Sprint Series 2015 – Round 1 Preview

Indy Lights. GP2. Nationwide.

Sprint Series.

Tomorrow’s debut of the CalSpeed Sprint Series can be looked at as the step ladder to the Super Series, and a place where regulars and rookies alike can polish their craft before, or while competing in the ‘big show’. However, it can also be what the aforementioned three series are as well: a truly competitive stand-alone championship.

The Sprint Series has all the makings for a great championship fight, with a great mix of no only known commodities and one-off talents, but also full fledged newcomers and rookies, looking to make a name for themselves at CalSpeed. With not only the 8 round overall championship, but also a pair of 4 round sub championships up for grabs, there will be plenty of opportunities to find a moment in the sun this year…

Smitty’s Spotlight: Who are all these people?!
The sheer number of newcomers in the opening round is such an exciting prospect for this new series, and it will be a blast to see who steps up from the unknown. This series will be great for new drivers to not only see what racing at CalSpeed is all about, but then work on the do’s and don’ts with a group of drivers that is even closer together in talent that the Super Series. It is in this series that drivers will be able to make a name for themselves, and I am excited to see just who can do that right out of the gate. Yes, there are a lot of recognizable names on the roster, but it is the ones I don’t know that I will really be watching…

Round #1: New Series, Debut Season…
With no history to fall back on, and a brand new track kicking things off, there certainly are a lot of questions heading into tomorrow’s event. On paper there looks to be a pretty big disparity in experience heading into round one, and an especially low number of drivers who have seen this track before. That said, several names on the entry list are also in the Race Clinic that morning, so the odds could start to slide closer to even by the time the green flag flies.

Anyone looking to have a good year in the points will want to leave round one with a solid points haul at the least, perhaps focusing on the more familiar layouts to come. Tecnico is the only track repeated on the Sprint Series schedule for 2015, so everyone will get another chance at it in the fall.

The Tecnico track debuted at the Sport Kart Grand Nationals last year, and was an instant favorite; the fast right/left complex deserving of most of that credit. Combining that, with the off camber right onto the straight, as well as the reverse esses section, and the name “Tecnico” is well justified. New drivers to the track will have their work cut out for them to kick the year off, but the knowledge gathered here will certainly pay dividends as the season progresses.

Pat’s Pit:
There’s nothing better than race with a lot of unknowns. Drivers, officials, fans and friends have expectations of performance from themselves, the field or their chosen driver, but no one can really say for sure what to expect.

The first ever Sprint Series race is the race with the most unknowns since the first ever Super Series race back in 2010, at least in my opinion. We know the drivers that do well in the Super Series will probably perform well in the Sprint Series, but things always get shaken up when the rules or format change.

In theory, drivers who do well in short, sprint races should do well in the Sprint Series. (See what we did there?) While drivers who are better suited for enduros or IronMan events might have to try and find a little something to run up front.

As for drivers to watch, I’m going to cop out a bit and pick two drivers. Cameron Rose and Riley Dugan. Both drivers have become A Main regulars in the Super Series and each are only allowed to run two Sprint Series races in 2015. They’ve wisely picked the new Tecnico track as one of them in order to get more seat time, and both stand a great shot to bring home the win.

If we look towards the season championship, things get more interesting. We don’t yet know which drivers will contest the entire season, but assuming the eligible drivers from Round 1 all go for a championship, a few drivers stand out. Rather than go through a who’s who, I’ll list a few names to watch. Arnott, Burke and Gutierrez. Those are my three to watch.

—Driver Liaison
Patrick Britain

The Overall Championship: Big question is, who’s in for the duration?
Looking at the entry list, the names at the sharp end here look like Vince Burke, Ashley Arnott, Nick Marascio, Ariel Rubio, and Alex Gutierrez just judging by their 2014 Super Series Rank. That said, Steve Jasinski finished not far behind last year and ran heavy the whole time, and should be counted amongst the immediate contenders. Regardless, we won’t know who the real players are until we get a chance to ask around the paddock on who plans on running the full calendar.

One thing to keep in mind: When talking points, drivers need to remember that they don’t necessarily need to win every time, they just need to stay towards the front, and beat the other full-timers. With the occasional “2 race” driver in the mix, it will sometimes be better to learn, than to race.

The Sub-Championships: Spoilers vs full Timers…
The Winter and Summer sub-championships will be the things most effected by the one-off entries, as the “2 racers” should be able to make a lot of noise, and shake things up in a big way while they are here. For round #1 these guys are led by Adam Nagao, who finished 13th overall in the Super Series on the back of making every single A-Main. As they are only able to run 2 races a year, it will be interesting to see who is able to learn the most while they are here, and carry that on towards their championship hopes.

Entry List (2014 Super Series Rank)

1. Caylee Britain (#88)
2. Vince Burke (#35)
3. Ariel Rubio (#41)
4. Sean Fite (#61)
5. Hasller Ortega
6. Eric Monteith
7. Luis Calderon
8. Alex Gutierrez (#42)
9. Ed Lewis (#62)
10. Jesse Lerman
11. Owen Lerman
12. Tom Zevin (#53)
13. Diego Alvarado
14. Steven Frame (#65)
15. Riley Dugan [2R] (#27)
16. Frank Hsu
17. Steve Jasinski (#51)
18. Ryan Johnson
19. Jenny Cun
20. Cameron Rose [2R] (#45)
21. Emon Fazlollahi
22. Jason Blue
23. Don Diego Veloria
24. Jeff Mark
25. Jake Hood (#47)
26. Jill Hood
27. Kevin Taylor [2R] (#50)
28. Adam Nagao [2R] (#13)
29. Patrick O’Keefe [2R] (#36)
30. Jeremy Aldridge (#54)
31. Elijah Kleeman
32. Rocky D’Amico
33. Mike Cangelosi
34. Roger Adams
35. Doug Lewen
36. Nick Marascio (#39)
37. Vladimir Orlov
38. Isaiah Smith
39. Steve Berg
40. Jason Cavitt
41. Wyatt Sweitzer
42. Omar Villasenor
43. David Lee
44. Ashley Arnott (#38)
45. Dennis Kimbrell [2R] (#28)
46. Greg Reinhardt (#78)
47. Mike Arnold (#73)
48. Eric Slivkoff
49. Minh Lee
50. Tony Wika
51. Brian Starr [2R] (#30)

[2R] – Denotes a driver that can only run 2 races