Super Series Round #9 Preview
Classico: The ‘Monaco’ of the Super Series
Like Monaco, described as mythical by some, and certainly every F1 driver’s dream to win, the CalSpeed Super Series’ stop on the Classico layout is starting to gain a similar storied reputation. The original, and only configuration when the Fontana, CA facility opened back in 2004, it is now a once a year contest that harkens back to the origins of So-Cal karting here at CalSpeed. A short, but winding .625 mile course that features the infamous ‘esses’ section, it is a true driver’s course and one that requires speed, finesse, and both physical and mental prowess to count yourself as a victor here.
Jon Kimbrell. Miles Calvin. Dave Messimer. KC Cook. Taylor Hays. The previous winners of Classico are some of the best in Sport Karting, an elite group that helps define the sport. Jon and Taylor are on hand to attempt another Classico victory; will it be either of them, or will a new name be added to this list?
While a prestigious race in and of itself, Classico is still part of a bigger picture, a twelve round, yearlong championship fight. This weekend’s Super Series event marks the ninth round of the 2014 Championship, and with only four rounds after it, it is a crucial time for drivers to establish themselves as final contenders for their respective championships. This preview will have a pair of interviews with two of the best drivers on the Classico layout, as well as take an in depth looks at the various championship fights as the final stage is set this weekend.
415 points, hardware, and the prestige of your name etched in history. It’s all up for grabs on Classico…
RD’s Spotlight: I sit down with Mr. Classico himself: Taylor Hays…
To have a track synonymous with your name is not a common thing, but Taylor Hays has managed to do it with the Classico layout, partly because of his sheer speed here, and partly because he has always been vocal of his fondness for the layout. Regardless of the reason, whenever the Super Series circus visits this storied track, Taylor is at the top of the contenders list. This weekend will be no different, and I got a chance to talk to the most recent Classico winner leading up to the event…
RD: Firstly, lets talk about how you earned a reputation so closely tied with this track? What is it about Classico and you that just seem to work?
TH: The reputation began after two straight poles (still to date my only two) in 2011 and 2012. Obviously, the reputation continued after I picked up my first A main win. While I go into each round thinking I have a shot to win, there’s always a little more confidence going to any track that has yielded this much success.
RD: Interestingly enough, you had a reputation that corresponded with this track well before you scored your first win, which ironically was on the same track. Were you surprised that your first win happened here, or did you always see this track as the one you had the best chance at?
TH: It just seems fitting that with all the success I’ve had on Classico, it would be the track I’d break through on, and not be susceptible to Dale’s “20 years of trying, 20 years of frustration”, a la Daytona. Any track that you can manage to have a 400 point day without an A main podium gives you the confidence that a win is around the corner.
RD: For some, especially those that have been around CalSpeed since the beginning winning on Classico could be akin to winning at Monaco: It typically only happens once a year, is demanding mentally and physically, and it really harkens back to the origins of CalSpeed. As the most recent winner at the storied track, what would winning it again mean to you?
TH: While every win is going to be meaningful, it means just that little bit more winning on a track where the driver has a bigger effect than the equipment.
RD: You were the guest instructor at the most recent Sport Kart Race Clinic, and followed that up with a run in IronMan round six, both on the Classico layout. What does it take to get around this place not only fast, but consistent? What makes it such a challenge, and what should new drivers expect going in?
TH: Obviously, the Classico esses are going to be the biggest problem area, as this is the only layout that utilizes them. Getting the final sector of Contino to Start-Finish perfect is the key to good laps times and running up front. Typically, charging the corner will cause you to over drive, as a more finessed style of driving tends to pay dividends on this layout.
RD: You earned your first win at this race last year, but then kicked off 2014 with your second career win. Since then we have seen a different winner every round, including a couple of first time winners. The past three editions of this race have provided first time winners as well: Dave Messimer in 2012, then KC Cook and yourself in 2013. Could we see another new or first time winner, or could it be the first repeat winner of 2014?
TH: Classico is one of those tracks that drivers will pick up in the morning, and it will just click throughout the day. The first heat races typically decide the flow of the day, as due to the difficulty to pass, running up front in both heats is accomplished easier than on any other track. If someone new clicks and picks up a win in Heats 1A through 1D, you could very well see a new driver on the top step at the end of the day, but I intend on avoiding that.
RD’s Spotlight Two: I catch up with one the Super Series’ best, Miles Calvin…
Regulars in the series know the name Miles Calvin well: As one of the fastest, and most exciting drivers to ever compete in the Super Series, Miles is known as a fierce competitor both on and off the track. Those new to the series may or may not have heard of the elder Calvin brother, but are all too familiar to his younger brother Logan, the winner last round.
