Eastern Regional: Stand-Alone at Lime Rock Park
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The first stand-alone Eastern Series race weekend was at Lime Rock Park. Perfect weather, the facility looked great and we had some really good racing. As you can see, we had some fun… Two first-time winners, too: congrats to Nick Darinzo and Corey Lewis!
This was a big-ish field of 16 and Nick Darinzo had earned pole. At the green he kept the lead, ahead of P3-starting Hamilton Smith. When Adam Fusco spun and tapped the tires in the Downhill on lap six, we went FCY. On the re-start Darinzo handily kept the lead and finished off the 26 laps with a near 6-second MoV over Smith, who had gapped himself from Nick ‘‘The Voice of the GEICO Gecko’’ Brady. The dice for fourth was entertaining, as Gustavo Linares (from the last row) and Gary Baluha went at it, Baluha eventually prevailing. Rick Johnson, the first Master, was sixth, followed by Brad Parker, Scott James, Dan Dunson and Bill Sullivan. This was Darinzo’s first win, who also set fastest race lap.
Darinzo again led flag to flag on Saturday (lapping the field through P7) while Smith and Brady duked it out for P2, with Smith taking second place for good at mid-race as Brady really started to heat up his rear tires. Smith also put up the race’s fast lap. Linares came across fourth, ahead of Scott James and Masters-winner Parker. Sullivan, Jeff Poarch, Baluha and Johnson rounded out the top 10.
Sorry, I know the shot’s a bit fuzzy… Saturday, this is Nick Brady (8) sideways in Two, with Hamilton Smith (44) ready to pounce. Smith did get by to get his second P2 of the weekend. Brady finished third, twice.
This was small but quick group: Eight drivers, a mix of fast vets (Tom Capizzi and Doug Harrison), karting whiz kids (Conor Daly, Jordan Taylor, Gabby Chaves, Bobby Ellis and Dion Von Moltke) and a current National driver, Jeff Oleen. Right from the git-go it was Taylor glued to the gearbox of Daly. Taylor looked to running a strategic race, hooking up with Daly to try to gap P3 rather than duking and dicing for the lead. It was Oleen and Ellis putting on a show for third, in fact, a spot they swapped a few times through the first two-thirds of the race. But then, in the frantic battle, Oleen got into Ellis in the Lefthander, which put Ellis in ‘‘the lake.’’ Oleen duly came in for his required stop but a tug had to be sent to salvage the wet Ellis. On the re-start with four to go, Taylor tried but couldn’t get past the fast Daly, who nipped Taylor by a 10th at the line. Third place was now being fought over by Von Moltke, Capizzi and Chaves. Von Moltke took himself out with a spin, leaving Capizzi to edge Chaves for the last podium spot. Oleen and Harrison were the last of the runners.
Two more quick guys were added to the group on Saturday, as Bill Hammer and Peter Ludwig came up to join the fray. The first 9/10s of the opening lap was great, officially led by Daly, until Oleen lost it in the Downhill and the race was stopped to do some tire-wall repair. Daly led on the re-start but Gabby pulled one of his patented outside passes in One (Taylor calmly laying third). Here we had two young bucks, each itching to win, but it came to tears on lap five as they got into each other big-time in One, Chaves even catching a huge amount of air. Tough as the cars are, they both pitted and rejoined but were now a lap down and out of it. So Taylor’s P3 became P1 and off he marched to the win. Second place was now between Capizzi, Ellis and Von Moltke. But it didn’t work out between Ellis and Capizzi, as they too banged wheels in T1 on lap 16; it put Ellis out and when Capizzi finally made his required stop, he was out of the running too. The incident elevated Von Moltke to second and Hammer to third. Harrison finished fourth, followed by Capizzi.
Marco Andretti’s friend and neighbor, Corey Lewis, didn’t have to set the fastest race-lap on his way to a pitch-perfect, first-time win Friday afternoon. That was left to John Stempien. As Lewis led green to checker, Stempien was charging from row six, even as Carlos Medina and Nick Brady (doubling) were squabbling over second place. Before mid-race, Stempien was up to fourth, catching those two. On lap 19, Stempien pounced on Medina – he passed him at the apex of the Downhill – then Stempien took off after Brady and got him four laps later. He eventually got within 4 seconds of Lewis at the checker. Gustavo Linares, in fifth, was the last of the lead-lap cars. Sixth through 10th were Gilberto Garrudo, Charles McManus, Scott James (also doubling), Steve Hahn and Bill Oliver.
