Jonathan Goring Wins the National Title

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Sunday, October 29, 2006 Click here for all the photos from the National races

Full-season box score recap and final points standings

TOOELE, Utah – After 13 races, five different winners and nine different polesitters over the course of the season, the championship battle in the 2006 Skip Barber National Presented by RACER came down to a last-race, last-lap, last-corner passing attempt. Coming into the weekend, three drivers all had a shot at winning the championship and its $100,000 Career Enhancement Award: Jonathan Goring, Marco Di Leo and Alexander Rossi. Each had won three races and the three were within a points spread of just 34 points. But by the time Sunday’s race went green it was down to just two drivers…

Race one. In the warm-up, polesitter Goring had a tie rod clevis joint break. With a 10 minute delay to the start, the car was fixed. The start was clean and the first lap finished in grid order; Goring, Kyle Lawrence, Rossi. But on the second lap Rossi suffered the same ill fate Goring had had in the warm-up, a broken clevis. It was a miserable way for Rossi’s race to end – along with his title hopes.

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Jonathan Goring cruised to the win on Saturday. Much harder work would come the next day…

Goring and Lawrence meanwhile shot off into the distance, Di Leo in third a ways behind. The first to second gap stabilized at about three seconds, but with only a couple of laps to go, Lawrence suddenly slowed, then stopped. A rare blown motor. That handed second to Peter Husser (who had made a pass on Di Leo in Turn Five two laps earlier to snatch third) and third to Di Leo. Di Leo had his hands full over the final laps as his car was overheating and he was fighting off a charging Mario Adrian Ochoa.

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Race one: Peter Husser goes around a sliding-wide Marco Di Leo in the Turn Five hairpin to take over third. When Kyle Lawrence’s motor failed he inherited second.

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Mario Adrian Ochoa was closing on third place Di Leo, whose engine was running too hot near the end.

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Husser, who throughout the year got quicker and quicker, took second in race one — and would play a key role in race two.

With Rossi (the race two polesitter) regrettably out of the title picture, Sunday’s race — and the championship – boiled down to this: Di Leo would win if he finished anywhere in the top five but with Goring two or more spots behind him. From Goring’s perspective, any finish in front of Di Leo would clinch the $100,000. Or even behind Di Leo, as long as it was right behind…

Race two. Rossi on pole, Goring alongside, Di Leo starting third, Lawrence fourth. The stage was set for fireworks. And we got them. The first and best passing zone at Miller is Turn Five, a first-gear, lefthand hairpin at the end of a long straight that leads from a flat-in-fourth sweeper. It’s three wide in the braking zone; Rossi far right on the racing line, Di Leo in the middle, Goring inside. Goring smokes his BFGs as he gets it done on Di Leo, but Rossi is carrying more speed and is in front as he turns in. But he didn’t quite anticipate where Goring would end up and well, there was no room for two as they approached the apex: Goring’s nose was now into the left-rear of Rossi and Di Leo was into the back of Goring and suddenly Rossi was along for a spinning ride. He rejoined last. But it was certainly not the last we would hear from him…

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Race two: Rossi (l.), Di Leo (c.) and Goring (r.), first lap, Turn Five hairpin.

Thanks to the schemozzle, Lawrence’s conservative approach to Five paid off. He was now the leader, with rookie Kayman Benetti second (from last!) and Goring, front wings asunder, in third. Di Leo was fourth.

For the rest of the race Lawrence was picture-perfect, never putting a wheel wrong and rocketing off to his first Skip Barber National win. A great effort, but lost somewhat to the tension of the title fight. How was the Di Leo/Goring battle going to sort out? With Di Leo, Goring and Husser all within a car length of each other, things got scary for Goring on lap three when he went wide in Five and both Di Leo and Husser got by. Now the title was ‘‘lost.’’ But Goring stayed calm and put Husser behind him on lap five. Now he was the ‘‘champion’’ again.

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Race two: Kyle Lawrence never put a wheel wrong and took his first Skip Barber National win.

And now coming into the mix was Rossi, on an absolute tear following the Turn Five incident, a very young man on a mission. He was a rocketship coming up through the field and by lap seven he had blown past the squabbling Husser, Goring and Di Leo to take over third place. (Rossi, not done, went after Benetti and got him, taking over P2 on lap nine, then went hunting for Lawrence. Rossi was closing fast when the checker flew – a monster run for the 15 year old, to say the least. And Benetti, most impressive for a first-timer in the National, scored a well driven third.)

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Race two: With a point to prove, Rossi (#26) dispatches Goring (#33) and Di Leo (#53) on lap seven.

