The second round of the 2014 IronMan Series would see the 30+ driver entry list attack the challenging Grande Counter Clockwise layout, with a brand new driver finishing at the top step of the podium. Scoring his maiden win at the CalSpeed Karting venue, Jose da Silva proved that he is indeed one of the most talented new Masters drivers to enter the fray, in what is one of the toughest championships in all of arrive and drive karting.
Qualifying would be an extension of that morning’s Sport Kart Race Clinic for many, carrying the pace they showed earlier in the day. For others it would be their first time on track, missing the Clinic and relying on the 10-minute practice/qualy session to not only learn the conditions, but also put in a solid time for the starting grid. In the end it was theKimbrell father-son duo on the front row; but this time it was senior coming out on top, as Dennis Kimbrell scored the pole position over son Jon by just 30 thousandths. Row two would see round #1 podiumrunner Sergio Bravo in the third spot, with Vince Burke putting together the start of a career day in the 4th spot. Point leader and round #1 winner Patrick Britain would have a bit of work to do, starting in the 9th position.
The father-son duo would pace the field from the drop of the green, with Jon assuming the roll of leader straight away. Unfortunately for the elder Kimbrell, a small mistake heading into the first corner would break up the Kimbrell 1-2 after lap #3, losing several spots as he waited for an opening to rejoin the field. The bad luck would continue for son Jon, as his steed would sputter to a halt in rare fashion after lap 7, having just relinquished the lead to Sergio Bravo at the time. Dennis, for his part, would continue and have a stellar march through the field, working his way back up to score a top 10 finish, and one of the fastest laps of the race to boot.
At the front it was a starkly different race then that of the opening round, as the lead group consisted of 7+ drivers all in a row, staying nose to tail deep into the race. This lead group was lead much of the time by the aforementioned Bravo, who, much like Patrick Britain has been a regular at the sharp end every session on track. Speaking of Britain, the Clinic’s Guest Instructor found himself right in the middle of the front pack, but this time perhaps going to school as much as he had been teaching earlier in the day. From lap seven till about lap fifteen the lead group remained unchanged, with Bravo leading over fellow Masters drivers David Kelmenson and Jose da Silva, with Britain, Vince Burke and Steve Spring and Taylor Hays included. It was about this time that Hays started drifting off the back of the group, and the pack started to catch up to drivers who had made pit stops early. Hays was the first of that lead group to pit, looking to try his luck elsewhere, while the rest of the pack continued on; now a party of six.
Now in a steady rhythm, the leaders put in solid lap after solid lap, keeping the fighting to a minimum, while setting a staggering pace that distanced themselves from the rest of the field. In fact, lap twenty was especially good, as three of the top six scored their best lap of the race, including the eventual Fastest Lap set by Steve Spring. The ongoing patience, and with it pace, was finally broken up when the group approached a large group of traffic on lap 29, and then leader Sergio Bravo elected to duck out just before they reached the pack. Seeing the leader pit, Vince Burke would pit from the back of the lead train, but would lose a bit of ground via a pit stop a bit slower than Bravo’s. Next to pit was da Silva, followed by Kelmenson, Britain, and lastly Spring, each leading a lap before coming in for their first of two required stops.
But here is where this round takes a detour from the opener in similarities. Unlike the last round where each of the lead drivers pit, and then came back on together, this time the lead group would get broken up, having had to negotiate a bit of traffic before making their stop. Strategy and experience in the pits seemed to benefit the veterans of the group, as Bravo retained the lead after the first set of stops, with fellow vet Britain right on his heels. The surprise here was the personal best lap put up by third place driver Jose da Silva shortly after that first stop, keeping him in the game, and right with the aforementioned leaders. Fourth after 33 circuits would be Steve Spring, running the same strategy, but two seconds back after losing time in traffic, while both David Kelmenson and Vince Burke elected to make another stop, slipping down the order, but now with all stops completed.
