Joel Miller Sweeps Skip Barber National at Lime Rock

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

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More photos from the Lime Rock National are here

LIME ROCK, Conn. – You could say that Joel Miller is used to running up front in this year’s BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda. After all, aside from winning two of the season’s first eight races, Miller has finished on the podium three other times. His consistently strong finishes meant he’s been atop the points since the championship left VIR (rounds three and four) in April. But what Miller hasn’t done is start from pole. Or even the front row. Coming into Lime Rock, here’s where he had started the previous races: third, ninth, fourth, fourth, eighth, seventh, fifth and fifth.

But Miller took care of fleshing out his Skip Barber racing c.v. with a few pole positions by qualifying fastest for both races. He nipped polemeister Ricky Taylor (poleman in half the year’s races) by .014 of a second for race one, then edged Kyle Lawrence by .049 for race two.

The compressed NASCAR Busch East race weekend meant both races were on Saturday.

Race one: Through the first two laps, the first one had all the makings of a barn-burner. Miller led lap one, but the top half-dozen or so drivers were wheel to wheel and nose to tail so it was no shock when third-starting Josef Newgarden took command on lap two. But as he flew down to Big Bend, just having taken the lead, Newgarden was too wide and too hot and skittered off at the top of the corner. he gathered it up and got back on the track at the tail end of the field. Miller now led, with Lawrence and Taylor filling his mirrors. In the back, Newgarden came out of the Downhill on Dick Lippert’s gearbox, Lippert a car length behind Mike Distaulo. Distaulo got his wheels in the grass at the exit and almost had it fixed but he couldn’t save it and spun back into the track. Lippert locked up and missed him, but Distaulo’s car forced Newgarden into the pit wall. It was a big hit, the pit entrance was partially blocked and it wasn’t certain the condition of Distaulo and Newgarden so officials called for a red flag. By the time everything got sorted out (no injuries, as it turned out), a lot of precious time had ticked away on a time-certain schedule. The re-start came with 8 minutes left. Time for eight laps.

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A minute after overcooking Big Bend and losing the lead to Joel Miller, Josef Newgarden (19) fell victim to a spinner in the Downhill and caused a red flag that shortened race one.

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Miller (41) wasn’t immune to tire fire either, here keeping Kyle Lawrence at bay.

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Timmy Megenbier (24) was running well in race one until this self-inflicted nosejob. Megenbier made up for the over-exuburance with a fourth place in race two.

And in those eight laps, Miller made hay and trotted away while Lawrence, A.J. Riley, Taylor and Peter Ludwig cut each other up trying to secure a podium. With two laps to go, Riley got alongside second-place Lawrence leaving Two and into the Lefthander … and they ran side by side all the way to the top of the Uphill. Riley finally got past as they blasted down to West Bend and stayed there till the end, 4 seconds adrift of Miller. (This Turn Two-to-Turn Six drama would reprise itself, with different players, later in the day…)

On the last lap, a three-pack of dicing drivers shot out of the Downhill, heading pell-mell for the finish line. The clocks had it Taylor, Lawrence, Ludwig (Masters winner) for third, fourth and fifth, with a four-pack just three more tenths behind: Jeff Oleen, Ivo Dimov, Lee Carpentier and Juan Carlos Sistos. Tenth-through-12th were also within inches of each other across the line; Stevan McAleer (fighting understeer), Julien Gerbi (third-fastest lap, despite never having been to Lime Rock before) and Juan Pablo Contreras.

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Ricky Taylor (NOWandLATER) and A.J. Riley (37) in Turn One late in race one.

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Although Taylor (r.) has won twice and taken four poles, his third place in race one was only his second podium besides the two wins. With a second place in race one, Riley (l.) now has four podium results in addition to a win. Miller makes it clear who’s first.

Race two ran its full length of 25 laps and man, it was good. A lap by lap recant would take pages to describe, but suffice to say it was a blur of red, white and blue cars duking it out up front as Miller, Riley. Lawrence, Newgarden, McAleer, Taylor and Timmy Megenbier all had legitimate shots at winning. With around 10 laps to go, though, we ended up with two ferocious battles: Lawrence and Miller up front, and 2 seconds back, a frantic fight for third involving Riley, Taylor, Newgarden, McAleer and Timmy Megenbier.

Lawrence began the last lap half a car length up on Miller, but Miller jammed up the inside entering Big Bend. Could he hold it? No, Miller went skating up to the rim, so Lawrence shot back down to the inside. But Miller milked the thing and kept it going – and now you had Miller on the left and Lawrence on the right, side by side, entering Two. And through Three. And through Four. And No-Name and, scarily, through the Uphill. Miller was finally able to grab take command into West Bend. But Lawrence wasn’t conceding and gave it a terrific go through the Downhill. But he came up a gnat’s eyelash short, .036 behind Miller.

The third place battle was equally nailbiting, with McAleer taking over four laps from the end and nipping Megenbier by 2/10s. Megenbier was almost passed by Taylor at the line, who came up just .007 short. Then, throw a blanket over Riley, Newgarden (sans front wings and a cattywampus nosecone) and Ludwig for sixth, seventh and eighth, while Gerbi matched his best finish since VIR, a tick ahead of 10th-place Contreras.

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Stevan McAleer struggled with set-up all weekend but finally found the handle for race two. He’s good at Lime Rock and with the car to his liking, the Scotsman went from 11th to third at the checker.

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Peter Ludwig won the Masters Division in both races, running fairly close to the ”kids.” Dick Lippert (l.) and Dom Bastien (r.) each had a second and a third in the weekend’s two races. Little Petey Ludwig gets with the program.

