|IRONMAN SERIES ROUND 1 PREVIEW|
Would you look at this entry list? It’s like signing up for a Super Series A-Main…
The 2014 IronMan Series has come right out of the gates strong, with one of thedeepest entry lists in its history. Starting out as a secondary race to the Super Series, the IronMan championship moved to it’s own day and time last year, and has found a home that still brings some of the best talent around. A challenging series in its own right, this championship combines a bit of endurance, with on the fly strategy, and some flat out hardcore racing to have a little something of everything.
This Saturdays 2014 season opener will see a packed house of 30+ drivers take to a temporary layout not yet raced on, kicking off what is sure to be the most hard-fought Ironman championship in recent memory. Running immediately following the Sport Kart Race Clinic, this championship sees drivers very well prepared, and rarely caught off guard heading into the event, and this season preparation will be even more important. Requiring slightly different skill sets and approach then the Super Series, the 2014 champion will need to not only have pace, but more importantly will need to adapt to changing tracks, changing competitors, and changing situations. Adapting as quickly as possible to these changes is the key to victory in this series, where you only get one shot per round to get it right. There aren’t multiple heat races. No moving on from one main to the next; You get one shot per round, one chance to get that race win. And only 8 races in the quest for the 2014 IronMan Championship. And that quest starts this Saturday…
The 2014 Rules package; whats new?
This new season will see only minor tweaks to the rules and format, with the biggest change coming in the number of races on the schedule. Lengthened to eight races this year over the six contested last season, there will also now be three championships up for grabs in 2014; with a Spring and Fall sub-championship being crowned along side the Overall title at seasons end. The points system has been tweaked as well, now paying out points throughout the entire field, which will also see an expansion to 30+ drivers per round. With a single throw out for each championship given, this season looks to be the most flexible for anyone looking to race for a title in 2014.
On track things will stay almost untouched, with the exception being the number of pit stops per race increasing to two instead of one, adding more to the strategy element of the series. This further differentiates the championship from its Super Series counterpart, giving it a definite endurance feel not seen in the once-a-month events.
The track: Nuotivo? Sportovo?
The schedule for the 2014 listed Sportivo as the season opener, but with track repairs being pushed back do to delayed material delivery, a bit of a new challenge has presented itself…
Saturday’s track will essentially be a melding of Nuovo and Sportivo, with the coursefollowing the Nuovo layout until the back straight, where it will then take the Monaco hairpin from the Sportivo layout. The new challenge here will be under braking, as the Monaco hairpin was already a bit tricky, and now with the entry speed for the corner a bit higher, it will pose an even bigger challenge. That said, the already strong passing opportunity in that corner should now be even stronger, and we could see this as the best pass to move through the field come Saturday.
RD’s Spotlight: Who to watch for in Round #1
Who to watch? Whew… that’s a tough one. There are some really big names entered into round #1, guys like Hays, Bravo, Britain, and many other front runners from the Super Series, never mind the long list of regular Ironman front runners as well. The field is just plain stacked. Past winners, past champions, current champions, current winners; the entry list basically looks like a who’s who of arrive and drive karting here at CalSpeed.
If I had to pick a few drivers to watch for though, I think I’d have to start with the reigning champ himself, Bill Myers. Both wins came on Sportivo last year, and with his scheduled appearance in the clinic, he should be well prepped for the new twist to the layout come green flag time.
After that, I think it is the podium trio from Super Series Round #1; Taylor Hays, Patrick Britain, and Sergio Bravo. Each one has a legitimate shot at winning, and has to be counted as some of the favorites every time they hit the track.
The dark horse this weekend I think could be Dave Messimer though, and I am really curious to see how he jumps back after being out of the seat for a while. The 2013 Club Series champ hasn’t been in the Sport Kart seat for quite a while, but he can be blazingly fast when he does, and I think could surprise a few people this weekend.
The Overall Championship: Time to hit the reset button…
Whenever a series kicks off, the first thing drivers do is look at the entry list, and see how that person did the year before, as a way to size up the competition. Firstly, you look and see if the reigning champ is coming back, then usually the drivers in the top three to five, and then maybe the top ten on.
Reigning champ? Check. Top five? Check. In fact, the entire top ten from last year’s standings are projected to run for points again this season, with seven of the ten on the confirmed entry list for round #1. On top of that, there is a large number of very strong drivers signed up for the season opener, but the question there is, how many will be running for the entire season?
The answer to that question probably won’t come until we get a couple of races into the season, but right now the level of talent entered is so high, it is anyone’s guess who the players are going to be. Or possibly the better question HOW MANY players there will be…
Regardless of who ends up running for the full season, they’ll all be chasing reigning IronMan Champion Bill Myers, who scored a pair of wins in his title winning 2013 campaign. Myers finished the way he started last year, kicking off the season with a win, then bringing home the victory in the season finale to cap things off. He’ll be looking to carry that momentum into 2014, and start the season just as he did last year. Already out to CalSpeed for some pre-season testing, Myers is looking just as, if not stronger then he did last season, and will certainly be a strong chance for another title this year.
Top 10 Returning Drivers From 2013
#1 Bill Myers
#2 Steve Spring
#3 Bruce Allen
#4 Dennis Kimbrell
#5 Chris Carter (waitlist)
#6 David Kelmenson
#7 Mike Arnold (will miss Rnd 1)
#8 Chris Huerta (will miss Rnd 1)
#9 Vince Burke
#10 Jeff Latimer