Fourth Annual Sport Kart Grand Nationals Crowns Logan Calvin the Champion
In the four-year history of the Mechanix Wear Sport Kart Grand Nationals we have seen championship battles come down to the last lap of the Super Final race, and we have also seen drivers distance themselves from the field and clinch the National Championship before the final race. This year, a record breaking 13 drivers entered the final race with a chance at glory.
It was a long two days of racing up to that point; first time winners, repeat winners, unexpected victories and disappointing results are part of any racing weekend, and that was no different at this years “Grands.” We saw first career victories for drivers such as Matt Hart and Alyssa Yauney (who also became the first female winner.) Plenty of wins were on tap for former National Champions Aaron Downs, Jon Kimbrell and Logan Calvin. There were unexpected victories for Chris Huerta and Diego Morales as they each took advantage of mistakes by the race leader in the final corner. And of course disappointment for several drivers who saw their races slip away as circumstances instead of outright speed determined their result.
The highest of highs and the lowest of lows, many times separated by mere seconds, and that was the overarching story throughout the entire weekend.
Darren Mercer was the points leader after both Day 1 and Day 2 of competition, and looked very confident as racing began on Sunday. Mercer had put together an incredibly consistent weekend through the first nine rounds of competition and had just the Semi Final and Super Final to get through in order to take home the gold. At times it looked like fate was on his side as he could virtually do no wrong all weekend. Unfortunately for Mercer his luck ran out with just a handful of laps to go in the Semi Final race, which in turn setup over a dozen drivers for a shot at victory in the Super Final.
In that Semi Final for Mercer, things were looking good. He was having another strong top 5 run, he was set to get good points on the board and maybe even get a couple more spots on track over the next couple of laps. However, with just 2 laps to go, the leader of the race mistakenly thought the race had ended and lifted off the gas through the first complex of corners. This bottled up the field who were all still charging hard, and Mercer was unable to avoid the calamity. Mercer lost more than six positions in the mess and would end up finishing outside the top 10.
The result was absolutely devastating for Mercer, but his bad luck would be a fortunate turn for many other drivers who now saw the points gap shrink going into final race. Suddenly, the 25 kart Super Final had more than half of its drivers still eligible to become National Champion, and another five more who could become Masters Champion.
Before the Super Final, the Last Chance Qualifier would head out on track to set the final five spots for the final race. Plenty of big names found themselves in this race and as always, the excitement level for the “LCQ” was at peak levels. The race began and immediately the top four drivers got single file and began to get away. Mark Connell, Charles Eichlin, Sean Brierely and Alyssa Yauney all decided that finishing position meant nothing to them, all that mattered was being inside the top five after 12 laps. For these four drivers, it worked to perfection and each would transfer to the Super Final.
However, behind those front four, the battle was on for the final transfer spot.
For much of the 12 lap shootout, Justin Tolman held control, but before long he began to feel the pressure from Connor Marsh, Kirk Feldkamp and eventually Sean Fite. Each of these drivers held the transfer spot at one point or another, but at the end of 12 laps and a hard fought, yet very clean, LCQ race, Sean Fite would grab the spot and earn the final position in the Super Final. Fite joined very elite company as one of the few to make it into the Super Final in their first Grand Nationals appearance.
With just one race left in the Mechanix Wear Sport Kart Grand Nationals for 2015, the top 25 drivers nervously awaited the start of qualifying, knowing that with a new knockout style procedure, anything could happen. Further adding to the drama is the fact that 13 drivers could still win the championship, and the five bonus points for winning pole could make all the difference.
Drivers made their way to their karts and it would be positions 13-25 heading out on track first for their two timed laps. Immediately, Andres Prieto would shoot to the top of the timing sheets. For the remaining 12 drivers, it would be their job to just get into the overall top 10 in speed, as those 10 would transfer to Round 2 of qualifying and receive one bonus point each. From there, the top three in Round 2 would transfer on to Super Pole qualifying in the R@ndom Manufacturing kart.
As Round 1 wrapped up, it was clear that Prieto was the quickest driver from the first group, and Logan Calvin and Andrew Wood (both of whom were in the title fight) were the two to beat from the second group.
Round 2 of Knockout Qualifying took to the track and all 10 drivers had their mind set on making that top three. However, there was no change up front as the three transferring to Super Pole would be Prieto, Wood and Calvin.
For Prieto, the goal was simple; win Super Pole, win the Super Final. He was already out of contention for the National Championship, so it was go for broke. For Wood and Calvin, they needed to try and win Super Pole so that they could get every valuable point possible in their quest to become Grands Champion.
Prieto proved to be too much for Wood and Calvin on this day and he took Super Pole over Calvin. Wood would line up in third.
