Super Series 2018 Round #9 Preview

For 2018 the month of September brings the penultimate round in the Super Series championship, with the Classico Counter Clockwise layout playing the host track for round #9 on the season. While Classico is the original of CalSpeed layouts, its counter-clockwise version didn’t get its start until 2013 at the season finale, with a total of only five events ever being run here. There has been a different driver on the top step every time we have been here thus far, and with the trend of new and different winners so far this season, we are likely to add a sixth to that total. Past winners here, Aaron Scott and Jose da Silva, will be in attendance to keep that from happening, while Sean Fite returns fresh off his first career win last month at the Classico Grand Prix to try and add to his total as well.

And though the race win is something everyone will be aiming for once the green flag flies, there are also championship battles that hang in the balance; most notably the overall 2018 Super Series title. Alyssa Yauney enters with a very large lead on the back of an extremely consistent year and aims to wrap things up here this weekend. Her closest competition -the aforementioned Fite- will look to match Yauney’s feat of earning two wins this year, and push the title fight to the Season Finale in November. It will be an exciting day, to say the least, and on a track that has hosted some of the best racing ever at CalSpeed. Get ready for a memorable Super Series Round #9…

Classico CCW Flashback: 2017 Round #8 – September 9th
Maiden victory steals the spotlight from a championship battle…

From last year’s online mag:
“In the waning rounds of a racing season, more and more eyes start to train themselves on the point standings, and for the 8th round in the 2017 Super Series championship, most eyes were on just two drivers. One trying to sew things up early, and the other trying to keep him from doing it. There were many other point battles going on up and down the order, but the fight for points seemed to almost eclipse the fight for the overall victory.

Sean Fite scored some valuable early points with his second career pole to kick things off, but as things carried on into the heat races, three other drivers would steal away the spotlight. In perhaps the first time in Super Series history, three drivers each did the sweep, scoring both heat race wins to score the first three spots in the A-main order. Overall podium challenger Alyssa Yauney joined both of the championship contenders Patrick Britain and Taylors Hays in this feat, the trio keeping a lockdown in the heats while scoring nearly maximum bonus points as well.

Patrick Britain would lead the field away for the start of the 15 lap A-Main, and while challenged immediately, would also finish out the first lap in the lead. Unfortunately, as the driver looking to sew things up a couple rounds early, that would be the last lap he would lead; first, his title rival Taylor Hays stole away the top spot, and then Jon Kimbrell followed suit. Britain would stay in the hunt, however, keeping the pressure on the one driver he needed to beat, even while Hays would trade the lead a few times with Kimbrell. That pressure would be a big factor in the outcome of this race; it allowed more drivers to join the fray, including podium contender Charles Eichlin and Masters point leader Jose da Silva. In the final few laps the infighting became even more fierce, with da Silva finding the lead with about four laps remaining. Hays had the best shot at the Brazilian, and heading to the white flag he took a look to the inside of a very defensive da Silva. Room was given, but contact through the Esses saw Kimbrell and Hays run wide, with Eichlin in the perfect place to capitalize through the Contino Carousel -slotting in right behind da Silva. Eichlin wanted his 3rd win of the year -but da Silva wouldn’t be denied his very first- and it was a first-time winner across the line. Joining Jose da Silva on the podium was Charles Eichlin, and Jon Kimbrell -who fought off a gaggle of drivers behind him for his second podium in a row.”

Top 5 Drivers Classico CCW:

  • Jon Kimbrell- 1 win, 2 podiums, 3 heat wins, 6 Heat T3’s, 3 Fast Laps
  • Aaron Scott- 1 win, 2 podiums, 4 Heat T3’s, 1 pole, 1 Fast Lap
  • Sergio Bravo- 1 win, 1 podium, 3 heat wins, 6 Heat T3’s
  • Wes Dent- 1 win, 1 podium, 1 heat wins, 4 Heat T3’s
  • Jose da Silva- 1 win, 1 podium, 2 heat top 3’s, 1 Fast Lap

Smitty Spotlight: When a championship hangs in the balance…

The funny thing about getting down to the end of a season is how each race seems to be more important than the last; round #9 pays the same amount of points as the season opener, but that isn’t how it feels. Instead, the pressure of the results or the feeling of running out of time starts to take hold. And when we strap up the helmet to go do the same thing we have done all season long, the weight of the possible championship grows heavier than ever. You start thinking about every scenario that could play out, and each counter you may have to do to achieve the needed result. Your title rivals; where are they starting? Are they in a position where they can win it themselves? Things that you never would have thought about a couple of events prior now seem to be matters of life and death.

