The start to the 2015 racing season may have started with a few hiccups with the shortened Super Series round two, and the postponed second round of the Ironman and Sprint Series, but the wet weather has done nothing to dampen the spirits of the racers. In fact, with half the field having not been on track since heat two a month ago, the drive to get on course is now stronger then ever.
With the unusual way the season has started, this weekend sees a jumbled version of the standings, with driver agendas ranging from something to prove, to bouncing back from adversity, while others just want to keep some good momentum going. Nearly every category saw a change at the top of its standings, and there is a strong chance we will see it shake up even more here in round three.
The track that will greet them all Saturday morning is none other than Sportivo, a challenging layout with ample passing zones, and a place that does seem to favor the more experienced in the paddock. With two races in the books and two throw outs per driver allowed, the rest of the season begins tomorrow…
Smitty’s Spotlight: A closer look at Wes Dent…
Snagging your first win in anything is a big deal, even more when it is something that you have been driven to do for a long time, and put in a hard work to achieve. Sometimes that achievement comes under extraordinary circumstances, and it is how those individuals handle those situations that really show their character. Having been on all sides of these kinds of stories, I sat down and asked Wes his thoughts on how his first win in the Super Series came about, and he gracefully answered some tough questions.
In Wes we have a driver that not only strives to achieve his own goals, but also looks to help those around him improve, and is one of the best sportsman in the paddock. A down to earth guy, he is also quick to realize when he is at fault or has a chance to improve, and it is a rare occasion that he isn’t laughing or smiling in the paddock. If you don’t know the round #2 winner, take a chance to read this interview, and say hi in the paddock. You’ll be glad to add the name Dent to your list of acquaintances.
Mike Smith: First up, congratulations on earning the win in round #2, and bringing home a good pile of points. Obviously you did it without getting a chance to race in the Main, the first ever ‘awarded’ victory under the new rules. Would you say there might be an asterisk on your first win?
Wes Dent: Yeah kind of, but I also I feel like I earned the pole which lead to that possibility. Also, Logan (Calvin) could have won both his heats as well, but would have got the win ‘cause he qualified faster. I’m still proud of it though; it just makes me want to go out there Saturday and prove myself again.
MS: Many don’t doubt you earned the pole for the A-Main, myself included. What about the argument that you would have done the same as in the first round, and fall down the order?
WD: I might have. But I feel like I’ve been progressing more and more every round and making less mistakes. The field was also scattered to my benefit with some top names in mid pack and further.
MS: Would you say you have to have a strong round this weekend, if nothing else just to reaffirm you deserved your first win?
WD: Absolutely; Especially if I want to stay at the sharp end of the overall fight. There was talk about the Calvin’s coming in and completely jumbling the points field, and I think we are seeing that happen. And to my benefit the rain helped to, but I still want the opportunity to go out there and race. Since Grands last year, I haven’t had a round yet that I didn’t win at least one of my heats, and I think that speaks to my abilities as a driver. So I’m hoping to go out and prove that I belong up front with big guys.
MS: What are your thoughts on Sportivo? Can we expect you to be back at the sharp end for the third round in a row; and perhaps the rest of the season?
WD: Sportivo is a pretty technical track in my opinion. As far as the race craft goes, the back hairpin (Monaco) can make or break your race. If you push the envelope too much in Sportivo or Monaco you can really fall back, and lose momentum approaching the horseshoe. I had a really good result the first time I saw Sportivo, so I hope to take everything I’ve learned, forget about last round’s win, and try to do it again. I think if I keep pushing myself to keep driving better and better every round, I will continue to stay at the sharp end of every round and hopefully the overall come the end of the season.
Round #3: The 6th running of Sportivo…
Before the debut of the Tecnico layout last round, Sportivo was the youngest of the track configurations, starting as the ‘surprise layout’ at the inaugural Sport Kart Grands in 2012, before making its Super Series debut in round #10 of that same year. Darren Mercer would claim the victory in that first event; one that saw drivers challenged by the new Sportivo and Monaco corners, while also putting on a passing clinic in nearly every part of the track.
In more recent memory, Sportivo was supposed to be on the calendar three times in 2014, but after delayed track repairs in the earlier part of the year, its first of two runs would have to wait until June. David Kelmenson would score the victory in that race, a jewel in the overall breakout season he had, while Logan Calvin would seal his elusive first Sportivo victory at the season finale, having come so close before.
