked to have the round one win in the bag. Duchak soldiered along in second with Rzedzian in third. The top three remained unchanged over the final five laps with Meza taking the win ahead of Duchak and Rzedzian. Domingue held Perkins off for fourth with Perkins solidifying a P5 result. It was a perfect weekend for Meza as he earned the pole position, three heat race wins, prefinal win, and main event victory to sweep the weekend. Following the race, Rzedzian was moved to fifth on the result sheets due to an on-track penalty putting Domingue on the podium.

ROK Mini
Driving like a seasoned veteran all weekend long, Kai Johnson (Team Benik) lined up alongside his teammate Marco Romero (Team Benik) in an all-Benik front row. Max Cristea (Mottazsport) and Santiago Namnum (FLC) occupied row two with David Zhao (Goodwood Kartways) and Decklan Deonarine (Racing Edge Motorsports) in row three. Johnson led early as the front three remained unchanged at the end of lap one however Romero tagged the wall on the exit of the final circuit and slowed with damage. Falling down the running order, Romero was out of the race in what could have been a solid result for the youngster. Johnson led Cristea and Zhao as Namnum and Antoine Lemieux (PSL Karting) ran in the top-five. Another Team Benik driver in Tyron Kemper Jr. was on a charge early and up seven spots in just three laps as he was unable to take the green flag in the prefinal and was forced to start last in the main event today. On lap five, Zhao made the move by Cristea for second as the lead trio ran nose to tail. Lemieux went purple on lap seven as he felt the pressure from the sixth-place runner of Fion Shi (Supertune), who was quickly making his move toward the front. Johnson and Zhao had separated themselves from Cristea as they pushed away to try and make it a two-kart battle for the win but a lap later, Cristea responded to go three-tenths faster than the duo out front. With four laps to go, four drivers were now in contention for the win as Johnson began to feel the pressure. Zhao took the lead with three circuits remaining as Johnson suddenly slowed with what looked to be an engine issue. Cristea and Namnum were now in a podium position as Johnson recovered to run a distant fifth. Zhao looked to take the win, but Cristea produced a storybook pass in the final corner to beat Zhao to the finish line. Cristea took the win ahead of Zhao, Lemieux, Namnum, and Johnson. Following the race, the win was removed from Cristea due to a start violation awarding the victory to Zhao followed by Lemieuz in a Canadian one – two. Cristea stood on the podium in third with Johnson and Shi in fourth and fifth after a penalty to Namnum moved him to sixth.

ROK Shifter Master
It has been all Antonio Pizzonia and Orsolon Racing in ROK Master Shifter as the #503 entry would line up on the preferred inside front row starting spot as he aimed to earn the round one victory. Alongside him, Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram. Big contact in the opening corner eliminated Jose Montalto (DRT Racing) and Brain Chatfield (Crablos Racing Engines) as Pegram got the holeshot and led early from Pizzonia. Danial Dibos Sabogal (International Motorsports) ran third ahead of Scott Presti (Presti Racing) and Alex Mueller (Private) in third. Dibos was past Pizzonia for second as Pizzonia found himself in an unfamiliar position. A lap later, Presti disposed of Pizzonia as the class favorite was now back in fourth. Pegram continued to lead on lap five with a slim margin over Dibos as the two had a small gap on the third-place runner. Pegram encountered issues on lap seven and retired from the lead opening the door for Dibos, Presti, and Pizzonia to take over the top three positions on track. Dibos immediately went on the attack setting the fastest lap of the race in clean air, but Presti responded a lap later to steal it back. At the mid-race distance, it was Dibos and Presti that led a fading Pizzonia who had fallen into the clutches of Mueller and the new fifth pace runner of Morne Van Taak (VTM Racing). With five laps to go, Dibos led Presti by .575 but it was Pizzonia who was the fastest kart on track. Was it too little too late for the Orsolon driver? Closing the gap from 2.6 seconds to just two seconds with four laps remaining, Dibos and Presti responded on lap seventeen to increase the gap to 2.3. Dibos went on to score the win ahead of Presti and Pizzonia while Mueller and Van Taak rounded out the top-five.

