Dennis Kimbrell scores first ever CalSpeed overall win – IronMan Round #5
The IronMan Series championship returned from its long, 13-week hiatus, kicking off the second half of the 2014 season, and the beginning of the Summer Sub Championship. Spanning the final four rounds on the calendar, the Summer Championship mimics the Winter title in format, taking the best 3 of 4 scores in the final races of the year. For its part, the overall championship continues the 8 round course, with the best 7 rounds counting towards the final tally.
Here in round #5 of the overall championship, drivers took to the Grande Counter Clockwise circuit for the second time this year, having visited it during round #2 back in February. This time however, not only would conditions be different with the much higher temperature, but the course would take on a different look, as a corner had been added in since.
Some drivers would get their first taste of the ‘new’ Grande CCW layout with that morning’s clinic, but with green track conditions, and the occasional sprinkle (yes, rain in July), it wasn’t until the 10-minute practice/qualy session that a true show of lap time was shown. The bar would be set early by the same man who did it in round #2, as Dennis Kimbrell cut a mid-1:07 to start things off, with point leader Patrick Britain right there with him.
The times continued to drop rapidly, with fast times being put in by recently crowned National Champion Aaron Downs, as well as Jose da Silva, David Kelmenson, as well as rookie driver Kevin Taylor. Nearing the end of the session, low 1:07’s were on the docket, but a trio of drivers found the 1:06s, first by Dennis Kimbrell who set the pole time with a 106.824. One lap later would come the other two, with Kelmenson coming up just .053 shy of the pole (106.877), and da Silva also in the 106’s with a .993.
In February, Kimbrell’s pole turned into a turn one spin and subsequent 9th place finish, but this time he was determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Turn one would be no issue this time around, as a slotted in line behind off-pole starter David Kelmenson, and the two immediately went to work. Picking right up where they left off in qualifying, but this time working together, the two drivers clicked off fast laps out of the gate, staying single file for the first ten or so laps. Behind them, a large pack of drivers lead by Patrick Britain jostled heavily for position, losing time hand over fist, growing the gap to the leaders.
This infighting also eventually split them up into smaller groups, making the task of reeling in the leaders all the more daunting. By lap 10 the advantage had grown to nearly five seconds between the lead duo and the next group of three, which consisted of Steve Spring, Britain, and da Silva. Behind the second trio things started to heat up, as some from further in the pack pushed their way to the front…
Having dutifully worked with Kelmenson for over ten laps, Dennis Kimbrell re-took the top spot he earned in qualifying, with the former leader returning the favor by staying in line. Even more fast laps would come out of the top two with Kimbrell at the helm, with their lead growing to over ten seconds before the drivers behind them made their first stop. Spring would be the first to duck in to the pits, bringing it in on lap 15, while his two drafting partners would follow suit on laps 21 (da Silva) and 22 (Britain). The lead duo would head in for their first stop shortly thereafter with Kimbrell coming in on lap 25 and Kelmenson on lap 26. At this point all of the leaders had made their first stop, Kimbrell maintaining the lead with Kelmenson in tow, albeit with a healthy 14-second gap to third.
At this point the stage seemed pretty well set for the finish, as the field broke up into a few different groups, with most of them maintaining gaps throughout the run. Kimbrell and Kelmenson continued to work together before ducking right back in the pits a few laps after their first stop, but still had the time advantage over the trio behind, led at that time by da Silva over Britain and Spring. And while there was some ebb and flow between the groups, the top 5 drivers remained unchallenged from those behind.
This allowed a bit of freedom in the pit stop strategy, with da Silva coming in first on lap 36. Spring and Britain stayed out a few laps longer before coming in, and were rewarded by leap-frogging da Silva as they exited. Leap frog they may have done, but they did not shake him, as Jose battled back to steal away the final podium spot in the final two laps.
At the front it was a mano-e-mano fight for the win, with Kelmenson the challenger from the second spot. He made his attempt at the pass through the final right hander as the duo came to the white, but with too much contact, and let Kimbrell back by. He would try once again in that same corner as they came to the checkered, but this time Kimbrell held on, scoring his first ever overall win at CalSpeed by just over a tenth at the line.
We caught up with our first time winner after the race for a few questions, and here’s what he had to say:
CS:Congrats on your first CalSpeed win Dennis! Having shared in wins from your sons, and in the endurance realm, what’s it like to stand on top of the podium, having done this one all on your own?
DK:Considering this IronMan had quite a few accomplished drivers, pretty good. It was pretty cool watching the gap from the boys grow bigger as I “180ed” the Carousel. David Kelmensen worked with me to gap the field, and then wore me out the last ten minutes.
CS:You won this race from pole, but actually scored the pole back in the Spring during round #2 of the championship, also on Grande CCW. Seems that you and this track get along quite well; why would you say that is?
DK:It fits my driving style better than the other layouts. I like a kart that turns itself (loose). The Grande CCW layout allows me to keep the line tight to shorten the distance, with a bonus of being a little more defensive without giving up speed. Also I do better on a cold track; the clouds last race were on my side.
CS:This win moves you into the top 10 overall, and you are the leader of the Summer Sub-Championship. What are your goals for the rest of the IronMan season, and further, can you carry the momentum from this win into the Super Series in two weeks time (on the same layout)?
DK:I am going to try and drive like one of the big boys for the rest of the year. I have set plenty of fast laps, I just need to make better racing decisions and have patience. The Grand Master championship really has me focused this year. Brian and Jeff have a little bit of a jump on me right now, but a couple of top tens in the A and I’m back in it.
That kicks off the second half of the IronMan Series, and the first of four races for the Summer Sub-Championship. The Series will return to CalSpeed on the Classico configuration when it returns on August 23rd, and the first time the series will see the layout this season.
Top Ten in Overall Points after Round #5 (Total Points)
|2.||Jose da Silva [M]||344||(344)|
|3.||Mark Connell [M]||324||(324)|
|6.||Sergio Bravo [M]||315||(332)|
|7.||David Kelmenson [M]||314||(364)|
|8.||Steve Spring [M]||303||(341)|
|9.||Dennis Kimbrell [GM]||298||(357)|
Top Ten in the Summer Sub-Championship
|1.||Dennis Kimbrell [GM]||100|
|2.||David Kelmenson [M]||95|
|3.||Jose da Silva [M]||90|
|5.||Steve Spring [M]||80|
|8.||Kevin Taylor [M]||71|
|9.||Mark Connell [M]||68|