CalSpeed IronMan Series Round #9 Preview

Last month’s round #8 would see counter-clockwise ace Adam Nagao bring home his second win of the 2017 IronMan Series season, inching ever closer to his second championship in a row. He would be joined on the podium by a new face in Chris Huerta, as well former winner this season Alyssa Yauney, the latter trying to keep her hopes alive for the Summer sub-championship.

Tomorrow we will once again be heading in the ‘reverse’ direction here at CalSpeed, but this time the field of thirty IronMan drivers will take to the Grande CCW track for the first and only time this season. Both the Overall and Summer Series championships lay in the balance, with Adam Nagao leading the way in both categories. Last year this track was the stage for the final race of the season; while this may be the penultimate round in the season, could this be the final round for each of the title fights? We’ll take a closer look at the track, the players, and perhaps some spoilers in this month’s preview!

Round #9; Grande CCW…

While last year we took to the Grande Counter Clockwise layout on two different occasions, this year only the Fall race is on the calendar, and it once again will sure to be exciting. While reverse layouts have been used earlier this season with both Tecnico and Classico CCW, this is just the third event in that direction, and the first time these drivers will be seeing two specific corners: Short Beach and Horseshoe (CCW). For veterans of CalSpeed’s arrive and drive racing, Short Beach will immediately seem a lot different; the section was repaved this year, and the grip level is much different than it was before. Only used for the sport karts, Short Beach has been known to require a very late apex because of the typical large amount of understeer the lack of grip induced. Now repaved, the section provides a lot different feel -and while grip is up- understeer is not as big an issue, with drivers still able to rotate their karts nicely. Another difference is the extended curb put in during the paving, now going all the way through the turn instead of just half way. How to, or IF to take this curb will be one of the things to learn about this re-defined section, with it still being a big passing zone as it starts off the lap.

Next is the Horseshoe; a long, double-apex corner that tightens up on the exit, before transition into a short straight that heads into Contino. The Horseshoe itself is not overly technical, although small line changes do make a difference in how much of a run someone carries onto that short straight. It can be a small danger zone however, as going too wide on entry of the second apex can see a driver get in the marbles, and up the track towards the wall. Two wide is easily doable. Three on the other hand…

The next section of Contino Carousel is the only other part that is different compared to last months’ counter clockwise excursion -as the entry speed is now much higher- with many different lines to choose from on approach. The added speed also requires a driver to wheel his ride a lot more through the corner, as the changing grip levels through the double-apex challenge mean the nut behind the wheel can make a big difference. On top of the driving challenges, expect to see plenty of passing going in, and through the center of Contino, more than we see on any other trip through there from either direction.

Last year this race was won by last month’s podium finisher Chris Huerta, and he would surely like to repeat that this weekend. Eleven drivers will receive the invert from last months’ event, with a total of 19 returning to the course from the August round. Of the eleven drivers filling the field, a particular potential spoiler comes to mind, as sport karting veteran Bryan Armbrust makes his IronMan debut this weekend, and could shake things up from mid pack. A former podium finisher in the Sport Kart Grands, as well as front runner in the Machismo 12 Hour, Amrbrust is truly one of the best in the business, albeit out of the seat for much of the time since. Most eyes will be on a trio of drivers however, as Taylor Hays looks to reel in Adam Nagao for the both the Overall and Summer Series titles, while Alyssa Yauney looks to leapfrog the duo in the latter championship fight…

For the Overall championship, Hays trails the reigning champ by 29 coming into tomorrows event, needing to gain at least 8 points on his rival to push this into the finale as the decider. The 2015 champ played a strategy card last month, realizing where he was running was a drop, falling back to the last driver on the lead lap for the best possible starting position tomorrow. He’ll start second, with Nagao needing to work up from 11th; Nagao needs to lead a lap and finish 2nd to clinch if Hays pulls out a perfect day (108 points). No matter what happens for the current point leader, he’ll still exit this round still in the lead, as his drop of 90 points is by far the best in the field. That said, a drop by him and a perfect run by Hays (win + most laps lead) is an 18-point swing; which would make the gap just 11 points heading into the finale…

While not a bad day, Fite’s fifth place finish from last month still meant losing points to his hardware rival, as Alyssa Yauney finding the podium again saw a 10-point add-on to her advantage. Neither have strong throw outs to fall back on, so no clinch isn’t in the cards, but with a 32-point nod to Yauney Fite is going to need to come up really big this weekend. The duo will see each other right at the start too, with Yauney starting 9th and Fite 7th; each having found the top 5 in last years’ event here. Fite was able to score second place and Yauney 4th in the Grande CCW event last October, and while Yauney can count herself a two-time winner this season, Fite is still looking for his first. This may be his best shot to do just that…

Current Top 10 Overall Standings After 2 Drops

1)Adam Nagao603
2)Taylor Hays574
3)Alyssa Yauney543
4)Sean Fite511
5)Chris Huerta488
6)Jose da Silva480
7)Steve Spring428
8)Scott Milne378
9)Henry Morse278
10)Chris Carter362

It is realistically still a three horse race for the Summer sub-championship, but with just two races to go, Nagao is the one with a firm 15-point advantage. Like the overall, both of his rivals will need to have a stellar day while simultaneously seeing Nagao have the opposite to see this thing tighten up. However unlike the overall, Nagao’s drop means he can actually lose the lead to either of them, so this thing is still up in the air. Mathematically even Jose da Silva and Chris Huerta could say they’re in it too, but they both would need all three of the drivers in front of them to have catastrophic events while simultaneously having their best to see that happen. No, it will most likely be one of the top three hoisting the Summer Series championship cup at the end of the year; the question is who?

Current Top 5 Summer Series Standings

1)Adam Nagao208
2)Taylor Hays193
3)Alyssa Yauney193
4)Jose da Silva173
5)Chris Huerta170

Round #9 Provisional Starting Grid

1)Scott Milne
2)Taylor Hays
3)Chris Carter
4)Steve Spring
5)Alexander Bermudez
6)Ariel Rubio
7)Sean Fite
8)Jose da Silva
9)Alyssa Yauney
10)Chris Huerta
11)Adam Nagao
12)Simon Wong
13)Bill Myers
14)Maximilian Bui
15)Craig Booth
16)James Suggs
17)Eric Hayhurst
18)Tony Wika
19)Christopher Hitchcock
20)Bryan Armbrust
21)Bryan Armbrust, Sr.
22)Jon Armbrust
23)Russell Tedeschi
24)Randy McKee
25)Dmitry Korotkov
26)Nicolas Bel
27)Mark Sternberg
28)Vince Horst
29)Spencer Russell
30)TJ Blackledge