ROK Senior
After a strong drive in the prefinal to take the win and pole position, PSL Karting’s and 2022 OK World Champion Matheus Morgatto led the ROK Senior field to the green flag alongside International Motorsport driver Karol Pasiewicz. Speed Concepts Racing and Tesoro Motorsports drivers Jorge Ortiz and Cameron Weinberg lined up third and fourth while Racing Edge Motorsports and Nash Motorsportz took control of row three with 2022 Mazda MX-5 Cup Rookie of the Year Connor Zilisch and Blake Nash. With the first start aborted, drivers were racing on attempt number two with Morgatto getting the jump ahead of Ortiz, Zilisch and Justin White (Kartworkz). Zilisch overtook Ortiz on lap two while Diego Ramos (PSL Karting) was up to the fifth position. Ramos and Noel Leon (Alessandro Racing) were by White on lap four to move to fourth and fifth as Morgatto, Zilisch and Ortiz ran nose to tail up front. The seventh-place runner of Louis Westover (Nash Motorsports) was the fastest driver on lap five as he looked to close the gap up front and a lap later, took advantage of his speed to get by White bringing Cameron Weinberg with him. Zilisch reset the fast lap mark on lap six with Morgatto doing the same a lap later during lap seven. Morgatto and Zilisch had opened a small gap on senior rookie Ortiz as he began to come under fire from Ramos. Second place starter Pasiewicz was marred back down in P8 after a disastrous opening lap and was unable to make any headway forward as an attempted pass on lap ten saw him lose momentum and fall down the order to 13th. Morgatto and Zilisch were making it a two-driver race up front as they were now one second ahead of Ortiz in third who paced Ramos and Leon. Morgatto and Zilisch continued to exchange fast lap after fast lap with Zilisch taking the honor on lap twelve and Morgatto on lap thirteen. With six laps to go, the front two would run lock step more than two seconds ahead of the third-place driver which was now Ramos who had disposed of Ortiz. Morgatto laid a pair of consecutive laps down to open a six-tenth of a second gap with five to go and went purple on lap sixteen to extend that gap more. With two laps remaining, Morgatto was one second ahead of Zilisch as Leon was by Ortiz for fourth as he was looking to find his way to the podium. Morgatto went on to dominate the final few laps and take the round one win for himself and PSL Karting while Zilisch had to settle for second. Diego Ramos was third ahead of Leon and Ortiz. Diego Ramos was given a post-race penalty dropping him to eighth on the result sheets and elevating Cameron Weinberg to a top-five result.

ROK Master
Looking to sweep the weekend, Racing Edge Motorsports Andre Nicastro started the ROK Master final from the inside of the front row as he aimed to become the round one victor. International Motorsports’ William Isaias started from the outside of the front row with Canadian and Premier Karting driver David Laplante on the inside of row two. Racing Edge Motorsports put two drivers in the top-five with Martin Stone in fourth while Privateer Alex Mueller rounded out the top-five. An aborted start on the first attempt yielded a green flag ion start number two as Nicastro bolted out to the lead. The movement came from deep in the top-five as Mueller used the high side of corner one to set up on the inside of turn two to advance forward to the fourth position. With ten karts on track, the early race action turned into drama on lap four as Isaias tried to get by Nicastro in corner four as the two made contact. David Laplante was the benefactor taking the lead dropping Nicastro to second and Isaias all the way to seventh. Lap five saw Nicastro retake the lead with LaPlante, Mueller, Stone, and Isaias rebounding to P5. Nicastro went purple out front to open a one-second gap by the end of lap seven as Muller was able to get by Laplante for the second position. Much to the delight of Nicastro, Laplante and Mueller were engaged in a fierce battle that allowed the leader’s gap to open to more than three seconds by the conclusion of lap nine. At mid-race distance, the Brazilian led a Canadian who led a trio of American drivers. Nicastro was comfortably in front as he was running away with it but behind him, Stone and Isaias were able to get by Mueller for third and fourth respectively. The gap up front was 6.248 with five laps to go as Nicastro was easily on his way to the win. With three drivers in the hunt for P2, Nicastro would drive to the win as Laplante and Stone would join him on the podium with Isaias and Mueller rounding out the top-five. Following the race Nicastro was given a ten-second penalty for avoidable contact in an on-track incident with Isaias while Isaias was also given a penalty. David Laplante was awarded the win ahead of Stone with Nicastro in third. Alex Mueller was able to earn the fourth position while Isaias in fifth.

