After just two rounds in the 2015 Sprint Series calendar, the series has already earned a reputation for unpredictable, intense and close racing. Last month’s race was evidence of that, as Vlad Orlov drove from mid-pack, made a controversial three wide pass for the lead and held on to take his first career CalSpeed win.
Oftentimes, racing organizers will claim that a given event is “anyone’s race” to win, in the Sprint Series, it is completely true.
We are already beginning to see trends develop at the front of the field; names that we aren’t used to seeing up front in the Super Series, are quickly becoming the drivers to beat in the Sprint Series. As we run down the order, it is clear that the Sprint Series is quickly becoming the RNA organization’s playground.
Leading the points after two races is Ariel Rubio. Rubio was on the podium at last month’s event, but it is his consistency that is really helping him build a small cushion back to the other drivers. Rubio has been taking this momentum over to the IronMan and Super Series as well and has become quite the all around driver. We’re still early in the 2015 season, but so far, Ariel Rubio is the guy to beat.
Dennis Kimbrell is currently P2 in points, but will be unable to run any more events this year due to his standings in the Super Series last year.
Behind Kimbrell is the guy who many are talking about as the next breakthrough driver, Sean Fite. Just like Rubio, Fite has converted his recent Sprint Series successes into IronMan and Super Series events, recently scoring career best finishes in each. Fite seems to have a bit more speed than Rubio lately, but perhaps still has a little more to learn. However, Fite has shown virtually no cracks this year, he just hasn’t capitalized quite as well as Rubio yet. Oftentimes, when a driver scores their first win, they begin to happen a lot more frequently. Fite is ready to score that first win at anytime.
Vince Burke entered the year as many people’s pick as the driver to beat for the championship. Burke, did not have the Round 1 that he wanted, but rebounded with a solid Round 3. Burke has already established himself as an A Main driver in the Super Series and has more experience than others around him in the points. At this point, Burke needs to find that last little missing puzzle piece in order to start getting wins.
Rounding out the top 5 in points is another RNA driver, Hasller Ortega. Heading into this season, Ortega was a bit of an unknown. He had shown well a couple of times last season, but had done so under the radar. This year, Ortega’s bright yellow suit is hard to miss at the front of the field, and he is making it more of a routine. A bit like his teammate, Sean Fite, Ortega has a ton of speed but adds some aggression to the fold as well. It is hard to predict what Ortega’s form will be for the rest of the season, but so far he has to be pleased with his results.
With just two rounds remaining in the Winter sub-championship, there are still plenty of drivers that can make a run at the title, including some not in the top 5. Plenty can still change, but we will be keeping a close eye on Ariel Rubio as he can potentially lock up the sub-championship on Saturday. Rubio must leave with his three race score being 301 or more points better than any other drivers best two out of three score. Currently, that gap is 280 which sounds like a lot, but it is a tall order to gain 21 points on your closest competition in one race.
This weekend’s race on the Grande circuit should see all five of the drivers mentioned above making a run at the win, but there are a few others that we should take note of.
Matt Hart makes his Sprint Series debut on Saturday, and while Matt is no stranger to karting, he is still a bit new to the Sport Karting scene. Hart has shown vast improvement in his understanding of the Sport Karting style over the past few months in the Super Series. It is unclear how many Sprint Series races Hart will run, but if his recent Super Series form holds true, he will be a definite threat for the win.
Another driver making his debut is the son of a familiar Super Series driver, Rodney Bryant, Jr. Rod Jr, is no stranger to karting, earning a strong reputation at the local indoor tracks, but has very little experience outdoors. Outright speed should come quickly to Rod Jr, but it will be a lot to take in in a short amount of time. It is probably too soon to expect Rod Jr to contend for wins or podiums, but his progression should be rapid.
Last month’s winner Vlad Orlov will be looking to repeat his success this weekend, and with the amount of practice time he has been putting in lately, he stands a great shot. Orlov is known throughout the paddock as a very hard nosed racer that can sometimes push the limits of what is allowed, but lately, Orlov has been making a big effort to improve his craft and show his true potential. The evidence is in the results for Orlov, a repeat is certainly a good possibility.
Finally, Ben Blank will be a driver to watch. Blank has a ton of A Main experience in the Super Series, and has won multiple heat races in the past, but has not entered a Sprint Series this season. On raw numbers alone, Blank should be the clear cut choice to win on Saturday, and honestly it is hard to argue with the numbers in this case. There are plenty of drivers that can beat Blank, but can any step up and do it?
We’ll find out on Saturday!
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