The ball dropped on 2014 less than 48 hours ago, and in less than 24 hours we’ll be taking the green flag to start the 2015 racing season, with the first round of the CalSpeed Super Series. 120 drivers are staged and ready to go, including 40 of the top 50 from last year, many other regulars, as well as an astonishing number of rookie drivers. In a year that sees virtually no rule changes to the twelve round championship, the focus this year will be less on what has changed, and more on who to watch, and specific storylines to each event; not the least of which of course being the points standings themselves…
The 2015 CalSpeed Super Series season looks to carry on the tradition of great on track battles, historic landmarks, and dramatic finishes; with some of the best Sport Karting drivers found anywhere in attendance. Jon Kimbrell will look to defend his overall title against some of the biggest names at the Fontana, CA facility, including Darren Mercer, Sergio Bravo, Taylor Hays, and Logan and Miles Calvin, just to name a few.
The Masters lineup also has nearly every great driver for its category in attendance, with Bravo looking to make it an unbelievable 5 in a row. “Can anyone beat him?” is the question on everyone’s lips. Along with these two storied championships is another great crop of rookies, the second year of the Grand Master sub category, and the popular Team Championship. This series is just chalk full of talent, possibilities, and storylines, and the excitement and anticipation is at its boiling point.
Super Series event previews in the past have focused on everything from the tracks, to the point battles, to drivers to watch; and this year we’ll look to do that and even more. Here in the Preview for the Season Opener, we won’t just look at Round #1, but also at some of the people behind the helmets, and the storylines attached to them. Further, we’ll breakdown the entry list and see if we can guess at who some of the protagonists to the 2015 campaign will be. We’ll also get an inside look at what CalSpeed’s new driver liaison Patrick Britain will be looking for over the weekend, in a new spot called “Pat’s Pit”. Last but not least we’ll look at some of the history that is CalSpeed’s “Super Speedway”, as the series’ 6th season prepares to kick off on the Nuovo layout for the third time since it’s inception in 2010.
Smitty’s Spotlight: The dawn of a new season…
The start of any new racing season is always met with excitement and anticipation; not only amongst the drivers, but also for everyone involved in the championship. Especially its fans. The Super Series is no different; and while made up mostly of drivers on the sidelines, it still enjoys the same aspects of fandom that other series do. People have their favorite drivers; the ones they want to see get beat; the underdogs and favorites; and the overall enjoyment from watching some exciting racing.
For me it is no different, and in many cases, I may be the biggest fan there is for the CalSpeed Super Series. Having had the opportunity to not only be a part of its development for most of its existence, but also having been a part of many of it’s drivers development over the years makes it very special. Further, writing these previews adds to the fun of being a fan of this Series. When I pour over the points, the stats, and the history of each event, those extra storylines make it all the more enjoyable experience.
Remember when Taylor Hays won his first A-Main? Or when Tom Zevin won his first Main ever? Special stuff. Just this past year had some great memories too: First time A-Main winners David Kelmenson and Bill Kreig; Pat Britain’s rebound to pick up 20+ spots in a heat race, Adam Nagoa’s run to make every A-Main – going through three B-Mains to do it, Jon Kimbrell adding 3 more wins to his tally (now 9) and winning his third championship, Dennis Kimbrell scoring the first ever Grand Masters title, or the look of pure elation from Chris Carter and Jeff Carson for bringing home the team title, the list goes on and on…
This new season sees a huge number of returning drivers, as well as an equally astounding number of rookies to keep things interesting, and the memories coming. What will we see in round #1? Can Hays win back-to-back openers? Will we see a new winner; perhaps one of the Nuovo specialists like Kirk Feldkamp? Which one of the many rookies will stamp their authority on the championship out of the gate? The questions are many, and there is only one way to answer them… Bring on 2015!
