Sprint Series 2018 Round #6 Preview

The tradition of kicking off the summer on CalSpeed’s “Super Speedway” continues this weekend, as the Sprint Series takes to the Nuovo circuit for the second time this season. For the 2018 rookies this is the first repeat track of the year, and with it a great chance to see how much improvement they have made since the season opener. Last month saw the surprise end to the Winter Series sub-championship, with Spencer Russell not only bringing home the title, but he did it in style via his first career win. With him wrapping up that contest early and the Summer Series not starting until July, tomorrows event is all about scoring points for the overall championship, and preparing for the next sub-championship.

In this month’s preview we’ll taking a closer look at how to ‘play chess’ on the Super Speedway in the Track Spotlight, look at how close the overall championship is, as well has have a quick chat with our newly crowned Winter Series champ. If you like tight pack racing with a ton of drafting and 30 karts on track; look no further. Nuovo will provide…

Round #6 Track Spotlight: Nuovo

Nuovo is essentially the same as the circuit we ran last month (Grande) except the most technical part has been replaced with a fast, sometimes flat out left hand corner. All of the rest of the track is the same, so we’ll just focus on some of the differences between this place now and in the winter, as well as dissect the Nuovo corner itself a bit more.

The main thing that differs from January is the temperature, and what effect it has on the conditions. Warmer temps typically mean more grip out here with the sport karts, but we see a bit less power because of the warm air. This means we sometimes see Nuovo being full throttle almost all the way around when the grip as really high, only lifting when we brake for Contino and Long Beach. Depending on what we get on Saturday, don’t be surprised if your right foot is spent matted most of the time, making line and lane- choice really important.

Now for the Nuovo corner specifically; while not nearly as technical as the Scandi-Hairpin complex it replaces, it still has a few characteristics to know about. From turn-in to about the apex is off-camber and the kart will tend to want to wash out a bit, making holding the line a bit difficult sometimes. However, from apex-on the track flattens out a bit more, making it a bit easier for the kart to get back over to the left. This is exacerbated a bit when the corner hasn’t been run of late, and the Hairpin still has rubber laid down on it from other racing series. Regardless, being smooth through here and not letting the back end slide out, nor letting the kart exit it out too far is the goal. Better to lift a bit and keep things on the right line, versus losing time via scrubbing speed or making the track long.

Because drivers rarely have to get off the throttle around this place, plus we have a closer to top speed average, the draft means a lot more and we see a lot more karts bunched together. This is where the “Super Speedway” nickname is derived, as the types of moves and the repercussions of picking the wrong ‘lane’ emulates NASCAR’s races at Daytona and Talladega. Not unlike those ‘plate-races’, we need to be sure to always have forward momentum, and put ourselves in the right place, at the right time. Patience here is a virtue not many realize; just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you should. You will have runs aplenty because of the amount of draft, and the subtle line changes, and choosing when to -and more importantly- when NOT to go for a pass is a key to staying towards the front. Be sure to keep your eyes up and see what the pack is doing in front of you; seeing things start to develop early can help keep you out of a bad situation, as well as help you capitalize on an opportunity the instant it appears. Remember; a tighter line is the shorter distance and can help create a run. Opening up the line slightly can create more of a gap to the driver in front, and if timed right, both of these things can help execute a pass. The last thing is, think about where the help is coming from. Are you putting yourself in a spot where another driver may go with you, or is your move just going to put you on the outside, and potentially get ‘freight trained’ by the pack?

Smitty’s Spotlight: Summer can bring a reset button, and renewed focus on the big picture…

The summer months typically bring the second half of the season, and with it the Summer Series sub-championship here in the Sprint Series. With the third round delayed until September, this weekend kind of brings a ‘practice round’ for drivers to get into fighting shape for the Summer Series. In that regard it can be a reset button; with the Winter Series decided, but the Summer Series yet to start until next month, this round can help re-focus drivers on the overall championship as well. Tough start to the year? Still six events to go and plenty of time to make up points. Never mind everyone being tied for 1st again when the summer series starts in July. In that same train of though, here is a piece I wrote around the halfway mark of the 2016 Super Series season; need a little boost or help getting the mojo back? Read this…

“’Smitty Spotlight’ from 2016 Super Series Round #7: The best way to finish a race? 1 lap at a time…

Everyone enters the season with a different mindset, goal, and thought process. As the season progresses these things may change, and in the case of our original goal seemingly getting out of reach, it can sometimes be discouraging. The thing to remember is that there is always something to work on and improve upon, and a lot of times it has nothing to do with the results. Thing is, it is the results that stare us in straight the face; after every lap, every session, and every round via our lap timers, the posted results, and the points on the website. Because of this it can sometimes be tough to maintain the ‘fun’ when the ‘results’ aren’t what we want them to be. So how can we still look at the results, but maintain the fun when they are arguably not what we wanted?

