Last round we saw yet another first time winner, and it was once again a Masters driver on the top step, as perennial front runner Sergio Bravo added his name to the shortlist of Super Series winners. This was the 3rd race in a row that a new face occupied the top step of the podium, and the sixth new winner in the past seven Super Series events (including the Pre-Season Exhibition). This just shows how the level of competition has grown over the past year, a fact that is reinforced by the extremely tight points battles for not only the Overall, but the Masters and Rookie championships as well.
The fifth round will see the 5th track configuration in use, continuing the string of different courses per round. The Classico course brings out a love-hate response from the drivers, with the paddock certainly split in their opinion of it. And given the fact that it has only been used twice in the past two seasons combined, many drivers will be making their first Super Series starts on the layout, which could make for a shake up in the status quo.
Additionally, several drivers that have made A-Mains previously this season will not be in attendance, making this a great opportunity for several drivers further down the standings to score some much needed points…
The Classico configuration gets its name from being the original, and only layout available when CalSpeed was first opened, back in 2004. One of the more technical layouts, Classico not only challenges drivers by introducing it’s signature ‘Esses’ section, but also by being one of the toughest tracks to pass on, as the horseshoe and Long Beach sections are not in use. With a lap that is just over 50 seconds long, drivers won’t have the luxury to ‘wait for next time’ in terms of making passes happen, and we could see some hectic action right from the start.
While much of the course will be familiar to drivers who have made regular starts at CalSpeed, the Esses section that leads on to the straight will be a significant wrench thrown into the lap. It will also be a crucial one, not only for a quick lap, but also to aid in a possible pass attempt where chances will be few and far between. Getting through this section consistently will be the focus for every driver come Saturday, and will most likely be the key to finding the top step of the podium as well…
By The Numbers…
While it was the only layout at the inception of CalSpeed, the Classico configuration doesn’t get used as much as it used to, now only making an appearance once a year. That said it is really just the Esses that drivers lack the experience on, which makes adapting to the track a little bit easier. Still, every time we take to the twisting Classico layout, there are a few drivers that always seem to get to the front, and one driver who seems to have it all figured out.
When it comes to sheer pace on Classico, no one can deny that Taylor Hays has set the bar, scoring pole positions in each of the past two attempts. Now, the qualifying format has changed some from previous years, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if we see Hays once again at the sharp end on Saturday morning, especially with him scoring a pole position in last week’s IronMan race. Turning his pace into heat race wins hasn’t been a problem either, but he just hasn’t had things go his way in the mains to find the podium. He came agonizingly close last fall, and I think Taylor will have a fire lit under him this weekend to seal the deal.
The guy who stole the spotlight from Hays last fall was Dave Messimer; scoring a win and a second in his heat races, before scoring his first career A-Main win. Additionally, Messimer has a pair of heat race wins from the 2011 event, where he also started on the front row of the A-Main. Needless to say, Classico and Messimer get along just fine, and this could be the round that kick starts the rest of his season.
Miles Calvin is another driver who has found regular success on the shortest of CalSpeed’s layouts, scoring three wins that include an A-Main victory during the 2011 season. He also has a pair of heat wins from the 2010 season, but I have not listed them in the stats below. Interestingly enough, he has actually been a little slower during the morning warm up sessions when we go to this layout, but always seems to come back strong, qualifying a solid 3rd in 2011, and 7th in 2012. Having already won once this season during the opener, Miles has a very good shot at becoming our first repeat winner in 2013.
Top 5 Classico Drivers from 2011 and 2012
- Dave Messimer- 4 wins, one 2nd, (2012 A-Main winner)
- Miles Calvin- 3 wins, one 2nd, (2011 A-Main winner)
- Taylor Hays- 3 wins, one 4th, 2 pole positions
- Jon Kimbrell- 2 wins, two 5th
- Darren Mercer- 1 win, one 2nd, one 3rd
A Closer Look: Overall…
With his results on Classico to date thus far, and the way the season is going (2 podiums in 3 appearances), Miles Calvin looks to be the driver to beat for Saturday, and could carry the point lead, and a lot of momentum into the second half with a strong run this weekend. He has already missed a round however, and given the fact he will most likely miss another later in the year, he will need to stay on this form to be in the right position come November.
Two drivers that are a little further down the standings then they’d like, but I think are in position to turn that around are both Taylor Hays, and Dave Messimer. Both of these guys have done things since the last round to fine tune their game, and each are bolstered with their history on the layout.
Hays rides a wave of confidence entering this round, knowing that pace will not be a problem this weekend, and has even gotten some practice in the form of the IronMan event.
He is also coming of a pair of P2 qualifying efforts heading into this round, proving that he has figured out the new qualifying system, and has a very strong shot at making it 3 Classico pole positions on the trot.
