A.J. Riley, Quentin Wahl ‘Master’ The Glen

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Sunday, June 10, 2007 Click here for all the ‘MyLaps” qualifying times and race results

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Watkins Glen, June 2007: Masters National plus Regional Open.

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 10) – A.J. Riley took two hard-fought, well-earned wins at Watkins Glen International in a first-ever Skip Barber event – a combination field of the Masters Division of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda (rounds five and six) and the Skip Barber Regional Series. Riley, along with four other under-40 Regional racers, was up against a strong group of National Masters, including Quentin Wahl, Dick Lippert and Jeff Kaiser. In all, 22 drivers started race one and 20 took the green for race two.

In Saturday’s 10-lap race, Riley had qualified on the front row, alongside polesitter – and Master – Peter Ludwig. But it turns out Ludwig did not get a hall pass from his better half and had to scratch. So that meant everybody on the grid moved up a spot, including of course Riley, now the polesitter. His front row mate was Wahl, coming off a win at VIR in April. The green fell and it was – can you guess? – four-wide down into One.

And everybody made it through clean, with the top three heading up the Esses in grid order: Riley, Wahl, Brent Milner (Regional). No major moves into the Bus Stop though it was a scrum mid-pack and back. When they crossed the line first time by, the order was Riley, Wahl (on Riley’s gearbox), Milner, Kaiser, Tim George, Jr. (Reg.), Lippert, Ivo Dimov (R.), Tom Capizzi, Chris Brassard and Steve Mayer.

On lap two, Wahl pulled past Riley up to the Bus Stop, but seconds later, Riley took the lead back by going inside Wahl into the Laces. It was quickly shaping up as a two-driver tilt: one of the youngest (Riley is 19) against (don’t take offense, Quentin!) one of the oldest. And neither had anything over the other. It was clear from the third lap on that Wahl was quite content to stay P2 and fill Riley’s mirrors. Try to shake the youngster up. Worry him into a mistake. Wahl has been here a lot and knew to wait till the end for the setup. Everyone knew what was coming: a last-lap draft pass down the back straight into the Bus Stop.

But it never came. Ironically, it was Wahl who made a small mistake. Doubly ironic, in fact, since it was in a corner that Wahl was demonstrably faster in than was Riley. ‘‘Yeah, yeah, I was killing Turn Eight,’’ Wahl said afterward (Riley nodding his head in agreement). ‘‘I was quicker through there every time. But gosh-darn-it-all, I overcooked it there on lap nine and lost three car lengths to A.J. That was it.’’

And it was, Riley crossing the finish line 2.5 seconds up on Wahl. P3 was Milner, who had lost touch with the leaders mid-race and held off Kaiser from lap one to four, then Dimov (laps five to seven), then Capizzi (eight and nine), then – barely – Dimov again, on the last lap. Dimov, by the way, won a similar ‘‘Invitational’’ race here at the Glen two years ago and had only raced once in the past 18 months; he had scraped his pennies together to get here and came up with a fine effort.

Coming home fifth was Lippert, who had to fight like a dog with George, Jr., Kaiser and others all race long. Lippert also posted the fastest lap, turning a 2:10.348 mid-race.

It was a very good race, all told, with only two casualties: Dom Bastien had to park it after lap-one contact, and Mark Bartholomew spun it lightly into the tires exiting the Bus Stop in the late going.

Sixth through 10th were George, Jr., Kaiser, Capizzi, Chris Oliver (from 17th on the grid) and Chris Brassard, who had a wonderful race-long dice with Harsha Sen. In terms of class finishes, it was Wahl, Lippert and Kaiser in Masters National, and Riley, Milner and Dimov in Regional.

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Saturday race: Quentin Wahl (c.) flanked by P2 Dick Lippert (l.) and Jeff Kaiser, third place, Masters Division.

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A.J. Riley was the Overall and Regional winner in race one, with second place Ivo Dimov (l.) and P3 Brent Milner (r.).

Sunday was race two and on pole was George, Jr., who had nipped Wahl in qualifying by a couple of 10ths. Riley would start third and Capizzi fourth. And what we got was another good one, with even more dicing up and down the field.

It was another clean start but right from the git-go it was a seven-car pack that a Kleenex Brand tissue easily covered. The cutting and thrusting was on the razor’s edge and there were passes going on everywhere, not just the ‘‘classic’’ Turn One and Bus Stop. When they crossed the line the first time it was Riley, George, Jr., Dimov, Capizzi, Wahl, Kaiser and Lippert. Next time by it was Capizzi, Riley, Dimov, Goerge, Jr., Wahl, Lippert, Kaiser. Third time it was Dimov, Capizzi, Riley, Wahl, George, Jr., Lippert and Kaiser. Lap four, yet another official new leader as Riley took command, with Dimov, Wahl, George, Jr., Lippert, Kaiser and Capizzi (who had straightlined the Bus Stop) following.

Finally, though, the intense action claimed a victim. On lap five, Lippert was taking Turn 10 flat but turned-in a pinch too early. He clobbered the apex and went spinning. George, Jr., right behind, went outside to avoid and as they both went off into the beach, Lippert’s rolling car tagged George’s. Lippert refired but George was stuck and a full course caution was called for. The top five were Riley, Dimov, Wahl, Kaiser and Capizzi.