The driver favorite configuration is once again on the schedule twice for 2015, with this weekend’s round #3, as well as round #7 right after the Grands as the two chosen dates. Coming in, there has never been a repeat winner on Sportivo, nor has there been a repeat pole winner, or someone who has done both in one round. There are plenty of milestones and stats to be had on Saturday, and to shed a little light on what to watch for, here is some insight from Logan Calvin:
Logan Calvin: Sportivo is probably my favorite track, probably part to do with my success on it, but also due to the difficulty of the track. Corners are very deceiving on this track and a lot of times give you a false apex. Drivers need to be careful not overdriving the Sportivo corner, and I know from experience. The curb on exit comes up quick due to the off camber; that corner can ruin your day, and also make your day if you master it. The key to doing well here is nailing your lap in qualifying. Only having two laps to put down a lap will be difficult on this layout, and key to setting the tone for the rest of the day.
Top 5 Best Returning Sportivo Drivers
Logan Calvin: 1 Win, 3 podiums, 7 Heat Wins, 7 T 3’s, 1 F.L.
Darren Mercer: 1 Win, 2 podiums, 4 Heat Wins, 7 T 3’s, 2 F.L.
Miles Calvin: 1 Win, 2 podiums, 2 Heat Wins, 4 T 3’s
Bill Kreig: 2 podiums, 4 T 3’s, 2 F.L., 1 pole
Sergio Bravo: 1 podium, 2 Heat Wins, 6 T 3’s, 3 F.L.
Round 2 was, without question, the strangest race day we have ever had out here during a Super Series. Mistakes by front-runners, bad luck for championship contenders, a first time winner and an A Main that never happened; Round 2 had it all.
Well, if your definition of “having it all” is a series of events that are completely head scratch inducing.
With that in mind, most drivers’ goal for Round 3 is just for it to be smooth and drama free, both at an individual level and at an event wide level. Drivers just want to either keep their momentum going or perhaps correct their path from the first two rounds and begin heading back into a positive direction. For those drivers, this could already be their last chance. Round 3 always begins to show who the actual contenders for the championship are, and who just doesn’t have it.
Since each driver drops their two lowest scores, at least one of the scores on your favorite drivers points total at the drop of the checkers tomorrow will remain in play for the rest of the 2015 season.
So, who is going to be strong tomorrow that isn’t named Logan Calvin? Well, Jon Kimbrell needs to rebound and not let his disastrous Round 2 take any kind of longer effect, as does Sergio Bravo and David Kelmenson. These drivers will all have some extra motivation.
But, the guy to keep an eye on tomorrow, in my opinion, is Justin Tolman. Tolman has quietly had a very strong start to his season and typically does well on Sportivo. Look for him to be in podium contention tomorrow.
The Overall Championship: Calvin atop the standings; the rest here to stay?
With one and a half races in the books, but points to show for two, the start to the 2015 season championships is a little skewed. Combined with the fact no throw outs are calculated yet (an I won’t until after round #4) and there is a lot to be seen in between the lines. All that said, looking at drivers that have had a pair of strong rounds already can be telling to what they could achieve, or at least that they have a good start to the season.
Obviously Logan Calvin is at the top of this list, his pair of podium point hauls singular amongst the series’ top names. In fact, aside from Taylor Hays none of the other perennial top drivers have had significantly strong rounds, the only other asterisk being Darren Mercer, who has been solidly consistent. No, it has been a pair of new drivers putting in the regular up front performances, namely that of Adam Nagao and Jose da Silva, putting in almost identically strong performances each round. Everyone else in the top nine couples a solid finish with a strong finish, but hasn’t shown the consistency of the other four. In fact, consistency throughout the entire standings is rare thus far, with many drivers either getting involved in some sort of issue or mistake early. This of course makes it exciting for those watching at home, albeit at the expense of each individual drivers nerves.
One of these drivers is Super Series newcomer Scott Kennedy, who was comically was mistakenly given a rookie moniker at the beginning of the season. After a solid first round, he backed it up with stellar showings during both his heat races in round #2, bringing home a win in the process. This ranked him 3rd on the day once the skies opened up, and he was awarded the podium, and its coveted points that accompany it. I got a chance to catch up with Scott this week, a was able to learn a lot more about his driving career, and why it is no surprise to see him at the sharp end his early.
