Last round cemented a fact that many had already known, and that is that Jon Kimbrell and Sergio Bravo are the two of the greatest drivers in CalSpeed history, each securing yet another title to their extensive resume’s. For Kimbrell it would be his third Super Series title in the five-year existence of the series, while Bravo claimed his astonishing 4th consecutive Masters title, one of only two drivers to ever earn the distinction of ‘Masters Champion’. And while the outcome of that round also meant that certain other drivers missed their chance to claim glory for themselves, it does nothing to diminish the talent level of the field, or their accomplishments. Championships won this year are well earned, as we have one of, if not the most talented group of drivers in the history of the series.
Here in the final race on the Rundown, we may see both the Overall and Masters titles already decided, but plenty is still up for grabs; including the Rookie, Grandmasters, and Team Championships, and the rest of the overall podium. In this final preview for the 2014 Super Series season, we’ll take a look at the drivers still in position to earn some hardware, as well as some of the milestone marks we have been keeping an eye on in these final four races. The stage has been set, and what better place to settle the final score than Sportivo?
RD’s Spotlight: We complete the Rundown on Sportivo…
Debuting at the Sport Kart Grand Nationals in 2012, ‘Sportivo’ was an instant favorite amongst drivers, providing both a challenge behind the wheel, and some of the best passing opportunities at CalSpeed. The two unique things about this track are the downhill left-hander ‘Sportivo’, and the sharp right hand hairpin that follows dubbed ‘Monaco’.
The tricky bit about the Sportivo corner is not just the obvious fact that the apex is late and blind, but it also the fact it is off-camber gets people. Getting it right means good lap times, and more importantly, a run to a potential pass into Monaco. Getting it right also begs to push for a little bit more, which is where we sometimes see even the best in the business get it wrong. And when you do get it wrong, it can range from a little slide, to a jump over the curb; a trip through the run off, or worse: a face full of tires.
In Monaco we see a corner that is like a marriage between the ‘Long Beach’ corner, and the ‘Grande Hairpin’, offering both a blind apex, and a very tight radius. Combined with the run down the back straight, (albeit a bit shorter then when heading through Contino), and you have a high braking zone that equates into a great passing opportunity. Like Sportivo, this corner baits a driver to push a little harder; a little later on the brakes, or earlier on the throttle; many times ending in tears instead of triumph.
Getting these two sections right will be key to any driver looking to end the year on a high note, and there are a few in attendance that have an already sterling record at the sub-minute layout. First on this list is #2 in the points, and fresh off his first win of the year Darren Mercer, who also won the inaugural race on this layout in 2012. Next is David Kelmenson, who scored his first career victory in the June run on this layout, and currently sits 6th in points and in the hunt for the podium, followed by podium contender and #7 in points Bill Kreig, who has scored a pair of podiums here, and will be looking to bounce back from missing the previous round.
And with former champ Logan Calvin and his brother Miles Calvin (each Sportivo Aces) in attendance this weekend, it will do no small thing to shake things up at the sharp end…
RD’s Spotlight-2: 2014 Season Finale brings a few records under threat…
The end of a season also sees us take a look at the stat book, and whether or not anyone has a shot at etching themselves in history, never mind their final place in the standings. This year is no different, and we’ll be keeping an eye on a few records that could change hands, or already have and will have a final number by them when the checkers fall:
Single Season Pole positions-
Aaron Downs has 2, and can break the record with a pole on Saturday
Logan Calvin could keep a streak alive of having 2 poles per year since 2011
Single Season Heat wins-
Both Darren Mercer and Jon Kimbrell are tied with 11 so far, which ties the current record
Single Season Podiums-
Jon Kimbrell has 7, and can break the record with a podium on Saturday
Sergio Bravo has 5, and can break the Masters record with a podium on Saturday
Single Season Fast Laps-
Both Charles Eichlin and Aaron Scott are tied with 7 so far, and can match the current record with 2 more, or break it if either one gets fastest lap in all three races
The Overall Championship: Kimbrell is the Champ; eyes turn to the podium…
Jon Kimbrell nailed the final coffin nail into the championship with his 2nd place last round, and will be heading into the Finale looking to win, but with no pressure to do so. The rest of the podium however is anything but relaxed, as the battle for the final four podium spots is split amongst seven different drivers…
#2 in the standings is Darren Mercer, having stole away the runner up spot via his win last round, bumping perennial front runner Patrick Britain to #3, and 22 points astern. Immediately on the heels of Britain is the 2013 champ Sergio Bravo, who needs to find just 26 points to jump to second in the final standings. All three drivers have clinched a place in the top 4, and with first already decided, second is certainly the mark they’ll be shooting for. Of the three, only Britain has yet to win this year, and one might wonder if getting just an A-Main win in his last hurrah could be motivation enough…
The Podium Fight: Hays has it, but has Kelmenson, Kreig at his heels…
An aggressive race from Taylor Hays last round saw him push the envelope, and take the fight to the front, putting together a strong enough day to take the 5th spot from the absent Bill Kreig. Kelmenson had an equally strong day to stay in sixth, but neither was strong enough to put Kreig out of contention; the trio now separated by just 25 points. Like the battle for the three spots in front of them, only one of the three has yet to win this year, and that is Kreig. He has a good shot to remedy that this weekend though, with his pair of podiums on Sportivo boding well for his chances. Kelmenson is the most recent winner on this layout though, and may be the favorite of these three to put up the points needed to bring home the final podium spot.
