Round #3 for the CalSpeed IronMan Championship would look a lot like the previous round, with some of the same drivers at the front, with a lot of the same strategies used, ending with the exact same podium as well! This time however, the drivers didn’t have to worry about the weather at all, as it was a perfect day for racing that saw Adam Nagao bring home his second win in a row, accompanied by Jon Kimbrell (2nd) and Marcin Balazy (3rd) in the exact same places there were in round #2…
Craig Booth would lead the field away from the green and to the end of lap one, but it would be Sergio Bravo taking the helm on lap two, looking to bounce back from a mechanical in the previous round. The lead would be his for ten or so laps without much challenge, as drivers behind him either fought to hold onto their advantageous starting positions, or claw their way into contention. The big mover here was round #2 winner Adam Nagao, scything through the field in quick succession to move up from the 17th starting spot to second in just 10 laps. This put him on the back bumper of Bravo and ready to challenge, but he was not the only one making inroads from deeper in the field.
Starting 16th and 15th respectively, Jon Kimbrell and Marcin Balazy were also on the move, making their way through the field in nearly the same fashion as the aforementioned Nagao, albeit in a slight slower rate, as it took them about 5 or so more laps. When Nagao made the move for the lead on Bravo on lap 11, they were in 7th and 9th respectively, but would both be inside the top 5 in just five more laps. Part of what made their march a bit tougher was the strong runs out of both Ariel Rubio and Mark Connell at the sharp end, both drivers not relinquishing their top 3 positions easy to the challengers. In fact, both of them maintained their top 5 threat for the duration of the race, looking the best they have all season to this point.
As it was last round, the majority of the leaders maintained a similar strategy with their it stops, electing to stay out until the last ten or so minutes, but like last round, there were a couple ‘off strategy’ drivers looking to make some noise. No surprise that reigning champion Taylor Hays would lead this charge, pitting early for his first stop on lap 15, accompanied by T4 Autosport stable-mate Chris Huerta one lap later. This duo looked to the clean air elsewhere on track to maintain the pace the wanted, and would essentially fly under the radar from the leading pack for nearly the entire race. Their second stop would come lap 30 or so, but this time they would be accompanied by Diego Morales and Alyssa Yauney after they executed both their stops in back to back laps. This quartet would stay together for most of the duration of the race, but with a bit of infighting, would never find the top five.
Aside from these early stops, the only other front runner to change up the strategy a bit was Balazy, peeling of the lead group on lap 37, just a few laps after moving ahead of Bravo for the third spot. His second stop wouldn’t come until the final stages of the race, where pit road became a very busy place…
Heading into the final ten minutes, all of the front runners had at least one stop left to make, but most had both required stops still on the to do list, and not many laps to do them. Through all of the varying stops, the main protagonists never let go of their hold at the top, with Nagao handing off the lead to Kimbrell when he went for his double stop on laps 49 and 50. Rubio got closest to the front by waiting and moving into second, but blinked before being able to take over from Kimbrell.
With the leaders beginning their stops, this would bring the opening that the drivers on the differing strategy needed to close the gap for a possible top 5, but unfortunately not all would make it home in one piece. With less than 5 laps to go, a small bobble and check-up started an accordion that saw Yauney get in the back of Huerta through the first corner, with Huerta collecting the wall and losing several spots in the process. Just in front of this mishap was the leader of the once nose-to-tail quartet, as Hays closed inside the top 10 and within sight of the top 5 with Morales in tow. They would make it to 6th and 8th respectively, with Hays just .9 seconds outside the top 5 at the line.
At the sharp end it was once again the Nagao and Kimbrell show, as Balazy fought to get back onto the podium after employing a different strategy from everyone else. That said, things weren’t quite as close as the round before, as traffic negotiation did not go quite as smooth for those trying to challenge Nagao for the top step. Kimbrell would wait till the very end to get his stops in, going back to back in the final two laps; once he exited the pits, it was advantage Nagao, scoring his second win in a row by 1.5 seconds at the line. Behind these two it was Balazy coming out on top once the final stops were made, making it the exact same podium as round #2, and with it establishing the final contenders for the Winter sub championship to be decided next round.
IronMan Series Round #3 Top 10
|9)||Don Diego Veloria|
Points after Round #3 (1 Drop)