Mike Smith: Scott, congrats on scoring your first podium result in just your 3rd start in the Super Series. You have proven that you are no rookie behind the wheel; what is your racing background, and career highlight?
Scott Kennedy: Thanks Mike, I just wish the rain had stayed away so I could have battled for the win! I’ve been racing karts since I was twelve years old. I started with club racing in Phoenix and ventured out to a few regional races over the next couple years and won the club championship in Formula Yamaha. At 16 I made a big jump and ran the WKA constructors cup in Formula A, racing across the country.
The next year, in 2001, I transferred to shifter karts and ran the SKUSA ProMoto Tour, finishing 5th in the championship in the S1 class, with a best race result of 2nd. I would have to pick that as my career highlight. The sheer number of drivers I raced with that year that now race professionally is staggering. Guys like AJ Allmendinger, Scott Speed, Joey Hand, and Michael McDowell, just to name a few. That same year I finished 6th at the Supernationals in Vegas, just missing the podium.
After that I ran in the ICC class for a couple of years until college when I took a step back and ran the new TAG series for a few years. In total have about 17 years of experience in just about every type of kart. I’ve been out of karts for about 5 years now, but have fulfilled the itch with iRacing and other pursuits like Triathlon and Crossfit.
MS: What was your outlook on the series coming in, and is it what you expected having come from the competition karting world? How is this type of racing different then what you have done before?
SK: I significantly underestimated the competition level coming into my first race. I’ve run with a couple small indoor karting series and always ran at the front. I think I expected that as well in the Super Series, but I qualified somewhere around 60th in the first race I entered last year. It was a bit of a wake up call!
The biggest adjustment has been the requirement of adjusting my driving style to the kart you are assigned. Especially in qualifying when you have at most 1 and 1/2 laps to figure it out before you have to set a time, it’s critical to figure it out right away. In the competition karting world, there’s plenty of practice and countless adjustments to get the kart dialed to exactly how you want it. Not to mention countless places to spend money to improve performance, like magnesium wheels, ceramic brake discs, cryogenic engine part manipulation, titanium everything, etc.
The racing isn’t all that different from slower competition karting classes. The draft is just as important, and if you miss-time a pass, you can lose two or three spots by the time you recover. I think I feel pretty comfortable at tracks like Technico, but the draft-heavy Nuovo type racing is going to be where I need to learn the most.
MS: What were your goals for the 2015 season heading in, and after your podium performance, should we consider you a contender for the Overall championship?
SK: Coming into the season, I’d only done one race. As I mentioned above, I was blown away at the competition level and my initial goal was really just to make an A-main. Now that I have a heat win and podium under my belt, I’ve raised my goal to top-5 in the championship. I just need to figure out how to qualify!
MS: Along with your teammates Bill Kreig and Jake hood, IKM – GranStand now lead the Team Championship standings after two rounds. Is this something that you and the team follows, or do you just let the points take care of themselves?
SK: Bill and I discussed running for the team championship before the season started and Bill found a strong driver to fill out our team. We absolutely follow it and feel that we’re at the rightful place for IKM – GranStand at the front of the team championship! It doesn’t change our strategy, and I wouldn’t say it is the primary goal, but if we achieve the results we’re all capable of, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to stay at the top for the rest of the season.
Top 15 Overall Standings
1. Logan Calvin 800
2. Adam Nagao 750
3. Taylor Hays 730
4. Wes Dent 713
5. Jose da Silva [M] 683
6. Scott Kennedy 683
7. Darren Mercer 676
8. Justin Tolman 670
9. Bill Kreig 669
10. Sergio Bravo [M] 664
11. Jon Kimbrell 629
12. Aaron Scott 620
13. Kirk Feldkamp 604
14. Ben Blank [M] 604
15. Aaron Downs 598
The Masters Championship: Da Silva backs up round #1, takes over lead…
Round one saw defending champ Sergio Bravo pick up where he left off, but round #2 was anything but in character, and combined with a pair of 340+ events from Jose da Silva, he is the new Masters point leader. Da Silva was the second highest point earner in both rounds, a consistency unmatched by the rest of his classmates. Aside from the champ having issues, the other big eyebrow raiser was the top performer in round #2, and that was sophomore driver Ariel Rubio. Rubio has really started to come into his own here in the last several events, and proved he could be a podium threat with that performance. Another driver that showed he isn’t resting on his laurels is last year’s #3 driver Ben Blank, putting up numbers just shy of the aforementioned duo in round two. There are several drivers further down the list too that will be able to turn things up starting tomorrow, in what is arguable the deepest Master’s field we have ever had.