Round #1: Nuovo, The Super Speedway
Like the NASCAR tracks it is compared to, Nuovo’s tight packs, and high average speed make it a bit easier for some of the less experienced drivers to get to, and then stay at the front. Because of this, Nuovo has a large number of first time winners, whether in heat races or in the big show itself, the A-Main. This makes for a very diverse list of names in the win column. In fact, other than Patrick Britain and Sergio Bravo, no other driver as won here more than one time in their careers. Even Jon Kimbrell can only say 1 of his record 9 wins is on this layout…
While we now open the season on the high speed layout, it wasn’t always that way; but it has always been a staple on the CalSpeed schedule. In fact, save for the Grande layout, no other layout has been used nearly as much in the schedule. This Saturday marks the 15th time that Super Series drivers will take to the track, one of two times they’ll see the configuration this year.
Of the drivers on the entry list, Bravo is the only repeat winner, but there are several that could add another notch in their Nuovo win column, including Taylor Hays, Jon Kimbrell, Miles Calvin, Logan Calvin, Aaron Downs, and Darren Mercer. Pretty good company for anyone that can find the top step on Saturday.
Last year’s opener saw Taylor Hays edge out Patrick Britain to score his second career win, with Bravo coming across third for his 4th podium at the track. It was a relatively new face on top of the box, capping off a day of new faces that started with Adam Nagao on pole, and Aaron Scott and Ian Enz grabbing heat wins. Could we see a few more new faces start off the year right tomorrow?
Top 5 Best Returning Nuovo Drivers
Sergio Bravo: 2 Wins, 5 podiums, 1 pole, 6 heat wins
Miles Calvin: 1 Win, 4 podiums, 1 pole 10 heat wins
Jon Kimbrell: 1 Win, 4 podiums, 1 pole 6 heat wins
Taylor Hays: 1 Win, 5 podiums, 7 heat wins
Logan Calvin: 1 Win, 4 podiums, 8 heat wins
The dawning of a new season, a time of excitement, anticipation and hope. No driver enters a new year in a negative position, and all drivers expect each year to be their best yet. Eventually, the harsh reality of racing will present itself and many drivers will find that they will be looking forward to 2016 much sooner than expected. But, for some drivers, 2015 will prove to be everything they hoped for; and maybe even more.
So, the big question is, who’s going to draw first blood in the title fight by taking the win in Round 1? There are a lot of choices; a lot of very good choices. My choice is the returning king of race craft, Miles Calvin. Miles is the best there is at working the pack, a trait that is crucial to winning on Nuovo, and I believe that he feels that he needs to remind everyone about how good he actually he is.
The Overall Championship: Speculation is fun…
If you caught the Season Preview show that Pat and I put together, you know that we threw out several names as who might be contenders for the overall, who the dark horse could be, and who might surprise us a bit. I could go on for pages upon pages about what might happen, but instead, I am just going to point out a few things we know for sure.
First is that 9 of the top 10 in 2014 points will be in attendance for round 1, with only Patrick Britain absent for obvious reasons. Add to that perennial front-runners, Logan and Miles Calvin, and the fight at the sharp end is going to be a great one right out of the gate. Further, only two drivers from last year’s 11th-30th in points lack plans to run the full 2015 schedule, and with some pretty heavy talent coming into the series in the form of Alex Herndon, Michael Shawhan, Jason Burstein, Dave Messimer and Tyler Bryant, just making the A-Main is going to be tougher than ever.
If you haven’t already watched our Season Preview, check it out for a little bit more of that fun speculation; because until we get through round #1, your guess is as good as mine.
However, I did also have a chance to catch up with our reigning, and now 3-time Super Series Champion Jon Kimbrell for a few questions, covering everything from his 2015 goals, to his new team. Here’s what he had to say over the variety of topics…
MS: Once again, congrats on a stellar 2014 season, and your third Super Series championship. From the outside looking in, it looked to be your best career year in racing yet. How was it from your point of view?
JK: Thank you! I would have to agree that 2014 was one of my best years yet. After the struggle in 2012 and 2013, it was great to reclaim the top step once again. I felt I learned a lot in 2014, and I’m more excited than ever to get the 2015 season started and go for it again!
MS: It is going to be hard to repeat that performance in 2014, but one has to assume you’ll be right at the sharp end again, with a big target on your back. Aside from the championship itself, what are your goals for the 2015 racing season? Will we be seeing you competing multiple series again?
