Round 4 of the 2015 IronMan season is actually the third race of the season after Round 2 was rescheduled due to rain, and is only the second race of the season to use the inverted start.
That is a lot of number, I know, but it is all important information, I promise.
The fact that Round 4 is actually the third race is important because it means that rather than finishing the Winter sub-championship this Saturday, we running the penultimate race. We could crown a champion on Saturday, but it is not very likely. Let’s take a look at all of the possibilities for the title race as well as the race itself.
The IronMan season heads to the Grande layout for the first time on Saturday, which along with Nuovo and Classico, is one of the original three layouts. This means that the track is very familiar for nearly every driver in the field and should be a great battle of racecraft and strategy rather than outright speed.
With that in mind, we don’t expect many surprises at the front of the field on Grande; typically it is the established veterans who are the ones to beat.
The current points leader, Steve Spring, has to be the first one we talk about. Extremely experienced and very confident this season, Spring is still the driver that everyone is chasing. Another solid top 5 day for Spring could make him very difficult to catch in the Winter sub-championship and will make a great platform for the rest of his season and the overall title. There is no reason to expect Spring to be anything except towards the front; he’ll just need to make sure that he isn’t overly conservative on Saturday.
Looking down the entry list, there are plenty of other drivers to watch including some that need to rebound after a tough Round 3. The most notable drivers that need to rebound are Taylor Hays and Charles Eichlin. Both Hays and Eichlin were on the podium at Round 1, but struggled at the most recent race. The silver lining for both drivers is that they will start towards the front due to the invert, and in fact, Eichlin will start all the way up in fourth position. Eichlin will be looking to get up front early and try to get away before his main rivals can get clean track.
Other drivers to watch include last years third place driver in points Jose da Silva, current third place in points Ariel Rubio, former race winners Chris Huerta & David Kelmenson, and the always front running Ben Blank & Craig Stanton. Each of these drivers stands a great shot at being on the podium when the checkered flag flies.
Smitty’s Spotlight: The stage setter for the Sub-Championship
“Round #4” will actually be the third round in the 2015 season, and that makes it the stage setter for the Winter Sub-Championship, awarded to the driver with the best 3 out of the first 4 rounds. With two in the books the results from tomorrow’s event will be the building blocks for any charge at the first championship decided this season, and unlike last year, there look to be several drivers in the hunt.
The invert this season has made things much more interesting in terms of on track strategy and excitement, and after Aaron Downs’ win from the very back, it seems that one can win from any place on the grid. That combined with the bonus points for laps led, and there will be many more scenarios up in the air come May. For this round however, it is about getting into position for that shot at the title.
Right out of the gate I think you have to keep an eye on #7 in points Charles Eichlin. ‘Chuck’ was on the podium for round one, and after a tough second round will be starting in the fourth spot, which puts him in a strong spot for podium #2 on the year. He has the pace, but the question will be if he can distance himself from the chasing pack, and then sort out his strategy well enough to maintain the advantage.
The Current Points
As mentioned, it is technically possible for Steve Spring to walk out of Round 4 as the Winter Sub-Championship due to the lowest score for each driver being dropped. However, the odds of that are fairly long. He would need to leave with his total of all three races being 106 or more points ahead of all other drivers best two races scored, and currently that gap is 79 points back to second place Taylor Hays. The chances of a clinch are long, but their is a very good opportunity for he or many other drivers to set themselves up very well for the first half finale.
There are still quite a few drivers that have a shot at the Winter sub-championship since we only have two races in the books, but several need to have two great races in Round 4 and the rain delayed Round 2 to have a chance.
The best example of that is Charles Eichlin. Eichlin had a third place run in Round 1, but followed that up with a 27th last month. Eichlin is still a very real threat for the title, both in the Winter season as well as the overall, he just cannot have another bad race. With 6 races still to go in 2015, that will be tough, but certainly not impossible.
Really, the only driver to keep a close eye on for the championship this weekend is Steve Spring. There are plenty of drivers who can blow the chase wide open, but he is the only one who can make anything final this Saturday. We’ll have a much better idea of who the contenders are when we take a look at the Round 2 make up race on Sunday May 3rd.
|Driver||Round 3 Finish||Round 4 Start|
|Jose da Silva||11||15|