|COOK TOPS SUPER SERIES R5 FOR FIRST EVENT WIN TO DATE; TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AT HALFWAY POINT OF SEASON|
As the CalSpeed Super Series heads into the dog days of summer, the championship chase enters a crucial stretch for many of the drivers currently in the hunt. Round 5 saw several big swings toward the sharp end of the standings, but the knot ultimately became even tighter between the top 10 when the dust finally settled on this past Saturday’s action as KC Cook climbed to the top step for the first time in his CalSpeed career. He would be joined there by veteran Bill Kreig and out-of-towner Jerott King… a podium which signals that the old guard don’t quite have as firm a grasp on the dominance that they once enjoyed.
With the standard morning practice sessions concluded, the 96 driver field quickly turned its attention to the tricky green-white-checkered qualifying session used to determine their grid positions for Heat Round 1. KC Cook would nearly pull off a rare feat as his Group C time of 51.331 would stand up strongly against the Group D drivers that had posted the quickest practice times earlier in the morning. Just two drivers in that Group D field would be able to top him as a pair of Masters drivers, Dave Messimer and Sergio Bravo, would yet again show great pace amongst the youngsters in the field. Messimer would edge Bravo by just 0.002s to claim pole position in Round 5, while Cook’s time would be good enough to hold onto P3 when the checkers finally waived.
With qualifying in the books, it would then be on to Heat Race 1 action as Group A would be lead to the grid by polesitter Dave Messimer. The difficult overtaking posed by the Classico Configuration in play for Round 5 would quickly become apparent, as Messimer would be pressured by Darren Mercer for much of the session, with Mercer never getting the opportunity of an opening. Messimer would take the win by just under 0.4s with Mercer in tow. Group B however would see some nice overtaking maneuvers executed, as both Jerott King and Jay Schreiber would find just enough daylight to complete their passes on session polesitter Sergio Bravo. Schreiber, last month’s A-Main winner, would do one better as he would best King on the final lap and win the drag race to the checkers. Another close battle would be witnessed as Group C took to the track. KC Cook would lead early from pole, but would have his hands full with Bill Kreig and Taylor Hays just behind. Cook would hold on for the win by less than a tenth over Kreig, as Hays sat waiting in the wings in P3 for an opportunity that never came. The final group to the grid, Group D, would feature an intriguing battle of veteran vs. rookie, as a charge from newcomer Andrew Lemons, in just his third Super Series start, would catch two-time series champion Jon Kimbrell off guard at the point. Lemons would not only make his way around Kimbrell, he would also hold off the re-attack efforts en route to his first heat win to date.
With the first round of heats completed, the day would bring a reshuffling of the groups as all drivers prepared for Heat Round 2. Group A would see immediate action as championship points leader Sergio Bravo would get into the back of race leader Dave Messimer just enough to send Messimer out of line and backwards several positions. Bravo would be black flagged by officials and forced to serve a stop and go penalty in pit lane, resulting in Mercer finding his way to the checkers just in front of Miles Calvin for the win. Group B would be a much quieter affair as Cook would make it two-for-two on the day as he steadily pulled away from the likes of Bill Kreig and James Davison. He would take the win, guaranteeing himself the pole spot in the day’s A-Main. Action would pick back up in Group C as Jerott King and Taylor Hays locked horns late in the race for the win. Hays, who has logged strong results on the Classico layout in past events, stalked King for most of the session. With the white flag in the air he would make his move and King would yet again be forced to settle for P2 at the stripe. With the summer sun at full intensity, tempers would flare in Group D as Kimbrell would again find himself yielding the lead to a newer series driver. Jonathan Vitolo would make an aggressive pass heading into Turn 4 as the laps wound down, resulting in a bit of side-to-side contact with the former champ. That lead would hold to the checkers for Vitolo as he outran Kimbrell to the stripe by just 0.021s for the win. A brief discussion between the duo and officials would be had at the scales, with Vitolo’s move being deemed within the rules and the win allowed to stand.