JK: 2015 will be an exciting season for me. We just obtained a race car and have plans to run in SCCA. My goal there is to get as much experience and track time as possible and see where it takes me. Other than that, it looks like I wont be running the IronMan championship any longer. So the Super Series and the Sport Kart Grand Nationals will be the only events ill be attending in 2015. That being said, my goal here is to take my fourth national championship and my fourth Super Series overall win.
MS: As the guy on top of the mountain, who do you see as the biggest contenders for the 2015 championship? There are a lot of big names in this year’s entry list, and several more drivers looking to break into the fold. Any drivers on the entry list catch your eye?
JK: There is a massive amount of talent in the field this year. As we’ve seen before, there is a very large group of people who can take a win at any time. I’d have to say that the driver who stands out the most is Logan Calvin. I grew up racing with the kid and have seen him grow into a very talented, well balanced racing driver. I know it’ll always be a good fight when he’s on track. Other than him, his brother Miles Calvin is no slouch at all. He will be at the sharp end as well. Other names that stand out are Darren Mercer, Aaron Scott, Taylor Hays, Sergio Bravo, and Charles Eichlin. These drivers proved that they have the skill that it takes to get a win. I wont be surprised if any of these drivers win round one.
MS: Tell us about this move to RNA Motorsports, and your teammates Sean Fite and Hassler Ortega. How did this all come about, and is a team championship part of the 2015 agenda?
JK: After everybody’s point values were posted, I had a very hard time trying to put together a team. I’d reach out to someone and they were already taken, or couldn’t run a full season. So I actually gave up and didn’t think I’d be on a team this year. Soon after, Rene Hourian made an offer to run on one of the RNA teams, and I gladly accepted. I think my team has a lot of potential. To see how much Sean Fite has improved over the past few months shows me that he’ll only get better. He shows great pace and race craft. Hassler Ortega I know has some racing experience, so the plan is to teach him whatever he feels he needs to be at the front end of the pack. I really feel confident about our team, and yes, a team championship is definitely part of the agenda.
MS: As the all time leader in A-Main wins, tell us a little bit about the “Super Speedway” this weekend, and what it takes to win here. What are the absolute keys to victory at this place?
JK: A victory on Nuovo is not easy to come by. It won’t just fall in your lap, you have to really work for it. In my opinion, I think Nuovo is the easiest track to drive. Its simplicity brings all of the drivers closer together. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of the field is nose to tail at the checkered flag. So it really comes down to race craft on this track, making one mistake can cost you a lot. Among the top drivers, it’s like a chess match. Positioning yourself at the right place at the right time is key to find success here. So that all being said, consistency, race craft, patience, and smart driving is what it takes to win on Nuovo.
The Masters Championship: Can anyone beat Sergio Bravo?
As is the case elsewhere in the series, all we can really do here is speculate, but there are already a few key points to keep in mind…
Bravo is obviously the guy to beat, and he’ll be sure to be strong out of the gate as the only repeat winner on Nuovo in attendance. David Kelmenson will also look to have a strong start in his quest to better his #2 plate from last season, building on what was his best year to date. Ben Blank rebounded late to secure the 3rd spot overall, but will need a more consistent year to find the podium once again in 2015. This is mainly because of the amount of talent knocking on the podium door for the new season…
Steve Spring was just shy of the hardware in his second full season and Mark Connell found the top 5 in just his first; these two will lead the charge on the podium assault, but they’ll have some very strong veterans to contend with if they run the full year. Those veterans are Dave Messimer and Diego Morales, the latter of whom won’t be at the opening round, but could be in the game as early as round #2. If either of these guys shows up for the duration, than the whole complexion of this title fight will change…
Top 15 returning Masters/Notables (2014 Masters Rank)
#1 Sergio Bravo
#2 David Kelmenson
#3 Ben Blank
#4 Steve Spring
#5 Mark Connell
#6 Jeff Carson
#7 Jose da Silva
#8 Nathan Hood
#10 Chris Carter
#11 Vince Burke
#12 Ariel Rubio
#13 Steve Jasinski
#14 Tom Zevin
#15 Jeremy Aldridge
N/A Dave Messimer – 2012 Masters National Champion
N/A Keith LaFaver – First Year in Masters
The Grand Masters Championship: Kimbrell to defend against a stout bunch…
As was the case entering the debut season, the class entrants here are not yet confirmed, as there could still be a few changes to the monikers attached to each name. As Grand Masters, these drivers have the opportunity to choose Masters class instead, as Sergio Bravo has done in his first year of GM eligibility. The big question in this class will be what Dave Messimer decides to do, but this writer assumes he will follow suite with Bravo…
Regardless of what Messimer does, the “Big 3” in this class are still Dennis Kimbrell, Brian Starr, and Jeff Latimer. All three of these guys have what it takes to stand on the top step from the word go, they just need to do it for all 12 rounds. Kimbrell set the bar for this class in year one; it is time to see what this class will serve up for an encore.
