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Sunday, June 28, 2009 While the drivers of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda were tearing up New Jersey Motorsports Park, a little over four hours north drivers of the Skip Barber Summer Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge were duking it out at Skip Barber Racing School’s traditional home, Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park. Old and new collided as a track layout utilizing the new, alternate Uphill and the traditional West Bend combined with a mix of rookies and seasoned drivers made for one of the more exciting weekends in a long time — both on and off track.

Group 1, Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Polesitter Al Carter picked up the Race 1 victory after a post-race blocking penalty was assessed to Pat Daly, who finished the race in first place. Carter drove off at the start to a commanding before a Lap 9 spin allowed Daly to take the point and the checkers prior to the 15-second penalty. That penalty handed the win to Carter, his third of the season, ahead of Mazda/Rotax Max Scholarship driver Arie Ouimet and Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out winner Nick Andries (who also claimed the quickest lap of the race). Pat Daly’s time penalty relegated him to fourth, ahead of Chris Brassard, Bruce Robson and Dom Bastien. Gary Vizioli came in eighth ahead of Gus Doppes while Steven Hahn completed the top ten.

Group 1, Race 2
Al Carter led early from the pole before being overtaken by Nick Andries before the end of Lap 1. The two then stayed nose to tail for the early stages before swapping the lead a few times at the mid-point of the race. This allowed Pat Daly to work his way from fifth on the grid up to the lead battle. Daly, looking to bounce back from Race 1’s controversial penalty, first passed Chris Brassard on Lap 3, Arie Ouimet on Lap 10 then Race 1 protagonist Carter on Lap 13. He set off after the leader but could get no closer than a tick under six seconds as Nick Andries cruised to his fourth win of the season. Daly finished runner-up, ahead of Al Carter, who pitted late for a safety check after contact with Arie Ouimet, who recovered from the contact to pick up fourth place. Chris Brassard scored another fifth, ahead of Bruce Robson and Gary Vizioli. Dom Bastien finished Race 2 in eighth, ahead of Gus Doppes while Steven Hahn again completed the top ten.

Group 2, Race 1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
Two words could best describe Race 1 for the MAZDASPEED Challenge drivers: Lee Carpentier. Lee led every lap from pole to a five second MOV over Phil Mather, with John Tancredi a further two seconds back in third. The lead trio gapped the field, with a 20 second space between Tancredi and fourth place finisher Peter Ludwig. Ludwig, who came from deep in the field for a solid finish, held off the duo of Michael Auriemma (5th) and John Snyder (6th). Bill Fenton finished seventh, ahead of Ward Herst and Ralf Ludwig, while David Levine was the last car on the lead lap in 10th.

Group 2, Race 2
Phil Mather jumped from his outside front row starting position to take an early lead in Race 2 over Race 1 winner Lee Carpentier. Mather led the first three laps before being overtaken by Carpentier. The duo battled for the point, with Mather taking it back just after the halfway point before going four-off in Big Bend, dropped himself back into the field. This left Lee Carpentier with a comfortable lead which he carried to the checkers, his fourth of the season and the weekend sweep, winning by 24 seconds over second and third place finishers Michael Auriemma and John Tancredi. Phil Mather’s held onto fourth place after his off-course excursion, ahead of Bill Fenton and Ralf Ludwig. David Levine came in seventh, ahead of Ward Herst and Dan Moen while Steven Craig rounded out the top ten.

Group 3, Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Group 3 turned into a two-way battle between fifth in points Spencer Pigot and Felix Serralles, who was making his 2009 Summer Race Series debut at Lime Rock Park. At the start Pigot got the jump, getting around the front row of Serralles and Rob Ecklin and leading for the majority of the race before Felix got around him on Lap 20 of 24. Serralles would hold on to that lead, taking his first victory in his first start of the season, along with fast lap and a new track record (for now) of 1:01.537. Spencer Pigot came in a (relatively) close second, three and a half seconds back from Serralles. Rob Ecklin rounded out the podium with a distant third, 33 seconds back from the leader, but comfortably ahead of Dex Tuttle in fourth and Chris Brassard, the last lead lap driver in fifth. One lap down in sixth was Ben Jopling, ahead of a pack that included Jesse Schmidt (7th) and Jim Craige (8th), while Greg Strelzoff and Steve Nelson completed the top ten.

Group 3, Race 2
At the start of Race 2, Spencer Pigot got a jump on polesitter Felix Serralles, and while the duo stayed in close contact, Pigot led every lap to take a two-second victory over Serralles, his third of the season. Comfortably behind the pair was third place finisher Jim Craige, who came from seventh at the start to take the final place on the podium, ahead of Dex Tuttle. David Cheng and Harsha Sen took advantage of others’ bad luck and driver errors to move from 11th and 15th at the start to fifth and six at the finish, ahead of Ben Jopling, the final car on the lead lap. Greg Strelzoff, Steve Nelson and Jesse Schmidt rounded out the top ten, one lap down from the leaders.