Meanwhile, Di Leo and Goring were cutting each other up and after falling back thanks to a mistake in Ten, Husser got back into the mix. On lap 10, he pounced on Goring for fifth – and with Di Leo in fourth, again he was the ‘‘champion.’’ But that only lasted a lap as Husser found his way past Di Leo. That made Di Leo fifth and Goring sixth. And now the stage was set…

Goring, the mangled nose of his R/T 2000 glued to the gearbox of Di Leo, was where he needed to be to clinch the title and its $100,000 Career Enhancement award. But if Di Leo could put Husser back behind him, without Goring also getting through, Di Leo would be king.

Last lap, last corner. It’s Husser, Di Leo, Goring. This was Di Leo’s absolute last chance; he dove under Husser, then got alongside. Yes, it was a bit desperate, but a title and a lot of money were on the line. And at that moment, Goring thought his title hopes had vanished for good. If Di Leo made the pass work, Di Leo wins the championship. Di Leo and Husser were now banging wheels as they went side by side into Ten. Di Leo finally got in front… but his right-rear caught Husser’s left-front — hard — and around Husser went. And in that split second, Goring got the title back. For good.

Goring: ‘‘I saw Marco go for the pass, the very last corner, and I thought, Man, that’s it, he wins, I’m done. Then Peter spins! It was like, two seconds, I went from champ to not and back to champ. Unbelievable…’’

So Goring, 17, wins the Skip Barber National Presented by RACER, 649 points to 647. That two point margin ties the National’s record for the tightest title battle, set in 2001 when Julio Campos beat A.J. Allmendinger. It’s pretty clear, however, that Goring, Di Leo and Rossi all have very bright careers in front of them, and we surely haven’t seen the last of these three dicing for podiums.

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The race two podium, left to right: Rossi, Lawrence, series champion Goring and third place Kayman Benetti, an impressive debut for a National rookie.

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Skip Barber President George Ayres presents the $100,000 Career Enhancement Award to 2006 Skip Barber National champion Jonathan Goring.

Miller Motorsports Park Results, Skip Barber National 2006 Finale

Oct. 28, 2006, round 13 of 14, Skip Barber National Presented by RACER
Miller Motorsports Park, 10-turn, 2.2-mile ‘‘West’’ road course
Starting position in parentheses

1. (1) Jonathan Goring, Norfolk, Conn., 15 laps, 79.835 mph winning average speed
2. (5) Peter Husser, Salinas, Calif., 15 laps
3. (4) Marco Di Leo, Markham, Ont., Canada, 15
4. (7) Mario Adrian Ochoa, Mexico, 15
5. (6) Jason Fennessey, Andover, Mass., 15
6. (9) Kyle Lawrence, Fort Gratiot, Mich., 12 (motor)
7. (8) Kayman Benetti, Green Valley, Calif., 10 (motor)
8. (3) Alexander Rossi, Nevada City, Calif., 1 (suspension)

Race length: 15 laps of 2.2-mile, 10-turn road course for 33.0 miles
Time of race: 24 minutes, 36.558 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and warm
Margin of victory: 19.520 seconds
Lap leaders: Goring 1 – 15
Caution laps: None
Fastest qualifier: Goring, 1:38.113 / 80.099 mph
Fastest race lap: Goring, 1:37.711 / 80.429 mph, lap 10

Oct. 29, 2006, round 14 of 14, Skip Barber National Presented by RACER
Miller Motorsports Park, 10-turn, 2.2-mile ‘‘West’’ road course
Starting position in parentheses

1. (4) Kyle Lawrence, Fort Gratiot, Mich., 15 laps, 79.347 mph winning average speed
2. (1) Alexander Rossi, Nevada City, Calif., 15 laps
3. (8) Kayman Benetti, Green Valley, Calif., 15
4. (3) Marco Di Leo, Markham, Ont., Canada, 15
5. (2) Jonathan Goring, Norfolk, Conn., 15
6. (6) Mario Adrian Ochoa, Mexico, 15
7. (5) Peter Husser, Salinas, Calif., 15
8. (7) Jason Fennessey, Andover, Mass., 13 (overheating)

Race length: 15 laps of 2.2-mile, 10-turn road course for 33.0 miles
Time of race: 24 minutes, 45.647 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and warm
Margin of victory: 2.459 seconds
Lap leaders: Lawrence 1 – 15
Caution laps: None
Fastest qualifier: Rossi, 1:37.932 / 80.247 mph
Fastest race lap: Rossi, 1:38.102 / 80.108 mph, lap 8

Skip Barber National final points standings, top 10 drivers:
1. Jonathan Goring, 649
2. Marco Di Leo, 647
3. Alexander Rossi, 613
4. Kyle Lawrence, 551
5. Mario Adrian Ochoa, 430
6. Alex Doman, 420
7. Jason Fennessey, 400
8. Peter Husser, 379
9. Richard Heistand, 351
10. Jonathan Gore, 314

Rick Roso

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