So now with four races to go – and each driver able to drop their single worst result – Miller’s margin over Riley has grown from 11 to 26 points (304 to 278, with a win worth 35). Taylor remains third at 263, then a bundle comprised of Lawrence (248), Megenbier (245) and McAleer (244). Next up is the long course at Miller Motorsports Park, which none of these drivers have driven. Who the heck knows what’s going to happen there…

Results, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda

August 18, 2007, round 9 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Lime Rock Park, 7-turn, 1.54-mile road course
Starting position in parentheses

1. (1) Joel Miller, Hesperia, Calif., 11 laps
2. (4) A.J. Riley, Wilton, Conn., 11
3. (2) Ricky Taylor, Apopka, Fla., 11
4. (5) Kyle Lawrence, Fort Gratiot, Mich., 11
5. 1M (6), Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y., 11
6. 5 in class (13) Jeff Oleen, Bethesda, Md., 11
7. 6 in class (10), Ivo Dimov, Bridgeport, Conn., 11
8. 7 in class (11), Lee Carpentier, Great River, N.Y., 11
9. 8 in class (15) Juan Carlos Sistos, Mexico, 11
10. 9 in class (8) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 11
11. 10 in class (14) Julien Gerbi, Nice, France, 11
12. 11 in class (12), Juan Pablo Contreras, Guatemala, 11
13. 2M (16), Dom Bastien, New Canaan, Conn., 11
14. 3M (17), Dick Lippert, Wichita, Kan., 11
15. 12 in class (18) Jeremy Morales, Glen Head, N.Y., 11
16. 4M (20), Jeff Kaiser, Santa Clara, Calif., 11
17. 13 in class (7) Timmy Megenbier, Melrose Park, Ill., 11
18. 14 in class (3) Josef Newgarden, Henderson, Tenn., 2 (accident)
19. 5M (19), Mike Distaulo, Aurora, Ohio, 2 (accident)
20. 15 in class (9), Jonathan Gore, Franklin, Tenn., 1 (accident)

Race length: 11 laps of 1.54-mile, 7-turn road course for 16.9 miles
Time of race: 10 minutes, 31.835 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and warm
Margin of victory: 4.121 seconds
Lap leaders: Miller 1; Newgarden 2; Miller 3 – 11
Cautions: Red flag, 14 minutes
Fastest qualifier: Miller, :58.962 / 94.026 mph
Fastest race lap: Taylor, :58.349 / 95.014 mph, lap 9

August 18, 2007, round 10 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Lime Rock Park, 7-turn, 1.54-mile road course
Starting position in parentheses

1. (1) Joel Miller, Hesperia, Calif., 25 laps, average speed 92.927 mph
2. (2) Kyle Lawrence, Fort Gratiot, Mich., 25 laps
3. (11) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 25
4. (7) Timmy Megenbier, Melrose Park, Ill., 25
5. (6) Ricky Taylor, Apopka, Fla., 25
6. (3) A.J. Riley, Wilton, Conn., 25
7. (4) Josef Newgarden, Henderson, Tenn., 25
8. 1M (18), Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y., 25
9. 8 in class (9) Julien Gerbi, Nice, France, 25
10. 9 in class (10), Juan Pablo Contreras, Guatemala, 25
11. 10 in class (5) Jeff Oleen, Bethesda, Md., 25
12. 11 in class (12), Ivo Dimov, Bridgeport, Conn., 25
13. 12 in class (13), Jonathan Gore, Franklin, Tenn., 25
14. 13 in class (15) Juan Carlos Sistos, Mexico, 25
15. 14 in class (8), Lee Carpentier, Great River, N.Y., 25
16. 2M (17), Dick Lippert, Wichita, Kan., 25
17. 3M (14), Dom Bastien, New Canaan, Conn., 25
18. 15 in class (19) Jeremy Morales, Glen Head, N.Y., 24
19. 4M (16), Mike Distaulo, Aurora, Ohio, 24
20. 5M (20), Jeff Kaiser, Santa Clara, Calif., 22

Race length: 25 laps of 1.54-mile, 7-turn road course for 38.5 miles
Time of race: 24 minutes, 51.491 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and warm
Margin of victory: 0.036 seconds
Lap leaders: Miller 1 – 2; Riley 3; Miller 4 – 15; Lawrence 16 – 19; Miller 20 – 21; Lawrence 22 – 24; Miller 25
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Miller, :58.059 / 95.489 mph
Fastest race lap: Lawrence, :58.293 / 95.106 mph, lap 14

2007 Skip Barber National points standings after 10 of 14 rounds, top 15 drivers:
1. Joel Miller, 304
2. A.J. Riley, 278
3. Ricky Taylor, 263
4. Kyle Lawrence, 248
5. Timmy Megenbier, 245
6. Stevan McAleer, 244
7. Jeff Oleen, 227
8. Josef Newgarden, 226
9. Juan Carlos Sistos, 207
10. Jonathan Gore, 189
11. Juan Pablo Contreras, 189
12. Julien Gerbi, 178
13. Lee Carpentier, 162
14. Taz Smith, 128
15. Fabio Orsolon, 111

Masters Division, Skip Barber National points standings after 12 of 16 rounds, top 15 drivers:
1. Dick Lippert, 358
2. Jeff Kaiser, 347
3. Dom Bastien, 329
4. Quentin Wahl, 203
5. Peter Ludwig, 134
6. Harsha Sen, 110
7. Mike Distaulo, 108
8. Alan Baia, 64
9. Chris Oliver, 58
10. Stephen Kalogridis, 58
11. Tom Capizzi, 58
12. John Greist, 52
13. Ron Yarab, 50
14. Tom Lehmkuhl, 48
15. Jeffrey Pietz, 30

Next event: Miller Motorsports Park w/Grand-Am, September 14-15

Words & photos, Rick Roso

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