Group 4, Race 1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
When it was time for the second group of doorslammers to hit the track, it was point leader Lee Carpentier with this third pole of the weekend bringing the field down to the green, followed by Peter Ludwig, Michael Auriemma, and later Andrew Pasquale. Carpentier held the lead until the beginning of Lap 14, where he went down the escaped road going into Big Bend, dropping him down to eighth in the race and handing the lead to Ludwig. Ludwig and Pasquale battled for the lead before contact between the two on Lap 20 left Ludwig in the mud in Turn 4 and Pasquale with the lead… for now. Pasquale took the checkers in first but was penalized 20 seconds for not completing the mandatory safety check after the contact with Ludwig. The time penalty meant that Michael Auriemma, who kept his nose clean in third inherited the win, his first in MAZDASPEED Challenge competition. Lee Carpentier recovered from his visit to the runoff to a closing second, just over a second back. Andrew Pasquale’s post-race time penalty relegated him to third place, ahead of Ward Herst and David Levine. Ralf Ludwig moved up six spots to finish sixth, with Dan Moen in seventh and Pablo Cisilino in eighth, while Rob Squicciarini and David Steinschraber rounded out an active top ten.

Group 4, Race 2
More tough racing and more controversy in Race 2. The action started early with contact between the cars of Lee Carpentier and Andrew Pasquale. Both pit and continue down in the order. The lead turned into a battle between polesitter Michael Auriemma and the Ludwig brothers; Peter and Ralf. Peter, starting twelfth after is mud bog experience in Race 1, made quick work of the field, climbing to the lead (and Auriemma) by Lap 10. Peter carried the lead for the balance of the race before light contact with David Levine’s lap car late in the race. Ludwig did take the checkered flag, but was given the 20 second time penalty for not reporting to the pits for the contact. For the second race in a row, Michael Auriemma kept his nose clean all race long and picked up the win and the weekend sweep of Group 4. Ralf Ludwig came in second ahead of John Tancredi, who came back from a hard hit in Race 1 to complete the podium. Lee Carpentier recovered from his early contact to collect valuable fourth place points, while Peter Ludwig’s time penalty saw him drop from first to fifth in the final tally. Andrew Pasquale came back from his tangle with Carpentier to finish sixth ahead of Ward Herst and Steven Craige. David Steinschraber and David Levine rounded out the top ten.

Group 5, Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Group 5 at Lime Rock could also be described as the “Felix Serralles Show”, as the young driver started from pole and put on a clinic. Things got ugly early in Race 1 as the cars of Jim Craige, Kevin Tittle and Hamilton Smith got together in Turn 3 on Lap 4 while battling for second. Tittle came out the worst of the bunch, his race ending on that lap. Craige and Smith managed to continue another lap before retiring. This moved another group, including Marconi Abreu, Harsha Sen, Robert Ecklin and Greg Strelzoff into the podium fray. It also Felix Serralles to run away to a 28-second margin of victory, his second of the weekend, while Marconi Abreu bested the second group for a runner-up finish, his best result to date. Robert Ecklin finished third, ahead of Greg Strelzoff and Mark Bastien. Alex Kirby came in sixth ahead of John Mitchell and Harsha Sen, who ran as high as second before a Lap 18 spin sent him to the pits for a safety check and ultimately eighth. Franz Fleischi was the last car running in ninth while Hamilton Smith was credited with five laps and tenth. Group 5, Race 2
Another day, another episode of the “Felix Serralles Show”, with Felix leading from pole over Marconi Abreu and Robert Ecklin. Moving up quickly to join the race for second was Al Carter. Carter, who’s Friday race ended with at 12th place finish, started Race 2 from that spot but didn’t stay there long. Picking up six positions at the start, Carter made quick work of Harsha Sen and Greg Strelzoff on Lap 1 and Ecklin on Lap 2 before working his way up to and around Abreu on Lap 6. By this point Serralles was off and gone. Carter closed the gap a bit but at the finish is was Felix Serralles taking his third win in four races this weekend by a comparatively close twelve and a half seconds over Al Carter. Marconi Abreu dropped one spot from his starting position to finish third, ahead of Kevin Tittle and Hamilton Smith. Jim Craig came from 10th on the grid to finish sixth, with Be Jopling and Dom Bastien close behind. Greg Strelzoff and Robert Ecklin, the last car on the lead lap, finished ninth and tenth respectively.

Marv Rifchin/Analog TV Memorial
While most everyone was aware that analog television went the way of the Offenhauser engine on July 17, few people beyond Terry Lee probably know who Marv Rifchin was. Marv was the founder of M&H Tire Company, credited with perfecting the modern drag racing slick, the M&H Racemaster. Marv passed away earlier in the month.

The memorial was won by Spencer Pigot, with Felix Serralles and Jim Craige completing the podium. Arie Ouimet and Dom Bastien filled out the top five, followed by Curt Andrews, Dominic Rotondo, Marc Bastien and Dan Moen. Black Jack Scott and Ted Jewell finished out the final race of the weekend.

The Skip Barber Summer Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge next visit Elkhart Lake, Wis. and the four-mile Road America road course Fourth of July weekend.

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Jim Altemus

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