What few followers of the series probably realize, is that although Taylor Hays is known as the Classico Elitist, there is actually one other driver that could say he ranks the same, if not even a touch better statistically: Miles Calvin.
RD: Miles, what would you say if I told you that statistically you are the most successful driver on Classico?
MC: Honestly, I would be a little surprised! Classico is definitely the most technical course in the super series, but personally I feel like I still have not mastered the esses as much as I wish to. I think with Classico, you have to learn to pass in different places as long beach and horse shoe are not there every lap to slide under someone; you have to make the most out of other corners, which I would say I may capitalize on better than others. It’s a hard track to pass, and it’s not easy to move up the field unless you can pass elsewhere. That is the only reason I could see stats saying I am the best at that configuration.
RD: With a win in 2011, and another podium in 2013, you are the only driver to find a step on the box more then once at this track, have been in the top five overall in four out of five attempts, and have five heat wins to your credit as well. Is there something about this track that you find special; what can you attribute this success to?
MC: Well it definitely is not attributed to lap times. I have made more mistakes on this track time and time again. Luckily they are mostly in practice or qualifying and I can recover throughout the day. I think my success would be attributed to other corners like kornakurva or the carousel. Without the draft of horseshoe or long beach, making up time in these areas really is exaggerated, and if you can pass here as well, you can separate yourselves from others.
RD: What makes Classico unique to you, and what makes it one of the special tracks to race, and win at?
MC: Classico is just a track that challenges me every lap. There are a few others out there that I would say are better at this track than me, but I seem to out do them with results. I would honestly say its one of my least favorites, ‘cause I am a fan of pack racing and with this track you don’t get that much, but it definitely separates the drivers that can hit there marks lap in and lap out, as there isn’t much of a draft to help them recover.
RD: 2014 has seen you shift priorities away from racing, and instead focus in on family life, getting married this year. Have you been following the Super Series during this hiatus? Could we see Miles Calvin back full-time in 2015?
MC: 2014 has definitely had a few priorities change, with getting married and a new job, but racing will always be one. I definitely will be back soon, hopefully full time in 2015. I miss all my competitors and can’t wait to get back out and battle with all of you next year. I am hoping to reform a team and come back full force next year! Hope to see you all soon!!
The Overall Championship: Five within 100 points, 9 with a probable chance
With the way the drivers at the head of the table have been running this year, it has made things difficult for those looking to chase down points, and close the gap. With seemingly unwavering consistency from the top 5, those a few spots lower have seen the deficit grow a few points here, and a few points there. Now with only five points paying rounds remaining, the job to claw back to the sharp end is even tougher, and we see only about nine drivers still in the hunt for the overall championship.
Aside from the top 5 in the standings, who are all separated by less than 100 points, only about four other drivers inside the top 10 look to have a probable chance at the title, with really only the top 8 drivers close enough to look realistic. With Kimbrell and Britain swapping the top spot nearly every round, the other constants at the sharp end have been Sergio Bravo and Darren Mercer, who have been inside the top fiver nearly all year. With his win a couple rounds ago, followed by another strong finish in August, Bill Kreig has entered the top five, and closed the gap to within 100 points of the leaders, and well within striking distance.
Just outside the top five is a trio of T4 Autosport drivers, each of which is having their best year to date. Hays picked up his second career win to start off the year, and has been consistent ever since, only taking a hit the last round when he was forced to miss it. Kelmenson scored his first career win in June, and has shown he can be a legitimate challenger here, and for the first time in the master fight too. In Aaron Scott is sometimes forgotten that he was a rookie last year, and to be honest not one that made a lot of noise. That has all changed this season, as he is far and away the strongest of the sophomore efforts here in 2014.
After this bunch we have Kirk Feldkamp, who unfortunately is out of this fight after this weekend, as he is forced to miss this round, and keep a mid-200 point day. This could drop him outside the 10 ten, and certainly form the title fight, which is unfortunate given how strong he has been thus far.
Then there is Aaron Downs. Sitting 10th in points after a slow start to the year, the 2014 Sport Kart Grand Nationals champion is certainly the wildcard of the group. At 243 astern of the lead, it is unlikely that a title run could be mounted, but if there is anyone that can go off in the final five rounds, it’s this guy.
Overall Top 15 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Rookie Championship: Can anyone catch Roman Alekseenkov?
