The penultimate round for the 2014 IronMan Series would see 32 drivers take to the Classico Counter Clockwise layout for the first time in series history, and would see Jon Kimbrell bring home the victory by just .058 over Aaron Downs, and Jose da Silva third. Point leader going in Patrick Britain would lock up the overall title via his 6th place finish, bringing home the fastest lap in the process.
As is customary, the event kicked off with a 10-minute practice/qualifying session, in which a few surprises came about. Hot out of the gates would be Aaron Downs, setting the bar early with a 54.399, a time immediately eclipsed by step brother and Sport Kart Grands rival Jon Kimbrell. Jon’s 53.870 stood for the duration of the session, only being bettered on the final lap by Jon himself, improving the mark to a .820. Also finding the 53’s would be overall podium contending rival Jose da Silva, and Steve Spring, the former locking out the front row with his 53.982. The big surprise? Championship point leader coming across the line only 9th on the grid; the exact place he needed to better to end up the champion by race’s end…
After the quick pace of qualifying, things got off to a bit of a slow start as not one, but two starts would be waived off before the group finally received the green flag. Once the green flag did fall however, Kimbrell would immediately take control of the race, much like he had the round before. And just like before, he was joined by a few challengers, as da Silva, Spring, and Downs all linked up, the quartet pulling a small advantage on the quintet that followed. That group of five was led by David Kelmenson, and included some regular front runners and new faces, as Derek Esquibel, Mark Connell, Patrick Britain and Sean Fite kept up the pace. These front two packs would immediately start to pull an advantage over the rest of the field, as the amount of battling and jostling through the field took its toll quickly.
Pit stops would start right away in this race, as a few drivers with some sore luck early elected for the early stop, while things amidships saw much of the pack come in at various times. In fact the strategy in this race was a fairly even split between drivers getting both stops done in the first half of the race, or waiting till the second half before making their first stop. In fact it wasn’t until on lap 30 that the first of the leaders came in, with Downs the first to blink from the sharp end. Esquibel exited from the second group the very next lap, and things would continue form there with nearly every one of the drivers in the top two groups heading in succession: Kimbrell, then da Silva, Spring and Kelmenson, with the latter coming in again to finish out his stops a lap later. This left Connell at the point with Britain in tow, the former second pack leaders now looking to make up as much time on the front group after the initial stops. Connell would head down pit road on lap 38, with Britain following suit four laps later; although much would change during those four laps.
While Patrick circulated at the point, yet to make his first stop, many of the other front-runners took on a rapid fire strategy, with one after another making the obligatory second trip down pit road, starting with Derek Esquibel. Mark Connell was next, just one lap separating his two stops, while Jon Kimbrell came in for the second time, at the same point that Patrick was making his first stop. Downs came in one lap later, followed by Spring and then Britain all in the same lap, leaving da Silva out to fend for himself for a few laps before coming in for the final time. This left about eight laps to go, and a stage that was set; Kimbrell and Downs had put space on the field for a mano-e-mano fight for the win. Further, the second pack that had included the championship points leader now only included through 8th position, so barring catastrophe, Britain had things sewn up.
Downs kept the pressure up throughout the closing laps, the ebb and flow of traffic detaining him from a full on assault for the lead, but with just a couple laps to go, he was right on Kimbrell’s bumper once again. Showing a bit of defense, the elder step brother showed poise under said pressure, but Downs was still able to make it by for the lead coming to two to go. Jon immediately fired back, re-taking the lead as the came to the white flag, with Aaron again pulling alongside with the challenge. Coming out of the final corner, a slightly better exit allowed Downs to make one last move, but the short run on counter clockwise meant he didn’t have the time needed, coming up just .58 short of the win. It was Jon’s first IronMan win of the year, having found the podium two other times this season. He was joined by Aaron Downs, and Jose da Silva on the box; da Silva holding on to second in points by a single mark over Jon.
After the race, we caught up with the Round #7 winner, and new point leader for the Summer Shootout Series Jon Kimbrell for a few comments:
CS:You had been close a couple times before, including last round, but you finally scored the win here today. How was the race from your point of view?
