Hays First Two-Time IronMan Winner in 2017

CalSpeed’s ‘Super Speedway’ would host the fifth round of the 2017 IronMan Championship, the nearly flat out Nuovo configuration welcoming 30 entries for the Memorial Day Weekend event. With the track having been repaved since the rough ride that was round #4, the track was glass smooth in those areas, and speeds were some of the fastest we have seen. In the end we would see the race go down to the very last corner…

Maximillian Bui would lead the field around the Long Beach corner and to the green flag for the first time in his career, but it would be sport karting veteran Chris Huerta leading lap number one. Huerta would bring with him rookie driver Randy McKee, and the duo would be able to stretch out a small gap as the rest of the front runners bickered for position. McKee wasn’t satisfied with just following though, and with a 3 second advantage back to third, made his move for the lead on lap seven. There he would stay for a few laps before Huerta re-passed for the top spot, perhaps realizing they were losing their advantage to the trailing group, now led by Sean Fite. Fite had fellow title contenders Adam Nagao and Taylor Hays in tow as well, the group making quick inroads to the leaders. By lap 14 they had caught the lead duo, and by lap 15 there was a new leader, with Fite assuming the point with about five drivers in tow.

In that first quarter of the race very few front runners would make the trip down pit road, but of those that did, Jose da Silva was the leader. Pitting on lap five, da Silva was the very first to make the trip, and for the rest of the 50+ minutes essentially seemed to run against the clock. Starting in the 11th position, he would finish 7th in the end, and while a tidy improvement, was unable to ever really link up with anyone to challenge for a top five. Instead it seemed like the staying out strategy was the one to go with, and not just for the beginning, but nearly until the end…

Back at the front, the train of six drivers slowly became seven, as round #4 winner Alyssa Yauney bridged the gap between her and the lead pack, having shed some of the traffic and trailing pack behind her. Point leader Adam Nagao had also assumed the role of leader for a couple laps before title rival Taylor Hays took over; but only lasted a couple laps before it was again Nagao leading the way. It was now Nagao, Hays, Fite, Yauney, Huerta in the top five, with Alexander Bermudez and Randy McKee holding onto the tail. Issues with traffic would see McKee drop off the back before making his first stop, and then just past the half way mark, Bermudez would have an issue after a miscommunication at pit entry. Unfortunately, Huerta would be unable to hold onto the draft much after that point too, making it just a four now at the front. He would hold onto that fifth place for the duration however, a solid rebound after a dismal round last month.

That group of four seemed content to just ride to the end, with Hays now leading over Nagao, Fite and Yauney; the quartet staying in line from lap 27 until the very first pit stop came from the group. Yauney was the first to blink, ducking in from 4th on lap 51, just inside of ten minutes to play. Fite came in a lap later, followed by Hays and then Nagao with only Fite and Nagao changing spots once the first cycle was completed. With very little left it was Hays first to come in for his final stop, with Fite again coming in as the second driver. But then the white flag was in the air, and both Yauney and Nagao needed to pit…

Series veterans know you never want to follow another driver down pit road for fear of contact or at least a slow stop, but with the white flag in the air there was no other option for Nagao. Unfortunately for him contact would indeed be the result, although luckily for him he would retain the fourth spot after the post race penalty. For Yauney it wasn’t over yet, and she was able to leapfrog both Hays and Fite in the stop. Exiting out in front of Hays on the final lap, it was one-on-one with Fite too far back to get involved. Hays would set up for the pass coming out of Horseshoe, eyeing the final corner as his best chance, with Yauney reacting to the set up after a look over her shoulder. Although she would cross the line first, Hays would earn the win after she was given a penalty for blocking. Taylor Hays would become the first two-time winner in 2017, while Yauney scored her second podium in a row, with Sean Fite taking the final podium spot.

This concludes the first half of the 2017 Ironman Series season, with Adam Nagao coming home the Winter Sub-Champion, and also has the overall point lead heading into round #6. Hays has closed the gap to Nagao and sits second, while Yauney moves into the third spot after 3 out of five rounds on the podium. This round sold out over three weeks in advance, so be sure to get in before time runs out!

IronMan Series Round #5 Top 10

1)Taylor Hays
2)Alyssa Yauney
3)Sean Fite
4)Adam Nagao
5)Chris Huerta
6)Alexander Bermudez
7)Jose da Silva
8)Bill Myers
9)Steve Spring
10)Henry Morse