Questions, Anticipation loom ahead of Grande Counter-Clockwise action…
Coming out of round two, the talk around the paddock was on the amount of contact seen in recent rounds, and the imminent changes coming from CalSpeed Officials. While this will still be the primary talking point once the event is underway, the question now is whether we will be talking about it this Saturday, or if we’ll have to wait till April?

With inclement weather in the forecast, CalSpeed will be making a call on whether or not the race will be run by end of the day today (Thursday), which will give all of the 120 drivers a heads up in advance, which is needed especially for those coming in from out of town. At the time of this writing the prediction for Saturday was between 80%-100% chance of rain, which doesn’t bode well for the Series, which has not had a rain-delayed race in its four season history…

With the probability of a delayed event fairly high, this preview will take a bit of a different approach, including a look into the specific “why” we don’t race in the rain at CalSpeed, as well as talk shop a little bit about how a driver a can better adapt to what there kart/conditions are telling them. Additionally, we’ll take a little closer look at each of the championships, and how they are shaping up after two rounds in the books…

Racing in the Rain: Why not?

Having come from the Pacific Northwest I have done a good amount of racing in the rain, and it is no secret that my prior employment involved a good deal of it. In fact it was nearly a daily ritual, considering the facility saw more wet days then dry over the course of the year, and both the track and the karts had modifications to make it even remotely possible (we still had issues). It was just part of the game. So then, why isn’t it ‘a part of the game’ at CalSpeed?

Firstly, and the reason touted most often, is the track: The surface at CalSpeed is well known for being a unique anomaly, and this is because of the sealer coat that is needed to keep the asphalt racing surface from cracking, breaking apart, and becoming rough. One of the ways it does this is by keeping water from getting into tiny cracks, then expanding to bust apart the surface. The by-product of that is a track with basically ZERO drainage, something that the aforementioned track in the Northwest had plenty of, and in fact was designed for. It was so porous that there was virtually no standing water at all, and that same porosity gave it enough ‘teeth’ for the slick tires to grip to.

“So put on rain tires!” Aside from the drainage issue (which means a lot of hydroplaning) this lack of porosity also means none of those ‘teeth’ or rough edges for the tires to grip too. In the dry, we get our grip not only from the surface itself, but the fact that our rubber tires are running on rubber laid down on the course. Throw in water and now the grip from the rubber is gone (in fact it is worse, since the oils in the rubber come out), and we have to rely on the grip from the surface; which is again, very smooth. So even though a rain tire is softer AND is treaded, it essentially has nothing to grip to, and without that you have nothing to get the kart to turn.

“But I am descendant from Senna himself! Give me a chance, and I will SHOW you my immense rain skills!” Ok hotshot, you have skills that defy physics, and will be able to get your kart (with slick tires mind you) to turn on ice. Here is our next issue: water + carburetor = motor quits. Fact is, when we run through water it will inevitably get into the carb, in when the carb is getting more water than air/fuel it gives you the proverbial finger, and quits. This can happen no matter how many precautions are taken; it usually just takes going through a puddle to kill the motor, and if you think you can dodge all of them, the immense amount of standing water at CalSpeed basically means the whole bloody track is a puddle (and an eventual LAKE), so it is a matter of when, not if.

“But, but, but…” Shut up. Seriously, think about it. This isn’t a one stint and done series. First there is practice, in which you get soaked. Then you get to wait for qualifying; Repeat. Heat race one; Repeat. Heat race two; Repeat. Main; Repeat. Did I mention that there is sometimes over an hour wait between sessions? Point is, it’s miserable. Cold, wet, and then putting BACK ON your wet gear… Suck fest. So trust me, we’re doing you a favor not racing in the rain, regardless of the fact it isn’t possible in the first place…

RD Spotlight: Getting the most out of your kart…

Something that has come to the surface as of late, and more specifically when we head in the reverse direction at CalSpeed, is a bit of understeer (or push for the NASCAR fan). It reared its head during the IronMan Series event a couple weeks back, and is much more difficult to drive around, as opposed to oversteer (or loose condition, again for my NASCAR-ites). Talking to several drivers, their initial reaction was to drive harder and turn more, which may be what you do if it was in a sweeper (say Horseshoe), but it was happening in a hairpin (Short Beach) and a decreasing radius corner (Contino) for most of drivers interviewed. We’ll take a look at the issue in Short Beach for this example.