With George, Jr., yanked out, the race went green to start lap eight. Dimov grabbed the lead going into the Bus Stop, but then Riley sliced underneath in Eight. Right behind, Capizzi went side by side through the corner with… Oliver? Where did he come from? Well, from 16th on the grid, tell you what! The lapchart for his car number looks like the sales curve for beer at a frat party – straight up. The one lap of FCY had given him even more opportunity and he was grabbing it like a freshman grabs beer at, um, a frat party.

So with Oliver now in fifth going after Kaiser in fourth, Wahl was third — but losing touch with Riley and Dimov. On the next to last lap, Kaiser got it wrong in the Bus Stop and was now up to his hubs in the litter. It would be safely covered by a local yellow…

…which Riley and Dimov wouldn’t find out about until they came flying up to the Bus Stop on the last lap. Here they came, Dimov getting his anticipated run out of One and popping to the outside heading into the chicane. Would they see the yellow? Well, yes, they did. And there went Dimov’s best chance for the win. He looked in the Laces and the Toe, and made a good run out of 11, but Riley was in control. Dimov gained down the front straight but in the end he was a .134 of a second short. Wahl was third, about a half-second back, while Oliver and Capizzi took it right to the line, Oliver nipping Capizzi by a mere 10th. Then came a three-wide pack of Harsha Sen, Doug Harrison (all the way from 13th) and Dom Bastien. Ninth and 10th were Michele Marden (the terrific organizer of the ‘‘Driving for Donors’’ charity campaign) and Leland Englebardt, who had enjoyed a frantic battle of their own all race long.

With third place all the way to 13th populated by Masters Division drivers, Marc Bastien (Dom’s son) garnered P3 honors in the Regional competition.

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A.J. and Ivo do it again, with Marc Bastien (r.) getting third in Regional.

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Masters Division race two: Rick Ratajczak interviews Tom Capizzi (l.), winner Wahl and second place Chris Oliver (r.).

It was a great weekend of racing for the Skip Barber contingent, no doubt. But I wonder how differents things would have been had Ludwig been allowed out of the house? Ludwig has shown more than anyone the ability to run wheel to wheel with the ‘‘kids.’’ Regardless, Riley will be bringing a bit more confidence into his next races, the Skip Barber Nationals at the Champ Car Cleveland Grand Prix later this month.

Results

June 9, 2007, round 5 of 16, Masters Division BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda (plus Regional Open)
Watkins Glen International, 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course
Starting position in parentheses

1. (1) A.J. Riley, 10 laps, 92.914 mph average speed
2. 1M (2) Quentin Wahl, 10
3. 2 in class (3) Brent Milner, 10
4. 3 in class (8) Ivo Dimov, 10
5. 2M (4) Dick Lippert, 10
6. 4 in class (7) Tim George, Jr., 10
7. 3M (5) Jeff Kaiser, 10
8. 4M (9) Tom Capizzi, 10
9. 5M (17), Chris Oliver, 10
10. 6M (13) Chris Brassard, 10
11. 7M (14) Harsha Sen, 10
12. 8M (11) Leland Englebardt, 10
13. 9M (10), Steve Mayer 10
14. 10M (12) Doug Harrison, 10
15. 11M (15) Michele Marden, 10
16. 5 in class (20), Marc Bastien, 10
17. 12M (16) Steve Nelson, 10
18. 13M (19) Erik Brumme, 10
19. 14M (21) Scott James, 10
20. 15M (22) Russell Gee, 10
21. 16M (18) Mark Bartholomew, 8 (contact)
22. 17M (6) Dom Bastien, 0 (contact)

Race length: 10 laps of 3.4-mile, 17-turn road course for 34 miles
Time of race: 21 minutes, 57.350 seconds
Conditions: Sunny
Margin of victory: 2.527 seconds
Lap leaders: Riley 1-10
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Peter Ludwig (DNS), 2:10.142
Fastest race lap: Lippert, 2:10.348, lap 7

June 10, 2007, round 6 of 16, Masters Division BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda (plus Regional Open)
Watkins Glen International, 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course
Starting position in parentheses

1. (3) A.J. Riley, 10 laps, 79.349 mph average speed
2. (5) Ivo Dimov, 10 laps
3. 1M (2) Quentin Wahl, 10
4. 2M (16), Chris Oliver, 10
5. 3M (4) Tom Capizzi, 10
6. 4M (8) Harsha Sen, 10
7. 5M (13) Doug Harrison, 10
8. 6M (7) Dom Bastien, 10
9. 7M (12) Michele Marden, 10
10. 8M (10) Leland Englebardt, 10
11. 9M (6) Dick Lippert, 10
12. 10M (11) Chris Brassard, 10
13. 11M (15), Steve Mayer 10
14. 3 in class (17), Marc Bastien, 10
15. 12M (14) Steve Nelson, 10
16. 13M (18) Erik Brumme, 10
17. 14M (19) Scott James, 10
18. 15M (20) Russell Gee, 10
19. 16M (9) Jeff Kaiser, 8 (spin)
20. 4 in class (1) Tim George, Jr., 4 (spin)

Race length: 10 laps of 3.4-mile, 17-turn road course for 34 miles
Time of race: 25 minutes, 42.554 seconds
Conditions: Sunny
Margin of victory: 0.134 seconds
Lap leaders: Riley 1; Capizzi 2; Dimov 3; Riley 4-10
Cautions: One, for one lap (lap 7)
Fastest qualifier: George, Jr., 2:11.168
Fastest race lap: Dimov, 2:10.760, lap 5

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A.J. slightly airborne, race one, Bus Stop.

Rick Roso

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