Four rounds to go, the final ‘Rundown’ to the championship is set…
With eight rounds in the books, and just four remaining in the 2014 Super Series season, the stage has been set for what will be the final drive to the overall, and sub-category championships. Over the past eight races we have seen seven different winners, on six different layouts, over the course of nine months. The next two months will host four races on four different tracks, deciding six different championships, and could possibly see another first time winner. Nearly every championship, and certainly every podium could see a shake up by then end, in what has been a very exciting season so far. In this preview we’ll take a look at the players in each championship, highlighting the top contenders in each category, as well as take a lap around the first of the last four tracks, setting the stage for part one of the 2014 Rundown to the Super Series Championship…
RD’s Spotlight: Track #1 on the Rundown, Classico Counter Clockwise…
Classico CCW debuted at last year’s season finale, and hosted an exciting finish to the championship battle, with Sergio Bravo scoring a come from behind win in the final race of the year. This year it is the first of the final four races in the 2014 Super Series Championship Season, and this time around the twists and turns of the layout are not a mystery to CalSpeed regulars.
The lap starts off with a full throttle entry into the infamous esses section, which by this time is no longer a ‘new’ concept, as a couple different layouts have run them in this direction. Getting through said esses is still crucial to a good lap time, but with the constant accelerating that occurs from the esses, and through Contino, it is not a primary passing zone besides the entry.
From there the back straight will see a lot of jostling for position, especially if things have started two-plus wide heading into the esses. The importance of positioning becomes apparent as the field enters Silk, as that corner dictates how the Hairpin will go, and sometimes can be a passing zone as well. It’s flat out nature is also an edge of your seat feeling, as when things go wrong there it is usually in a big way.
The Hairpin itself is not only a great passing zone, but is also arguably the most important part of the course in terms of a solid lap time, and NOT being passed. Getting through there well means a better run up the hill to ‘Four’, and it is less likely that you will be passed as you crest turn five. It is also crucial just in terms of lap time, as a bobble there will be paid for as the kart struggles to climb the hill.
Turn Four used to be the final shot at making a pass in any of the reverse direction layouts, but with the advent of the new right hander just before the straight, it is the second to last passing opportunity, but also a setup for that new corner. With these new options it makes defending difficult, and we will see several different lines employed there, especially as the laps start to wane.
The varying lines of Turn Four make the final corner all the more exciting, albeit this is not something the off-camber, slick surfaced corner needs. Already one of the most difficult corners to get right alone, adding in another driver with a pass attempt and things can get interesting quickly. More than one final lap attempt has happened here, with the success to tears ratio not necessarily balancing out. Besides the repercussions of pace or passing, it does also dictate the overall speed of the main straight, and that means a chance to make a pass in the aforementioned esses.
In my opinion, this will be a great way to kick off the Rundown, and I am really excited to see how the point battles shake up once the dust settles. With the next track also heading in the reverse direction, we may view this race as part one in a counter clockwise double header, with part two taking to the Grande CCW configuration in four weeks time.
The Overall Championship: Top ten is split in two; Overall and Podium fights…
While there are still a lot of mathematical possibilities, I look at the overall championship and podium fight as two separate battles, with four players each. For the Overall Championship, I think it will come from one of the top four in points right now, and this has a lot to do with their combined point spread of only 63 points. After that I think that we have a similar four-way fight for the final podium spot (5th) currently held by Bill Kreig, with another close split between him and the next three drivers in line: 43 points.
Again, this isn’t to say that this is the only possible outcome, far from it; but instead I think that given the history of these drivers, their proximity in the standings (both in points and position) and their consistency on track, this seems to be the most likely stage these guys are working from. With the throw outs in play, these standings don’t have as much wiggle room as elsewhere in the field, especially with the regularity of front running numbers put up by the group. It will probably be a game of little gains, and avoiding big losses over the next 4 rounds; I don’t see many chances of a 40-50+ gain in one weekend being the regular norm…
1. Jon Kimbrell
2. Patrick Britain
3. Darren Mercer
4. Sergio Bravo
5. Bill Kreig
6. Taylor Hays
7. David Kelmenson
8. Aaron Scott
Overall Top 10 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Rookie Championship: Alekseenkov VS Dent; Wildcard Connell still in…
For the early part of the year, Wes Dent was the guy to beat; in the middle it was Roman. We enter the final four races with these two guys still looking like the ones to beat, and it does seem likely that the mantle of ‘Rookie of the Year’ will be going to one of those two guys. That said, the only thing that sees Mark Connell a little further back is his lack of consistency compared to the leaders. All three of these guys have put up numbers that say that they could take home the title come November, Roman has just don it more often, which is why he leads. Certainly the title will go to one of this trio, but the rest of the rookie field has grown a lot over the past 9 months, and will add to the already mass of drivers between these guys and their goal: Rookie Championship.