And the name that I expect to shake things up in this category, is one who is missing from the entry list: Kevin Taylor. Rookie last year, Kevin’s steady improvement saw him finish the year 5th in the category after a truncated schedule. He is #1 on the wait list right now, and is my dark horse pick for the 2015 championship. If he gets in, he’ll be one to watch.
Top 10 returning Grand Masters/Notables(2014 Rank)
#1 Dennis Kimbrell
#2 Brian Starr
#3 Jeff Latimer
#6 Ed Lewis
#7 Steve Frame
#9 Joe Sabella
#10 Greg Reinhardt
#12 Duane Lawson
#13 Zach Zacharias
#16 Mike Collins
N/A Dave Messimer ???
The Rookie Championship: Who are all these people?
Last year at this time there were a lot of drivers that had declared their intentions to run for rookie of the year late in the previous season, getting in the maximum of 4 regular season events and still be eligible. We had a lot fewer drivers do that this year, and I look at the entry list now asking myself who most of the 40 entered rookies are?
With a much better idea of who’s who after round one, as well as the opener for the Sprint Series later this month, I’ll go into a bit more depth in the next preview. There are a few names that jump out at me though, so we’ll cover them today.
Firstly is Kyle Spicer. Kyle is one of two guys who stated their intentions last year of a 2015 Rookie of the Year campaign, and showed he will definitely be a contender when he made the A-Main in his final start last year. What will make his bid so interesting is he’s teamed up with someone who could end up being his biggest rival, Drew Zeller. Also getting in 4 races last year, Zeller showed a bit more tact in his approach, but with no less speed, and with both drivers gaining tutelage from2012 Champion Logan Calvin, both will be ones to watch.
Next are the Lieser’s; James and his son Jetson. While both had underwhelming debut’s at their only Super Series event in 2014, they each showed well outside of the event, and truly used the round to see what the series was all about. Now with some valuable experienced gained at the Machismo 12 Hour just a couple weeks ago, both of these guys could be ones to watch as possible dark horse front runners in the category right out of the box.
Next on my list is former AZ front runner Peter Liwanag and current AZ resident and Arkham stable mate Sergio Serrano. In Liwanag we have a driver with several years of experience indoor at the famed Octane Raceway in Phoenix, and someone that could be strong right out of the gate. With Serrano we have a driver that can soak up the knowledge passed down from his more experienced Arkham teammates, and I think could develop quickly in the opening rounds.
Planning on doing double duty is Luis Calderon, who’s intentions to run both the full Sprint, and Super Series in 2015 will make him a fun one to watch. He isn’t the only rookie planning on doing this, but the dedication this kid has shown to his goal in the offseason has certainly caught my eye. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how his pre-season work pays off, especially with being able to siphon off some knowledge from his T4 Autosport teammates…
Lastly, and one that I think could be the biggest surprise of all, is Fast FWD – GranStand’s Scott Kennedy. Kennedy started just one event in the middle of last year, and in that race scored a solid mid-200 point day, finishing an impressive 2nd in the B-Main in round #8 to Adam Nagao. Almost making the A-main in your first start? Yeah watch out for Kennedy tomorrow, and for the next 11 moths following.
The Heavy Class: Who’s in?
At this point we do not have a Heavy Class for 2015, as the founding members are moving out of the class, and there are not too many drivers on the list joining. That said, if we have a sustained 5 drivers all season with the ‘H’ moniker starting Saturday, the Heavy class will continue. Time will tell.
