After a long mid-season break, the IronMan season gets back underway with Round 5 of the 2015 schedule this Saturday. For the only time this season, the IronMan series heads to the original CalSpeed track layout, Classico, for what should be the biggest test of endurance that these drivers will face all season long.
Classico has the quickest lap times of any track configuration at CalSpeed, and when combined with the fast switchback style esses onto the main straightaway, a driver’s body can really take a beating over the course of an hour. The esses bypass the long sweeping horseshoe corner, which removes a key part of the track that gives a driver a chance to rest for just a moment, but it also removes what is arguably the best passing opportunity at CalSpeed.
Drivers who want to have a shot at taking the win on Saturday will have to find a way to get out of the esses onto the main straight faster than their competitors, as that becomes the only opportune passing spot on the track. Most other corners are single file, and a driver must rely on the driver in front of them to make a mistake if they want to overtake. This also typically removes the chance of a last corner, last lap move through “Long Beach” as any attempt at a move out of the esses will typically require the entire length of the front straight.
So, what does all of that mean for Round 5?
Well, for starters, the inverted start will be the most exciting of the season. Since this track is so hard to pass on, drivers who start farther back are going to have to possibly use some clever pit strategy to get themselves in clean air and hope that their lap times will allow them to leapfrog others who have yet to make their stop.
The championship battle hits the home stretch with Round 5, as there are only four more rounds of racing to go. Taylor Hays is the points leader and looks like he will just need to knock off a few more top 5 runs to have a great shot at becoming champion. However, anything can happen, and we have seen drivers in the past go from winning one weekend to finishing in the teens the next. The good news for Hays is that his current drop score, a 56, is far from bad compared to many of his competitors. Combine that drop with his 19 point lead over Steve Spring, and you get an odds on favorite for the championship. It is obviously too early to go any further than that, but we will certainly know a lot more once the checkers fly on Saturday.
With the championship battle in firm control by Hays, many drivers will be aiming to take a shot at the Summer sub-championship that kicks off this weekend. All drivers are equal for the 2nd half of the season, and the driver that earns the most points over the next 3 out of 4 races will get to call themselves a champion at the year end banquet.
Last year, Aaron Downs started his season at the halfway point and managed to earn the Summer sub-championship after a series of tie breakers with overall series champ Patrick Britain. Could we see the same thing happen this year?
There is a good chance, as there are a few drivers entered that look to have a shot at taking the fight to the Hays, Spring, Connell, Eichlin and Rubio. Of those drivers, the most noteworthy has to be Sergio Bravo.
As a former series champion, Sergio Bravo is a threat anytime that he shows up to the track. Bravo already has an IronMan podium this year, but has had to miss two rounds which has taken him out of the fight for the overall championship. However, if he can make it to each of the races for the rest of the year, he should be the guy to beat, along with Hays, for the Summer championship.
The other driver to watch for this Summer championship is Chris Huerta. Huerta had a career best weekend at the Grands last month, and has been looking great ever since taking the win in the Oval Showdown. Huerta is a former IronMan race winner, and a Summer championship would give him the boost in momentum to move him to the next tier.
One final driver to watch could be Hasller Ortega. Ortega grabbed his first career win at CalSpeed in the last IronMan event, and has been looking very good in the Sprint Series. Ortega won that last race in convincing fashion, and if you like long shots, Ortega is your guy.
Of course, the season long regulars all stand in the way of Bravo and Huerta, and along with Taylor Hays there are plenty of others who have a great shot at bringing home the Summer title. With only four races to get it done, it will be critical to start out on the right foot this weekend, and it is very possible that we could see some championship favorites eliminate themselves from contention if they do not have a good run in Round 5.
Current Points as of Round 4:
|6||Jose da Silva||68||85||62||65||8||62||288||226||2||1|
Provisional Starting Order:
|Driver||Rd 2 Finish||Rd 5 Start|
|Jose da Silva||4||12|
|Don Diego Veloria||NA||25|