|IRONMAN SERIES ROUND 3 PREVIEW|
With the Super Series put on hiatus since February due to weather, that last time CalSpeed hosted any arrive and drive racing was the 2nd round of the IronMan Series, way back on February 15th. With a month and a half since being on course, the drivers of the IronMan Series will have a daunting task in front of them, needing to not only shake off the rust of being out of the seat, but also come to grips with a race course that was most recently in the form of a parking lot.
Making things a little easier, if only a little, is the fact we will be returning to the Grande Clockwise direction, a layout that is about as familiar as it gets here at CalSpeed. That said, it is not a time to rest on your laurels either, as round three means we are a quarter of the way through the season, and halfway through the Winter Sub-Championship.
Patrick Britain leads the way in the point standings, both in the overall, and after throw outs, but now has a new challenger to his post at the top: Jose Da Silva. Scoring the win in round #2 proved he was to be taken as serious threat for the point, tying Britain in points when you account for the drop. Sergio Bravo is also quite close in the standings, currently sitting 3rd after the throw out, and could be even higher if it wasn’t for bad luck in round #2.
While these three drivers have a hold on the sharp end of the standings, they are not void of a challenge, as numerous drivers have shown to have both the pace, and the strategy to take the fight to the front. With the depth of the field heading into round #3, it looks like at least half the field has a serious shot at scoring the win, a fact bolstered by the strong runs of up and coming drivers like Bruce Allen, Justin Tolman, and Vincent Burke. Saturday is looking like it is going to be one helluva show…
The track: Grande Clockwise, with a touch of hot sauce…
While not literally (the track was cleaned thoroughly, both by man, and mother nature), the fact that the CalSpeed was the home of tailgate parties, and with it, errant scraps of garbage does nothing to help the grip level, a point of contention for every driver this weekend. Still, the conditions should improve throughout that morning’s Sport Kart Race Clinic, and be a bit improved by the time the green drops on qualifying.
Aside from the grip level being a tad low, the usual Grande layout specifics will still be there to catch drivers out, specifically the turn 6-7 complex and Hairpin. This quick left-right under brakes, followed by the tight left handed hairpin always catch drivers out, but it is also a good passing opportunity for those that get it right. As always, the line is paramount, but with it is a need to have the right amount of touch on the brake pedal to make sure not to lock the back end up, and with it slide past our turn in.
Getting through this complex right is important, as it sets everything up for the hairpin, the slowest turn on the course, and one that leads on to the fast back straight. Even if passes don’t happen in this corner, a lot of time the start there by getting strong runs out of the hairpin, carrying the added speed into an attempt before the Contino Carousel. Either way, the hairpin is where much of the action will be Saturday.
Eyes will also be drawn to both turn #4, and the Long Beach corner this weekend, the first and last chances to pass respectively on the final lap. As two of the most popular passing zones at CalSpeed, expect to see several attempts in both corners, as well as the first examples of the new heighted contact rules in effect for the first time this weekend. Getting the pass done, and getting it done right will be the theme of the day, and it will be interesting to see who gets it right, and who gets caught out.
RD’s Spotlight: Who to watch for in Round #2
Well after “batting 1.000” last round … basically everyone I said to watch for had something bad happen to them, so… Next!
The Overall Championship: Britain in command…
Below is the top 10 after throw outs, with that drivers total points in parentheses. What this shows is just how close things really are when you take into account the drop, but it also shows the reality of what needs to happen to truly have a shot at the title. Lets also not forget that this round marks the second to last shot at points for the Winter Sub-Championship, something that could get mathematically locked up this weekend…
Top 10 after Round #2
1. Patrick Britain 100 (195)
2. Jose da Silva 100 (174)
3. Sergio Bravo 95 (180)
4. Dave Messimer 90 (155)
5. Steve Spring 90 (128)
6. Bruce Allen 85 (132)
7. Vince Burke 85 (120)
8. David Kelmenson 80 (145)
9. Justin Tolman 80 (121)
10. Jon Kimbrell 77 (148)
Basically what we are looking at here is Patrick Britain’s near perfect start to the season, and what could look to be an unassailable lead. While he does indeed have a shot to add the Winter sub-title to his resume this weekend, it is not that cut and dry just yet. Both Bravo and Kimbrell had strong runs (potentially race winning runs) cut short last round, while some of the other guys had some rough luck as well, both of which Britain was able to capitalize on. If fortune smiles on the rest of the field this go-round, this title chance will tighten right back up, and even the winter title could sill be up for grabs. And lets not forget, the Overall Championship is the true goal of everyone in the series, and that is far from tied up. Aside from Britain, just about everyone has had an up and down start to the season, with his 1-2 finishes casting a heavy shadow over all but da Silva’s 7-1, and Bravo’s 2-4* (*DNF but 4th place points for mechanical). Rounding out the top 5 in finishes are Dave Messimer’s 3-10, and Jon Kimbrell’s 8-6* (same as Bravo), accounting for their 40+ point dip from Britain, and further proof that nearly everyone has had a up and down start to the season. This however, is why thedrops are in place in the first place, and the law of averages says that ‘eventually’ this will come back around for those who have already had a tough start…
To make things even more interesting is the occasional hotshoe that enters and has no intention of going for points, or those “out of the hunt” drivers that start carrying an upswing later in the season. For this round the hotshoe entry is filled by Jonathan Vitolo, who has made it a habit of being at the sharp end of any session he’s in, adding to what is already a very talented field for round #3. As far as an ‘upswing driver’ pick goes, it is a bit early in the season to really have one, but given the way the start of his season has gone, I’d say Chris Huerta is about as close to that as you can get. I do expect both of these guys to make some noise this weekend, and several others to return to form after having a rough round.
In the end, eyes will be on Britain; either because he’s leading, or because people will desperately be trying to beat him. Either way, follow Britain if want to be where the action is…