The Team Championship: The Team Game Gets Refined…
This time last year the Team Championship was a bit of an experiment, as a brand new system of building a team was debuted. One year later and that new system produced a stellar fight to the end, with the Team Championship now one of the most talked about category’s in the off season.
But instead of running down the list with a bunch of speculating, I instead got a chance to interview some of the head members of a few of the big teams, including Taylor Hays of T4 Autosport, Justin Tolman of Arkham Motorsport, Bill Kreig of Fast Fwd, Rene Hourian of RNA Motorsport, and Logan Calvin from Calvin Racing Development. Here is what each of these guys had to say about their specific teams, and their own outlook on the new season…
Taylor Hays, T4 Autosport:
MS: Taylor, you scored your second career win in the opener last year, edging out your teammate at the line for the Nuovo victory. Tell us a little about what it takes to win on the “Super Speedway”, and what you think will be in store for us this weekend?
TH: Calling the race at halfway seems to help. All joking aside, Nuovo is all about putting yourself in a position to win and deciding the right time to attack. Early season races on Nuovo in the cold, dense air tend to bunch the field up with the greater draft, so timing the winning move at the right time will likely be the determining factor.
MS: Your three-driver squad for the Team Championship this year is one of the few unchanged lineups heading into the new season. How did the decision come about to stick with Caylee Britain and Andrew Brown for another season, instead of shaking things up as most other squads have done?
TH: Rather than just strictly looking at numbers, I looked at each specific sub team and who is willing to work that little bit harder to achieve success for themselves and their teammates. I went on a flyer last year and experimented with my team lineup and even without a full 30 rounds to score off, we managed a top 10 year and saw massive improvements for Andrew and Caylee in the back half of 2014. Building that momentum in 2015 will be key.
MS: As the name behind the T4 Autosport umbrella, explain a little bit about the team building process your organization went through he in the off-season. As the group that went 1-2 last year, you certainly know how to put a championship winning squad together…
TH: Obviously we have to look at values and see what teams can mathematically be formed. From there, fortunately for us at T4, we have groups of drivers that are very similar in values, so they can be interchanged based on what we feel will be the greater combination of drivers. The large jumps in value for many of our drivers made some pairings difficult, but I suppose that improvement is a good problem to have. Between Pat leaving for the other side of the paddock, and a couple other drivers on different agendas for 2015, we have acquired the likes of Tyler Bryant, ROTY contender Luis Calderon, and Chris Millar to our squads for 2015. Keeping the combination of championship winners Jeff Carson and Chris Carter intact on T4 Eagle, with the addition of High-Five Racing teammate and team championship runner up Tom Zevin will be very interesting to see. They feed off each other, and they will continue to improve and are sure to be contenders from the get go.
MS: As a regular front running in the Series, what do you think will be some of the challenges, or keys to success this season, seeing as how the rules a nearly 100% unchanged?
TH: Well, I personally see 2015 as a bit of a rebound year for myself. While I did win round 1, and T4 Eagle won the team championship, 2014 was average at best for the most part. Getting back in title contention is the number 1 goal, as everything else will take care of itself. The returns of perennial A Main contenders such as the brothers Calvin and Dave Messimer are sure to jumble up the points, and keep the title fight very tight.
MS: First up, tell us a little bit about your 2014 season. You finished up 2013 23rd overall, and runner up in the Rookie fight, and then followed it up with a 21st, and ironically right behind the same guy in points. Points-wise it looked like a solid season, but I got the impression from you it may have been underwhelming by your standards…
JT: If I had to sum up my 2014 season in one word, that word would be “disappointing”. I wanted to build on my solid rookie run in 2013 and carry that momentum forward into 2014. I felt I was on the right track for a while and things started to fall apart around Grands. During Grands, I was slotted into the LCQ with a way outside shot at making it to a transfer spot. Low-and-behold, on the last lap, I had made it through most of the field and in the final transfer spot! That was awesome until I threw it away by over driving the back hairpin and giving the spot back to Severson. Huge bummer. After Grands, I think I put too much pressure on myself to come up with results. I was too focused on the results, and the points, instead of the actual driving. My on track performance suffered because my head wasn’t in the right place.
