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IRONMAN SERIES ROUND 2 PREVIEW
In round #1 we saw three veteran drivers break away from the rest of the pack, working together in the draft-heavy environment to distance themselves from the competition. In the end it was a three-way fight for the win, with the top spot traded multiple times before the checkers fell. Patrick Britain came away with the win, and the point lead, followed by Sergio Bravo and Dave Messimer.
 Here in round #2, drafting will play a lesser part in the game, but strategy will still be just as important. With ample passing opportunities on the Grande Counter-Clockwise layout, the question will be wait and work together, or break out and try and find advantage elsewhere. One thing will stay true, running by your self will still most likely be a death sentence, as the two straightaway’s can cost a good amount of time to any driver without a drafting partner.
 
With more than two-thirds of the entry list scheduled to run the whole season, and the top 13 in points all on hand for another go-round, round two looks like it could be the true start of the yearlong season. The moves made, and points gained this weekend could set the tone for the rest of the season, and the Finale in October will be here before we know it…
 
The track: Grande Counter-Clockwise
A favorite among the drivers (this writer included), running Grande in the reverse direction has so many cool elements that a lot of the other configurations either don’t have, or don’t string together the same. That, and we only get a chance to play on this layout once or twice a year.
 
The lap starts out with what feels like a fast run down hill past the start finish line, made a little bit shorter by taking the ‘short beach’ corner at the end of the straight. Here is the first of several braking zones, and is a great place to pass before heading through the long right-hander ‘horseshoe’. From there the track enters ‘Contino Carousel’, made even more difficult by it’s decreasing radius nature in the reverse direction. This also another strong passing zone, as Contino welcomes multiple lines on entry, and will be the site of many passes, or pass setups before the back straight that follows.
 
After the back straight is one of, if not my favorite complex at CalSpeed; the flat-out ‘Silk’ corner (turn #9), followed by the hardest braking zone on the circuit, the ‘Hairpin’. This is not only one of the most fun parts of the course, but also is great for passing, and crucial to get right for the big hill that follows.
 
Getting out of hairpin well means you are one step closer to a good lap time, but also it may give you a shot at a pass attempt in the last decreasing-radius corner on the track, ‘Turn #4’. Also inviting multiple lines on it’s entry, this is many time the last chance to either complete a pass, or start the drag race through the bus-stop section, and down the hill to he finish line.
 
RD’s Spotlight: Who to watch for in Round #2
Well, after making the mistake in the Super Series opener for not talking about the ‘newcomers’ to the series, I won’t make that mistake again…
 
This is why I have an eye on one of the most improved drivers over the past year, and that is Chris Huerta. Having missed the first round, he plans on running the whole season, and I am sure will be right at the sharp end on Saturday. A winner in this series last year, Huerta will add even more talent to an already stacked field.
 
I also think that this will be a strong round for Taylor Hays, who didn’t have things go his way in the opener, but is quite good on theGrande CCW layout. Now with yet another veteran teammate (Huerta, Britain) in the field, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the T4 stable flexing their muscles this weekend.
 
And then there is Jon Kimbrell, the most recent winner in the Super Series, and someone carrying a bit of momentum into this race. After snapping a long drought from the top step of the podium, I expect to see a lot more out of ‘Kimby’ here in 2014, and we could see him continue his success into the IronMan Series.
 
Lastly, with a heightened focus in the CalSpeed championships regarding contact, I think one individual is poised to take advantage. Already driving well within the rules, sophomore driver Justin Tolman is one of the cleanest drivers on track, but it is his ability to be quick AND give room that will pay dividends on track. A 5th place in last month’s IronMan opener, seeing Tolman inside the top 3 would be no surprise at all.
 
The Overall Championship: Britain in command…
The entry list for the Ironman Series is chalk full of contenders, both for the overall title, and for stealing big points from those that are actually running the full season by taking race wins and podiums away. The level of talent says there is no clear favorite, but there can be only one guy at the head of the table, and right now that’s Patrick Britain.
 
Pat’s had a stellar start to the season, and one would suspect that isn't going to magically change any time soon. More likely he is here to stay, as his stats don’t express his current form to be a fluke. The question about Britain has been whether or not he was a good driver, but whether or not he’d run the whole year. He assures me, he is.
 
And although he hasn’t confirmed he’s in for the duration, Bravo will be stealing points away from any title contender whenever he does enter. A former IronMan champ, and the reigning Super Series champion, if Bravo is on the list then you’ll have to beat him to win.
 
In the championship preview I said Dave Messimer was a dark horse for round #1, and then he damn near won the thing. The champion from last year’s Club Series, and former Masters National Champ, Messimer has confirmed his in this thing for the long haul, which means his in it for the title too.
 
The top three in the standings right now are not the only title contenders either, with big strides coming from both new and old IronMan drivers. 4th and 5th on the list are ‘case in point’, as last year’s #3 Bruce Allen leads over newcomer Justin Tolman to round out the top 5. This trend is echoed throughout the field, with the amount of talent, and the fact that this is only round #2 making things very unpredictable. Make no mistake, this series is very tough, and will go down to the very end as a knockdown, drag-out fight….
 
Top 10 after Round #1
 
1. Patrick Britain  100
2. Sergio Bravo  95
3. Dave M
essimer  90
4. Bruce Allen  85
5. Justin Tolman  80
6. Ben Blank  77
7. Jose da Silva  74
8. Jon Kimbrell  71
9. Bill Myers  68
10. David Kelmenson 65
 

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