I took a second to ask our new point leader a few questions ahead of tomorrows race, and here is what Jose da Silva had to say:
Mike Smith: I mentioned in a prior preview that you were a driver on the rise, and you backed it up in round #2, showing consistency unseen by any other in the class thus far. As the number two-point earner in both rounds, you now sit atop the standings in the Masters Class. Is this how you expected the start to the season would go?
Jose da Silva: I expected to be among the top three drivers, but to sit atop is surprise for me.
MS: Obviously the Masters class is very deep in terms of the talent level, and there are a lot of new names starting to show they want a shot at the top step. What is it going to take to stay atop of this mountain?
JdS: It won’t be easy to sustain this position with so many quality drivers around. To stay atop I will need to give the best of me, with determination and focus on the track.
MS: Leading the Masters championship is a big deal, but you are also tied for fifth in the overall standings as well. What were your goals heading into the season, and how does the start to the year align with them?
JdS: My goals were to compete, and its what motivates me to move forward. This start to the year is the result of my motivation. One of the biggest reasons is my team “RNA”. We all work together, helping each other; communication is the key.
Top 10 Masters Standings
1. Jose da Silva 683
2. Sergio Bravo 664
3. Ben Blank 604
4. Mark Connell 570
5. Vince Burke 513
6. Nathan Hood 511
7. Steve Jasinski 474
8. Ariel Rubio 458
9. David Kelmenson 453
10. Steve Spring 427
The Grand Masters Championship: Messimer extends lead…
Round #2 saw Messimer walk away with nearly the same point total as the season opener, but it certainly was a case of ‘what might have been’, having crashed out of the front in one of his heat races. The fact that he still pulled off top honors that day bodes well for his Grand Masters hopes, something that is echoed by the reigning champ, and current second in points driver Dennis Kimbrell.
Kimbrell has performed well clear of all but Messimer, but also realizes that his fellow competitors have plenty left in the tank, a fact not lost on the veteran driver. With moments of brilliance shown by many of the newer drivers in the fold, and the historical potential of his championship rivals from last year, the fight for the podium will be a good one in this class. It is just going to take all cylinders to start firing, and do it consistently for the duration season.
As the de facto number two right now, I spoke with Dennis about his outlook on the season thus far, as well as what it is going to take to steal the top spot back from Messimer.
MS: Dennis, the first couple of rounds haven’t necessarily been bad ones for you, but with Messimer back in the game, the bar seems to have been raised. What is your outlook on how the season has opened up?
Dennis Kimbrell: For me the season has gotten off to a slow start. I’m sixty points below last years average and with Dave contesting this season, I’ll be taking some coaching from the clinic, and my boys to try and bridge the talent gap. I’ve raced with Dave for over ten years, so I pretty well know where he sets the bar (high). Dave is the guy to beat; at least until Sergio grows up and quits racing with the 40 year old kids in the masters division.
MS: You have had a few 300 point days last year in route to your Grand Masters title; do you think regular ‘300 days’ will be what is needed to win it this year?
DK: A 300 point average is probably what it is going to take just to stay within striking distance of Messimer this year. To get there my focus will be consistency, working on patience, and knowing when to fight and when to let it go. And less senior moments; getting in wrong kart, not tightening my helmet, and not running the National Champion off track because he had an arrive and drive jacket on.
MS: Aside from Messimer, you have been the strongest performer in the class thus far, with a surprising absence of contest from your two biggest challengers from 2014. Do you think this is a two horse race already, or do you expect more of the Grand Masters field to get in the fight?
DK: This is still Dave’s championship to lose. I’ve gotten a better start this year than last year’s competitors but I know there’s a lot of talent in my group. Jeff Latimer, Duane Lawson, Ed Lewis and Kevin Taylor will be putting some pressure on, not to mention Brian Starr who had a 350 point day last season.
