Tomorrow marks the start of the second half of the 2017 CalSpeed IronMan Series season, as the Sportivo course plays home to the sixth round in the championship. The second repeat course of the year, Sportivo was also the home of the second round back in February where we were treated to a last lap pass for the win by Taylor Hays over Adam Nagao. Hays is fresh of his second win of the season last month on Nuovo, while Nagao clinched the Winter Title one round early in the first half of the season. Will this weekend be another standout run for the top two in points, or will we see our fifth different winner this weekend? It is also the first round of the Summer sub-championship, so everyone entered into tomorrow’s event heads in tied for first; question is, who will be leading when the checkers fall? This preview takes another look at the familiar track layout, and also delves a little deeper into the points in this, the Halfway Report for the 2017 IronMan Season.
Round #6; Sportivo…
The biggest difference between the last time we ran this course in February and this weekend is an obvious one: the weather. Compared with temperatures in the mid 60’s for round #2, tomorrow’s start to the second half of the season will see near triple digits, and with it a much tougher challenge for the drivers. An hour straight behind the wheel is going to be a bit tougher this time around, and one wonders if the full field will be seeing the checkered flag at the end. The higher temperatures also typically see higher grip levels on course, but this fact is enhanced with the recent repave here at CalSpeed. We saw last round that the newly paved sections provided a lot more grip, and the Long Beach corners was the the one that seemingly created the biggest challenge. Grip –and specifically where that grip is- will be a talking point this weekend, as the change from the Nuovo layout to the Sportivo layout here in the summer also creates an interesting change in grip levels. The Sportivo corner starts with a rubbered-in entry, while half way through the corner the grip tapers off as we go to the unused surface from Nuovo. Silk this time around is a little different too, as we will be going from the old surface onto the repave around halfway through, but this will most likely be of little consequence. Monaco is the big question mark heading into tomorrow, as nobody knows really what we will get grip-wise until the day gets going in the clinic. Typically the grip is fairly low through there, especially on the immediate entry as that part of the circuit is largely unused. Horseshoes’ repave may see a bit more mind than normal with the lower speeds coming out of Monaco, and it will be interesting to see how this affects the approach to Long Beach, and whether or not rotation will be any tougher.
It may be the same name from round #2, but it may not be the same track…
Smitty’s Halfway Report
The halfway point of the IronMan season can be a reset button for some drivers, as the Summer sub-championship begins with everyone again tied for first in the standings coming in. That said, the overall championship is still in full swing, and with two drops and five more races to run, there is still everything left to play for. I’ll take a look at the drivers leading the way after the first five rounds, plus see if we can learn a little more of what to expect in the final five races of the year…
Adam Nagao- The reigning IronMan Series Champ and newly crowned 2017 Winter champ, Adam picked up where he left off in 2016 and has been absolutely stellar all season. Scoring four podiums in a row including a win in round #3, his worst finish actually came last month after a rare mistake saw his streak come to an end. He was still able to come away with a fourth place finish however, so the hit in points was minimal, especially with him again scoring bonus points for leading a lap. He once again leads most drivers in that category, his 15 bonus points padding an already stout total thus far.
Taylor Hays- Aside from Nagao, no other driver has been as consistent, with Taylor finishing inside the top 4 four the past four rounds. In fact, aside form his 6th place in the opener, he has either won or finished fourth, keeping the points chase close to his championship rival. His 14-point gap is cut down to just 9 when you take into account the second drop, showing just how close the top two really are in the standings. He’s the only driver to win more than once so far this season, and with how good the 2015 IronMan champ is running, we may see a third by season’s end.
Alyssa Yauney- This has certainly been a breakout year for Alyssa, not only scoring her first win and narrowly missing it last round, but scoring three podiums so far this year –second in that stat only to Nagao. The year started a bit hot/cold however-with two finishes in the teens- a fact that is going to bite her this weekend. She is missing this round due to a family trip which will force her to keep one of the rounds, also making her podium run that much harder. It will be interesting to see just how bad her absence hurts her in the points, and when she comes back for round #7 on Classico.
Sean Fite- Like he did last year, Sean is excelling at scoring bonus points and making the best out of the occasional bad situation, leading all drivers in the bonus category. Unfortunately, he has also seen a couple really good runs slip through his fingers, otherwise he would certainly be a lot closer in the overall title hunt. Still, we have seen glimpses of what he can do behind the wheel, and if the small mistakes get ironed out, he could be one to watch in the second half here. Last year he excelled in the second part of the season, nipping Hays for second overall en-route to winning the Summer Season Championship. Can he back that performance up?
Henry Morse- Henry came out of the gate hot with a win in the season opener, but ever since just seems like he has been stuck just inside the top 10. There is no lack of speed as he showed in the lone qualifying run in January, but he hasn’t been able to make the same progress through the field as the drivers ahead of him in the standings. If he can fix whatever the issue is keeping him from finding the podium ever since, then he will certainly be in the Summer Championship conversation.
Outside the top five in points are drivers that have shown either moments of brilliance without the consistency, or consistency, but just a little off the podium per race. With Diego Morales stating he will most likely miss most –if not all- the rest of the season, Chris Huerta leads these drivers. Currently in 7th overall, Huerta has been at the sharp end on more than one occasion, but has not been able to seal the deal on a podium just year, finishing 5th three times. Jose da Silva is next, just missing his chance at his first win in round #3 with an unlucky incident with lapped traffic. Still, that podium finish shows that he can get up there and make it happen, so we need to keep an eye on him here in the second half. The same can be said for former race winner and regular top ten runner Steve Spring, as he has been a presence towards the front all season. He has found the top step before, but like Huerta, is just lacking a little something to punch through onto the podium at the end. Former Series Champ Bill Myers started the season off right with a pole position and then a 5th overall in round #2, and lately has shown glimpses of that old fire. Tomorrow is definitely a reset button for him, and it will be interesting where he lands in the Summer sub-championship.
This round will also have a couple of familiar names making their first start of the season, as Super Series regular front runner Aaron Scott and sport karting veteran Anthony Severson join the ranks tomorrow. Both of these guys have a long way to go up the field, and it will be interesting to see how they do coming form the back. There are also a lot of new names in the field, so traffic could play a big part in the strategy this round; any way you look at it, this is going to be a fun race to watch!
Current Top 10 Standings After 1 Drop (After 2 Drops)
|8)||Jose da Silva||301||(241)|
Round #6 Provisional Starting Grid
|8)||Jose da Silva|