MS: You have kind of taken the lead under the Arkham tent for the 2015 Season, albeit still with the hands on assistance from its founder Bruce Allen. You guys have also added Patrick O’Keefe into the ‘Team Management’ fray. Tell us a little more about the Arkham squad, how you built your teams, including some of the big name acquisitions you picked up for the new season.
JT: As the Arkham squad continues to grow we have all taken on certain roles. Bruce, like any good leader, has given people tasks that he knows they are strong at. For example, I was tasked with our team’s strategy at Machismo (and that worked out pretty well I must say). Last year, several people had a say in how the sub-teams came about. This year, they almost just fell into place. Unfortunately, this year we wont have Jonathan Vitolo or Charles Eichlin running with us (at least not full time).
However, we have picked up some very strong drivers to fill out the leadership role on each sub-team. Jerott King approached us a few weeks ago saying that he would like an opportunity to showcase his skills under the Arkham banner. And in doing so, offered to bring Wes Dent along as well. How could we turn that down? In order to bring in such high-caliber drivers as King and Dent, we had to match them with a strong rookie field in order play the numbers game to fit within the team caps. Patrick O’Keefe brought in some of his Arizona compatriots to fill that bill. The last piece of the puzzle was picking up Ed Lewis after he showed great promise after his strong 2014 season.
MS: Of all the groups in the paddock, the Arkham Motorsports group, and the T4 Autosport group were the biggest instruments in making the current team format a reality, and now both organizations enjoy a bit of a rivalry. Is it really an Arkham vs T4 battle for the individual drivers, or is it more in jest, and the goals of each driver take precedence over beating certain teams?
JT: The Arkahm vs T4 rivalry is alive and well. It definitely extends down to each and every driver of our squad, as I’m sure it does on their side as well. While we are focused on our own goals and battles with anyone else on the track, it sure feels good to beat T4. It certainly did at Machismo.
MS: Your specific teammates for the new year are Mark Connell and Ed Lewis, a pair of promising sophomore entries. As the most experienced on the team, what do you see are the goals for the squad, and what will it take for your team, or any team to win the championship for that matter?
JT: I couldn’t be happier to have Mark Connell on my team for this year! Mark had an amazing 2014 and collected more hardware than just about anyone on the Arkham squad. I think we are a very strong contender for the team championship. Mark caught on quickly last year and proved he was for real on several occasions. In 2015, we will have to both perform at our bests while coaching and working with Ed as well. Any team that wants to succeed will need to work diligently to ensure their rookie or ‘low scoring’ drivers perform above their 2014 marks.
MS: As far as Justin Tolman is concerned, what are your goals as a driver for the 2015 season? And could we see you run anything outside of just the Super Series, perhaps building of your success in the IronMan Series?
JT: As far as 2015 is concerned, I plan on focusing on the Super Series. I do plan on running the Oval race as well as Machismo though. I wont be a full-time participant in the Ironman season unfortunately. My plan for Super Series is to get the most out of myself and the kart every time I am on track. If I can manage that, the results and points will follow.
Bill Kreig, Fast Fwd – GranStand:
MS: Bill, you finished fifth overall, and fourth in the Team Championship with teammates Ben Marquart and Roman Alekseenkov in 2014. You return this year again with two new drivers under wing, sophomore driver Jake Hood, and 2015 rookie Scott Kennedy. Hood certainly showed well during the Machismo; but very little is know about Kennedy, other than he scored in the mid 200’s in his only appearance last year. Can you tell us a little more about your teammates?
BK: Ben, Roman, and I had a great team year last and we had the potential to challenge for the overall team championship, but unfortunately a couple of scheduling conflicts prevented that from happening. This year’s team also has some great potential in my opinion. Jake had a really good year last year, and I am excited to work with him and help him improve even more this season.
