East & Midwest at The Glen
Friday, June 02, 2006 Rounds three and four of the Midwestern and Eastern Race Series were at Watkins Glen International. As it had been done at VIR a couple weeks earlier, some of the races were made up of combined groups – with separate points-scoring – such as Group One (East/Midwest Championship) and Group Four (East/Midwest/Championship/Sportsman).
All told, there were more than 75 competitors on the hallowed grounds of WGI. Below these quick links are the recaps…
G1R1 (East & Midwest Championship Group)
Seven Eastern racers and four Midwest pilots entered this 12-lapper. Even though the top three broke away and diced with each other, Peter Ludwig (M.W.) led flag-to-flag over Revere Greist (M.W.), while third on the track A.J. Riley won the Eastern ‘‘division.’’ Matthew Jordan went up and down on the lap chart – he was as low as eighth with one-third of the race in the books – but got himself back to fourth on the track (and second in East) by the checker. Rounding out the Easterners were Jeff Castellano with a fine P3 (sixth on track), Jared Fisher (fourth/seventh) and Steve Goldstein (fifth/eighth), while A.J. Nealey (E.) and John Greist (M.W.) had contact with each other with just a few laps to go which ended their races. Fifth on the track and third in Midwest was Martin Zimmerman, who brilliantly came back from a lap five detour of some sort.
G1R2 (East & Midwest Championship Group)
When this frantic 12-lap race was over, at the line it was Riley, Ludwig, Jordan, R. Greist, J. Greist, Sy Aryeh, Zimmerman and Fisher – but this wasn’t the official result. Yes, it was a great battle between Riley and Ludwig, but on lap 11 they had some light wheel-to-wheel contact and were both handed time penalties for failure to stop. After the post-race sort out, Jordan, Riley and Fisher were the top dogs in the East, while the Midwest podium was Ludwig (yes, even with a 10 sec. penalty: he did go to pit lane as required, but didn’t actually stop in the box), R. Greist and J. Greist.
G3R1 (Sportsman East)
A gi-mongous field of 20 took the green and fourth-starting Nicholas Spencer led an exciting first lap, Chris Brassard second and David Gionfriddo third. What happened to poleman Leland Englebardt? Don’t know exactly, but he was 15th at the end of lap one… Anyway, there also may have been contact between Spencer and Brassard very early on, because Brassard brought his car in after one lap, while Spencer retired after a lap two spin. And that gave Gionfriddo the lead, which was must have been pretty exciting for him as he was looking at notching up his first Series victory! Despite a fairly big lead, on the last lap Gionfriddo made a mistake – and Englebardt, who had been relentlessly rocketing back to the front, was there to snap up the gift! George McArthur came from seventh to take the last podium spot, while Russell Hodgson, who couldn’t quite convert his P2 starting spot into a top three, nevertheless took a fine fourth. Fabrice Weill went from ninth to got fifth.
G3R2 (Sportsman Midwest)
Way to go, Gionfriddo! Forget the disappointment of Race One: David and Leland went at it in grand fashion and even took the lead from Englebardt twice (lap two and lap nine) to score his first Series win. Englebardt crossed the line in second, but a wall-brush followed by a four-off on lap 10 earned him a 25 second demerit. That meant Brassard – all the way from 18th! – got P2 while Hodgson got a podium this time. Englebardt was classified fourth, while Spencer had an effort that rivaled Brassard’s, going from 17th to fifth.
Six Championship-class drivers mixed it up with 13 Sportsman pilots. Instructor Matt Franc put the hurt on Ludwig (Jiminy, how many races did he do this weekend?!), who had to battle both Revere and John Greist along the way. In the end, J. Greist took third, Revere fourth and Jimmy Locke – from the last row – fifth. Meanwhile, Stevan McAleer, the scholarship driver from Scotland, impressed with the Sportsman-class win. He started from the third row but on the first lap he and Paul Joakim had to go four-off to avoid (and I love this typo from the race notes) ‘‘the no. 64 sinner in the Bus Stop.’’ (The Sinner, by the way, was Championship driver Bill Hammer, who recovered nicely to finish eight on the track and sixth in class.) Duly making his required pit stop on lap two, McAleer came back to the party in 17th then stair-stepped himself at least one or two cars every lap – including getting past leader Sundaresh Kumar on the last lap – to wind up sixth on the track and first in Sportsman. Third was James Booth, who made up nine on-track spots during the race, followed by Frederic Greiling (including a time penalty) and Charles McManus.
With the Champ-class guys out of the mix (four of them would go to Group Five), this was a 13-driver Sportsman tilt, and the last one for McAleer (he’s headed to Championship for the rest of the year). This one didn’t start so well, as Bob Gogerty and Adam Fusco got together, then Kumar fenced it in T11 that caused a race stoppage. Cleaned up, we went green again and McAleer went the distance after an early dice with Greiling (who regrettably had to park it after five laps). After Greiling’s retirement, Joakim, Eduardo Pellerano, and Jim Booth squabbled entertainingly for P2, 3 and 4, and the whole while Michele Marden (coming back to her ‘‘home’’ track) put together a fine effort to go from 12 th on the grid to fifth at the end..
G5R1 (Sportsman Midwest + Championship)
Tim George did a stellar job in this one, and it was his first Series win. He led the first four laps, until the first of the C-group guys (Ludwig) came up through, and was even competitive with R. & J. Greist and Hammer right to the end. In fact, only he, Mark Fee and Kasey Kuhlman of the S-class drivers got into the 2:12s, which knocks on the door of the C-men. Good racing from front to back, son on the track across the line, Ludwig was your winner, R. Greist second, J. Greist third, then Sportsman winner George fourth followed by McArthur, Hammer (fourth-place C.) and John Potter (P3 Sportsman).
G5R2 (Sportsman Midwest)
With Group Five reconfigured to 13 Midwest Sportsman, George was on pole and Potter alongside. The start was six-wide(!) at the starter stand, then we saw three rows of three wide and watched Michele go around three cars on the outside through one of the corners. When the field completed the first lap, George led over Potter and Brassard. By lap three, Kuhlman had taken P3 from Brassard, and that was the order for lap four. But the next time they went into the Toe, Potter let the car get away from him and spun! (He would pit two laps later and eventually finish a lap down…) The Potter spin moved everybody up a notch, making it Kuhlman, Brassard, Fee, Rick Balsley and Marden, behind leader George. Kuhlman began to close the gap to George and with two to go, George had Kuhlman filling his mirrors. At the finish, there was just .043 of a second between winner George and Kuhlamn, while Brassard, about 20 seconds back, was pretty much alone in third, though Fee in fourth had to fend off a charging Farden – er, Marden!
Well, it would be tough to beat Watkins Glen in terms of racetrack coolness-factor, driver count, exciting racing – but we’ll probably do it at Road America, July 1-2. This is the year’s single largest Skippy event; an all-singing, all-dancing affair of East, Midwest, Masters National and Skip Barber National Presented by RACER (rounds seven and eight). All the fun extra-curricular stuff we do during this Road America event is on tap, so for you new racers, we want to make sure you know this is a particularly good Race Weekend to bring the whole family.
Remember, Las Vegas has ‘‘replaced’’ Laguna Seca for the months of May and June, as Laguna is undergoing some track refurbishment…