JK:Yeah it feels great to finally get one! From my point of view, the race went as planned up until about half way through. When I looked back and saw Aaron I knew it was going to be a battle. From the start I knew I had the kart to do it so I concentrated on consistency and pitting at the right time. But I think it was lap traffic that was the determining factor on the results of the race. Lap traffic was fairly heavy and I knew how important it was to make sure not to get held up. Although I made it through, Aaron did as well and it made for an epic fight. And after an awesome battle, which seemed like an eternity, I was barely able to keep him behind me. It was great. It’s always a worthy accomplishment to fend off Aaron when he’s on it.
CS:You had to stave off the charge from your stepbrother, and Sport Kart Grands rival Aaron Downs at the end. Did you realize he was that big of a threat throughout the race, or did his late race attack come as a surprise?
JK:I knew Aaron would be fast. But I didn’t think he’d be a threat. After the first part of the race I thought it would have been Jose, as he was extremely fast in qualifying. After about a 1/3 of the race was through, I had gained a small gap over second and I thought I was in the clear. But as soon as I saw Aaron close a gap on me over a few short laps, I knew I had a tough race ahead of me. He definitely kept me on my toes.
CS:This win sees you carry the advantage in the Summer Sub-Championship for the final round, as well as lock up a podium spot for the overall championship. What are your chances of bringing home the Summer Shootout championship, and a 2nd overall at the season finale?
JK:I am extremely confident that I can succeed in taking 2nd in the championship. But I am also more than aware of the fact that anything can happen. I’ve had a few fairly weak results this year, and I am not immune to it happening again just because I’ve done well in the recent past. I know I have to maintain my composure to even have a chance at doing well again. Either way I’m prepared to give it my best shot and be happy I secured a spot on the podium when all is said and done!
For Patrick Britain, the 2014 IronMan Series Overall Championship is his second of the year after winning the Winter Sub-Championship, but the biggest of his career so far…
CS:Sixth might be your worst finish of the year so far, but it was good enough to bring home the Overall 2014 IronMan Series Championship one round early. Congratulations! How’s it feel to pick up title #2 on the year?
PB:It’s a great feeling, the best of my racing career to this point actually. Surprisingly, even to myself, I got a bit choked up on the cool down lap. I really didn’t expect it to hit me as hard as it did, but when you put in that much effort to your goals, achieving it is a weird mix of elation and relief. Sixth is not what I aim to do when I come to the track, but those days happen. Luckily it was enough to take the pressure off for the finale.
CS:Locking up the overall to go along with the Winter Series sees you one step away from sweeping the 2014 IronMan season titles. You are currently ten points back from Jon Kimbrell, and in a close fight with four other drivers too. How do you feel about your chances in adding the Summer Shootout title to the list?
PB:I feel like I’m still the guy to beat. Ten points is practically nothing. My goal here is to send a clear message to Jon in the Ironman finale that he will have to be inch perfect in the remaining Super Series races if he wants to have a chance to beat me. I have a ton of respect for Jon, and I like to think it’s mutual, and there’s no one I would rather go head to head with, not only for the Ironman summer title but also the Super Series. But, there’s also no one I’d rather beat, and I’d like to think that’s mutual too.
The 2014 CalSpeed IronMan Series comes to a close Saturday, October 25th, with Summer Shootout sub-championship and the final podium spots in the overall championship still undecided. Registration for that race is open now, so sign up for the final race in what has been the best IronMan championship season to date!
Top Ten in Overall Points after Round #7 (Total Points)
|2.||Jose da Silva [M]||511||(511)|
|4.||David Kelmenson [M]||475||(525)|
|6.||Steve Spring [M]||456||(494)|
|7.||Dennis Kimbrell [GM]||442||(495)|
|8.||Mark Connell [M]||442||(442)|
|10.||Sergio Bravo [M]||332||(332)|
Top Ten in the Summer Sub-Championship (Total Points)
|3.||David Kelmenson [M]||185||(256)|
|4.||Dennis Kimbrell [GM]||185||(238)|
|5.||Jose da Silva [M]||180||(257)|
|7.||Steve Spring [M]||165||(233)|
|8.||Mark Connell [M]||148||(186)|