This left about twelve minutes to play, and just like round #1, with three drivers nose to tail vying for the top spot: Bravo, Britain and da Silva. But then with a puff of smoke, the déjà vu ended, as Bravo pulled over from the lead, slowing as his ride gave up the ghost, handing over the lead to his rivals. Now leading, Britain set the pace for da Silva, and seemingly poised himself for yet another victory, staying at the point unchallenged for a handful more laps. But then instead of setting the tone for the final laps and pitting first, it was da Silva that would sneak in first, not willing to play second fiddle to the point leader. Although Britain would pit almost immediately after, the historical trend of pitting first and gaining the advantage rang true again, and Britain exited just behind his race-long rival…
A lap later it was the white flag in the air, and with a 1 second lead Jose da Silva carried on through a drama-free final lap to score his first ever win at CalSpeed Karting. Taking the checkers first was a big moment for the Brazilian, and the magnitude of winning his first race was evident all across his face. Britain would finish .5 back and in second, continuing his string of front running performances on the year, while a little further back, Steve Spring ran a couple of seconds ahead of any challenger, and would come across in the third spot. The strategy move earlier to pit twice in succession would keep Kelmenson and Burke ahead of much of the drivers behind them, but would keep them from fighting for the podium, and instead fighting each other. David lead the duo from the exit of the pit lane till about five minutes left, when Burke struck back, stealing away the spot for fourth. Kelmenson would stay right with him to the end, but could not match his fellow Masters driver, and would have to settle for fifth behind Burke.
It is always a special thing to have a first time winner on the podium, and Jose da Silva was all smiles when receiving his trophy. It followed a strong run in the first round, and shows he is a contender for the IronMan title this season. The win obviously meant a lot to the Brazilian, now in his third season at CalSpeed. “Thank you, yes this year I had a good start on the IronMan. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped me, the competition at CalSpeed is really hard, with the top drivers, and it was a pleasure to me to be one of the winners, it was a good feeling.”
When asked if this could be the beginning of a championship run, he was confident, but was fully aware of the challenge. “Yes, on the first race I made a mistake on the pits, on the second I learned and I tried not to make any mistakes, and it looks like it worked! And I had a little bit of luck, I am going to try to finish on the top six of the Championship, I know it’s not going to be easy with the top Drivers on the IronMan.”
For Patrick Britain, second was a welcome finish to what he took as a good day to put towards the championship. “This was a totally different race for me than what I have had up to this point this year” he commented in a post race interview. “I didn’t feel like I had much speed, so I immediately was just looking to tag onto the bag of the lead pack and just let the race play out. I was barely able to hang on, but then some odd stuff started happening in front of me. Dennis, Jon and Sergio all had issues, then Steve and David had some problems during their stops. It basically left just Jose and myself to battle it out. I had nothing for Jose, so I was ok with taking a good points day in P2. One of my most fortunate races ever to be sure.”
When asked about how this race affects his outlook on the rest of the season, the veteran driver was bullish after extending his point lead. “ I feel like I was the driver to beat on Nuovo, and it is by far my favorite layout. Now as we start to switch to the other layouts it will be all about keeping that speed going. I always enter each event with the idea in my head that I am the best in the world. Each day I just have to prove it.”
Having lost time in traffic, and then the pit stops it seemed like a podium may have been out of reach, but then fate, and a third place worked out in the end. Still for Steve Spring, the pace was there for more, and this feels a little like one may have gotten away. “The race was really unusual with two of the top drivers going out on mechanicals. I knew I had the speed to run with the lead group and possibly run in the lead, (but) after trying a pass on Jose Da Silva on the main straight and finding out that I didn’t quite have the speed to get by him, I decided to slot in behind the top four drivers and wait for the pit stops to see if I could generate any opportunities. When the pit stops by the lead drivers started to happen I timed them poorly and wasn’t able to stay with Patrick and Jose and wound up finishing third.”
Even though he finished on the podium, and finished second overall last season, Spring is still laid back about his (very real) chances this year of a title run. “As far as going for the title is concerned…I wouldn’t be racing unless I thought I had some kind of a chance. I really enjoy the IronMans. (They) seem to suit my style better than sprint races do. It will, I think, depend greatly on circumstance as it depends on whether the top drivers (Jon Kimbrell, Taylor Hays, Sergio Bravo, Patrick Britain, etc., etc.) will continue with the rest of the season.” Jokingly he finishes with a laugh, “If they miss some races I have a chance.”
The IronMan Series will take a little longer break before round #3, but when they return in six weeks it will be on the Grande Clockwise direction, and on what could be on a tricky racing surface. The weekend after the NASCAR race here at the speedway, the trackis a parking lot the week prior, and grip, or there lack of could be the talk of the town. Well, that and where drivers stack up in the not just the overall standings, but he Winter Sub-Championship as well. Registration is open for the next round, so get your entry in before it sells out!
Top Ten in Points after Round #2
|2||Sergio Bravo [M]||180|
|3||Jose da Silva [M]||174|
|4||Dave Messimer [GM]||155|
|6||David Kelmenson [M]||145|
|10||Steve Spring [M]||128|