Race Two of Four for ‘The Rundown’: we go backwards for the final time…
Our Rundown through the final four races makes it’s second stop on its way to the championship, and in this preview we’ll open things up to look closer at the standings, and some of the milestone point markers to fight for. Additionally, we’ll look at how our first race affected the hardware battles, look at who’s in, who’s out, and who may have an outside shot.
This weekend looks to be the coolest we have had since springtime, and the chance of rain in the forecast shows Summer is certainly over. But while the temps will be cool, driver ambitions and action on course is sure to anything but, as this round will set up all the ‘math’ needed to determine the final point battles. Now is the time to peak. Now is the time to reach your potential. Now is the time to set yourself up for the final push. Because you may not get another chance…
RD’s Spotlight: Track #2 on the Rundown, Grande Counter Clockwise…
Grande Counter Clockwise (CCW) was the very first CalSpeed track I experienced when I moved here in 2011, and still is one of my favorites to this day. The backwards run through silk is one of the most exhilarating corners of any track I have been too, and as a driver that loves the ‘chess match’ of racing, this track gives ample opportunities to use your craft.
The track has seen a few ‘adjustments’ from the original version we used to run on, with ‘Short Beach’ swapped out for Long Beach, as well as the new right hander onto the main straight, both in an effort to control engine rpms. Thankfully both changes have only served to further add character to the layout, keeping the configuration a favorite amongst most drivers. There are two key differences between this, and other reverse layouts that help set it apart, and that is the Short Beach corner, and the subsequent full throttle run from there, through Horseshoe, and the fast entry into Contino.
Short Beach, while still a hairpin, is completely different from the old Long Beach corner that was used, and as such has a completely different approach. Drivers are able to go deeper on the throttle on entry, which allows not only a few more options when passing, but actually makes it easier to defend when coming under attack. Drivers holding the outside on their opponents gives them preferred line into the long Horseshoe corner, so not getting it done in Short Beach can turn into multiple positions lost via the ‘freight-train’ from there to Contino.
Contino itself is a lot different from when it is used as an extension of the esses on the Classico CCW layout, as the entry speed is much higher, forcing drivers to not only be specific with their line choice, but also their inputs. With multiple ways through the corner, this is also a good opportunity to make passes happen, and will be an action packed section of the track.
The last time we were on Grande CCW was for the 8th round in August, where past Super Series champ Logan Calvin showed up to not only score the Overall win, but re-set the record for most points in a day. Logan is not on the entry list for this weekend, but the drivers that completed that podium are: Jon Kimbrell and Sergio Bravo. In fact, the entire top 9 in current points were in the top 10 that day, with Taylor Hays being the exception, but that’s because he missed that round. This round does favor experience, and it will be interesting to see if experience shines through again as we take to the course for the second time this season…
The Overall Championship: Kimbrell riding high; go time for Bravo, others…
Jon Kimbrell has momentum on his side with back to back wins, and for his rivals, has distanced himself dangerously far away this deep in the season. While the 62 point gap to Patrick Britain is not insurmountable, when these guys are only making up 20ish points a round, things start to become a bit more clear with three rounds remaining. It is certainly go time for Bravo, who will need not only a stellar final run to the end, but a bit of help to make it back to back championships, while Britain and Darren Mercer may be able to live with ‘just staying in front’ of Jon for these final three races to have a shot at their first title. Well, Jon and Pat in Mercer’s case.
As it is for all drivers this round, tomorrow’s points haul will be a pivotal part of the championship. Either they continue to fight forward, or they make sure they don’t slide back, but this round will be the final stage setter.
I think the top four drivers will still be our top four come seasons end, but the question is, in what order?
The Podium Fight: Scott needs some help to get in this thing…
Tough thing about fighting at the sharp end of the standings, there aren’t typically big swings in points; you tend to ‘chip away’ instead of taking out big chunks. That said, David Kelmenson’s run this past round saw him snag a good 20-30 points over the drivers around him, which is pretty good considering the company.
Bill Kreig has the final podium spot over the aforementioned Kelmenson by just 7 points heading into round #11, and is just 25 points ahead of Taylor Hays in 7th. All three of these guys are firmly in the hunt for that final piece of hardware, and while Aaron Scott isn’t out of it yet, at 43 points astern he’ll need a big performance to stay that way.
Aside from Kreig, this is a T4 onslaught for the final podium spot, and will be interesting to see how much ‘working together’ will really happen when the chips are down. Kreig has been there for the entirety of the season, it is the other three that mount the challenge.
Overall Top 10 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Top 10 Fight: A lot of room to change here; it’s anyone’s guess…
The fight to be a top ten Super Series driver for 2014 is a stout one. Jerott King has the spot currently, and with the rollercoaster year he has had, it is anyone’s guess what to expect. Pace is certainly not the issue; this is the same driver who podium’d at the Grands the last two years. Same could be almost be said for Feldkamp, who aside from missing a pair of rounds was looking to have a possible top 5 run going. Behind these two are a host of drivers that have come into their own over the last season or so, and certainly have what it takes to take the fight to the more experienced duo in front of them. I think it could be the driver that scores more front-half A-Main runs that pull this one out; a singular strong performance won’t do it. Each one of these guys has had a big day this year, lets see who finishes strongest…
The Top 20 Fight: 7+ drivers battle it out, but they won’t all make it…
These seven are in the direct battle for the top 20, but with three rounds still to play, we could see several either enter this battle, or leave to fight elsewhere in the standings. They aren’t too far away from a top 15 run, and they have a few nipping at their heals. One thing is for sure, not all these drivers will likely finish inside the top 20, so who will get left out?