With the Heat Rounds complete, the day would transition to Main Event action as the D-Main would be the first to the grid. Cameron Rose, having suffered a tough break as a result of contact in one of his earlier heats, would find himself needing to race his way into the C-Main with a win. He would immediately show that he was up for the task as he built a solid gap in the early going as multiple drivers jockeyed for position while giving chase. World renown helmet design and paint specialist Brett King, in his first time behind the wheel at the Super Series, would emerge as Rose’s biggest threat. Unfortunately King would run out of laps having cleared traffic just a bit too late in the session, and Rose would sail to victory claiming the final spot on the C-Main grid.
The C-Main would feature another driver who ran into some tough luck earlier in the day, as Ben Blank looked to bounce back from a black flag of his own after contact in one of his earlier heat races. An A-Main standard, Blank would now need to put in some work to race his way into the B-Main with a win in the session. Blank would have a little too much speed on the Classico configuration for his rivals as he edged away slowly from Rookies Mike Dixon and Daniel de la Calle in P2 and P3 respectively. De La Calle would turn a few heads in the process, throwing down the fastest laptime of the session on his final lap in just his first Super Series appearance. Regardless, Blank would be happy to take the win and the transfer into B-Main next on the docket.
The B-Main, always one of the most ‘exciting’ sessions on the day, would feature 24 drivers all hoping to snag the final spot on the coveted A-Main grid with a win in the session. This day would be no different as a five drivers would run nose-to-tail for most of the session with the occasional position swap thrown in for good measure. The group would be lead by Chris Huerta as Vince Burke, Aaron Wells, Andrew Allred, and Sarah Bantay all sat bunched up in his draft. With the white flag out Burke would make his move as he and Huerta exited Turn 4 side-by-side heading down the hill towards the Hairpin complex. Huerta would respond brilliantly with a deep run down into Turn 7, holding the outside line and beating Burke to the Hairpin in Turn 8 to fend off the challenge. The failed move would leave Burke vulnerable as Aaron Wells went on the attack and would make his way past and into P2 with just a couple corners to go. Huerta would cross the stripe first as P1 thru P5 all clocked in within under half of one another on the timing and scoring monitors. The drama would not end there as Huerta would exit his kart in the post race scale area to find that he had forgotten a bundle of his personal ballast. The DQ would promote Aaron Wells to the victory, as his last lap pass for P2 turned out to be the race-winning move. The wild turn of events would result in Wells making his first A-Main appearance to date as he earned the 24th and final spot on the Round 5 grid.
Having won both of his heat races after qualifying third overall earlier in the day, KC Cook now sat lined up on the Round 5 A-Main Pole as the field rolled onto the front straight for the only two-by-two rolling start of the day. Cook would control the point thru the first few corners without incident as the green flag flew high in the air. A four-kart breakaway would quickly begin to materialize as Bill Kreig, Jerott King, and Darren Mercer worked the draft behind Cook. Further back, the duo of Miles and Logan Calvin would work traffic together as they mounted a charge toward the front. Cook’s pace would again prove tough to match as both King and Mercer began to fade, Kreig being the only one keeping Cook within striking distance. With the laps winding down, Miles and Logan had both worked their way up to P5 and P6, respectively, but would run out of time to move up any further. The finish, while it is certainly neithers best, may prove yet again to be a championship caliber lesson in ‘damage control’ when the final season points are tallied. Back up front it would be all KC Cook as he would post the quickest lap of the race en route to the Round 5 checkers and the champagne shower atop the podium, with Bill Kreig and Jerott King joining him for the festivities for the P2 / P3 efforts on the day.
The finish marks Cook’s first ‘official’ win in the series after a top step finish in the PreSeason Exhibition event back in January, an event which is not counted towards the Official CalSpeed Record Books. With the victory Cook also leapfrogs his way to the top of the Season Points Championships Standings, though he and a host of others at the top of the charts are on dangerous ground in terms of available points ‘drops’ as the season deepens. The 2013 Championship is the closest in series history with five races complete as the Top 10 sit within just 70 points of one another. With Round 6 slated for Saturday, July 6th, Cook will instead look to take his momentum directly into the 2013 Grand Nationals hosted by CalSpeed June 21st-23rd on the Southern California circuit, before returning to Super Series action next month.