Rookie Title Contenders:
1. Roman Alekseenkov
2. Wes Dent
3. Mark Connell
Rookie Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Masters Championship: Bravo VS Kelmenson and Spring VS Blank…
Back to back to back… to back? That is what perennial champion Sergio Bravo is looking to at the end of this season, and heading into the final four rounds he has dispatched all challengers save one: David Kelmenson. David has emerged as one of the next great sport karting Masters drivers at CalSpeed, picking up his first A-Main win this summer before finishing on the Sport Kart Grands podium, and now has a shot at the Super Series Masters title as well. Bravo has the slight edge going in, but there is so little between these two, it may be the best mano-e-mano title fight we have this year.
Behind them is the fight for the final podium spot, currently held by Steve Spring, who took over the spot for the first time all year after round #9. The two point advantage over Ben Blank is negligible though, with Blank having held the spot most of the year, and the more experienced of the two. Both are have strong years, and are quite equal to each other, a mirror image to the pairing at the front of this class. It will be blow for blow between these two to the end, with the added wildcard of the minimal advantage they have over 5th. Too large a slip and this is a podium battle that could include a few more players…
1. Sergio Bravo
2. David Kelmenson
3. Steve Spring
4. Ben Blank
Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Grand Masters Championship: Kimbrell new leader; 3-way fight for title…
Brian Starr has been the leader in this class nearly from the get go, but Dennis Kimbrell took of the top spot this past round on Classico. Regardless of who leads this front trio that also includes Jeff Latimer, are all have really great seasons here in 2014. Dennis has indeed been on fire as of late, showing very well in both the Super Series, and the IronMan Series. Peaking at just the right time sees him as the man to beat right now, and although Starr has faltered a bit of late, he put up stellar numbers early in the season, and could do it again. For his part, Latimer has been very consistent throughout the past 8 rounds, but hasn’t had the ‘big days’ in the points like his counterparts. Finding a little bit more over the final four rounds could see him steal away a title from the front two…
1. Dennis Kimbrell
2. Brian Starr
3. Jeff Latimer
Grand Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Heavy Championship: To clinch or not to clinch? Jasinski Leads…
It is nearly a forgone conclusion that Steve Jasinski will be the Heavy Class Champion for the second year in a row, and the sport karting veteran is already eying a move away from the class for 2015. Now it is more about when, not if he wins it, with the challenge being scoring enough to clinch it early.
Behind him is a great battle for the final two podium spots, taking part by the same two drivers as last year. Mike Arnold holds on to the second spot in the standings by the largest margin all year right now, but his challenger Greg Reinhardt is also running at his best. The point splits between these guys have often times been in the single digits, making gaining on the other guy very difficult. With a sixty-point split with four rounds to go, the game for Mike is consistency, while Greg has to push head, and often to claw back the points. Having worked with the latter as of late, we could see some big things out of a very motivated challenger…
1. Steve Jasinski
2. Mike Arnold
3. Greg Reinhardt
Heavy Class Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Team Championship: Four teams still in it, pressure on the #3 drivers…
Now this is an exciting championship. With the three-driver tam lineups, the variables here a immense, and with four teams still very close in the standings, that makes for a lot of possibilities with four rounds to go.
Leading the way here is T4 Eagle, who on the back of Patrick Britain’s constant presence at either 1st or 2nd overall, has a very strong foundation to build off of. Which is exactly what fellow teammate’s Jeff Carson and Chris Carter have done all season long, having career years in their own right. Carter has been consistent once again, putting up solid numbers form round to round, while Carson is one of the most improved drivers from 2013, scoring well above his assumed pay grade on several occasions. If either of the C&C combo improve upon where they are already, this team will be hard to catch, let alone beat.
Behind our leaders is a group of three teams that all have just as good a shot at scoring the championship in this category; the top four all separated by less than 200 points. The key is going to be putting up consistently strong points from each of the team leads, while seeing a boost out of the #3 drivers on the squad. The stars here will be those that have breakout performances over the next four rounds, especially if their last names are Zevin, Marquart, or Arnott…
1. T4 Eagle (#2 Britain, #24 Carson, #33 Carter)
2. T4 Hesketh (#7 Kelmenson, #8 Scott, #58 Zevin)
3. S3 / GranStand 3 (#5 Kreig, #17 Alekseenkov, #45 Marquart)
4. Arkham 3 (#12 Allen, #13 Eichlin, #40 Arnott)
Team Championship Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
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