Grande CCW sets the stage for the penultimate round…
For the third month in a row the CalSpeed Super Series makes its sole visit to a particular track, as the Grande Counter Clockwise layout hosts the championship for round #9. This will also be the last time we’ll take to the reverse direction this season, finishing up three rounds in a row in the opposite heading. Here in the penultimate event of 2017, title fights are either being cinched up or are at least seeing the contenders wittle down to a few, with nearly every championship still undecided. Last month we saw a first time winner steal away the spot light after an epic fight at the front amongst the overall contenders, as well as our first two-time winner in the Pro Series.
Grande CCW is both a driver and fan favorite, and this weekend’s contest is sure to not only be an exciting one for the win, but also for the title fights up and down the order. Let’s take a closer look at just who those players are, and who the spotlight will be on here, in the next-to-final round in the 2017 Super Series season!
Grande CCW Flashback: “Oh Kurwa!” Marcin Balazy steals the show – 2016
The final counter clockwise track on the calendar, Grande CCW actually makes its only appearance in 2017 this weekend, adding to some already memorable moments in the series’ history. It has seen first time winners, a fly-away driver earning surprise wins, dramatic passes, and this weekend we may see a championship decided. Last year it was also the penultimate round in the championship, and while most eyes were on a pair of brothers going for the biggest prize, another driver stole the spotlight, and the A-Main win…
From last year’s online mag:
“While the fight for the Overall and Masters Championships were the lead stories heading into the penultimate round of the 2016 campaign, it would be Marcin Balazy stealing the headlines with a dominant day that ended with his maiden Super Series victory.
He would start things off from the pole position in the A-Main after sweeping his pair of heat races with victories, while overall pole sitter from qualifying, Alyssa Yauney lined up along side. The pair would own the top two spots for the duration of the opening laps, as positions swapped constantly in the chasing pack behind them. Still, they were not able to pull away, and it would be an almost fifteen kart pack for most of the race. On lap six the battling would breach the top two as Aaron Scott attacked the duo, taking over the lead in a phenomenal move into the hairpin corner, passing both at once. This leap from third to first in one go cemented Scott as a contender for the win, maintaining the top spot for the next handful of laps.
Behind the battle for first, protagonists in both the Overall and Masters title fights pushed to make any difference they could in the outcome, with advantage going to Miles Calvin and Mark Connell. While these two drivers found themselves fighting for top five finishes, their rivals were mired in constant battle that never saw them able to break away.
Back at the front it was Marcin Balazy again fighting back for the top spot, wrestling away the lead from Scott with less than five to go, while Charles Eichlin had made his way up to the final podium spot after dispatching Yauney. The top two held a slim advantage at this point, maintaining it until the final lap, even with the group behind rallying to bridge the gap. The little bit of breathing space was all the confidence Scott needed for a final attempt, diving down the inside of Balazy in the Bypass corner for a last ditch effort for the win. He wouldn’t quite clear his rivals nose however, and even though he beat him to the line, the contact from the attempt saw him relegated to 2nd. It would be Marcin Balazy’s first career win in the Super Series, with Scott and Charles Eichlin just missing the top two at the end for third.”
Top 5 Drivers on Grande CCW:
- Jon Kimbrell– 3 wins, 4 podiums, 5 heat wins, 14 heat T3’s, 4 fast laps
- Logan Calvin– 2 wins, 4 podiums, 9 heat wins, 18 heat T3’s, 4 poles, 7 fast laps
- Aaron Downs– 2 wins, 4 podiums, 4 heat wins, 10 heat T3’s, 1 pole
- Darren Mercer– 1 win, 2 podiums, 5 heat wins, 12 heat T3’s, 1 pole, 3 fast laps
- Adam Nagao– 1 win, 2 podiums, 3 heat wins, 6 heat top 3’s, 2 fast laps
Pro Class: Yauney becomes first 2-time winner; extends point lead after near-perfect day…
After seven different winners in seven races, Pro Series point leader Alyssa Yauney became the first person to notch that second mark in the win category, sweeping the day’s races with an almost perfect points haul. She now sits 77 points ahead of Jon Kimbrell, the only driver that can steal away the title in these last couple of events. To do so however, he is going to have to trim the deficit down by at least 28 points this weekend, as Yauney’s drop is a stout 370. Expect Kimbrell to be on full attack right from the drop of the green…
Both drivers have time on the layout too, with each of them competing in the Tri-C season finale last weekend; in fact, all drivers heading into this weekend have very recent time, so no driver has a clear advantage over the other. Of the group only Sean Bradley is still looking for that first win, and he is someone who looked his best yet last month after improving all year long. He and former winner Jetson Lieser will be the primary challengers to the top two, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes up!
