September 29’s race day played host to a unique set of circumstances after rain-outs from both Sprint Series Rounds 3 and 7 earlier this year making it a day not to miss. Going into the race, the Overall Championship was a head-to-head battle between leader Spencer Russell and P2 Samuel Hunt, the latter already with a strong shot at the Summer Sub-championship. Another wrench thrown into the game came in the form of two different track layouts: Grande CCW in the morning race and Classico CCW in the afternoon. All of these unusual factors made for a recipe that would contribute to a very exciting conclusion by day’s end…
Sprint Series Round 3 began sans Race Clinic, putting drivers in a different frame of readiness as they took to the track for qualifying. Rodney Bryant, Summer Sub-champ points leader going in, looked to be ruling the track with his pace as the session kept rolling. With only a minute ago, it looked like Hunt would be able to steal pole away briefly, followed by Tyler Redman. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as Bryant would be able to keep up his drive and score pole position for the morning event.
With the first heat underway, a top group consisting of Bryant, Russell, and Michael Chen looked to be breaking away. Everyone kept poking their noses in for a pass through Horseshoe but Bryant maintained a strong defensive wall lap after lap. With 4 to go, Russell grabbed the lead in Short Beach with Chen following, pushing Bryant down to 3rd. While Russell and Chen dueled for the lead, Diego Alvarado quietly wrestled himself into P3 but it wouldn’t be quite enough–with the race coming to a close, Russell would sail away for the lead while Bryant and Alvarado would take to a drag race, the former taking 2nd at the line.
Heat 1A Results
Heat 1B began with Hunt in the lead and drivers Evan Karp and Donnie Clarke immediately cutting through the field for second and third, the battle for P2 ensuing amongst them. Hunt had over a full second on the field with the hornet’s nest behind him staying busy, but not enough for him to get away. Meanwhile, Karp in P2 pulled fast lap and took a successful inside pass at Short Beach to become the new leader. Several attempts to steal the lead away were futile but Hunt would set up out of the Hairpin on the final lap, getting the first position back for himself to win heat 1A ahead of Karp and Clarke.
Heat 1B Results
The trend of good starts continued with Tyler Redman speeding away from the rest at the green flag for heat 1C. Frank Hsu and Michael Hottinga meanwhile gave chase to try and catch up to the fleeing Redman. The former tapped the back of his helmet in the hopes of signaling to keep the train going, but that promise is often not kept. Caden Thure, the only 2R driver in the game for the day, entered the fight for P2 along with Tony Chen in the mix. In the final lap, Redman would go on to a comfortable win followed by Thure who staved off the attacks of Hsu to round out the top 3.
Heat 1C Results
|2)||Caden Thure [2R]|
The C-Main is no stranger to shenanigans, and this time around, drivers would again put on quite the show. The race began with a very rough battle towards the front, with K1 come-upper Zachary Francavilla with the upper hand. With each time by, it would be either him or Devins Baker with the torch, but a cluster of activity in the hairpin left very much up in the air. The top two were never left alone but at the checkered flag, Francavilla would score the win– the big applause here however would be for Justin Altman who started P-last, finishing all the way at second for a whopping 24 position gain.
Opposite to the action-packed C-, the B-Main would be a much quieter one. Juan Ricart was off to a good lead while James Lieser cut through a handful of positions to begin the fight for P2. His main rival at this point would be James Suggs. About halfway through the race, the top three would not go contested, however, as they would all cross the finish line 1-2-3 with rather fair gaps between themselves.
A lot was riding on this day and A-Main pole sitter Hunt knew this. At the green then, his response was quick and his advantage began very quickly over the rest. The battle for P2 was deep with Russell at the helm of it– the pressure behind however was absolutely huge and Hunt was getting further and further away. Karp’s very aggressive driving allowed him to oust Russell, the swarm swallowing him up all too quickly. Bryant meanwhile now sat in third glued to Karp’s bumper while he constantly took peeks at the inside of turn 4 in the hopes of prying open a window. Just before the white flag, the pair would drag race out of Bypass coming side-by-side across the line. Karp would just barely hold on to P2… At the checkered flag, Hunt would cruise to the win for Sprint Series Round 3 followed by Karp and Bryant for the podium.
A-Main Top 10 Results
|6)||Caden Thure [2R]|
Round 7’s qualifying would see the change in track configuration to Classico CCW and different names at the top for the entire duration of the session. A whole gamut of the top 10 would see a glimpse of possibly obtaining pole position but ultimately, Sam Hunt would earn the honors with a 53.787, 2/10ths ahead of Nathaniel Small who had achieved one of his best quali times to date.
