Round #6 of the IronMan Championship took to the reverse Classico layout, and continued its trend of all different winners this season with Jon Kimbrell bringing home the win. Kimbrell was joined on the podium by overall point leader Taylor has, and 2014 champ Patrick Britain taking home third in his 2015 debut. It was the first of three counter clockwise races to finish out the season, continuing with Tecnico for Round #7.
And much like the previous round, we’ll see the field of thirty look to negotiate the bustop bypass and esses in a tight formation, although this time they’ll be hoping for a little smoother result. From there the Tecnico layout spits the drivers out to a very short back straight before getting hard on the brakes for the hairpin, and infield sweeper. Then it is the section unique to Tecnico, the very fast right/left transition that leads up to turn four and the final part of the lap.
This round could see the overall title decided, as well as shake things up in the sub-championship, as another solid field of drivers throw a curve ball to the status quo…
The Overall Championship: Will Taylor Hays bring it home one round early?
While he does have a win already this year, possibly the more impressive feat is the trifecta of 2nds he has also earned, giving Taylor Hays a very strong lead in the championship heading into round seven. He can wrap things up tomorrow regardless of what anyone else does by scoring yet another second and leading a lap, something that is very doable by his current form. That said, he actually just needs to leave the penultimate round with at least 50 points over his closest rival Mark Connell, meaning he doesn’t have to beat him, but he can’t lose more than 9 points to him.
For his part, Mark Connell has been the only driver to come close to Hays’ consistency, finishing four of the six round in the top 5, including a pair of podium runs. A former winner in the series, he has what it takes to finish on the top step, but just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet this year. Still, his 25 point advantage on third place Steve Spring speaks to his #1 challenger status, and we could see him break out and win in this final push to keep his rival honest.
The only other driver mathematically in the hunt for the title is round #1 winner Steve Spring, albeit by a wide margin. For Spring the focus will most likely be on securing his second overall podium in the series, something he last did in 2013. Still, it isn’t over until it’s over, and we can’t count Spring out until the math says so.
I asked Taylor a few questions on the eve of what could be a very big day, and here is what he had to say:
Mike Smith: Taylor, you have a chance to clinch your first ever overall CalSpeed championship this weekend, adding to the winter sub-title already under your belt from this year. Do you approach this race any differently than the previous six on the calendar?
Tayor Hays: I don’t think anything changes for this round. I’m going to let the first few laps play out to see what happens. With Mark starting in front of me, I can keep tabs all race on what he is doing and whether any strategy adjustments need to be made on the fly. The goal, however, will be to have the title clinched on Saturday, so I can put 100% focus on the Super Series championship.
MS: Tecnico isn’t known to be a draft-happy track; might we see a departure from the status quo in terms of strategy this weekend?
TH: Round 1 definitely saw draft play a huge role, albeit due to very high winds. With that said, I doubt we’ll be seeing that Saturday. I’m sure we’ll essentially have two lead groups form early, and stay together until the first round of pit stops. After that, anyone that lost the group due to a slow stop will likely struggle to connect back up with the group.
MS: For the second round in a row, there are a lot of big names in the field making one-off appearances. Going into a race with championship implications, what/who do you race most; the track, the field, or your championship rivals?
TH: Fortunately, the first time we ran Tecnico this year, during Round 1, I qualified poorly and had to drive through the field, so I already know where moves need to be made to get to the front. With it only being a two kart battle for the championship, I don’t see myself doing anything different with my strategy. Racing the field will be number one priority, and racing Mark will happen on the fly.
Top 10 Overall Standings:
|6||Jose da Silva||371||50|
The Summer Championship: Contenders a-plenty…
Unlike the Overall title, the Summer Sub-Championship is still a wide open affair, but there are still favorites in this competition too…
Round #5 winner and current point leader Sergio Bravo didn’t have as good a run last month as he’d like, but he was still able to pad his lead by picking up some more bonus points for leading a lap. Just behind him is Taylor Hays, who actually has an outside shot at clinching the Summer title this weekend as well, but will need several things to go his way. With a 95 point throw out to fall back on, Hays is definitely in a strong position in this championship too. In third right now is the winner from one round ago Jon Kimbrell, who is actually tied with Hays and only 5 points back from Bravo. Not having a throw out to his name puts the pressure of having to keep everything he earns, but things are looking good for the former series champ. Next is Hays’ rival in the overall championship Mark Connell, his pair of top five finishes keeping well inside the sub-championship hunt. Next is last year’s winter and overall champ Patrick Britain, who although has no toss to fall back on, but after his run from last to 3rd last round, has to be considered a real threat.
After this top 5 the strongest of the contenders is that of Chris Huerta, his pair of 4th place finishes proving he is one to watch, he’ll just need to step it up a notch to take the fight to the front.
Top 10 Summer Standings:
|7||Jose da Silva||83|
Round #7 Story lines…
Obviously the Overall championship is the biggest headline here in the seventh round of the championship, and certainly everyone will have an eye on where or title contenders are throughout the race. One of the other big things to watch for are the number of drivers entered that don’t have any direct involvement in either championship fight. Drivers like Aaron Scott, Justin Tolman and Bruce Allen could all play a big part in how the points shake out in the top 10, making this as strong a chance for someone tossing the event as any other. What adds to this is the fact that the Tecnico layout has been used the least of any in recent memory, with the exception being the last two editions of the Sport Kart Grands. Because of this limited seat time being available, experience will pay big dividends, especially if anyone on the grid neglects to run during the clinic that morning.
One other storyline will be that of David Kelmenson; out after just one lap last round, it will be an event of redemption for the standout Masters driver, and we could see him spoil the chances of anyone else looking to find the top step of the podium.
Provisional Starting Order:
|Driver||Rd 5 Finish||Rd 6 Start|
|Jose da Silva||15||11|