Messimer on the other hand enters the 5th round 17th overall, and 3rd in the Masters category, a seemingly distant 122 points out of the lead. While not the momentum shared by the aforementioned Calvin or Hays, Messimer’s craft has made large gains as of late via his race in the CalSpeed Club Series. The point leader in that series, Dave has fine-tuned his driving even more since the last round, and will be one to watch come Saturday.
I would also keep an eye on mutli-time champ Jon Kimbrell this round. Coming off his best round of the season (2nd overall), Kimbrell has improved every round, and looked much like the Kimby of old in round #4. With 4 heat race wins this year to his credit, his podium this past round wasn’t a surprise, but more a reaffirmation that ‘the old Jon is back’, and the Super Series has been put on notice.
And then there is Bill Kreig, who aside from being on the podium during round #1, has flown under the radar, a fact helped after he missed the previous round. Still, he sits 12th in points, and is still very much within reach of the hardware, but he’ll need a strong run here to boost his chances, and close the gap. He’s only 60 points back though, which is not insurmountable by any means.
All-in-all, this will be a deciding round for several drivers in terms of the points, the round that determines who will be in the hunt during second half of the season (starting after the Grands), and who will just be fighting to make a top 10 overall spot. The entire top 9 in points (after throw out) will be in attendance, but then other than 12th, 10-15 will be missing, which is going to rearrange things in the top 20 in the standings considerably. The front 10 drivers are separated by only 70 points, but then things fall off sharply back from there, making the chance for big gains a real possibility.
A Closer Look: Masters…
The Masters fight this season is fantastic. First Jay stamps his bid for the title by winning round #3, then defending champ Sergio Bravo answers back by winning the 4th round. Both drivers have stepped up their game here in 2013, and currently sit tied for the third spot in the championship overall, making them tied as well in the Masters chase. Bravo holds the tiebreaker currently, as he has earned more points on the season (total points), and in fact leads all drivers in the points standing in points earned. Schreiber is not far behind, but started the season off with a pair of 322 point days; not horrible, but a little lower than he’d like against the champ.
This weekend it will once again be anyone’s guess who comes out on top between these two, but with Bravo’s solid record on the layout, and the fact that Schreiber came out to practice, the two will be closely matched. They may however, be fighting for 2nd, as the Masters driver sitting third in the standings holds the best record on this layout, and has the added fire underneath him of turning his season around. That of course is Dave Messimer, who, besides the top two may be the only other driver that can still challenge for the title. That said, he has a big gap in the standings to traverse, one that won’t happen just with strong finishes; he’ll need some help along the way.
Aside from those three, David Kelmenson (4th) and Ben Blank (5th) are the two closest in the points, and the only other drivers who have seen the sharp end of the standings. Kelmenson sits only 5 points back from Messimer, and Blank is another 15 points back from him. Kelmenson has been a bit hot/cold in his mains so far this season, but his heat races have generally been strong, so there is definite potential for a turn around. Blank is coming off a very strong weekend where he ran fast in the Clinic, and then backed it up with a podium finish in the IronMan, showing he has Classico dialed in.
A Closer Look: Rookies…
The rookie point championship was already tight after round #4, but after this past week of racing/practice, I expect a very close, and defining round #5. In this past weekend’s Sport Kart Race Clinic we had several of the front-runners from the rookie championship in attendance, including point leader Steve Spring, Michael Wodjat (3rd), Justin Tolman (5th), and Brian Tarroja (9th), all of which gained a lot of pace, and really stepped up their craft. Spring capitalized on the clinic too, finishing on the podium in the IronMan race that followed. Then on Sunday, newcomer to the series Charles Eichlin (7th) popped in for some practice, and also looked really fast.
With all of these front-runners practicing before the next race, not only will they have a strong shot at scoring some big points, but also their chances of making the A-Main greatly improve. A few drivers have already found the A-Main this season, but we could see some repeat rookies visitors this weekend, along with a few first timers after all the seat time they’ve been putting in.
As far as the points go, the huge swings in points earned between the rookies means that it is still anyone’s to play, even those who showed up a bit late. Case in point, Charles Eichlin, who after making his first start in round #2 (where he won the D-Main), made the A-Main in round #4. Point difference between the two days? 202. Now, as the season progresses, these kinds of swings will be less frequent, but differences of 100 points or so between rounds still are a reality in ones rookie season. So when the top 8 drivers are separated by less than 100 points, you can see why it is still anyone’s championship to win.
Momentum: Heavy Class…
As it stands now, the championship may be all but over, unless something drastic changes in this class. Mike Arnold currently sits 30th in the overall standings, a ranking that will most likely go way up after this weekend given the number of absences higher up the standings. The fact he is as high as he is in points is a testament to his consistency behind the wheel, given the fact he’s carrying an extra 25+ pounds more than most of the drivers around him. Arnold is writing all the records in this class, and currently enjoys a 161-point lead over second place in his class. Question is, how far up the charts can he make it?