ROK Micro
Matheus Ramalho (URace) had the preferred inside front row for Sunday’s Micro ROK main event as he aimed to put the Parolin brand on top in the youngest class offered at the Florida Winter Tour. Looking to push their way back to the top, Orsolon Racing’s Antonio Pizzonia Jr. and Joao Bonadiman showed pace and could be a threat for the win. Iron Rock Motorsports’ Nico Orbezo occupied the outside of row two while Maxwell Macha (SLA Racing) and Liam Van Beek (Mottazsport) secured row three starting spots. Like the master drivers, start one was aborted but the green light switched on for start two. It was Pizzonia who would get the holeshot and jump to the front to lead lap one of the sixteen-lap final as the prefinal winner Ramalho slotted into second. Orbezo was up one position to third as Bonadiman dropped to fourth ahead of Macha. The only driver in the top-ten to make a move on lap three was Van Beek who advanced forward from sixth to fifth. Orbezo was the driver on the move as a fast lap on lap five saw him jump to P2 on lap six. Faster than the leader Pizzonia, Orbezo was on the charge to see if he could give Iron Rock Motorsports the win in Micro ROK. The top three were separated by .894 with eight laps to go as it was still anyone’s race. With positions remaining static throughout the field on laps eight and nine, it was Orbezo who was chipping away at Pizzonia’s lead and had it down to only .408 with six laps to go. Zanella Racing’s Gavin Dakay made a move in the top-ten as he went from eight to sixth on lap ten but was nearly three-seconds in arrears of the driver in front. Up front, Pizzonia continued to lead but Orbezo had found his rear bumper with four laps remaining. Ramalho was keeping both of the leaders honest as he ran the pace needed in third, but it was Orbezo who made his move on lap thirteen to the point. With two laps to go, Obezo immediately went on the defensive as he tightened his lines and looked to keep Pizzonia behind him. On the white flag lap, it was three drivers for the win as Ramalho brought himself back into the mix, but it was Orbezo who scored the win over Pizzonia, Ramalho, and Joao Bonadiman, who made a move for fourth on the final lap, and Van Beek in fifth.

ROK Junior
Rolison Performance Group and Speed Concepts Racing controlled the front row at the start of the ROK Junior main event with Ernesto Rivera and Anthony Martella as nine different teams were represented in the top-ten. Oliver Wheldon from JC Karting and PSL Karting’s Christian Cameron would aim for race wins or podium results from starting in row two with Sebastian Garzon and Enzo Vidmontiene representing Orsolon Racing and Zanella Racing in row three. Rivera maintained his starting spot as Martella fell from second to fourth on the opening lap advancing Oliver Wheldon and Sebastian Garzon to second and third. Martella, Steven Miller (CDR), and Vidmontiene were by Garzon dropping him to sixth a lap later as Miller proved to be the fastest driver on track on lap four. Rivera stretched his gap to nearly one second by the conclusion of lap four as Miller went by Martella for third while Garzon passed Vidmontiene for fifth a lap later. Martella continued to impress in his SCR debut as he was by Wheldon on lap six for third as Miller in second was the fastest driver on track and looked to close the gap on Rivera. Miller again went purple on lap seven shrinking the lead and took another big chunk again on lap eight. Caleb Campbell (Speed Concepts Racing) was making headway as he improved from tenth to sixth in the first half of the race, but all eyes were on a hard-charging Miller. Garzon snuck by Weldon on lap ten as Rivera began to fall into the clutches of Miller. Running one-two and not battling too hard, the front duo had opened a 1.5-second gap on P3 as they looked to make it a two-driver show. Miller was on the rear bumper of Rivera at the end of lap twelve but remained patient as they pushed away from Martella in third who was busy holding off the advances of Garzon who had broken away from Wheldon. With five to go everything calmed down at the front for a moment as Chase Buscaglia (Mottazsport) was by Campbell for sixth. Garzon made his move around Martella on lap sixteen to put himself into a podium position as Vidmontiene retired from a top-ten performance. Rivera continued to lead with three to go but Miller wasn’t going away. Wheldon was able to take advantage of a slip-up by Martella to sneak by four fourth on track, but the leaders continued to battle up front as the white flag flew. Defending nicely on the final lap, Rivera took the win ahead of Miller, Garzon, Wheldon and Martella. Following the race, Martella received a tram line violation that dropped him to P6 on the result sheet while Garzon’s penalty dropped him to fourth. Rivera earned the win ahead of Miller and Oliver Wheldon in his first ROK Junior race.

