The season opener for the CalSpeed Sprint Series was one of the best races we have seen from the ladder championship, with a 5-way battle at the end for the top step of the podium. In the end, final corner contact changed up the final order, and it would be TJ Blacklegde sweeping the day with a heat win and the A-Main victory. Stable mates Caden Thure and Andrew Brown would round out the podium, each scoring wins in their heat races as well. It was also the largest Sprint Series event ever, with over 80 drivers entered after the expansion to a third run group for 2017.
Round #2 will see these drivers take on the Sportivo layout for the first of two times this season, the last time coming in the first round last year. After a year off for most drivers, and the stark contrast in type of circuit, it will be interesting to see how these drivers handle this different layout. Further, with prior seat time being at a minimum, track experience will pay dividends for the more veteran drivers. Who will be the ones to watch in this next installment? Let’s take a closer look in this month’s preview…
Round 2 of 8: Sportivo-
With the combination of being scheduled shortly after a track change and then the threat of rain, practice on the Sportivo layout has been limited, so falling back on experience is going to be huge. Drivers that recognize this course and already feel they have pace here will have a leg up, and right now the first driver on that list is 2R driver Dennis Kimbrell. Dennis was almost able to spoil the party for the season regulars last round, and heading into tomorrow’s event, has another great shot at being on the podium. And while the most experience on the layout, Kimbrell will certainly have plenty of others to watch for, as many of the current front runners have at least seen this track before. A couple drivers that actually finished in the top 10 last year are Don Diego Veloria (8th), and Diego Alvarado (9th). Both of these guys have shown to be strong in qualifying, and given the lack of seat time for drivers leading into the practice/qualy session, these two could be serious threats for the top step.
The overall leaders in the standings have all been here as well, albeit without the strong stats in the results column. Point leader TJ Blackledge, along with the podium runners from last round Caden Thure and Andrew Brown, will all be looking to back up their performances form round #1, as well as improve on their prior results at this track. In fact, if you look at the top 10 the only driver that looks to have never been here is Cale Englage, so it will be interesting to see what he can do after an impressive run in January to sit 6th in the standings. And speaking of the top 10, the only driver not on the entry list for that group is Valdimir Orlov, and with 11th place Brandon Trostle also slated to be absent, we’ll be seeing some new faces inside the top ten at the end of tomorrow.
Some of those new faces could come from deeper in the standings, especially as new drivers learn the tracks and improve as the season progresses. Case in point is the B-Main winner from the opener, Matt Evans. Evans ran a few races last yea in preparation for a full season run in 2017, and is already showing good pace, and an ability to learn from mistakes. Round #2 will again be a new course for him and many others, and it will cool to see these drivers start moving up the ranks.
We were able to see both Blackledge and Veloria back up their strong Sprint Series finishes with A-Main runs in the Super Series opener, so those two guys really have some momentum heading into this weekend. The question is, will theirs and the drivers coming off string round 1 carry that momentum in, or will Sportivo be a reset button on the start to the season?
Current Overall Standings Top 10
|4)||Dennis Kimbrell [2R]||275|
|8)||Don Diego Veloria||260|