IronMan Series 2014 Round #5 Preview

This Saturday marks the return of the CalSpeed IronMan Series, which last ran on the Nuovo layout back in April, crowning the Winter Sub-championship in the process. CalSpeed rookie Mark Connell scored his second win in a row during that round, with Patrick Britain finishing second, high enough to secure the sub-title as well, and Jon Kimbrell holding on for the final podium spot.

This weekend the Grande Counter Clock-wise layout is back on the docket, which was in place for the third round of the championship, but now has a bit of a twist to it. The short beach corner, which is only used by the sport kart field, is back in place, but now there is also the addition of the new right hand corner that leads onto the main straight. This is also the start of the Summer Series sub-championship, so although some drivers either didn’t run the Winter, or aren’t in it for the overall, the points are all even for the summer title starting now. This is sure to be an exciting round, and a great way to kick off the second half of the year!

The Track: It’s Grande Counter Clockwise, with a twist…

Ahh, Grande Counter Clock-wise. It is one of my favorites, combining speed, technicality, and a ton of passing zones to be just an absolute blast to race on. The challenge is heightened in the sport karting championships though, as we don’t run the same CCW layout as the rest of the karting community. Because of this, the absolute only time to run it in its proper configuration will be this weekends clinic, followed by the IronMan before the Super Series takes to it on August 2nd. And this time, we have a new corner added in…

For those that ran in the Sport Kart Grands, the corner in question is the same as was put in place during Friday race day, the right hander that leads onto the main straight. For those that did not run the Grands, I hope you will be at the clinic. It’s a challenging off-camber corner that can also double as a passing zone, changing the complexion of the bus-stop section, and could effect last lap strategy considerably.

Strategy on this layout can differ from some others, as the ability to make passes a little easier means staying out isn’t the worst plan ever. Drafting means a little less here to, so needing a partner isn’t as crucial as other tracks, allowing for some bigger risks to be made in pit stop timing. That said, don’t expect drivers to head out there and run solo all day, as a pair of drivers working well together can still be a formidable force.

RD’s Spotlight: Who to watch for? A closer look at the entry list…

Another sold out show for the IronMan Series means a full field of 30 drivers will hit the track for the hour-long contest, and looking at the entry list, and is going to be a fun one to watch. Nearly the entire top 10 in the standings is returning for the second half of the season, making this one of the most deeply talented, and toughest seasons to date in this series. Given this is is the halfway point of the season, lets take a look at these top returning drivers, and some other wildcards that could make life difficult for the status quo…

#1 Patrick Britain: Leading the standings with a win and two seconds is a helluva start, and with his throw out a 5th place finish, Britain has a bit of breathing room. If he does have the bad round like everyone else has had however, this championship will get blown wide open.

#2 Sergio Bravo: A second and 2 fourths is a solid set of keeper races, and is really only put in check by Britain’s season thus far. Bravo is the reigning champ in the Super Series though, and is known for his incredibly consistency. Adding w’s to his stats will eat up that 25 point deficit in a hurry.

#3 Mark Connell: The big surprise of the year, nobody predicted Connell scoring back to back wins in rounds #3 and #4. Showing strong pace and a cool head thus far this season in the IronMan Series, Connell has made a name for himself here in short order. Question now is, what’s next?

#4 Jose da Silva: Scoring his first career win in round #2 proved what many already knew, and that is Jose is one of the best drivers in the series. Scoring a win during the Grands reaffirmed this fact, and he definitely has what it takes to keep a podium run going.

#5 Bruce Allen: One of the most consistent drivers in the series, Allen is the highest runner from last year’s top 3, and is looking to improve on his 3rd overall in 2013. Regularly at the sharp end of the field, Allen is right on the verge of a break out performance, and should not be counted out for the title.

#6 Jon Kimbrell: His great year in the Super Series has not translated into the IronMan championship, but when and if it does, things are going to change a lot in the top 5.

#7 Justin Tolman: While a bit hot/cold thus far, his second place in round #2 proves he not only has the pace, but the craft to take the fight to the front, he just needs a bit of consistency.

#8 Steve Spring: Last year’s runner up isn’t have the year he wanted thus far, but he did secure a podium finish in the second round, which was also on Grande counter-clockwise. Just sayin…

#10 David Kelmenson: He may be tenth overall, but I expect a completely different Kelmenson here in the second half of the season. He’ll be strong contender for the Summer Sub-Championship.

*Wildcard- Aaron Downs: I don’t know if he is running the whole Summer Series, but if he is, he has a great shot at the win. Regardless of his long term plans, the National Champ will be a huge threat every time he is on course, and will steal a lot of points form the overall title contenders.

The Overall Championship: Second half starts now… The fight for the overall championship is far from over, as anything can happen with the depth of fields we have been getting this season. Britain is the clear favorite so far, with his consistency, or more specifically his consistency up front carrying him to a bit of an advantage. 25 points over 2nd, and between 34-50 over the rest of the top six bodes well for him, but it isn’t over until October. Behind him is a tough group of drivers in Bravo, Connell, da Silva, Allen, and Kimbrell, each of which have been very strong this year.

Each one of those six still have a shot at this championship, and have the time to reel in Britain before the checkered falls on the season. Behind this lead group is another tightly packed bunch of guys, with Tolman leading Spring, Kelmenson, and Dennis Kimbrell, the group separated by only 30 points. An overall title run looks improbable out of this group, but not necessarily a shot at the podium. The fluctuation it points from the top 10-15 drivers in this series can do wicked things to the points, and some big point hauls early in this half can set the snowball into motion. Aside from that, the Summer Series is all tide up starting Saturday, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if one of these guys held up that trophy in November.

Top 10 after Round #4 (total points)

1Patrick Britain 290 (370)
2Sergio Bravo 265 (313)
3Mark Connell 256 (256)
4Jose da Silva 254 (254)
5Bruce Allen 250 (297)
6Jon Kimbrell 241 (312)
7Justin Tolman 226 (267)
8Steve Spring 221 (259)
9Dave Messimer 220 (220)
10David Kelmenson 217 (267)