Leading up to the event, you look at the points, sizing up your competition; gauging the chances they may have, or the possibility of your title hopes to become a reality. Was I stronger than them on this track? If I have a bad heat, where do I need to finish in the Main? Naturally, the possibilities are endless, and all the worrying in the world doesn’t make a difference in the outcome. In the end, all we can do is the same thing we have done all season long; try and put perfect laps together, to put a perfect race together. The points will take care of themselves.

I caught up with the guy who was in this same situation last year -reigning Super Series champ Patrick Britain- and got his take on what it was like to enter a possible clinch scenario for the championship:

“For me, there was technically a clinch scenario in play with two rounds to go, but I wasn’t able to quite make it happen. So even though I was in a position where the outcome was all but assured, I was still frustrated with myself for not locking it down. So for the next month, I was just obsessive. Calculating points and scenarios and memorizing every possible situation so I could know how aggressive to get based on the situation. Day of, I was pure nervousness. Taylor Hays (who was 2nd) had to be basically perfect all day to keep any hope alive for himself, yet I was still very much in doomsday mode. Expecting and planning for the worst. Once I clinched it with a podium finish in the A-Main, it was a feeling of 90% relief and 10% elation. Being in the title race is a ton of work mentally, but the most important thing is to shut every emotion down once the helmets are on. If I let these emotions in during a race, I’d never have won.”

Overall Championship: All eyes on the championship hopefuls…

After her fourth podium of the year last month, Alyssa Yauney was able to distance herself from most of her closest rivals, and now carries a very healthy lead with two events remaining. The lone title rival to make any inroads last round was none other than Classico GP and first-time winner Sean Fite, who was able to jump up from fifth in the points to second. Still, his ten-point gain was only able to trim her advantage to 119 heading into tomorrow’s event, meaning a lot of things will need to go right for him and the rest of the challengers to reel her in. Specifically, Fite & company have to outscore Yauney by 35+ points this weekend to force things to the finale; if she still has an 85+ point lead when the day ends, she is the champ. Sean has actually outscored Yauney on three different occasions this year, but only once by more than 35…

And all of the top six are actually still mathematically still in it; however Taylor Hays (6th) basically has to go perfect the next two rounds with Yauney dropping them both, and Charles Eichlin (5th) isn’t much different for him to come out on top. Never mind the rest of the top 5 contenders. No, it looks like if there is going to be a challenge to the title, Sean Fite, Chris Huerta (3rd), and Diego Morales (4th) look to have the only shot; and no matter what, they all need her to essentially drop -or damn nearly- the final two events.

Outside of the title fight, the battle for the Top 5 -and the hardware at season’s end- is an awesome one, with 2nd-7th still less than 80 points apart. Both Patrick Britain (8th) and Paulo Franca (10th) are slated to miss this weekend’s event, but the 2017 Super Series rookie of the year TJ Blackledge (9th) is still in the hunt, sitting just 47 points astern from the 5th and final hardware spot. This weekend most likely won’t decide much in terms of who will find the top five, but it is certainly going to set up one helluva exciting finish to the season in November…

Top 10 Overall Standings After 2 drops (best drop)

1)Alyssa Yauney2272(335)
2)Sean Fite2153(280)
3)Chris Huerta2128(342)
4)Diego Morales [M]2125(321)
5)Charles Eichlin2086(283)
6)Taylor Hays2078(307)
7)Alexander Bermudez [M]2075(255)
8)Patrick Britain2064(320)
9)TJ Blackledge2039(263)
10)Paulo Franca2026(272)

Masters Championship: Title Fight between Morales and Bermudez closer than ever…

It isn’t every year that we get to see a title fight come down to the last couple of races in the Masters category, but this season we see a great one between one of the all-time veterans in the sport, versus a relative newcomer. Diego Morales has been the man out front all season and has sat as high as second in the overall standings at one point. His rival -Alexander Bermudez- as been in second for much of the season, albeit with a rougher start at the opener and an absence in round #4. Now with just two events remaining, the two are just 50 points apart; but the latter has been on a surge lately…

The first half of the year pretty much belonged to Morales; scoring a podium in round 4, while never finishing outside the top 10 in the A-main, including 7 out of 10 heat races in the top 3. Since the start of the second half of the season, however, Bermudez has outscored Morales by 26+ points every round, including also scoring three top 5 A-Main finishes in the past four events. While Morales jumped out to the early lead, Bermudez has been chipping away at it ever since, but the pair is extremely equal on paper in terms of results. This weekend will be an exciting one to watch, and will certainly be a stage-setter for an even more exciting Season Finale!