Top 3 Pro Class Standings (After 2 Drops)
Overall Championship: Hays matches best run of the year, pushes title fight to round #9
After chipping away 14 points last month via his top five finish, Taylor Hays now sits 61 marks astern leader Patrick Britain heading into tomorrow’s contest, and perhaps with a bit of momentum on his side. With 420 points available via a perfect day (pole, swept races, and all bonus points), the best possible gain this weekend for Hays would be 41, given his rival’s strong drop values. By the same token, if Britain can maintain at least a 41-point lead after the checkers fall on Saturday, he will have earned his first Super Series Championship. The two title contenders are truly fairly even on paper, with Britain taking the advantage in the heats and in bonus points, while Hays has been the one to beat in the Mains the past three rounds. Expect another really exciting battle amongst these two tomorrow, especially if they end up in the same heats…
The next two on the list are fighting for the third spot on the podium, with last season’s #4 Charles Eichlin squaring up against 3-time Super Series champ Jon Kimbrell in these last couple of events. Given the drop scenario it doesn’t look like a clinch will be in the cards, and with both drivers able to find the top step of the podium, it’s anyone’s guess how this could turn out. Of the two, Kimbrell does have the advantage in the stats column on this layout, and actually has more wins here than anyone else. Chuck is no slouch though, and is certainly going to be digging to improve on his 2016 result.
The fight for the final piece of hardware on the overall podium comes down to three drivers: Alyssa Yauney, Bill Kreig, and Sean Fite. That has more to do with probability than the actually math, with the next driver in line (Chris Huerta -8th) arguably a bit too far back to steal away the 5th spot. Of the trio, Yauney is the one with the big momentum right now, leapfrogging from 7th to 5th in the standings last month after sweeping both of her heat races, and is fresh off an IronMan win here two weeks ago. Joining her on that IronMan podium was Sean Fite, who actually was looking pretty good last month until getting spun in the early moments of the A-Main. He’ll be wanting to shave down that 22 point gap to Yauney this weekend, but they’ll both have to contend with probably one of the most constant forces at the sharp end of the Super Series in Kreig. Bill has been a staple inside the top ten for many years, always seeming to be right there when the chips fall at the end of the season. Perhaps flying a bit under the radar, he has lived inside the A-Main top 10 all season, and is on a string of three top fives in a row. It is the end of the season, and that means Bill Kreig is at his best…
Outside the fight for the Overall podium and the usual suspects, the penultimate round also will play host to some potential spoilers in the field, including none other than Andrew Wood. There is already a long list of drivers that could potentially win at each and every round, but Woody will look to be only the second ever fly-away driver to find the top step. Ironically, the only time it has ever happened before was on this track, as the Pacific Northwest’s Adam Kellerman did a few years ago. Will it be the east coaster spoiling the show, or will it be a former winner chocking up their stats with another mark in the win column? Or perhaps we’ll see yet another first time winner this season, like we did last month with Jose da Silva… Any way you look at it, this one’s going to be an exciting show!
Top 10 Overall Standings (After 2 Drops)
|9)||Jose da Silva||1999|
Masters Championship: Jose da Silva claims top spot with maiden Super Series victory!
Last month Jose da Silva etched his name in the history books as a winner in the Super Series, joining a small list of drivers that gets even smaller when you look at how many of them are Masters drivers. It was a big moment for the native Brazilian, and he edged ever closer to an even smaller list he wants to be on: Masters Champion. Coming into the 2017 season we knew we would be seeing a new name on that list, and with just two rounds remaining it is all still up in the air. Da Silva’s career best finish helped him pull ahead to a healthy 91-point lead heading into Saturday, but he’ll still need to keep it up as he is outside the clinch territory via his current drops. His closest challenger is 2016 Rookie of the Year and Sprint Series champ Alexander Bermudez, who leapfrogged into second after one of his best runs of the season last month as well. Bermudez is not the only threat either, as perennial Masters podium contender Steve Spring sits just 10 points behind the second spot, and showed very good pace at the IronMan. In roads will certainly need to be made this weekend to make this fight a reality at the finale, with both drivers capable of making it happen.