The Top 30 Fight: This is just down right awesome…
25th-35th are separated by 153 points, with 11 different drivers fighting it out and more may join the party. Top 30 in points has a symbolism to it; only 30 make the A-Main, and by the points, this says you are top of your class. It is also a stage setter for goals in the 2015 campaign, where one starts going for the to top 30, but the reaches for bigger and better things. These milestones can be a springboard for drivers, and many have taken these kinds of victories and used them as catalysts for huge growth in the off-season.
Looking at the list below, there is a lot of talent here, many of whom are either up and comers, or front-runners in their respective sub-championships. This may be the most action packed grouping there is on the whole list, and it is just down right awesome…
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The Rookie Championship: And just like that, everything changes…
In a huge turn of events, Wes Dent not only ate up the 100+ point deficit to Roman Alekseenkov, he put 24 between, re-taking the top spot in the standings after a career best run. That performance is not an anomaly, as Dent has shown that a big day was right around the corner, but Roman’s dismal round is very much so. It is unlikely that either of these guys will have another off day like he had, and this will certainly be a knockdown, drag out fight to the finish between these two Nor-Cal Drivers.
That said, Mark Connell put up his 3rd 300+ point day in the last five rounds, and if he could just add a bit of consistency to his game, could be a spoiler come round #12…
Rookie Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Rookie Championship (top 5): Exciting fight for some bragging rights…
It may not be for hardware, but saying you were one of the top five rookies in the 2014 class is a pretty big accomplishment, and in itself is an exciting fight to watch. Moises Lizama has been steady for much of the year, coming on strong mid-season, while both Nathan Hood and Riley Dugan are peaking here at the end of the year. In Patrick O’Keefe we have a driver that started off strong, had a rough mid part of the year, but is now finding his stride again. Again, it isn’t hardware, but bragging rights are about equal to gold for rookies, and it would be a great boost to their 2015 plans.
The Masters Championship: Kelmenson closes, and Blank strikes back…
Kelmenson clawed back 33 points to be within 76, while the flip-flop supremacy between Blank and Spring continues with the latter stealing back the final podium spot. This is still a Bravo vs Kelmenson fight to the end with the latter certainly going at it 100% to earn his first title, but Bravo won’t just lay over and die for it to happen.
Ben Blank seems to have stopped his steady slide down the charts this past round, while Spring lost the final podium spot with a rough round at the same time. This is a great mano-e-mano fight here, and will be a fun one to watch from the sidelines when they meet each other on track. Both are courteous, but fierce competitors, and it will be a show of just how it should all be done.
The Masters Top 5: Carson and Connell battle for bragging rights…
One is a rookie, one is having a breakout career season, and the two of them see themselves just 18 points apart, and in position to claim a top 5 in the Masters standings for the first time. Mark Connell’s 2014 rookie season, and Jeff Carson’s 2014 campaign are actually very similar, with each one steadily improving, albeit in the face of occasional adversity. This is another one of those ‘non-hardware’ fights, but as with the others, saying you are one of the top five drivers in any category is something to be proud about.
Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Grand Masters Championship: Kimbrell run ends, Starr back at the point…
The flip-flop days continue between new leader Brian Starr and Dennis Kimbrell, with neither of them having a good nor off day at the same time. Interesting thing about this duo is the fact they are also teammates, and actually the fact that they are rarely meeting each other on track helps their fight a bit, but I have a feeling they will be meeting much more in the final three rounds. Both guys have put up big numbers, and if they are each on their game, this one will be an exciting one to watch. Behind them, Jeff Latimer’s steady point hauls have kept him in the game, but at 153 points back, Latimer will need a massive round tomorrow if he is going to score anything more than the third step on the podium.
The Heavy Championship: This one is all about Arnold and Reinhardt…
With Steve Jasinski supposedly taking this round off from the Heavy Category, all eyes will be on the fight for second, which has actually come to an all but do or die scenario for Greg Reinhardt. If he is going to have a shot at the 2nd spot in the category, he is going to have to have a mega round this weekend to eat up a big chunk from Mike Arnold. Not only that, he’ll need the exact opposite form Mike to make this really work. Just like at the sharp end, fight for points at amidships is very difficult to make big gains, but there isn’t enough time to be chipping away…
Heavy Class Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Team Championship: Round #10 one to forget for most, T4 pulls away…
A lot of the drivers connected to the front running teams had a round to forget in round #10, but unfortunately for those in the title hunt, this wasn’t the case for the top two T4 Squads. Now with a healthy lead to 3rd, the pair of T4 teams look to be the favorites with three rounds remaining. Of those two, it is T4 Eagle that was able to even pull away from its sister squad T4 Hesketh, and is certainly the ones to beat right now. Smart driving will keep them at the sharp end, and this weekend will be telling whether or not anyone else will be able to mount a late season challenge.
Team Championship Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
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