The sixth round of the 2014 CalSpeed IronMan Series championship took to the Classico course configuration this past Saturday, doubling as the second round of the summer shootout sub-championship. Known as a challenging track both for consistent laps and for passing opportunities, the Classico layout provided the final time IronMan competitors would be heading in the clockwise direction, and they put on a great show for it. A breakaway trio would command the race, with Patrick Britain making a last lap pass for the win over Jon Kimbrell and David Kelmenson. At the end of the day the overall points standings would see a big shake up for the second round in a row, and we would leave with a three-way tie for the points in the Summer Series…
Getting edged out at the end of qualifying for pole last round, David Kelmenson came out of the gate hot for the 10 minute qualifying session here for round #6, immediately putting up the time to beat. Coming off a win from pole last round, Dennis Kimbrell was once again quick this time around, joined in pace by well known names like Patrick Britain, Jon Kimbrell and Aaron Downs. Jose da Silva also showed well early in the qualifying run, but it was the aforementioned ‘Kimby’ and Britain that hooked up and started putting in fast times. While Kelmenson had the mark for a couple laps at 51.7, Britain would steal away the provisional pole with a 51.598, with Jon Kimbrell just a breathe behind with a 51.599. Kimbrell would find a bit more however, snagging the top spot away with a .594, just .004 better for the pole at that time. Kelmenson wasn’t done though, and put in a flyer on his last attempt, cutting a top time of 51.567 to steal away pole in the closest qualifying round of the season.
At the drop of the green Kimbrell pressured Kelmenson heavily from the off pole position, staying side by side for the first half lap, before finally securing the top spot by the end of lap one. After a bit of jostling around, the star trio from qualifying took hold of the top three spots, and never looked back. Kelmenson would steal back the top spot on lap a couple laps later, and hold the point over Kimbrell and Britain in tow for several laps. On lap 10 Kimbrell would retake the lead, and assert his control over the race; leading nearly every lap aside from then on out in a masterful display of managing a race. Behind the lead trio an assortment of strategies were implemented; some pitting early to get out of the group, while others tried to capitalize on the new found clean air vacated by their rivals…
The first driver to duck in the pits was Taylor Hays, relinquishing the 10th spot on lap four, something that was obviously all according to plan as his T4 teammates Chris Huerta, and Steve Spring followed suit there after. Hooking up with the T4 train was Wes Dent, looking to gain experience in his first IronMan start of the year. Although Dent would peel off for another early stop a couple laps later, the T4 drivers would stay together nearly the entire race, working to make the early stop strategy pay off as it had for the group before.
There were a few outlying strategies throughout the top ten though, including Aaron Downs and Bruce Allen pitting on lap 21, followed by Dennis Kimbrell, on lap 22 and Jose da Silva on lap 23. Downs and Kimbrell would come in again before the halfway point of the race, making them the first of the front group to get both stops in. At the front though it was the standard half-distance strategy, with Britain coming in on lap 30 for his first stop, followed by Jon Kimbrell on lap 31, and Kelmenson on lap 32, the top two actually breaking out to a second or so lead after the first stop. This advantage would be maintained for the rest of the race, effectively becoming a two horse race at the sharp end.
With the leaders making their first stops, in was time for the T4 train to come in for their second stop, with Hays kicking things off on lap 34 from the 5th position on course. Spring would follow suit on the next lap, but before Huerta could join his group he was caught up by Bruce Allen and Justin Tolman, the duo finding their way by and completing their final stop before Huerta could. With just under 20 laps remaining the field was starting to get set for the final run to the checkers, having completed both of there required stops. The T4 group was now joined by Allen and Tolman, as well as Wes Dent, who was reunited after striking out on his own strategy earlier in the race. This group of six found themselves fighting for what would end up being 7th position when it was all said and done, and it was an exciting one to the end.
At the front it was still just Jon Kimbrell leading Patrick Britain, until the latter blinked first and entered the pits on lap 42, narrowly missing taking over the top spot when Jon came in the very next time by. This setup a 15 lap run to the end, with a bit of ebb and flow as the duo worked through traffic. Further back would see the mid race double stop strategy employed by Dennis Kimbrell and Aaron downs pay off, as they circulated 4th and 5th respectively, while Jose da Silva settled in at 6th after being one of the final front runners to make his final stop.
As the laps clicked away and the race closed in on its end, you could see Britain working hard to stay in touch with the leader Kimbrell, Kimbrell having the advantage of attacking traffic on his terms. Traffic would indeed play a part, holding Jon up only slightly on the penultimate lap, enough to give Patrick one last shot at the lead, which he took on the final lap heading down the back straight. Getting to the inside before the double apex corner that led into the esses, the two drivers connected at the first apex, the contact doing nothing to deter the move, with Britain taking the shorter way around to the finish, scoring the win by just .117 at the line.
Scoring win #2 on the year, and with it some well timed points towards the overall championship, Britain was certainly satisfied with the end result when we caught with him post-race:
CS:Congrats on your second win of the year, and with it, an extended point lead with two rounds to go. Going into the final lap you crossed the line in second; did you think you had what it took to score the win?
PB:Once we got about five laps in, I realized I had a little more in the tank than Jon did. I wanted to wait until about five to go to make my move, mostly so we could separate from the field. We ended up catching traffic at a bad time for me and I actually didn’t get back to Jon until we were on the final lap. I knew my only shot was up the hill into the carousel and it happened to work out this time for me.
CS:This was your second win of the year; your first coming in the opening round on the one-off track layout ‘Nuotivo’. Just like in January, you had to best a former champion to get the win, but tell us how this race differed from your previous victory?
PB:This race was a lot more of a mental chess match with myself than round one was. That one was a three-way battle with Sergio, Dave and I and it was just a straight up battle to the line. This time, I started planning my move with about twenty minutes to go and I had to be really patient to not go to soon.
CS:As we mentioned before, you have a fairly healthy lead in the overall standings, and can actually lock up the 2014 IronMan Series championship with a 9th or better next round. How do you approach a scenario like that? Is it a more conservative approach for the next round, or will it be business as usual?
PB:I’m fortunate to have had a great season so far and to only need a 9th or better in either of my next two races. For me, the focus has shifted to winning the Summer championship. If I win that, the overall will follow. That said, I definitely will be sure to make perfect pit stops and make moves on track that aren’t super aggressive just to make sure a black flag doesn’t ruin my entire season.
Saturday September 27th will see the second to last round for the 2014 IronMan Series, attacking the exciting Classico Counter Clockwise layout for the first time in series history. Registration for that race is open now, so be sure to sign up for what is sure to be an exciting penultimate round in the championship!
Top Ten in Overall Points after Round #6 (Total Points)
|Jose da Silva [M]
|David Kelmenson [M]
|Dennis Kimbrell [GM]
|Steve Spring [M]
|Mark Connell [M]
Top Ten in the Summer Sub-Championship (Total Points)
|Dennis Kimbrell [GM]
|David Kelmenson [M]
|Jose da Silva [M]
|Steve Spring [M]
|Kevin Taylor [M]