Top 5 Masters Standings (After 2 Drops)
|1)||Jose da Silva||1999|
Grand Masters Championship: Wika VS Sabella with two rounds remaining…
Tony Wika’s steady rise through the ranks may seem like it was a bit under the radar, but when you look at his totals over the past three rounds, he has certainly cemented himself as the guy to beat. He currently has a 50-point lead over Joe Sabella, last season’s runner-up and what looks to be the only other contender for the Grand Masters title. And while a clinch is not in the agenda, Sabella will still need to make some strong progress this weekend to mount a proper challenge at the finale. Joe has shown he can be the one to beat in this category, and a mistake-free weekend could see this gap shrink considerably.
Behind the lead duo the fight for the final podium spot has really heated up, as Tom Zevin looks to maintain a hardware spot after being inside the top three nearly all season, taking a hit in the points after missing last month. Consistent podium contender year after year, Jeff Latimer has had a rough season thus far, but is looking to get back to form this weekend after really working on his game between rounds. And we can’t count out another regular face on the class podium, Brian Starr; currently just 52 points back from Zevin, Starr has what it takes to reel in the gap and upturn the apple cart in these last couple races.
Top 5 Grand Masters Standings (After 2 Drops)
Rookie Championship: Daniel Eaton leads podium contenders in round #8; closes gap…
The battle for the final two podium spots in the Rookie Championship became a lot more interesting last month, as while current 2nd place man Alfredo Anguiano was absent, his closest rivals made up a lot of ground. Especially Daniel Eaton, who not only gained on Alfredo, but also shaved almost 50 points of the gap to the driver right in front of him in the standings, Lucas Dziemidok. Now just 14 points separate those two, and 2nd-4th are now under a 128-point blanket -which may sound like a lot- but it is in a class that has seen over 100 points made up in a single round. So while Thomas Blackledge enjoys being the 2017 Rookie of the Year over the next couple of rounds before he gets the cup in November, our eyes are on this epic battle to see who the two drivers will be standing next to him. Three drivers have a shot; but only two will get the spoils…
Top 5 Rookie Standings (After 2 Drops)
Sportsman Sub-Championship: Randy McKee jumps to the top after top 10 A-Main finish…
It is a best 3 out of 4 contest, and even if you miss the first round, you can still win if you are strong for the final three. That’s exactly what Sprint Series front runner Randy McKee is looking to do, scoring the most points last month to lead all Sportsman drivers after a drop is taken into account. McKee’s outstanding top ten run in the A-Main set the bar for the class, besting fellow Sprint Series rival and opening round leader Caden Thure in the process. Thure was no slouch either, also finishing inside the top ten, only being bested in the points category via the heat race finishes. These two have brought their battle for the Sprint Series podium into the Super Series, and now fight for the debut Sportsman title; and we get to enjoy the show.
They haven’t cleared all challengers from the table however, as the aforementioned Daniel Eaton looks to stay in the conversation, sitting in third in both total points and after throw out. He showed very well at the most recent Sprint Series on this track, and could be one to watch tomorrow in this category. He, and everyone else in the class will really need to take the fight to the lead two however, as in this debut sub-championship, only the winner gets a cup.
Top 10 Sportsman Standings (After 1 drop)
Heavy Championship: Michael Collins looks to capitalize on big points opportunity…
“Unless something crazy happens…”
That’s what I mentioned last preview about this championship, as Michael Collins needed a bit of help to reel in Jason for the Heavy Class title, and low and behold, the leader will be missing this round. Work pulls Jason away from the penultimate round, and with it, hands a huge opportunity for Michael Collins to make up some serious ground on his title rival. Every position, every point earned is a mark on the positive for the challenger, and we’ll see a much closer battle come the season finale. Mike’s been working on his game since the last round too, and we could see one of the best runs out of him yet; at 193 points back from Jason, he’ll need it. He’s scored in the 200’s on a couple of occasions this year too, so a new point leader heading into the final race of the year is not out of the question…
Top 3 Heavy Standings
Team Championship: Cruise control for “The Boys”…
With the way the ‘T4 – Boys Are Back In Town’ team is running, it looks like it may be all but cruise control in the Team Championship, with the lineup of Taylor Hays, TJ Blackledge, and Chris Carter showing the way. Hays and Carter are putting up career years, while Blackledge is putting on one of the best rookie performances we have seen. From here on out it should just be ‘hit your marks and let the points take care of themselves’ for the top squad…
Top 5 Team Standings (After 2 Drops)
|1)||T4 - BABIT||6029|
|2)||T4 Engineers +1||5204|
|3)||Glorious S. Gang||4661|
|5)||Elite S. Gang||4359|