Roman Alekseenkov is putting together a second half of the year that is making a challenge very tough on his opponents, putting up two 300+ point days, and another high 200-point day in the past three rounds. In fact, the only challenges moving forward look to be from perpetual front runner Wes Dent, and Mark Connell, who is fresh off his best performance. These two guys can’t afford to lose any more points however, and need to take the fight to the front starting now. Neither is resting on their laurels either, each putting extra practice time in, and in at the most recent round of the IronMan Series.
I would have added in Moises Lizama too, but he unfortunately will be missing this round, and will be forced to keep a 174-point day from earlier this year. He may be able to claw back enough points for a podium run, but the championship looks to be out of reach with this absence. With that absence, it puts Moises square in the middle of what has turned into an intense fight to be inside the top five in the rookie standings. With the varying pace of driver development in this class, we have seen the contenders for a top for grow immensely as of late, and is making for a very exciting end to the season.
Rookie Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Masters Championship: Podium fight now counts 7; Bravo in command
There are two clear fights in this class: one for the championship, and the other for the final step of the podium, and the hardware that goes with it.
In the Championship Fight, reigning Masters champ Sergio Bravo has shown no step lost this year, challenging once again for the overall title in conjunction with his Master’s duties. And just like last year, there is someone keeping the pressure on. Last year it was Jay Schreiber, and this year it is David Kelmenson. Now 130 points aback from the champ, David is having a career year, but still needs a little more to take the fight to Bravo. Each a winner this year, Bravo’s slightly better consistency is what sees him slowly pull away from his challenger, putting the pressure squarely on David.
Coming off a pair of Dismal rounds, Ben Blank has seen his closest rivals grow from one or two, to perhaps as many as four, as the battle for the final podium spot now includes five drivers. Blank ha it, but both Steve Spring and Mark Connell are fresh of career days, and have moved inside the top five. Jeff Carson and Jose da Silva are not far off either, and much like the rookie fight I spoke of before, this is going to be a group of hotly contested real estate before the season is out.
Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Grand Masters Championship: Kimbrell on hot streak, pressure on others
Hello Dennis Kimbrell! Dennis hit the switch in late July, scoring a win in the IronMan Series before backing it up with a 300+ day in the Super Series, and just scored yet another top 5 in the most recent IronMan round. His recent success does no bode well for long time point leader Brian Starr, who has seen his once triple digit lead shrunk to just 41 points. Starr has been consistent though, and will surely bounce back from his round #8 this weekend. Right there as well is Jeff Latimer, who also had a rough go of it on Grande CCW last month, but has been matching Starr nearly step for step all year.
As far as sub-championship fights go, this is probably the best one in the Series…
Grand Masters Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Heavy Championship: Story turns to the Arnold vs Reinhardt Battle
With Steve Jasinksi steadily in the mid-100’s every round, it has made things difficult on the rest of the class to mount a challenge. Barring a celestial occurrence, I don’t see how he could not win this thing. I have been wrong before however…
Aside from Jasinski, the rest of this class is an exciting one, especially since they are routinely next to each other on track. Not only that, with both Arnold and Reinhardt putting in extra time at both the Sport Kart Clinic’s and IronMan events, each driver is on their best game as the season rolls on. With only 34 points separating second from third, this fight continues to be the most fun one to watch, and one that also includes the other two guys in the top 5, Mike Collins and Marc Salvador. While perhaps a few too many points back to be an immediate podium threat, they are absolutely threats for points every round. If the top two guys in this podium chase are going to score maximum points, they’ll have to go through Collins and Salvador to do it.
Heavy Class Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
The Team Championship: Once there were many, now just 4. Well, maybe 6…
While there is certainly the possibility of large fluctuations here, things are starting to take shape in this sub-category, and we now have a better idea of whom the contenders are. The top four have established themselves as the primary contenders, with each one having taken a turn at the top spot. Fifth and sixth on the charts are RNA Motorsports, and Norcal 1 who was inside the top five until last round. Both these teams have heavy hitters on them too, and certainly the potential to be further up, but the consistency has been just a tick off of the top four.
All that being said, the front four teams are certainly the ones that carry the most momentum, each within about 150 points of each other, albeit with first and third well clear of the rest in total points earned. And that is where T4 Eagle and Arkham 3 have been strongest: consistency. Right out of the box this year they have hit strong, only tapering slightly as of late. Conversely, S3/GranStand and T4 Hesketh are coming on stronger lately, putting the pressure more on the status quo to keep up.
Team Championship Top 5 After Throw Outs (Total Points)
|2.||S3 / GranStand 3||-73||(5403)|