It was pretty clear at this point that Hunt had prepared for the day– his heat 1A start once again was a strong one. A group of three developed up top as Tyler Redman and Donnie Clarke gathered along with him. As the race progressed, each driver would soon become an island, nearly a second separating each. Clarke wouldn’t be alone for long as the field led by Michael Chen would try to engulf him. Top three would remain the same however and Hunt, Redman, and Clarke would cross the finish line without drama.
Heat 1A Results
Heat 1B saw a lot of action in the first lap as the hairpin looked like Grand Central station on a Monday morning commute. Diego Alvarado took advantage of the busy drivers and came out to the lead early on from his P4 start. Sicheng Li, meanwhile relegated a few spots back, went for a clean inside pass for P2 at the Bypass, successfully getting by. The pair gapped the field, leaving behind a messy battle for third. Having put on a solid run earlier in the day during Round 3, James Suggs was set to make huge inroads once again and this time, his success came in the form of a jump from starting 9th to wrapping up the race in 3rd behind Alvarado and Li.
Heat 1B Results
Mark Sternberg continued the trend of strong starts for all drivers throughout the day, leading the way confidently in heat 1C. John Rice took over the second spot after an inside pass at the hairpin; as for the rest, Randy McKee would make quick work of the drivers ahead of him, getting right behind Rice in no time. The top three would remain quiet for some time but with 2 laps to go, McKee would overtake Rice in Bypass to be in P2. Sternberg needn’t worry however, as he was over 4 seconds away. He’d grab the checkered and McKee kept the door shut to any attempts by Rice for second.
Heat 1C Results
By the start of the C-Main for this second event in the day, energy amongst the paddock was still very high. Starting driver Tommy Haake set off with great zeal at the green and no one really touched him. Trevor Volin, starting 3rd, and John Perry, starting 2nd, immediately swapped positions at the start and nothing else happened between the three for the rest of the race. Perry kept a defense from the few drivers who reached him but ultimately no passes would come to fruition and Haake would go on to win the C followed by Volin and Perry.
In the B-Main, Michael Hottinga earned himself quite the lead from the get-go but Ivan Martinez wasn’t about to let him get away. Having already moved 6 spots ahead from a start in 8th, Martinez sat poised in P2 ready for an attack. With 5 to go, he was able to wrestle the helm into his favor while Maximilian Bui and Justin Altman received a window of opportunity to move forward due to the shuffling of the top. The former took advantage of Hottinga’s lost momentum for a pass in Kornakurva to sit in P2 with Altman following suit. Martinez would score the B-Main win followed by Bui and Altman.
This time around, we were perhaps beginning to see the quiet brewing behind the helmets for the final race of the day. After the gren flag was raised, drivers Hunt, Sternberg, and Alvarado set off making clean laps around the joint while figuring out the timing to execute their plans. It was near silent for the first half the race… a couple gasps here and there but the top 3 would be unchanged. That is, until only a few laps remained and Alvarado opted for an inside move at the Bypass, putting him in excellent position down the straightaway and on through the Esses to pass both Sternberg and Hunt to capture the lead. With this advantage now in hand, he approached the white flag with even more mettle. With the final corners approaching, it just so happened that Hunt’s momentum through turn 4 looked near-perfect to possibly take back the lead from Alvarado, but it wasn’t meant to be. As the dust settled, Alvarado would take the top step over Hunt and Sternberg for Sprint Series Round 7.
A-Main Top 10 Results
With the Double-Header behind us, we now enter the final race of the season. Such a special type of day begs anticipating that the points would receive a bit of an upset. After a solid performance during both rounds, the Summer Sub-championship now belongs to Sam Hunt with the door effectively closed even before the final round. Winning both of his heats on Saturday, the main in Round 3, and scoring P2 in Round 7– all of these are very winning results. And what does this mean now for Overall Championship and rival Spencer Russell, who previous to race-day was leader in points? Quite a lot. He now sits behind Hunt by a slim 25 points. Meanwhile, the fight for that final piece of hardware now rests on the shoulders of Evan Karp, Randy McKee, and Mark Sternberg. Karp’s podium in Round 7 no doubt allowed him to move from 4th to now 3rd in points for the season. Add to that, the three of them are only separated by a range of 34 points. Round 10 will all be about cutting teeth…
Sprint 2018 Current Standings (With Best Drop)
Summer Sub-championship Current Standings