What we need to do first is think about where it happens through the corner, what our line through that corner is like, and what we are doing with our inputs (gas/brake/steering wheel). In the case of Short Beach, the understeer is happening from the middle of the corner-off, which is why drivers tried just going in harder, trying to make up for the time lost on exit with a faster entry. This also typically meant an earlier turn in, and with it more required wheel on the exit of the corner, instead of the entry, which compounded the understeer issue. Think about it: The kart is fine in a straight line, so we should be trying to find a way to get our wheel straight sooner, specifically in the area where we are getting the understeer. So if an early apex means more wheel on the exit, then if we turn later, we should be able to start unwinding the wheel and going straighter off the corner, equaling less scrub, and more acceleration.

Knowing more about the fundamentals of not only how to drive a kart, but why we use the tools (throttle/brake/steering) the way we do, will help you find ways to fix issues on course, resulting in better races when you get those “tough kart draws”.

The Overall Championship: Britain in command, consistency prevailing…

If we take a look at only the total points, then it would like current point leader Patrick Britain is out to a very strong lead after only two rounds. Not to take away from the start of his season (or year for that matter, considering he also leads the Ironman Series with a win, and a 2nd), but the Super Series includes two throw outs. For these previews, we’ll be looking at the championship with those throw outs included, which paints a better picture of where everyone actually sits…

Because of this the top 10 is very close, spread out by less than 50 points, while the top 25 are still within 100 points to Britain, even after his stellar start. To put that in perspective, last year’s top 5 were separated by only 49 points at the end; while 6th was over 100 points back. Point is, absolutely nobody can be counted out yet.

Britain’s consistency to start the year gives him a great boost for sure, but we have seen a lot of different drivers at the sharp end, which means there is plenty of competition for the top step. In two rounds we’ve had 9 different drivers in the top 5 at the end of the A-Main, which shows that there are a lot of drivers who have had a legitimate shot at the win already. That said, we have only had 12 different drivers find the top 10 in the past two rounds, which means if you want a shot at some hardware and you aren’t in the top 10 yet, you need to get there sooner rather than later…

Overall Top 10 After Throw Outs (Total Points)

1Patrick Britain 400 (800)
2Jon Kimbrell -5 (739)
3Taylor Hays -10 (733)
4Sergio Bravo -25 (730)
5Kirk Feldkamp -25 (720)
6Rene Hourian -25 (653)
7Darren Mercer -29 (734)
8Jonathan Vitolo -35 (709)
9David Kelmenson -35 (636)
10Alex Herndon -49 (351)

The Masters Championship: Kelmenson strikes back, gives chase to Bravo

Sergio was on the podium for round #1, and then backed it up with a strong 6th place finish in round #2. Who kept him out of the top 5? David Kelmenson.

Kelmenson showed strong pace a few times last year, putting together some very good points on more than one occasion, however, it wasn’t as consistent as the reigning champ. This is the sole thing that he and anyone else in this class will need to make happen to take the fight to Bravo, and given the fact that the champ typically lives inside ‘300 point land’, that is easier said then done. That said, David did it this past round, out-scoring Bravo by 10 points, while both Ben Blank and Jose da Silva were inside the 300 mark as well.

It may be early yet, but this is one class where you can’t afford to wait; it is 100% right out of the gate…

Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)

1Sergio Bravo 375 (730)
2David Kelmenson -10 (636)
3Ben Blank -43 (617)
4Jose da Silva -57 (593)
5Steve Spring -87 (534)

The Grand Masters Championship: Latimer 2nd, but more consistent then Starr

Brain Starr put together a great run in the opener to take command of this sub-category, but it is Jeff Latimer that is showing he may have what is need for this season-long fight, outscoring all other Grand Masters in round #2. In fact he has been the most consistent of the group, and currently leads the class in total points earned.

