For the second time in the opening three rounds of the IronMan Series championship, wind would play a factor throughout the race, adjusting strategies and making the draft even more important. This time around the full field of 30 drivers would take to the Sportivo layout, and in the end, a new face would stand atop the podium for a first career win…
Bryan Armbrust would lead the field into turn #1 via the uphill front straight for the first time, but it would be reigning Sprint Series titleist stealing away the lead after a single circuit. Behind Alvarado, infighting would see the new leader step out to a near 1.5 second advantage in the opening handful of laps, before things settled down with Ayrton DeMoss leading the charge. Linked with Seth Willits, DeMoss slowly made inroads to the lead, the duo chipping away too close to the rear bumper of Alvarado by lap 10. One lap later, and it was a new leader at front, with DeMoss taking over, albeit only for a pair of laps before Willits made his claim on the top spot. The Willits/DeMoss/Alvarado team-up would continue to be a strong one, as they clicked off solid laps to pull away from the rest of the field, and enjoyed a five or so second lead on 4th after about 15 laps…
While the lead trio continued up the path, the rest of the pack gathered behind point leader Paulo Franca, a train of about ten drivers with Tyler Redman directly in tow from Franca. This group would stay mostly intact for the next 15 or so laps, although further infighting would see Franca and Redman break away as the race reached the halfway point. At that point event the lead duo of Willis and Demoss had left Diego behind, and island between the lead pair and the chasing couple of Franca and Redman. Unfortunately, the motor on Franca’s ride would give up the ghost just after the halfway point, which would immediately see Redman start losing over a half a second per lap without a drafting partner.
This would see the rest of the pack slowly reel him in, a group consisting of Ariel Rubio, Sean Fite, Michael Hazlewood, Evan Lawrence, and Evan Karp – half of the original ten that had given chase. Once they caught Redman, it was Hazlewood on the move, the P2 driver in the points making the most of the situation to work his way to the lead of their pack. From there it was all about cutting fast laps and working out the pit strategy, with Diego Alvarado the first of the leaders to pit on lap 41, attempting to duck out of lapped traffic for clean air.
Back out front, it was a fairly constant trade-off between Willits and Demoss for the lead; one driver leading for a handful, before the other took over for his share, right up until pit stops would break up the monotony. Demoss would blink first at about the ten-minute board, and made it back-to-back stops with another trip on lap 49. Willits would follow suit with his own back-to-back trips on laps 52 and 53, emerging with a 2.5+ second advantage that would be enough to hold on to the lead and secure his first career Ironman Series win. Demoss would settle for second a good 5+ seconds up the road from third, which would come right down to the wire, and be all about pit strategy.
Michael Hazlewood would go from leading the chasing pack to fighting for the final podium spot in the final ten or so minutes, as after he exited the pits he would see a new rival not amongst his original group: Chase Nickells. On an alternate strategy that saw him make both stops inside the first ten laps, Nickells had worked up from the 28th starting spot to be right in the mix at the end, and would immediately attack Michael for the final podium spot. They were not alone however, as Evan Lawrence made it a three-way fight for the podium in the final laps, but it was Hazlewood that would nip Nickells at the line, stealing away the podium on the final lap by just .077, with Lawrence only another tenth behind.
Round #4 of the CalSpeed IronMan Series is already sold out, and takes to the Classico CCW track in about one month’s time on April 24th.
IronMan Series Round #2 Top 10
Point Standings Top 10 (drop)