He has some pretty good speed and is really keen to learn and improve, which is awesome. As for Scott, I have been telling him for years that he should come check out the Super Series, and he finally did a race last season. I was really impressed with how quick he was up to speed in that one race he did last year. Scott and I worked together at Saleen, and he would always kick my butt at Dromo and K1 whenever we would go, so I am hoping that he brings that same speed to our team and is able to put up some solid results.
MS: With an all-new team lineup, do you feel that you guys have a shot at the top spot in the Team Championship with this new Team “Fast FWD – GranStand”?
BK: I think the name of the game for the Team Championship is being able to make it to all the races and having solid results from each team member. That being said, any team that does that has a good chance at the Team Championship, but it’s a long season and a lot can happen. I think we have a good shot at the Team Championship and will be keeping my fingers crossed that we are all able to make it to all the races.
MS: 2015 was your best year to date; you scored you maiden win, and made a bit of a comeback in the Season Finale to score the fifth spot on the podium, and the last piece of hardware. Do you see your self as a title contender right out of the gate this year?
BK: Yeah 2014 was a great year and I am excited to see what’s in store for 2015. I think it was great seeing a bunch of new guys on the podium and I hope that trend continues. As always, I expect the competition will be really tight up until the last race of the season. We are all title contenders right out of the gate; I want to be a title contender at the last race of the season.
MS: The season opens up on Nuovo this weekend; what are your thoughts on the course, and what do you expect we’ll see on Saturday? Will Bill Kreig be on the top step?
BK: Nuovo is awesome. Talk about kicking the season off with a bang… It really is CalSpeeds equivalent to a NASCAR restrictor plate race where the person who wins is really just in the right place at the right time. I expect we will see a lot of close and exciting racing throughout the day. I am not sure who will be on the top step of the podium at the end of the day, but I think its safe to say it won’t be the guy who is the first to see the white flag.
Rene Hourian, RNA Motorsports:
MS: For 2015, RNA as gone from a single, yet standout team that finished fifth in the Team Championship last year, to now fielding 4 teams under its umbrella. Talk about the transformation your group has made, including the acquisition of the reigning Super Series champ to its group.
RH: Yep, last year we were worth 600 some odd points starting off, yet we punched so far above our weight that we were the first team to get every driver in the A main in one round. To even finish 5th in the team standings last year made me happy given the tough competition we were up against and how low our initial points value was. I do believe that is mostly to do with the atmosphere I’m trying to create in this team and how each of us believe in it. No one feels under any sort of pressure to perform, no egos, we just go out and do what we do, and we spend a bunch of time helping each other out when we can outside of the karts.
We simply want to take that into the next season while building on it. As for Jon Kimbrell, I feel his personality and mindset really fits this team brilliantly. It’s great to get a driver of his caliber that agrees with our philosophy on RNA, and I truly hope he can help us push this team forwards another step with his knowledge, confidence, and experience.
MS: I see that you are teamed up once again with long time friend, and perhaps more importantly to the championship, standout performer from the 2014 Adam Nagao. You have also bolstered the experience level for your three-man squad by bringing on board Victor Pinieros for the 2015 season. What will it take for your team to build on its fifth from last season, and perhaps grab the title for yourselves?
RH: Looking at all the other teams line ups, and even some of our own, I’m going to be honest, it’s going to be tough securing the team championship for our individual sub-team. All I know for certain is Adam, Victor, and I will be up there keeping everyone honest. Adam and I want to help Victor the same way we helped out Nick, that’s our main goal beyond anything else. He’s going to be the driver we want to push up into the A main, and I’m confident that’ll happen.
MS: You yourself had a stand out year in 2014, finishing inside the top 25, as well as picking up your first every podium finish. What are your goals for the new season? Will you now focus more on the team side of things via the growth of the organization, or will you still be able to focus on your own results?
RH: While I had my first podium, heat win, and some great races, I don’t think it was a standout year for myself. The disappointment roots in that I finished in the top 20 the previous year and this was my first year finishing lower in the standings than the former. Overall I think my driving wasn’t on par to what it was last season in terms of consistency. That is chiefly what I’ll be looking to build on. I think given how our team structure is, I can focus on both the team and myself. It obviously helps to also have Adam and Nick there to support managing the team. Doing it alone would be hard indeed.
