Previewing the unknown…
So, what should we expect from the first ever Oval Race at CalSpeed Karting? Indeed this is as much an experiment as it is a racing event, and interestingly enough, we have had plenty of volunteer ‘guinea pigs’. On paper it looked like a good idea; hatched during the Machismo 12 hour race last fall with the words, “you know what would be cool…”
“The CalSpeed 500!”
Do a little bit of math, and the 500 part is a bit tough, and the whole 33 karts starting 3 wide into the first corner also sounded like a recipe for disaster, at least with the track layout in place. However, it is still oval racing, during one of the most storied racing weekends for oval racing (or any racing for that matter) there is, with events like the NASCAR’s Coke 600, and of course THEE Indy 500. And while we certainly did want to play homage to the aforementioned 500, our first go round turning only left, will be more of a short track battle than a ongoing quest for more speed.
In the following preview we’ll take a look at the format, the track itself, and I’ll talk to our resident oval expert before taking a look at the entry list. Get ready kids, we goin oval racin’!
The Rules and Format…
While a lot of ideas were kicked around (including an endurance version, hence the ‘500’ thought process), we stuck with what was familiar, and what has become the standard for the CalSpeed Super Series: Practice, G/W/C Qualifying, a pair of Heats, and a Main.
Things will start off with a 5 minut practice, and while that may not sound very long, it is still in the neighborhood of 18 or so laps, plenty of time to get things sorted. After that will be probably one of the funnest, and closest qualifying sessions to watch this year, as green, white, checkered qualifying will decide the run groups, and starting positions for the first set of heat races.
The heat races will be 20 laps in length, with each drivers finishing position determining which grpoup they will be in for the second heat, and their starting position. With a slight twist… Heat number two will see the top 10 inverted from their sorted positions after the groups are made, putting those who had just come away with a win, now right smack in the middle of the field. The finishing positions for the two heat races will decide which Main each drievr will transfer to, with the top third going straight to the A Main.
The B and C Mains will be 40 laps in length, with the starting grids set by how they finished in the first two heat races. The winner of these mains will move on to the next, and will also score a bit of hardware at the podium ceremony.
For the A-Main, another twist will be added, as not only does the race get a bit longer (60 laps in length), but a pit stop will also be required. Akin to the way the IronMan series runs, the single pit stop must be done anytime between lap 2 and the white flag lap, and will follow the same ‘stop box’ format as is used in other CalSpeed events.
As far as the rules go, there are two primary differences in place for this event that drivers will need to keep in mind. The first is the ‘very popular’ lane-holding rule, which is actually very easily defined on an oval. On the outside, give up the inside lane, and vice versa. Show a little respect to your fellow drivers, and this is very easily accomplished.
And while the ‘appropriate’ amount of side-to-side contact will be allowed, the biggest change in the contact ruling is the allowance of ‘bump drafting’. As true drafting is not in effect, pushing drivers on the straights will be allowed, provided it isn’t initiated hard, or continues into the braking zone. This will be true ‘short track’ style racing, minus the bump and runs. THAT will still be penalized; we aren’t going full-NASCAR here…
The track: Dmarlingtonsville. The D is silent…
Say it with me now: Mar-ling-tons-ville. Combining the paper-clip shape (Martinsville) with the slight nuances of slightly difference corner shapes and approaches (Darlington), the name has jokingly stuck, but is actually a pretty good description of what to expect.
Turns 1 and 2 head into the Long Beach corner, and although it looks pretty tight, there is ample room to enter, or even exit three wide; with some give and take. A driver holding the outside in this corner is a regular occurrence when in a two-wide scenario, and many times sees them with the advantage on the exit. In fact, the grip level feels a bit higher in turns 1 and two then in the non-slurried 3 and 4, making for very stable, very close side by side racing to be very comfortable.
Both straights allow for 4 wide easily, something that happened, albeit in rare occurrences in testing. Three wide happens all the time though, as differences in runs coming out of the corners forces drivers to either work with those in front, and push a driver along, or roll the dice and pull along side. Once twenty or so karts is on track, this could be the thing that changes the most.