The long shot for some hardware here is going to be Aaron Scott, who currently sits 51 points back from Hays’ mark in fifth, and will need a lot of things to go his way to get it done. Hands down one of the biggest surprises for the 2014 season, perhaps he has one more surprise left up his sleeve…
Overall Top 10 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Top 10 Fight: Eichlin storms to the mark; will have to fend off a charge…
Charles Eichlin ranks right up there with Aaron Scott as one of the biggest surprises of 2014, and aside from Scott has put together the strongest effort of all other sophomore entries. This past weekend saw everything click for ‘Chuck’, and he stood toe-to-toe with each of the overall contenders in his midst for a top 5 result. He’ll need another one of those performances to hold onto the final top 10 spot, and keep Jerott King and Kirk Feldkamp at bay, the two drivers that have held it prior all year long. With only 15 points separating the lot, this one could very well come down to a battle for position on track in the waning moments of the season.
Behind this trio is Adam Nagao and Bruce Allen, who although have had stellar years in their own right, sit a bit too far back to pose a serious threat for the top 10. That said, if disaster befalls all in their path, an upset could be in the making from either of these two…
The Top 15 / Top 20 Fight: The lines between these battles are blurred…
This may be the most exciting section in the entire standings, as it not only holds the bragging rights for a top 15 or top 20, but also the fight between Ben Blank and Steve Spring for the final podium spot in the Masters Class, and the season long war between Wes Dent and Roman Alekseenkov for the Rookie Title. Advantage belongs to Blank heading in, as he holds a slim 5 point lead over Chris Huerta for 15th. Of the entire group, Huerta is arguably the strongest, dropping out of a bid for the top ten after missing the previous round. That said, we have seen a lot of strength from Justin Tolman as of late, and the sophomore driver may have another strong run left in him for the 2014 season.
While still in the hunt for the top 15, Steve Spring (20th) will also look to stave off a final charge from Derek Esquibel and Rene Hourian, each pushing for the honor of a top 20 final standing; if not the Top 15. Whatever happens when the final checkers fall, two from this group will be on the outside looking in…
The Top 30 Fight: Lots of unpredictability heading to the Finale…
The immediate look around the 30th position sees a group of drivers that are all pretty close to each other, with the center five separated by only 50 or so points. However, if we look a little further out we’ll see that as far up to 25th, and as far back as 35th are still in he 100ish point range, a gap that is not insurmountable by any driver in this group. With the ebb and flow of improvement seen in this bunch anything is possible, and drivers who are peaking late in the season like Nathan Hood have a really good shot of a strong finish to the season. Many drivers in this here have other things they are playing for besides just these bragging rights, and that extra motivation could be all that is required for a stellar season finale. For instance, the entirety of the Grand Masters podium is included here, as well as 4th-6th in the rookie standings; and then there is Chris Carter, looking for a strong run to help his team secure the Team Championship. Expect a lot of moving and shaking in this group throughout Saturday…
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The Rookie Championship: DENT vs ALEKSEENKOV; down to the final round…
The 2014 Rookie championship battle is one of the best in Super Series history, with the two title contenders within 22 points coming into the final round. Ironically, both drivers are also out-of-towners, each hailing from the Nor-Cal region, making the trek to the southern California track on a monthly basis. They have both had their time in the sun as well; each scoring a heat win, and a fastest lap of the race honor this year, while scoring points inside the 300+ range on multiple occasions. Dent has turned things up here in the later stages of the season, and although Alekseenkov’s consistency seemed to falter for a couple races in the waning months, he came back strong in the penultimate round to set the final stage. Both are deserving of the title, but only one will end the season as Champion.
