The July round of the 2017 Sprint Series championship rolled through the original and toughest layout on the schedule, Classico. In the end it was a familiar face atop the box, as TJ Blackledge scored his record breaking 4th win of the season, joined by a pair of up and coming Sprint Series drivers in Seth Willits and Kevin Erikson. This month the group will again be taking to the Classico layout, but this time in the opposite direction…
Classico Counter Clockwise (CCW) is arguably a bit easier physically, and also has more passing zones, and is a action-packed race course with side by side battles aplenty. Tomorrow marks the 8th round in the championship, and while we are starting to see a few drivers break away in the overall title fight, the battle for the Summer Series championship is in full swing! Let’s take a little closer look at who some of the players are now with just 3 rounds to go…
Round 8 of 10: Classico CCW-
Classico CCW is essentially Tecnico with a different ‘infield section’, as the first and final parts of the lap are the same. Where it differs from Tecnico is after drivers get onto the back straight, as instead of the Tecnico Hairpin, the course continues through the fast left hander of Silk, before dumping into the Hairpin. This section is the same from the Grande CCW layout, which will be the sight of the penultimate round in the championship next month. Because of the familiarity of what the Classico CCW course offers, a lot of drivers will enter the event more comfortable than ever, especially with all of the sections having been run earlier this season, even if this is the only time on this course specifically.
That said, everyone will certainly be chasing the driver at the top of the heap, overall point leader Thomas ‘TJ’ Blackledge. This kid has had a phenomenal year thus far, and is fresh off his record-setting 4th win in this series last month, lengthening his point lead over season-long rival Don Diego Veloria. Albeit with no wins, Veloria had stayed in close contact with a pair of podiums and solid consistency, but the past couple of rounds have not gone his way. Still the number one challenger to Blackledge, this weekend could be the decider in the championship battle, as a 273 or better point haul from TJ will see things wrapped up when the checkers fall, no matter what his rival does.
With the championship picture a little clearer, our attention starts to turn more towards the brewing fight for the final two spots on the podium, with the aforementioned Veloria in second over Randy McKee in third. With just 31 points between them, the fight for where they will be on the podium is more probable than if. This has a lot to do with the absence of Diego Alvarado in 4th, and the distance back to Caden Thure in 5th; the former we knew would be missing rounds, but things aren’t over for the latter. We have seen surges from Thure before, and if he returns to form here in the final couple of rounds, the 51-point gap to third is not insurmountable. And with 6th place Seth Willits also missing the final pair of rounds, it is really between those three to see who will be hoisting the final pieces of overall hardware in November.
Current Top 10 Standings After 2 Drops
|2)||Don Diego Veloria||1397|
Unlike the Overall championship battle, the fight for the Summer sub-championship is still wide open, with round #6 winner Randy McKee leading the way after two events. His perfect day in June sees him atop the standings after the drop is taken into account, and has John Rice and Seth Willits right with him. While both of those drivers sit second with a P2 to each of them, they have both also missed a round, making no drops to fall back on. For Willits it is already game over, as he knew he would be missing events here in the fall anyway, but Rice will be looking to follow up his break-out event in June this weekend.
Last month’s winner TJ Blackledge is next in the points, and actually leads by 2 points over McKee if the drops are backed out; that duo has 565 and 563 points total respectively. Joining those two with a solid pair of rounds is 5th in the points Tyler Rousseau, his consistency proven over the two rounds so far with 560 points to his name before drops. This trio has been the most consistent over the first two rounds here, but there are a host of others that are in the game when we take drops into account.
Kevin Erikson, Scott Milne, and Don Diego Veloria are all in striking range with three events to go, having made both rounds so far and are the next three in the ‘total points’ column. Erikson and Veloria are regular front runners, while Milne has just made his Sprint debut here in the second half of the year, and has come out swinging. But don’t count out Calvin Ku (8th) either; the podium finisher from round #6 is in attendance once again this weekend, and while he missed last month, still is in the mathematical game. This weekend will most likely decide who the final players will be as we enter the final two races, and will be a really exciting one to watch!
Current Top 10 Summer Series Standings
|9)||Don Diego Veloria||267|