Top 5 Grand Masters Standings
1. Dave Messimer 577
2. Dennis Kimbrell 444
3. Duane Lawson 298
4. Ed Lewis 295
5. Steve Frame 288
The Rookie Championship: Spicer extends lead, Curran takes over second spot
The Kyle Spicer that I expected to enter the 2015 season showed up in round #2 instead of the opener, and it was plain to see he has the edge right now. He made an A-Main last year, and was going to make another one before the rains fell a month ago, outscoring his fellow rookies by nearly 50 points. Right now h is the one setting the bar for the category, but there are a few other drivers that are showing they could challenge as the season progresses.
Namely that of Nor-Cal driver Brent Curran, who looks to follow the footsteps of fellow Umigo Indoor Raceway standout and 2014 rookie of the year Wes Dent, and score the ROTY title for himself. Curran was the highest finisher in the first round after steadily improving during his Super Series debut, and was the number two point earning last round. The question will be how fast he picks up every new track, and if he can manage the gap to Spicer until he gets his legs underneath himself.
One driver that could have a break out run this weekend though is Drew Zeller, who is coming of a strong showing at his first competition karting race just a couple weeks ago. If he can carry some momentum from that weekend into tomorrow, we could see Zeller hit his potential, which will make things exciting. Along with him is Sergio Serrano, who was the #3 point earner last round, actually ahead of Zeller. If he starts hitting his stride, then this fight will get a lot more complex.
I asked our new #2 driver a few questions about the rookie fight so far, and his approach to the Super Series, especially as a out of town driver…
Mike Smith: Brent, you have had a pretty good start to the season; you were the highest finishing rookie in the first round, and second highest point earner in round #2 putting you second in the standings. How do you feel the year has started from your perspective?
Brent Curran: The start to the season has been great. Originally round one was supposed to be a random trip for me, but ended up being a huge success. Having the results I’ve had in the first two rounds is truly unbelievable, and I hope to continue solid performances for the rest of the season.
MS: Many drivers come from out of town, needing to driver several hours to get to CalSpeed to race. How does not being able to regularly practice at CalSpeed affect, if at all, your ability to contest the Rookie Championship?
BC: Track time is always key in any racing. Clinics are definitely something I wish I could benefit from, or even a few sprint series races. I drive five to six hours down from Nor Cal the Thursday before race day to be at the track all day Friday for practice. Just to get as much track time as possible, scope out drivers to watch and drive with to catch on just a bit quicker. I’ve been lucky to have the solid finishes I’ve had in the first two rounds with limited track time.
MS: As a rookie, what are the biggest challenges of the Super Series? Is it the tracks, the karts, the type of racing? What will it take to win the rookie title this year?
BC: As a rookie everything is new for the most part. Our indoor kart track where I’m from and work at runs different frames, so it was difficult at first to adjust to the Sodi kart. Also not seeing the tracks as much as others is pretty difficult, as I said before. To top that, learning when to be patient and be aggressive on certain layouts has been huge in my first two races. Race craft is something I’ve really had to learn going through the first two rounds, and will continue through the whole season. The title for me is going to be all about consistency throughout every round, and just learning from mistakes ‘cause as a rookie, mistakes will come. I’m very excited and thankful for the opportunity to run for rookie, and have the start of the season I’ve had.
Top 10 Rookie Standings
1. Kyle Spicer 461
2. Brent Curran 388
3. Drew Zeller 374
4. Sergio Serrano 349
5. Luis Calderon 258
6. Jetson Leiser 251
7. Peter Liwanag 249
8. Roger Adams 243
9. Tim Slusarczyk 219
10. Michael Neumeyer 212
The Heavy Class: Bryant on top, but a challenge may be brewing…
In the first round point leader Rodney Bryant enjoyed a convincingly superior performance to the rest of the Heavy Class, but in the second round we saw the rest of the class step up nicely. In fact, current third place driver Mike Collins scored just a single point less than Bryant in the second round, proving that the veteran racer is not out of the hunt. Putting in the number three performance on the day was Doug Lewen, a total that was good enough to secure the second place spot in the standings heading into round #3. We had a glimpse of a challenge from the drivers second on back last round, with more than one improving from the opener. The question is, can the truly take the fight to Bryant…
Doug was nice enough to answer a few questions for the preview, a driver that puts fun in front of all other goals.