MS: With limited rule changes ahead of the new season, what do you think will be some of the biggest challenges faced in 2015, and do you think we may see a shake up in the standings, or more like a status quo from last year?
RH: I suppose with this season we’ll see a little less of what we saw with our team last year. By that I mean a team with an incredibly low value that punches far above their weight. As the sharp end has been getting tighter, the pool of drivers to add to that is getting smaller, and the ability to finish higher up consistently as a result is more and more difficult with more drivers to compete against.
MS: Logan, you took 2014 off after doing double duty in 2013, doing just three Super Series races on the year. That said, you won two, and finished 2nd in the other. Tell us about what we can expect from Logan Calvin here in 2015, returning to the full time schedule, and at the head of your own team.
LC: Hopefully the same results will come in 2015 but I’m sure my competitors will be racing me much harder now that I’m in the points. I’m looking forward to the full season after taking a year off.
MS: Lets talk about your team a little. You have teamed up with a pair of rookies in Kyle Spicer and Drew Zeller, and at this moment, I think is the only team with just a single established driver on it. Tell us a little more about your teammates, and the decision to not go with more experience on the squad.
LC: As far as my team goes, I think it’s more beneficial to have rookies. Rookies have potential for more points. As far as the rookies I’ve chosen I’ve known them for years and I believe they are the best two rookies this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are making A-mains all season.
MS: Going back to you; You had a record setting season in 2012, claiming the Super Series title a round early, as well as scoring the National Championship at the Sport Kart Grand Nationals. In the three races you ran in 2014, it was obvious you haven’t missed a step. That said, do you think things will go a bit differently now that you are running the whole schedule? And do you think you can put together a 2012 like season this year, especially with the way the talent has grown in the series?
LC: In 2012 I was only doing the super series opposed to 2013 when I did both (SS and LAKC). In 2013 I was more focused on the competition karts. Coming into 2015 I’m only doing the SS just like 2012 so hopefully we can see the same results.
MS: Jon Kimbrell just about had the same kind of year last season as you did when you won the Super Series championship. Do you enter the 2015 championship seeing him as the driver to beat, or is there one or more drivers out there that you see will be the biggest challenges to your second title?
LC: I’ve raced against Jon since I was thirteen. He’s like a brother to me, and saying that I never under estimate him. Jon and I always seem to find each other on the track. Other competitors I have my eyes on are Darren, Sergio, Aaron, Diego, and of course my brother. I’m sure there are a few others that will give me a run for my money as well.
MS: Lastly, You finished second here in the spring race last year, and are fresh of wins at the Season Finale, as well as the Machismo 12 Hour. Do you feel like you can ride that kind of momentum into the new year, or does it all start from scratch from your perspective?
LC: I think momentum comes with confidence. When you have confidence you typically drive better. I think having such good finishes last year, my competitors that aren’t regularly top five in points typically work with me more, knowing they can position themselves better by working with me as opposed to racing me.
2015 Team Championship Confirmed Rosters:
-Kelly Bastion [M]
-Duane Lawson [GM]
-Mike Cangelosi [R]
-Mark Connell [M]
-Ed Lewis [GM]
ARKHAM NUCLEAR TUMBLEWEEDS
-Jason Collins [M]
-Sergio Serrano [R]
ARKHAM OFF AXIS
-Rodney Bryant [M]
-Peter Liwanag [R]
CALVIN RACING DEVELOPMENT
-Kyle Spice [R]
-Drew Zeller [R]
FAST FWD – S3
-Sergio Bravo [M]
-Nathan Hood [M]
FAST FWD – GRANSTAND
-Scott Kennedy [R]
FAST FWD – URBAN WORKSHOP
-Mike Arnold [M]
-Jose da Silva [M]
-Doug Lewen [GM]
RNA BRANDS HATCH
-Ariel Rubio [M]
RNA TARGA FLORIO
-Chris Carter [M]
-Jeff Carson [M]
-Tom Zevin [M]
T4 LA PANDA
-Vince Burke [M]
-Luis Calderon [R]
-David Kelmenson [M]
-Steve Spring [M]
-Greg Reinhardt [GM]
-Chris Millar [M]