As we head into the second half of the season, take stock of the season thus far; are you on track to achieve the goals you put forth in January? If not, start researching your season so far. Mark down your bests stats- overall and on each individual track. You can set a new goal to beat your current best, and/or your best on each track. This however can also make each race a bit discouraging; so try this: averages and individuals.

Instead of making the ‘new’ goals or focus’s as tough as possible, make things a bit more manageable and able to flex with the ebb and flow of the next six races. Take a look at your average point haul on the season, as well as your highest drop. New goal; beat those two things. Also, look at who you typically race with every month; find any regular occurrences? Push to try and beat those particular drivers. Even if it is for 50th, 50th can be the new 1st… It’s the new goal. Consistently .5 seconds off the top guys? See if you can shave that down to point four, and so on.

Point is, instead of maintaining a goal that seems out of reach, fine tune it or make a new one that allows you to fight each and every round, and -more importantly- have fun doing it. Sometimes all we need is a small mental reset to find big results…”

Derek’s Download: End of the first half, and the second coming of Nuovo…

End of the first half, and the second coming of Nuovo…
The Nuovo layout will be making its second appearance this Saturday for round 6 of the Sprint Series. As we now end the first half of the season, drivers returning to the “Super Speedway” of CalSpeed should feel that much more comfortable but most importantly, have a better understanding of just how the racing differs for this weekend.

After wrapping up our test this past Thursday, one thing that I was reminded of was how quick a lap ends. Laps run out faster than you might think so time management is important. The 8-lap heat race ends quickly, the racing is close, a driver’s decision making has to be at its highest when running in a group here. There were quite a few times where I would have a run but would decide against using it knowing that I would only gain that one spot but lose the leader. Being efficient with your passes is huge on Nuovo; making the attempt and not completing it can very easily put you on the wrong side of the next corner which can lead to losing multiple spots.

Personally, I feel that one of the best ways to gain positions on this track is being able to create situations. Being the last kart in a line isn’t always the best scenario but you can play it to your advantage. Just as an example, make drivers go two-wide in a few corners and create the opportunity for yourself to do an over-under. Pack racing will be in full swing this weekend; you’ll have to know how to use others around you to your advantage. If you are signed up for the clinic, try to see how drafting can be used besides just to go faster.

The Sprint Series field has had an awesome first half of the year. The 2018 season sees much more depth in the field than years prior. Yes, there are favorites going into this weekend; Russell, Hunt and Martinez are technically the top 3 once we eliminate our 2R drivers and the absent Diego Alvarado. But as we all have experienced, Nuovo has the reputation of shuffling up the order quite a bit.

The top 3 are people that we expect to see at the sharp end but there are other added variables to this Saturday; the track and also the improvement of the rest of the field.  Each round there are new faces showing up on the podium and even the top 5. Given the track we are on and the talent this weekend, the top 5 will be tough not only to get into, but to stay in.

—Derek Esquibel
Sprint Series Race Director

Overall Championship: Russell leads after first career win; long list of drivers giving chase…

Tomorrow may say round six of ten, but it will actually be the conclusion of the first half of the year, meaning there is still everything to fight for in the overall championship. Spencer Russell became the fourth winner in as many rounds last month, securing the top spot in the standings in the process. While he has definitely been the most consistent in the field, the number of drivers that have shown strength and are easily still in the conversation are many. 1st-15th in the standings are separated by just 89 points, and with 30-50+ point swings seen so far this season, nothing is even close to decided.

This round will also see both Alvarado and Dziemidok dropped from the top ten since they will have to finally keep a zero-point day, but the question is who will replace them? Add to that the fact Mark Sternberg unfortunately will be missing this round as well, and possibly third seat inside the top 10 could open up. The next five drivers in line are 1-36 points out respectively: Michael Chen, Tyler Redman, Tony Chen, Frank Hsu, and Seth Willits, with all of them showing prowess at the sharp end in 2018. Of the group, Hsu had the best run on Nuovo in January, so this could be what gets him back into fighting form. Chen missed the opening round, while all the other three wouldn’t mind doing a bit better than what January brought; the second time around could be just what they need.

