The first ever Sprint Series race will go down in history as not only the beginning of a new era at CalSpeed, but also as one of the greatest battles for the win in CalSpeed history as a whole.
The day started out as many expected, with Adam Nagao grabbing the overall pole ahead of Kevin Taylor and Ariel Rubio. Nagao and Taylor, along with several others, are drivers who are limited to only two Sprint Series events this season, and as a result were expected to run up front all day. Rubio, however, started his overall championship campaign in fine style with a 3rd place result in qualifying.
Heat 1 would start off as more of the same for Nagao as he jumped out to the early lead. Behind him, Riley Dugan (another of the two race drivers) would tuck in behind him and make an attempt to separate themselves from the field. This strategy worked to perfection, as Rubio and Sean Fite were unable to hang onto the bumper of the lead two drivers, and would be forced to settle for 3rd and 4th respectively. Up front, Dugan would sit behind Nagao for the entirety of the race all the way up until the final lap. Dugan made a couple of attempts at Nagao as they made their way up the hill into turn 4, but decided to wait for the Main to take any big chances. Nagao would grab the Heat 1 win over Dugan, Rubio, Fite and Jake Hood.
Heat 2 played out as the polar opposite of Heat 1. No drivers would be able to break away or work together; instead, the race would turn into a 7 kart battle at the front. Kevin Taylor led most of the laps, but behind him Hassler Ortega was taking every shot he could at Taylor, trying to find any advantage he could. Through the final couple of corners on the last lap, Ortega did find a way to get alongside Taylor, but was not quite able to pull it off. The margin of victory would be just 14 one thousandths of a second. Behind the top 2 was Nick Marascio, Vince Burke and Emon Fazlollahi; each finishing within a second of the leader.
After the heat races wrapped up, drivers that finished in the back half of their respective heat would get lined up for the B Main. The B Main would prove the depth of talent already present in the Sprint Series as several drivers who have made A and B Mains in the Super Series would find themselves trying to earn their way into the A Main the hard way via a win in the B Main.
This race would be a question of, “Does he have enough time?” as Patrick O’Keefe was slicing his way through the field from lap 1. O’Keefe had a disappointing heat race and was forced to start in the back half of the B Main. As he was climbing his way forward, the pack was being led by Elijah Kleeman with Tom Zevin and Caylee Britain in hot pursuit, trying to close the gap. As the race began to wind down, it looked like Kleeman was going to have enough of a gap to hold on. However, with just a hand full of laps to go, O’Keefe managed to jump into 2nd and chase down the leader. O’Keefe finally caught Kleeman and took over the lead. However, O’Keefe was not able to get away. Kleeman kept the pressure on O’Keefe, waiting for a mistake, but in the end, the mistake wouldn’t come and it would be Patrick O’Keefe grabbing the B Main victory and earning his way into the A Main. Behind the top 2, it would be Tom Zevin in 3rd, followed by Caylee Britain and Tony Wika.
When each driver in the Sprint Series decided they were going to compete in Round 1, the only true goal was to be the winner of the first ever Sprint Series A Main. 31 drivers made the big show and had a shot at it, but only a handful had any kind of realistic shot at the victory. As the race began, it would be an identical scene to that of Heat 1 as Adam Nagao jumped out to the early lead with Riley Dugan committed to pushing him, at least for the time being. Behind them, a ferocious battle would ensue between Kevin Taylor, Sean Fite, Dennis Kimbrell, Ariel Rubio and many more. At the halfway point, Dugan was still showing great discipline and race craft as he continued to push Nagao away from the pack.
However, Kevin Taylor had managed to separate himself from the pack just as he was in jeopardy of losing the draft of the lead drivers. Taylor immediately put his head down and started putting in his fastest laps of the race. With just a few laps to go, Taylor managed to get to the rear bumper of Dugan who was still pushing Nagao around the track. With just 2 laps to go, Dugan made his move. Using the slipstream down the front stretch, Dugan was able to comfortable clear Nagao heading into turn 1. Nagao immediately got back on the offensive and grabbed the lead back heading into the new hairpin on the back straightaway.
The order would stay the same through the rest of the lap, and as the leaders came to the white flag, Dugan would try the same move again heading into turn 1, and again would get the lead only for Nagao to get the lead back in the hairpin. This time, however, Dugan would hold the outside through the new horseshoe and go for the over-under on Nagao down the hill into the right hander. The two stayed side by side up into the uphill left, and after some contact, Dugan would be forced off track and around some times. This slowed Nagao’s momentum and Dugan would be forced to lift to allow Nagao back alongside so as not to get a penalty for cutting the course.
All of this action allowed Kevin Taylor to jump to the inside heading into the penultimate corner as they would be three wide on entry. Taylor assumed the lied off of the corner but had lost a lot of his momentum with his narrow line. Nagao held the outside and Dugan would shoot the gap and it would again be Dugan and Nagao side by side as they went into the final corner. Taylor, meanwhile, was able to take his normal line into the final corner and get a huge run on the top 2 going onto the final straightaway to the finish line. As they crossed the line three wide it would be Kevin Taylor barely edging out Adam Nagao and Riley Dugan to take the win in the first ever Sprint Series event. The margin of victory among the top 3 would be just one tenth of a second. Behind them, Sean Fite would bring it home in 4th and Dennis Kimbrell in 5th.
For race results click here: http://www.mylaps.com/en/events/1105401
For current points standings click here: https://www.facebook.com/calspeedkarting/photos/pb.744233395624800.-2207520000.1422638235./769969743051165/?type=3&theater
Registration for Round 2 is now open, sign up here: http://calspeed.mycustomevent.com/