As the Super Final was preparing to go out on track, the drama was thick. Calvin and Wood both knew that they had a great shot at taking the title, but close behind them were Jon Kimbrell and Aaron Downs who were 1-2 in points heading in. For Kimbrell, he had to get to fourth to clinch the championship; Downs had to get to third. Both were starting in the back half of the top 10 and had to move forward from the drop of the green.
The race began and Calvin jumped out to the early lead over Prieto and Wood. Logan’s brother Miles joined them in 4th and soon Downs added himself into the fight in 5th. The top 5 quickly began to separate themselves from the field, as they were all left to battle for 6th on back.
The top 5 stayed single file for several laps, trying to get as much of a lead as possible on the rest of the field so that they could solidify a strong finish and sort it out amongst them at the end. Just as things began to be looking very good for each of the top 5 drivers, Downs started to lose the draft. Just two laps later, Downs had fallen off the back of the train and was quickly losing ground to the pack behind them being led by Masters Driver, Mark Connell.
The Masters Championship was every bit as exciting as the Overall. Diego Morales led the Masters points heading into the final race by just 1 point over Sergio Bravo. Last years champ, Fred Ogrim sat in third with an outside shot at grabbing another championship, and they were joined by Jose da Silva and Mark Connell who both needed miracles to get the Masters trophy, but nonetheless still had a chance.
As Connell saw Downs getting bigger and bigger in his visor, suddenly his miracle situation became possible. Morales, Bravo and Ogrim were way back in the pack and at that moment, each appeared to be in position to use one of their race drops in the Super Final. This meant that if Connell could get himself up to fourth, he would become the Masters Champion.
Unfortunately for him, it was not to be.
T4 drivers Chris Huerta and Ian Enz made their way past Connell just as they were catching Downs, which in turn sent Connell back a few spots and he was not able to fully recover. Connell would have to settle for third in the Masters Championship in the end, but after entering the final race in fifth, Connell was still very pleased with his result.
Back up front, Prieto had taken the lead back from Logan Calvin and behind them sat Andrew Wood. Missing from the front pack was Miles Calvin who had met a similar fate to Downs and had lost the lead pack’s draft. This left the front three to battle it out, two of whom were more interested in winning the championship than the race.
As the race began to wind down, and drivers began to complete their required pit stops, two battles had emerged on track. The first was the Overall Championship battle between Calvin and Wood who were still running 2nd and 3rd on track, just as they had all race. The other battle was between Bravo and Morales for the Masters Championship. Bravo was in front of Morales, but both were farther back than their second worst finishes of the weekend, which meant that neither would keep the points from the Super Final. The problem for Morales was that even though he entered with the points lead, Bravo had a stronger race drop score and would take the championship unless Morales could gain two spots on track. The bigger problem for Morales is that the driver two spots ahead of him on track was Sergio Bravo.
As Morales and Bravo took the white flag, there was no separation between them, as well as Fred Ogrim who was also part of the Masters Championship battle, but had to beat Bravo and Morales by more spots on track, and would not be a factor in the points race as a result. However, he would be a factor in the race between Bravo and Morales on track as the three Masters drivers exited the final corner side by side. If Morales could get to the stripe before Ogrim and Bravo, he would take the Masters title. At the end, Morales would fall just three tenths of a second short and he would have to watch as Sergio Bravo came across the line to take his first Masters National Championship.
Just moments before the Masters Championship was decided, Andrew Wood and Logan Calvin were battling for 2nd on track. As the rest of the field ran, whoever came out on top between Wood and Calvin would become National Champion. Calvin had won the race off of pit road to a huge roar of approval from his team on the sidelines, but Wood closed the gap quickly. At the white flag, Wood was all over the back of Calvin and looked to find a way around anywhere he could.
The move for the National Championship came on the final corner, final lap.
Wood dove to the outside of Calvin after Calvin blocked the inside line. Wood had pulled nose to nose with Calvin on entry, but the shorter line allowed Calvin to nose back ahead. Onto the front straight, Calvin had all but cleared Wood, but Wood had a bit more momentum built up from the outside line. Both karts tracked out as wide as possible to carry maximum speed, and Calvin swung out just in front of Wood’s kart. Barely clearing the trailing kart of Wood, Calvin knew he had done it, he knew there was no way for Wood back around. Fists in the air, tears in his eyes, Logan Calvin came across the stripe to take his second Mechanix Wear Sport Kart Grand Nationals Championship.
The paddock erupted in applause for both Calvin and Wood after a sensational battle between the two. Both drivers threw everything they had at each other, but neither stepped over the line into unfair racing territory.
Drivers and teams all congratulated Calvin and Wood for putting on such a show, as well as Andres Prieto for grabbing the Super Final win for the second consecutive year.