Lets take a closer look at our contenders:
Heat wins- Each has one…
Fastest Lap honors- Again, tied with one…
Top 3’s- Advantage Dent: 6 to 3
Top 5’s- Roman leads, 9 to 8
Highest points day- Roman again, 375 to 355
Throw Out- Wes has the cushion, 221 to 205
Avg point total (last 3 races)- Late charge by Dent, 328 vs 271
Last time on Sportivo- Its all Roman, 375 to 283
Favorite for the championship? Your guess is as good as mine…
Rookie Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Masters Championship: Bravo Scores 4th consecutive Title…
“Four in a row”. Sergio Bravo sealed the deal on his 4th consecutive Masters Championship last round, finding the overall podium for the 5th time this season in the process. And while not as strong a day as Sergio, David Kelmenson put together another solid performance, locking away the 2nd spot in the championship as well. With the top two spots locked in, all eyes now turn to the final spot still up in the air…
Ben Blank added a little more cushion to his lead over Steve Spring in the fight for the final podium spot, now with 90 marks between he and his rival. That being said, both drivers have had some up and down races this year, and that means no one can rest on their laurels. 90 points is a tall order to be sure for Spring, but the 2013 Rookie of the Year has done it before, and can’t be counted out.
There is also a bit of bragging rights up for grabs here too, as Jeff Carson holds the 5th spot in the standings over rookie podium runner Mark Connell by just 9 points. While not a hardware spot, there is no doubt both drivers would love to finish the year out inside the top 5.
Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Grand Masters Championship: KIMBRELL vs STARR, the final fight begins…
This knockdown, drag-out fight for the inaugural Grand Masters Championship goes down to the final round Saturday, with Dennis Kimbrell leading Brian Starr by just 40 points heading in. This Title Fight is like the movie Rocky, with each Fighter knocking the other back, but not out, and each coming back to take it to another round. Lets take a look at the fight so far, as we head into the 11th and final round:
Round #1- Starr (291-226)
Round #2- Kimbrell (248-234)
Round #3- Kimbrell (268-169)
Round #4- Kimbrell (285-262)
Round #5- Starr (350-122)
Round #6- Starr (188-44)
Round #7- Kimbrell (292-259)
Round #8- Kimbrell (304-138)
Round #9- Kimbrell (305-133)
Round #10- Starr (257-75)
Final Round- ???
Each one has knocked the other down before, staring down at the canvas with a ‘stay down’ look, as is evident from Starr’s round five and ten, and Kimbrell’s round eight and nine. And each time they keep bouncing back, pushing on and reeling in the advantage, clawing back an opportunity at the title. Saturday will decide it all, and there is no clear-cut favorite; made all the more interesting when you remember one thing…
These guys are teammates.
Grand Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Heavy Championship: Podium all but Official…
Nothing is clinched mathematically, but it looks like things will stay as they are given the point earning trends of the top three. Steve Jasinski cemented himself early in this championship as the guy to beat, and will contest the final round as he did one round ago, and that is at the 200lbs mark. Mike Arnold will unfortunately be forced to miss the finale, as business priorities tear him away from the final race of the year, and Greg Reinhardt is comfortably in the 3rd position. And while Greg still has a mathematical shot at moving up, it looks like the top three will end as they did last year, albeit much, much closer.
Heavy Class Top 3 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Team Championship: Eagle VS Hesketh; Winner Takes All…
Last round I wrote about Tom Zevin needing to come through with a big result to get his team close enough to mount a final charge, and he did just that, posting up a career best of 226 points to put T4 Hesketh within 80 of their prize. His teammates David Kelmenson and Aaron Scott put in solid days as well, and if the trio can match or improve on that result, the pressure could be on the leaders.
And those leaders are their sister team of T4 Eagle, led by Patrick Britain, and bolstered by Jeff Carson and Chris Carter, who actually had one of their tougher rounds a couple weeks ago. This group has set the bar all year long, and if they hit their projected value, they should be the ones to beat. With both Carson and Carter taking to the Race Clinic this past weekend, the chances of that happening are all the more possible…
Aside from the title fight, there are still lots of bragging rights up for grabs:
At only 83 points back, Arkham could bump S3 / GranStand from the top 3 with the realization that Ben Marquart will be absent, which gives them only Bill Kreig and Roman Alekseenkov to score points. Arkham’s Bruce Allen, Charles Eichlin, and Ashley Arnott will need only to score solid points to steal away the spot, with Arnott having the most control over their destiny.
NorCal 1 is looking to hold onto the miniscule 10 point lead it has over RNA Motorsports for the honor of top 5 best teams, a mantle they have traded with them multiple times already. NorCal 1 drivers Jerott King, Wes Dent and Keith Lafaver will need to fire on all cylinders to hold onto that position too, as RNA’s Adam Nagao, Rene Hourian, and Nick Marascio have been putting up some very good numbers as of late.
Whether it is top 3 or top 5 bragging rights, it will all probably come down to the final corner, of the final lap…
Team Championship Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
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