The biggest difference between 3 & 4 and the Long Beach ‘corners’ on this oval is a) the slightly longer shape of the corner, and b) the different and varying surface throughout the corners. The shape is a bit more squared off, making for a slightly longer corner, although not long enough to be double apex worthy. The different lines through this corner make for a variety of exit speeds, and lends to the abundance of side-by-side racing into the first corner.
The surface transitions from the slurry to the ‘aggregate’ just before the braking zone for turn 3, but than heads back onto the front straight slurry as you go through turn 4. It is also interesting to point out that because you take the two ends of the circuit completely differently, we saw that some drivers were better on one end of the course or the other, making for a lot of really good racing…
I get an expert’s opinion on what to expect. My Expert? Cameron Jocelyn
Heading into this event, only two drivers with any oval experience have taken to the CalSpeed Oval, and only one of them have done it somewhere other than a simulator. And while I found my experience racing simulated ovals actually translated quite nicely to this application, there is no substitute for the real thing, so I asked CalSpeed Mechanic and Tester Cameron Jocelyn what he thought…
MS: For those that don’t know, what is your experience in oval racing?
CJ: As a driver I have tried to take on many different challenges, and as part of this I raced ASA speed trucks for about two years to take my talents to the oval.
MS: How would you compare your experience on ovals to the oval here at CalSpeed? What are some of the similarities?
CJ: It is very hard to compare quarter, half and third mile oval tracks to our short oval here, with the lack of banking and Martinsville type paperclip, yet how it races seems to have some similarities. You are able to challenge for position by holding the outside, and by having this ability, it takes multiple laps to complete a pass.
MS: Can you describe the track? What are some of the differences and nuances that will make this track fun, or challenging to drive?
CJ: The track being so short it may seem simple, yet with two very different corners it may show some challenges to some of the competitors this weekend. One of the biggest challenges would have to be the pavement change through three and four. The grip level is a dramatic change, and will create some interesting scenarios with some more karts on track.
MS: Having run several laps in testing, how would you describe the racing on the CalSpeed Oval? Are we going to see a lot of side by side, or follow the leader?
CJ: With the oval designed as it is, we should see constant side by side racing from green to checkered, depending on the driving ability of our drivers.
MS: We tested with five karts on track at once. What do you expect to see once we put twenty on the track?
CJ: Five karts on track was very clean, smooth, and fun. With constant side-by-side and mind games, I could see 20 karts creating a lot of chaos with drivers trying to make the move from the rear of the field. No matter the kart count, it will be a fun race to drive, and to watch.
The Entry list…
Taking a look at the entry list, it is equal parts familiar faces at CalSpeed, and newcomers, who could possibly also have oval experience. Of the known commodities, Patrick Britain and Darren Mercer have some short track oval experience, each having been in cars, with Britain also having a go on dirt with the So-Cal Oval Karters. Aside from these two, the rest is a pretty big unknown, and it will most likely be a lot of ‘learning on the fly’ for the entrants.
There is a bit of regular talent in the field though, with over a third of the field coming from the top 50 in Super Series points, including five of the top ten. Question is, with the success turn both ways, turn into prowess turn just left…
2014 CalSpeed Oval Race
Official Entry List (as of 5/22)
1. Bruce Allen
2. Steve Jasinski
3. Derek Esquibel
4. Patrick Britain
5. Caylee Burgan
6. Chris Huerta
7. Steve Branson
8. J.R. Ybarra
9. Steve Frame
10. Mike Malone
11. Zack Zacharias
12. David Nutter
13. Ben Nutter
14. Oliver Jung
15. Paul Karasick
16. Tom Wallerstein
17. Dan Hiland
18. Gary Rodgers
19. Chase Kassel
20. Scott Kassel
21. Sean Fite
22. Patrick O’Keefe
23. Justin Tolman
24. Greg Reinhardt
25. Dennis Kimbrell
26. Jon Kimbrell
27. Jesse Nino
28. Jesse Nino Jr
29. Taylor Jocelyn
30. Dave Arnold
31. John Harjo
32. Wes Dent
33. Kenny McGee
34. Tyler Bryant
35. Andrew Brown
36. Jeff Carson
37. Chris Carter
38. Vladimir Orlov
39. Darren Mercer
40. Ian Enz
41. Ashley Arnott
42. Nick Marascio
43. Luis Calderon
44. Rene Hourian
45. Taylor Hays