Behind the top two is the current reigning Masters Champ Jose da Silva; while he has a pretty solid hold on the third and a final piece of hardware, it has certainly been a challenging season, to say the least. Returning to the sight of his maiden victory from last season will certainly be a boost, and he will for sure be a threat for the top step in tomorrow’s A-Main. And while the top three look to be the ones earning the hardware for 2018, the bragging rights for the top 5 is a three-way fight between Spring, Bryant, and Rubio, with the latter 11 points out in 6th. Spring has been a perennial front-runner in the category, while Rubio has been in or around the top 5 all season. The new driver in the mix, however, is the Sportsman point leader Rodney Bryant; on a surge lately as he tries to bring home the title in the other category, the by-product has been his steady climb in the overall rankings, and a move to 5th in the Masters category. With all three separated by just 15 points, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top!

Top 5 Masters Standings After 2 drops (best drop)

1)Diego Morales2125(321)
2)Alexander Bermudez2075(255)
3)Jose da Silva1917(263)
4)Steve Spring1780(249)
5)Rodney Bryant1776(211)

Grand Masters Championship: Round #9 a pivotal one in the championship…

The see-saw between current point leader Tom Zevin and second place Jeff Latimer looked to possibly stabilize last month, with the two separated by just 8 points when the final scores were tallied. This is a stark contrast from what we have seen the rest of the year, where the two have outscored one another by 47 or more points in 6 of the 8 rounds so far. When you figure that the two are currently just 47 points apart on the leaderboard, it is obvious this thing is still wide open. Latimer has been slightly more consistent per round, but since starting off the year rough with a pair of drops, Zevin has been the class leader in point hauls with the top two events by a GM driver so far. Each has shown they can be the 2018 Grand Masters Champion; the question is on which side will the see-saw land?
And behind those two in the standings is the 2017 Grand Masters Champ Tony Wika; we saw a glimpse of the old Wika last month at the GP, coming in as top earner in the class at the same place he scored his career-high total a year before. Still, he is going to need to get back to his 200+ point earning ways from last year if he is going to have a shot at stealing back a chance to go back-to-back this year. Add to that a pressuring Brian Starr 49 points astern, and there is plenty of fire to go have a career day this weekend, something the latter has been on the verge of a few times this season. Multiple occasions have we seen Starr look like he could be the one to beat, but something always seems to happen. If he can go incident free for the duration of round #9, things could get really interesting for the Season Finale…

Top 5 Grand Masters Standings After 2 drops (best drop)

1)Tom Zevin1253(151)
2)Jeff Latimer1206(168)
3)Tony Wika1144(150)
4)Brian Starr1095(0)
5)Gilbert Perez710(71)

Sportsman Championship: The Veteran vs The Newcomer vs The Kid…

Rodney Bryant is the veteran; he has won a championship before within the old Heavy Class and comes in with a head of steam as the current leader and fresh off a Sprint Series win. Milne is the Newcomer; making his Super Series debut this season from running IronMan last year, he has proven to be an immediate front-running threat in sprint-style racing. The Kid, Sam Hunt; one of the straight-up fastest young drivers at CalSpeed right now, Hunt has shown that he lacks nothing in pace, and is steadily improving the rest of his game to be a title threat here.

With just two rounds to play, the inaugural season for the Sportsman Championship sees these three drivers split away to become the de-facto challengers for the championship, each with a very realistic chance of coming away with the title. Last month at the Classico GP saw all three of the protagonists’ match some of their season-high performances, and they all look to be running as good as ever now when it counts. Current point leader Rodney Bryant put up his season best and 2nd 300+ point day with a 326, while second place Scott Milne scored his second 300+ day of the season, backing up his class-leading high of a 340 with a 319 and a heat race win. Early tone setter Sam Hunt became the first Sportsman driver to score his third 300+ point day this season, once again finishing with the highest finish total in the heat races. Both Hunt and Bryant even carried their bout into the Sprint Series a couple of weeks ago, with Bryant coming out on top, while Hunt finished third and closed in on the Series championship. Anything can happen in the final two rounds, as all three are separated by just 86 points, and we have seen over 100 point swings already…

Looking at the rest of the top five, it remains unchanged in the order after the GP; Tony Chen’s absence from last round saw Dmitry Korotkov close up for bragging rights in 4th -but just 20 points back in 6th is Mark Sternberg. His bragging rights game is strong and he is looking to finish 2018 in the top 5, scoring a near 300-point day at the GP. With the added information that Tony Chen will likely miss this next round as well, the possibility of Sternberg finishing on the leaderboard is even stronger.

Top 5 Sportsman Standings After 2 drops (best drop)

1)Rodney Bryant1776(211)
2)Scott Milne1715(203)
3)Sam Hunt1690(161)
4)Tony Chen1542(188)
5)Dmitry Korotkov1526(188)