ROK VLR Master
As the dominant driver all weekend, Tecno Kart USA’s Laurentiu Mardan lined up for the main event from the pole position as he looked to run away and hide in the twenty-lap final. Taking the prefinal winner over Alex Dal Bon (LFB Racing) by more than seven seconds, Dal Bon lined up second ahead of Goodwood Kartway’s Mark Pavan, Rhino Kart Team’s Luis Quinones, and VTM Racing’s Galo Barros. As he did in all three heat races and the prefinal, Mardan opened more than a one-second gap by the end of lap one and never looked back. Leaving the rest of the drivers to battle behind him, the Tecno Kart USA driver was in a different zip code by the time the race was halfway over. Mark Pavan made a move to second on lap six as he was able to get by Dal Bon while Quinones ran fourth just ahead of Ryan Molina who was up two positions from the start. Molina gained another position on lap ten to move to fourth as Mardan stretched his lead to over 3.5 seconds. With five to go, Pavan was the fastest kart on track and closed the gap to 1.744 as Mardan seemed to be struggling. Finding a little speed late in the race, Mardan was able to hang on for the win ahead of Pavan, Dal Bon, Molina, and Quinones. Following the race, Quinones was given a penalty elevating Barros to the fifth position.

ROK Shifter
Already victorious on the day in ROK Senior, PSL Karting would look for another victory in ROK Shifter at the hands of Marijn Kremers. Scoring the win in the prefinal, Kremers outbattled AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA) to earn the pole position. Josh Conquer (Carblos Racing Engines) shared row two with International Motorsport’s Giorgio Carrara while Hunter Pickett (PSL Karting) lined up fifth. Starting from the pole position, Kremers elected to start from the pole position as Myers got the jump from P2 to get the holeshot. Myers lead early as contact between him and Kremers caused the Magik Kart to retire with a broken pipe as the BirelART driver was well down the running order after getting unstuck from the barriers. Josh Conquer inherited the lead in the drama-filled opening two laps with Carrara in second. Pickett was able to get by Carrara on lap three to steal P2 as Myers was in the pits and out of the race. Pickett ensued his chase on Conquer clocking the fastest lap on lap three and again on lap four and five to get to the bumper of the leader. Hunter Pickett took the lead on lap seven pushing Conquer to second ahead of Carrara, Sarracino Vincenzo (VS10Kart), and Baylor Griffin (Orsolon Racing). With Kremers still on track and down in P10, he proved to be the fastest kart and set quick time on lap nine as he moved from tenth to eighth. Conquer was back by Pickett on lap eleven for the lead with a hard-charging Kremers closing the gap to the field in front. Pickett retired on lap twelve as he spiraled down the running order. Carrara was now second ahead of Sarracino, Griffin, and Pedro Piquet (Piquet Sports) in a crazy ROK Shifter final. Kremers pushed his PSL Karting entry to sixth with five laps to go as Conquer had a .560 lead on Carrara. With three to go, Piquet was by Griffin as Kremers closed to within .500 of a top-five result but it wasn’t over yet. Up front, Conquer tried to hold Carrara at bay as the front three were within one second as the white flag flew. Conquer drove to his first career Florida Winter Tour win ahead of Carrara, Sarracino, Piquet, and Griffin as Kremers recovered to finish sixth. Due to the on track contact, Kremers was scored behind AJ Myers in the final results putting him last on the results sheet and effectively making any championship hopes doubtful.

With round one complete, teams and competitors will shift their focus to round two at the Piquet Sports and Entertainment facility in Loxahatchee, Florida over the February 16-19 weekend. For a complete set of results for round one, click HERE.

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