MS: Doug, you were forced to miss several races last season, which took you out of the title fight. Do you expect to run the full season this year, and if so, what are your goals for 2015 season?
Doug Lewen: Yes, I do plan on running the entire season as part of team RNA Motorsports. My goal is to win my first main event, take the Heavy Championship and to be running consistently in the B mains.
MS: You have moved into second in class points, and look to be in the hunt along with leader Bryant and third place Collins. What is it going to take to challenge for the top spot?
DL: I need to keep improving my race craft and be consistent. Don’t beat myself.
MS: How do you approach each race? Do you focus on beating just the divers in your class, or do you take a broader approach to each on track session?
DL: First and foremost have fun. Yes I do want to beat the drivers in my class, but overall I am always looking to move my position forward for the next session.
Top 5 Heavy Class Standings
1. Rodney Bryant 277
2. Doug Lewen 181
3. Mike Collins 172
4. Paul Juarez 115
5. Dan Gefis 103
The Team Championship: GranStand to the top spot; CRD moves into second
When the rosters came in for the Team Championship at the beginning of the year, there were a few teams that stuck out at me that I thought would be immediate contenders. Right now, two of those teams lead all others: IKM – GranStand, and Calvin Racing Development.
And honestly, each had the exact same thing that popped out at me; a strong wildcard. Each also had a driver that had a lot of potential to improve, and a strong team leader as the foundation, but it was really the wildcard, as I call it that grabbed my attention.
GranStand’s lineup consists of Bill Kreig, Scott Kennedy, and Jake hood, and in this case Kennedy was the wildcard. Not much was known about this driver coming in, other than he narrowly missed the A-Main in his one and only appearance in 2014. Two rounds in, and he is actually the lead scorer for the team, and sits tied for 5th overall, and one podium under his belt. Yes he didn’t have to fight to keep the earned position in the A-Main, but for two rounds now he has been at the front of his heat races. He also went toe-to-toe with Logan Calvin in his second heat race on Tecnico. And won.
With Kennedy performing as strong as he is out of the box, and teammate Bill Kreig also inside the top 10 in points (he finished 5th overall last year), they can now turn their attention to the promising young Jake Hood. Hood showed consistent improvement in 2014, and has picked up right where he left off last season with some solid finishes in the first two rounds. As is the case with most teams, a strong “number 3 driver” is the key to scoring big points, and in the end the Team Championship, so it will be interesting to see how they go in the rounds to come.
As the team in the second spot in the standings, Calvin Racing Development’s (CRD) lineup raised several eyebrows when we entered the season, with many point to this team as one of the ones to beat for the championship. A big part of that of course is team leader, former Super Series and National Champion Logan Calvin, and I agree that this is one of the strongest foundations of any team. The interesting part about this team is that a pair of rookies backs up the foundation; guys who ran a few races in 2014, but rookies all the same. The two rookies in question are two of the strongest in the 2015 rookie class too, with Kyle Spicer (#1) and Drew Zeller (#3) completing the lineup. In this team’s case, Spicer is the wildcard, as he actually put together a A-Main run last year, and looked to be one of the strongest rookies in the new crowd heading into this season. For Zeller’s part, we my have one of the strongest #3 driver in the paddock, as he is steadily improving, and is bolstering his improvement by also racing PRD’s in his ‘free time’.
It is interesting to see that RNA slipped from 1-2, to 4-5, but when taken into context of how the second round went for both teams, it makes a bit more sense. Certainly Imola’s total should improve heavily with Kimbrell hitting his stride once again, while Hourian will need to get back to form to get Targa Florio back to the sharp end. Arkham FFS was able nearly match their first round totals, and are leaning on the shoulders of team lead Justin Tolman to stay where they are. Moving forward in the standings for any of the teams below will require a more complete turn out of results, or we could see the gaps grow by mid-season.
Top 5 Team Standings
1. IKM – GranStand 1723
2. Calvin Racing Development 1635
3. Arkham – FFS 1535
4. RNA – Imola 1525
5. RNA – Targa Florio 1481