Dennis Kimbrell and Peter Kushdillion can’t be counted out either, as they are the only other two drivers currently inside the 200+ point mark, and with the pace already to take the challenge to the front. With Hansen not running a full schedule, it may look like this is a 4 –horse race, but there a several drivers just off the coattails of the front five that are improving by leaps and bounds. The next couple of rounds will be telling for this class…

Grand Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)

1Brian Starr 291 (525)
2Jeff Latimer -14 (546)
3Dennis Kimbrell -43 (474)
4Peter Kusdillion -65 (373)
5Steve Hansen -69 (222)

The Rookie Championship: Wes Dent takes over #1; Alekseenkov consistent…

After a near 300 point day in round #1, Wes dent took over the top spot in the rookie division, showing that his pace shown in late 2013 was no fluke. His 16th in the A-Main was the highest finish by a rookie so far this season and firmly puts him as class leader heading into round #3.

He wasn’t the only rookie in the A-Main however, as the highest ranking rookie from the opening round, Roman Alekseenkov, backed up his performance with an A-main appearance and another very strong point haul.

Two rounds in, and these two drivers have set the bar in the class, each finding the A-Main, and have stretched a small lead over the rest of the pack. That said, Both Ashley Arnott and Mark Connell have stayed in the 200+ range in each of the first two rounds, and have been putting the time in to improve even more. With the ebb and flow of the rookie class, nothing is certain, except that nothing is certain. Right now it is advantage Dent, but that could change in a blink of an eye. Maybe even this weekend…

Rookie Top 10 After Throw Outs (Total Points)

1Wes Dent 297 (518)
2Roman Alekseenkov -43 (501)
3Ashley Arnott -73 (445)
4Mark Connell -74 (429)
5Jin Bai -77 (288)
6Danny Downey -84 (380)
7Jeffrey Merrill -84 (359)
8Alfredo Anguiano -96 (201)
9Riley Dugan -97 (339)
10Joe Sabella -102 (306)

Heavy Class: Jasinski backs up Round #1 performance; close fight for 2nd…

So far, Steve Jasinski continues to set the bar in this class, however the drivers behind him have not been able to put together un-eventful rounds as of yet. His ability to put together mid-100+ days consistently puts the pressure on the drivers behind him, who are embroiled in their own battle already. With 2nd-4th separated by only three points, things are obviously tight to see who will be on the podium, but the bigger question is, who will break from the pack to go and challenge for the top spot?

Heavy Class Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)

1Steve Jasinski 162 (308)
2Greg Reinhardt -44 (175)
3Mike Collins -46 (195)
4Mike Arnold -47 (115)
5Max Hilleret -59 (195)

Team Championship: Full rosters, close battles…

Round #2 saw just about every roster in attendance, and subsequently it was the first round where we got a chance to see just how each team stacks up. Two teams new to the top 5 in points fit this bill, as new class leader T4 Eagle and 4th place Random Manufacturing 1 had all three drivers show up, allowing them to score maximum points. Led by Overall Point leader Patrick Britain and strong point earner Chris Carter, T4 Eagle was bolstered by the arrival of Jeff Carson and have taken over the top spot in the standings.

T4 Onyx (Rose, Enz, Burke) and Arkham 3 (Allen, Eichlin, Arnott) are each bumped down one spot to second and third respectively, but do hold the top two spots in terms of total points earned. 4th is Random Manufacturing 1, whose Darren Mercer and Brad Packard were joined by Kyle Meyer in round #2 to score a near 900 point day, and now find themselves inside the top 5. Staying consistent, T4 Hesketh (Kelmenson, Scott, Zevin) maintains a top 5 spot after another strong round that sees the team 3rd in overall points earned.

Team Championship Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)

1T4 Eagle 921 (1576)
2T4 Onyx -25 (1675)
3Arkham 3 -37 (1660)
4Random Manufacturing 1 -38 (1552)
5T4 Hesketh -47 (1604)