|TAYLOR HAYS WINS SUPER SERIES OPENER IN DRAMATIC FASHION|
Round 1 of the 2014 CalSpeed Super Series got under way on Saturday with a perfect winter's day in So-Cal. No wind, sunny skies and a high of 75 degrees is the best way to start a long and demanding racing season. A record number of drivers (112) came to do battle on the fast and popular Nuovo track layout. The event was sold out early with a few regulars missing the show.
The draft always plays a big part in Super Series racing and the Nuovo layout exemplifies it even more. Throughout the opening rounds of practice groups of ten to fifteen karts stayed glued together searching for a little extra speed. 2014 has seen a couple small changes and one significant one in qualifying procedure. Last year saw drivers qualify in four session groups to set the field for the first round of heat races. This year that has been expanded to 6 qualifying sessions with a green/white/checkered format. Qualifying group placement continues to be determined by practice speeds.
Topping the charts in practice was:
Session 1: Darren Mercer 1:02.859, Cameron Rose 1:03.145 and John Perry 1:03.220
Session 2: Adam Nagao 1:02.990, Steve Hansen (GM) 1:03.161 and Jerott King 1:0317
Session 3: Jon Kimbrell 1:02.628, Chris Huerta 1:03.097, Kirk Feldkamp 1:03.103
Session 4: David Kelmenson (M) 1:02.987, Jeff Latimer (GM) 1:03.194, Steve Spring (M) 1:03.221
Qualifying times were tight in all sessions with no real surprises coming after all the times were merged. The top twenty times were separated by less than a second with only two drivers posting times in the 1:02's. The majority of quick drivers came out of sessions 5 and 6 with only a couple of session 4 and two (10th Roman Alekseenkov (R) and 13th Hugh Robertson (GM)) moving up the charts from session three. On the pole was RNA Motorsports' Adam Nagao who stopped the clock with a 1:02.693. Dave Arnold was P2 with a time of 1:02.977, T4 Eagle's Patrick Britain ran a 1:03.111 for 3rd, David Kelmenson (M) of T4 Hesketh posted a 1:03.166 good enough for 4th, and Nathan Hood (R)(M) completed the fast five with his time of 1:03.226
Heat 1-A got underway with Brian Starr (GM) getting the holeshot over Adam Nagao. Starr led for a couple laps before Nagao took back the top spot. Nagao's lead didn't last long as 3rd place starter Ian Enz jumped to the point. Taylor Hays started in 6th but was up to 2nd by halfway. Enz brought it home for the heat win with Hays crossing the line in 2nd and Starr 3rd. A 1-position penalty was issued to Hays and Starr was moved up to 2nd place. Nagao finished in 4th and Ben Blank (M) finished in 5th.
Darren Mercer led the field around to complete lap one of Heat 1-B. The pole sitter Dave Arnold was going backwards as Alex Herndon took the fight to Mercer. Justin Tolman charged up from 8th into the lead with two laps to go. It was short-lived as Mercer passed him right back. The top four crossed the finish line nearly together led by Mercer, Tolman and Herndon. Jeff Latimer (GM) had a solid run to finish in 4th, the last member of the lead group. Bruce Allen headed up the main pack some 4 seconds back for the 5th place finish.
Patrick Britain and Sergio Bravo (M) went toe to toe in Heat 1-C with Britain gaining a slight advantage on the start. Jose da Silva (M) got shuffled back on the start from his front row starting position. Bill Kreig slotted in to 3rd with Jon Kimbrell picking up a few positions on the start to run in 4th. Britain and Bravo traded the lead multiple times in the ten lap contest with Britain eventually getting the win. Bravo finished a close 2nd with Kreig and Kimbrell on his bumper for 3rd and 4th. Jose da Silva gained back a few positions and salvaged a 5th place finish.
Pole sitter for Heat 1-D Kirk Feldkamp and P2 qualifier Dennis Kimbrell (GM) had things going their way early in the contest. Aaron Downs and Chris Huerta ran solidly in the hunt as well, but they were all in for a shock soon enough. Just past halfway Aaron Scott was in the mix, and by lap 6 he was in the lead. His drive from 11th to the lead was the best we'd seen so far. Scott gained 4 positions on one lap, as the leaders battled he snuck by and into the front. Positions continued to change hands in the closing laps but Scott remained out front for the win. Feldkamp came away in 2nd place with Downs a few tenths back in 3rd. Huerta finished in 4th with Charles Eichlin gaining a few spots to finish in 5th.
The second round of heats got underway with another merging of points and switching of karts. Competitors stepped it up a notch knowing this was their last chance to gain points for a good starting position in the Mains. Patrick Britain was first to strike in Heat 2-A, becoming the first double heat winner of the day. Alex Herndon led the way for most of the 10 lap heat race with Britain glued to his rear bumper. The lead duo gapped the field by a small margin, but it was enough to settle things between just the two of them. Britain made his move with two to go and held on for the win over Herndon. Adam Nagao finished in 3rd place, giving him a good starting position for the main event. Rene Hourian and Andrew Brown both moved forward completing the top five.
Darren Mercer went flag to flag for the win in Heat 2-B, the first time all day anyone was able to keep a lead for that many laps. Kirk Feldkamp ran unchallenged for 2nd place as Bill Kreig, Charles Eichlin and Cameron Rose duked it out for 3rd. Eventually, Eichlin held the position to the finish with Kreig scoring 4th and Rose 5th.