And as a small aside, there are a pair of names on the entry list that if they are in for the long haul could be big players in the Summer Championship, and at the very least could shake things up tomorrow; Kevin Erikson and Rodney Bryant. Erickson was a regular front runner in 2017 -including a podium finish- while Rodney Bryant is actually the Sportsman Class point leader in the Super Series. And to add to all that, a little birdy told me we may see a certain former winner returning to the mix for the second half of the season as well…

Regardless of whether or not we are seeing Summer Series prep, or redoubled efforts towards the overall, round #6 is sure to see a battle royal for the win, and with it, a definite shake up at the sharp-end of the standings…

Overall Standings Top 10 After 2 Drops (Best Drop)

1)Spencer Russell590(285)
2)Diego Alvarado580(0)
3)Samuel Hunt575(243)
4)Lukas Dziemidok [2R]575(0)
5)Ivan Martinez555(251)
6)Mark Sternberg555(206)
7)James Lieser549(208)
8)Donnie Clarke547(193)
9)Randy McKee539(260)
10)Evan Karp537(211)

Winter Series Championship: Spencer Russell Clinches Winter Title!

With a drop in hand of 270 points, Spencer Russell can only lose a max of 30 points in tomorrows event; with a lead of 57 over his closest rival, the Winter Series title is his one round early. While the first sub-championship of the year may be over, looking at the winter standings shows who has had the strongest start to the year, and will be some of the main protagonists heading into the summer.

Across the opening four races this season, Russell has stood out as a model of consistency. He started out the season opener fighting for his first podium -eventually finishing 4th- and has had a pair of podiums the past two events, including his first win last month. His worst finish? A sixth in round #2, and still enough to clinch the title with one round to spare. I was able to ask the newly crown champ a few question ahead of tomorrows event, getting a little insight on how the season has gone from his point of view…

Mike Smith: Spencer, congratulations on bringing home your first win and the Winter Series sub-championship in the Sprint Series!

Spencer Russell: Thanks so much Mike! It has been a solid start to this season for me. I intend to keep it that way.

MS: It has been a really great start to the year for you. You may have just earned your first win, but in the first four events you never finished worse than 6th in the A-Main, while never finishing outside the top two in the heat races. Did you expect things to start off this strong?

SR: I knew I was coming into the season strong but I still have a lot to work on. Seat time was very important too. The clinics are amazing and help me out a lot.

MS: In 2016 you ran the final five rounds of the Sprint Series, and last year was your first full year with a 9th place overall result. What have you learned over that time -and more specifically- what is different from last year that sees you contending for the overall title?

SR: I knew I could be fast enough to be at the front or contend for pole. Consistency is so important. If I’m not consistent and don’t make good decisions, then I will drop positions; especially on the upcoming Nuovo track. I think my race craft has only slightly improved, it was mainly my consistency that has helped me become a title contender this season.

MS: How did you get started in karting? Was CalSpeed where it all began; if not how did you hear about CalSpeed Karting?

SR: I started karting at K1 Speed Torrance. I was quickly hooked. I was getting into racing in 2014. By 2016 I had run the fourth fastest time ever and came second in the Challenge GP season just behind Henry Morse. Him and many of the workers there suggested I move up to outdoor karting at CalSpeed Karting. That’s when I signed up for the Sprint Series and never looked back!

MS: Last question Spence; You may have wrapped the Winter Series title one round early, but there are still six rounds remaining in the overall championship. What is it going to take to not only aim for the Summer title, but bring home the coveted Overall Sprint Series championship?

SR: What will it take for it to make me the summer champ and the overall champ? Consistency. There are two drops of your lowest scoring races. I need to be at the very front for at least eight races. That will come with smart decisions, speed and yet again consistency.

MS: Once again, congrats on wrapping up the Winter Series title early, good luck tomorrow, and on the rest of the season!

SR: Thanks Mike, I can’t wait to get onto the summer championship!

Top 5 Standings After 1 drop

1)Spencer Russell875
2)Samuel Hunt818
3)Ivan Martinez806
4)Randy McKee799
5)Michael Chen771