|DARREN MERCER TOPS SUPER SERIES R6; COOK STILL HOLDS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD FOLLOWING WILD FINISH|
CalSpeed Super Series Round 6 marked the official halfway point of the 2013 campaign with a number of drivers very much in contention for a variety of championships, but none closer than the battle for the coveted Overall Title. Heading into the day, former Rookie of the Year, KC Cook, held a narrow margin on defending series Champion Logan Calvin. Round 6 would run on the often-treacherous Grande CCW configuration, a layout which can be boom or bust for those with championship aspirations. When the day finally came to a close, it would be Darren Mercer leapfrogging himself back towards the top of the standings with an A-Main win, while Cook would also earn some breathing room at the head of the standings.
Things would kick off in Round 6 with the standard morning warmup sessions, giving each of the 86 drivers entered a chance to shake of the rust, or at the very least learn which way the track goes. Once complete, the day would shift to the tricky green-white-checkered qualifying runs for all groups. The quickest bunch from morning warmup all sat waiting for their Group D quali run to start, however Masters Class driver Ben Blank in Group C was out to make it tough on them as he would post a blistering 1:03.672 lap just prior to final group’s session. That time would stand up mightily as Logan Calvin would be the only driver to top it in Group D, as he threw down a 1:03.660 of his own. The Masters Class would again be well represented as Dave Messimer would slot into P3 overall, earning him a much needed portion of the championship bonus points up for grabs during the morning.
With qualifying complete, laptimes would become less the focus as finishing position is all that matters during the day’s heat racing action. In a surprising first for the series, both Heat Round 1 and Heat Round 2 would feature duplicate winners in all four run groups as Darren Mercer, KC Cook, Taylor Hays, and Sergio Bravo would all go two for two during the course of the day. Making the knot even tighter at the sharp end was Logan Calvin, Dave Messimer, and Bill Kreig, all scoring a pair of P2 finishes heading into the Mains. The fourth group saw both Derek Esquibel and Jon Kimbrell split second place honors with each other in Heats 1 and 2, while the other settled for P3 in each instance. In addition to this surprising level of consistency at the very front of each group, several Rookie drivers put together strong days of their own as Cameron Rose, Michael Wodjat, Justin Tolman and Aaron Scott all sat steadily within the top ten in each of their runs.
With the heat racing rounds complete, the day would then shift direction again as all drivers now geared up for their final session of the day with the Mains. The D-Main would be first to the grid and would quickly become the Andrew Lemons show. The young rookie would find himself in unfamiliar territory in the D-Main after a particularly tough day in his earlier heats. Gridding up P5, Lemons would quickly move to the point as Doug Lewen gave chase. With a best laptime that was over two seconds clear of the majority of the field, it was clear that nobody had anything for Lemons on this day. He would amass a near 18-second gap on P2 en route to a convincing win, earning the transfer spot to join the C-Main despite a valiant effort from Lewen who would put just over 12-seconds on the rest of the field himself.
The C-Main would feature quite a few names that have quite a bit of experience further up the ranks, but would find themselves needing to race their way into the B-Main with a win here in Round 6. The rookie trio of Charles Eichlin, Steve Spring, and Nicholas Rebeil would lock horns with the veteran group of Chris Carter, Jeff Latimer, and Vince Burke as the race began to shake out. With the laps winding down, Eichlin would hold the lead after moving steadily forward in the early going, tailed closely by Carter, with Spring staged not to far off his rear bumper. With the white flag out, Carter’s only opportunity would come in the final few corners leading onto the front stretch as he put together a strong run to the checkered flag. That run would not be enough though, as Eichlin would hold on for the win by a margin of just 0.622s at the line in a very tight finish. Eichlin would move on to grab the final B-Main grid position available on the day.
A Super Series B-Main is always one of the most intriguing sessions of the day as just about every driver in that field is certain that the lone transfer spot into A-Main could, and should, belong to them. With the green flag in the air, three drivers would immediately create a gap on the rest of the field as Henry Morse would be trailed by both Rene Hourian and Michael Wodjat in the early going. While Morse’s lead would start off fairly healthy, Hourian would begin chipping away at the youngster as the laps clicked off. Meanwhile, Wodjat would begin falling back into the clutches of notable outdoor hotshoe Derek Zimmerman, who was mounting a solid charge thru the field behind him. With only a handful of laps remaining, Hourian would finally pull within striking distance of Morse, as Zimmerman had now dispatched of Wodjat and set his sights on the leaders. Zimmerman would set fast lap of the race, but would ultimately run out of laps as Hourian trailed Morse closely on the final lap. No move would come however, as young Morse would not be pressured into a mistake, claiming the win by just 0.248s over Hourian for the final transfer spot of the day into the Round 6 A-Main.
With such amazing consistency through the heat racing portion of the day, it was no surprise to find a knot at the front of the Round 6 A-Main for just about all 15 laps of the feature. A lead group of five drivers headed by Taylor Hays, would pull out in the early going, as Mercer, L.Calvin, Bravo, and Cook all sat in tow. In typical CalSpeed fashion, the group would maximize the draft for a number of laps, with each driver sizing up the man just off his nose. With five laps to go the moves would begin to come as Hays would be supplanted from the point in favor of Calvin, and then Calvin in favor of Mercer, each time the others shuffling forward before inevitably being shuffled back again. While the intensity picked up at the front, Miles Calvin would be leading a charge of his own as both Nick Haye and Bill Kreig worked the draft with the elder Calvin to begin closing the gap on the leaders. This trio would finally latch onto the lead pack just as the white flag would be displayed, Logan Calvin in the hot seat as the first man to cross the stripe to receive it. The defending champ would opt to take a very defensive line as he exited the horseshoe on his way back into the carousel section of the course after having been overtaken there earlier in the day by the man now on his back bumper, Darren Mercer. This time however, Mercer would shoot for the improbable as he attempted to overtake Calvin around the outside of the decreasing radius bend, somehow making it stick as the two came around onto the back stretch. The defensive line would cost Logan crucial momentum allowing Cook to move up his inside with a bit of help from Hays just behind. The biggest beneficiary would be Miles Calvin, as he took his massive run down the backstretch up the inside of Cook, making it three wide and turning it into a very precarious position for his younger brother now trapped to the far outside. There would be a bit of side-to-side contact, and with a chain reaction the defending champ would run out of room on the exit. While he would escape a devastating impact with the tire wall, it would be significant enough to drop him to P8… not the end to his day that he was looking for. Meanwhile Mercer would navigate the final few corners successfully holding off both Cook and M.Calvin to the line to claim his first victory of the 2013 Season, though the race would finish under black and checkered conditions as officials would take a closer look at the incident in Turn 9.
After a lengthy discussion between the team of race officials, results would be deemed final without any penalties assessed, leaving Mercer, Cook, and M.Calvin clear to climb the podium and spray the obligatory champagne. The win bumps Mercer up three spots in the overall standings to P2, just 25 points adrift of Cook. Also worth noting was Rodney Bryant’s 307 point performance which made him the ‘big mover’ of Round 6, advancing 18 positions in the standings and nearing a Top 30 spot. While the Overall battle remains tight, so does the coveted Rookie Championship as newcomer Michael Wodjat now takes control from Steve Spring, while Justin Tolman sits very much in the mix in third. In the Masters Category, Sergio Bravo again put some breathing room between himself and rival Jay Schreiber, however both will be navigating the available points drops with care for the remainder of the year in order to claim that title.