Well, thanks to his P2 finish on Friday, Stempien had a chance to take it to Lewis for the entire race. But Lewis would have none of it and not only led every lap again – though Stempien got within gearbox distance a few times – he set fastest race lap to boot. Brady had a mechanical issue, which unfortunately took him out of the running. Third place was again the most frought with action, as three drivers, Medina, Garrudo and Linares, all took their turns in the last podium position. With three to go, Medina got a run out of the Downhill on Linares to take, and hold till the end, P3, with Garrudo coming across fifth. Brady was on the lead lap and recovered to sixth, followed by Hahn, Bill Shields, James and Gary Vizioli.
This was a quasi-rehash of Group Two, the players being Daly, Taylor and Capizzi, with the addition of Hammer, Eric Mayo, Michael Denino, Chris Brassard, Greg Markarian and Steve Nelson. It was tight at the beginning, as Taylor led the first frantic laps. Daly popped for the lead into One on lap three, but Taylor returned the favor next time around. But Daly also instantly responded and took it right back the next lap. Taylor took some looks but then it looked like he decided to play the waiting game. Meanwhile, Capizzi, Mayo and Hammer were having it out over third place, but when Mayo went around Capizzi on lap 12, he pulled away for good. And Taylor? Not so much a waiting game as a watching game. As in watching Daly stretch it out, winning with an MoV of 3+ seconds… Mayo was a lonely third, but Hammer crossed the line in fourth just inches in front of Denino. Capizzi, Markarian, Brassard and Nelson rounded out the field.
Daly and Taylor were again the class of the field. Again Daly led, with Taylor stalking inside a few car lengths. What Taylor was watching this, time, however, was Daly sliding the car around like you read about. It’s a Catch-22: the more you slide the hotter the tires get which makes you slide more which makes the tires hotter which… well, you get it. With his grip going away and Taylor filling his mirrors, Daly finally succumbed, with five laps to go – he put it in the fence in the Downhill. So the Lime Rock ‘‘score’’ in the ‘‘Battle of the Young Karters Who Are Sons of Famous Fathers’’ was a deadlock, two wins each… Mayo and Denino put on a great show for second place. After Daly’s off, Denino moved from third to second. But Mayo was right there with him and on the last lap, he made his move and nipped Denino at the line by 2/10s of a second. Ludwig came from the back and despite two pit stops, came home fourth, a couple seconds up on Hammer. Jim Craig made a special appearance and finished sixth, ahead of Brassard, Markarian, Capizzi (who was running third, until he turned into Ludwig in One as Ludwig was trying to take the spot) and Nelson.
The Bill Pinkney – The Last of the Drifters – Memorial
After the race, Eric Mayo’s Dad started to make his way to pit lane, but the marshals were able to redirect him… Anyway, in the race itself, MHP tussled with Jeff Oleen, who had taken the lead fairly early from his P7 starting spot, going to the point for good with five laps to go. John Stempien started second and finished third, while Jonathan Goring and Pat Daly rounded out the top five.
On the weekend of July 27-29, we’re going where Champ Car recently came from – the beautiful Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant – for a combined Midwest-East Race Series event. The Mont Tremblant race week is one of the year’s highlights, a great combo of a fantastic race track, world-class fine dining and a full zoot vacation atmosphere.
Then, the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda heads to Road America August 3-5 for rounds seven and eight. It is, as usual, a tight title battle as points leader Joel Miller is separated from seventh-place Jeff Oleen by just 37 points. In between are A.J. Riley, Ricky Taylor, Timmy Megenbier, Stevan McAleer and Josef Newgarden. In the Masters Division, Jeff Kaiser is up by a scant five points over Dick Lippert, while Dom Bastien stalks the both of them at 209. Road America is followed immediately by Lime Rock Park, as the National supports the NASCAR Busch East race weekend of August 16-18. Then, there’s the combined East/Midwest at Mid-Ohio September 1-2.
2007 Eastern Race Series
April 20-22, VIR
May 25-27, Watkins Glen
June 29-July 1, Road America
July 12-14, Lime Rock Park
July 27-29, Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant
Oct. 30-Sept. 2, Mid-Ohio
Oct. 11-13, Lime Rock Park