Heat 2-C saw a new challenger rise to the top of the lap charts. From the standing start Sergio Bravo sped off into turn one unmolested. Ian Enz dropped into 2nd with Chris Huerta, Jonathan Vitolo and Aaron Downs in tow. Bravo led the opening circuits before giving way to Huerta. Bravo regained the lead but shortly there after was passed by a charging Vitolo. Vitolo landed the win over Huerta and Bravo. Daniel de la Calle climbed up to finish in 4th place while Chris Carter (M) finished in 5th.
Heat 2-D saw the closest finish so far with the top two separated by only .089 at the line. Taylor Hays led the majority of laps, including the one that mattered most. Justin Tolman did everything in his power to beat Hays to the finish, but in the end he had to settle for leading a lap and 2nd place points. Jon Kimbrell, Bruce Allen and Brad Packard battled it out for 3rd-5th with Kimbrell getting the nod from the racing gods. Allen finished in 4th with Packard a few seconds back in 5th.
The fields were finally set for the main events and unfortunately the sun was setting too. Lap counts had to be reduced to keep the A-Main from being run in total darkness. With the lap count down, gaining positions quickly was paramount to keep in the hunt for the season championship. We saw great racing throughout all four main events with the winner of the D-Main moving up to challenge in the C-Main, the C-Main winner bumped up to the B-Main and the B winner making it to the big show and the A-Main.
The D-Main got underway for their ten lap contest with Nick Marascio getting the jump on Zack Zacharais, Howard Pulley (H), Patrick O'Keefe(R) and Aran Kushdilian (H). Marascio owned it, leaving everyone but O'Keefe fighting for scraps. Marascio had a huge lead by halfway but the gap kept getting smaller and smaller as the laps wound down. In the end O'Keefe probably needed four more circuits to run down and challenge for the win, but 2nd place was all he could muster. Ed Lewis [GM][R] came from 7th on the grid to finish in 3rd place, eight seconds back of the winner. Filip Craciun [R] and Zacharias completed the top five. O'Keefe turned the fastest lap of the race with a 1:03.393 on lap nine.
Dave Arnold paced the field for the opening laps in the C-Main. Scott Swayzee [GM], Steve Jasinski [M][H] and Michael Wojdat gave a spirited chase. By halfway Swayzee and Arnold had switched positions and the lead pack was building in numbers. Wojdat made a bid for the win with only three laps remaining, but his efforts were thwarted by Jasinski just two laps later. Jasinski held on for the C-Main win over Swayzee and Andrew Lemons. Lemons had the drive of the race. He started back in 21st and drove to an impressive 3rd, setting fastest race lap in the process. Hasller Ortega [R] came from 10th to score 4th place while the top five was completed by Arnold.
Two more laps were shaved off the B-Main as the sun was quickly falling below the horizon. Eight laps is not a lot of time, so every corner counted and every position was valuable. Steve Spring got the holeshot and led Michael Shawhan, Roman Alekseenkov [R], Alex Gutierrez and Vince Burke [M] to the stripe for the completion of lap one. For the next few laps Shawhan and Alekseenkov vied for top dog as Spring got dropped to 3rd. Sixth place starter David Kelmenson [M] took the lead heading down to take the while flag. The final lap was anything but easy as six karts jockeyed for position heading into the final hairpin corner. Kelmenson led the drag race to the checkered flag. He had just enough advantage to celebrate his victory with a no-handed salute. The final lap was a good one for Jerott King who finished in 2nd place right next to 3rd place Burke. Alekseenkov came away with a strong showing in 4th place. Gutierrez scored 5th place points and Spring ended his day scored in 5th after getting a one position penalty for contact.
The best was saved for last as 29 drivers lined up for the only rolling start of the day, the A-Main. Patrick Britain was the top qualifier with Kirk Feldkamp lined up along side him. Row two was made up of Darren Mercer and Taylor Hays, with Sergio Bravo and Chris Huerta on row three. The green flag flew and Britain took an early lead. Mercer was quick on the gas and slotted in to 2nd place. Feldkamp dropped to 3rd and Hays remained in 4th as the leaders headed down to complete the first lap of eight. Mercer took the fight to Britain, making a clean pass at the end of lap two. Feldkamp was next to strike out for the win, leading laps five and six. No one was safe, especially the leader as Hays moved more towards the front. Hays took the white flag followed by Britain and Bravo. Eight drivers compacted on the final lap for the closest finish of the weekend. As all eight entered the final hairpin Britain and Hays emerged side by side with the rest four wide a few kart lengths back. If Britain had won he would have emerged as the winningest driver in series history, but today it was Hays who would stand atop the podium with his second win in the series. Reigning series champion Bravo landed 3rd just a few tenths off the winner. Feldkamp came away with a favorable 4th place while Bruce Allen drove a hell of a race up from 14th to 5th. A few other notable drives go to the B-Main race winner David Kelmenson [M]. He turned the fastest lap of the A-Main on his way from 29th up to 20th. Ben Blank started 28th and drove up to 18th and CalSpeed veteran Brad Packard started 20th and raced his way up to 13th.
Podium celebrations were held in darkness as the champagne sprayed friends and family. With the first event of the season in the books it looks like it will be a good one. Drivers were evenly matched throughout the day with excellent racing taking place from the front to the back.
Round 2 of the 2013 Super Series is set to race on February 1 at CalSpeed. As of January 6, the event is sold out to a record 120 entries.