Lime Rock Park
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 Oh, Lordy, Lime Rock was hot — as was the racing. A.J. Riley and Adrian Dixon recorded their first wins while Marketing Manager and company scribe Rick Roso worked as a mechanic for three days (and will no doubt be writing a story about these heroes for whom he has always had a healthy respect, more so now after three days on his knees in 90 degree temperatures). Josh Steeves was voted Mechanic of the Race.
Click here to see all the photos from this Lime Rock Park Race Weekend.
On Friday, Charles Anti took the lead and gradually pulled away from the field, though Jim Craige tried his best to keep Anti in his sights. Meanwhile Mike Distualo in third and Steven Goldstein in sixth both had to pit for a stop-and-go penalty after jumping the start. Michael Auriemma, who had taken up third, superbly sailed off the track at the Downhill and lost three spots, leaving Todor Mitev to take it over and try to close in on the hard-charging, second place Craige. By half distance Anti was way out in front and young A.J. Riley, recovering from a bad start, passed Bill Hammer for fourth… but not for long. Hammer, head down, reclaimed the position and these two ran nose to gearbox until Riley crashed heavily at the downhill, stopping the race. After the barrier was repaired and Riley was passed as fit by the medical crew, the race was restarted with four laps to go. On the green Auriemma leapt from seventh to third, but a lap later Mitev took the position back and on the following lap Hammer also squeezed by Auriemma. At the flag Anti took a very solid win from a delighted Craige, with Mitev third. Hammer scooped maximum Masters points in finishing fourth, with Auriemma, R.J. Smith and Mike Distaulo rounding out the runners.
Again Anti pulled away from the field. But this time it was Mitev who passed Craige for second and gave chase; but he slipped up at the Downhill, which brought out the safety car for four laps. On the restart Anti showed the way to Craige. But Craige found another gear by midway and passed Anti into One. Anti then became a target for the ever-improving Hammer, who made his move a lap later. Unfortunately Hammer misjudged his braking and hit Anti, earning them both a safety check. The order was now Craige, Riley, Goldstein, R.J. Smith and Auriemma (but Goldstein was handed a stop-and-go, for passing under a yellow he did not see). In second place young A.J., his R1 crash forgotten, looked for a way round Craige and on the white flag he found it — a well judged pass into One. At the checker A.J. Riley takes his first SBRS win and got the traditional iced water bath (and we suspect a very much welcomed dousing!). Craige got P2, R.J.’s fine drive netted him a podium and full Masters points, followed by Auriemma, Distualo and Hammer. Anti was not so lucky and had to park his car with two laps to go.
Ari Gatoff loves Lime Rock Park, and it shows. He took pole and although Chris Brassard took the lead going into T1, three laps into the race Gatoff was back in front. Then a major battle for second place developed between Brassard, Michael Kratz and Adrian Dixon, each taking a turn at the front of this tight group. If the spectators thought the fight for second was radical, the struggle for fifth was even more so! Peter Olsen, Nick Spencer and Leland Englebardt went back and forth and back and forth and… Eventually Spencer spun himself back to 10th trying to pass Olsen for fifth, then Olsen took himself back a few spots with a spin of his own and so it went on the whole race. Sixteen drivers started the race, and there was great dicing even at the back as Bob Gogerty and Michael Breault went back and forth until Breault got the upper hand. At the flag Gatoff took the win from Dixon, Kratz making the podium in third. Brassard finished fourth, with Englebardt and Rick Johnson next, Spencer recovering to seventh. Olsen, Bill Oliver and Christopher Gaydos rounded out the top 10.
The green flag flew and almost immediately Brassard unfortunately coasted to a stop at the exit of Two. The pace car came out whilst his car was rescued. On the restart Kratz tapped Spencer in Turn Two and on the same lap Gaydos spun in Big Bend. Up front the race was heating up between Gatoff and Dixon, hunting for a way around. Behind these two Johnson battled mightily with Spencer (who is unaware that he has to pit for contact). The awful truth finally dawns on Spencer and he reluctantly gives up his third place and heads for the pits, leaving the hard-charging Steve Mayer in P3. Up front Adrian is desperate to find a way round Ari; he finally makes it stick at half distance, but three laps later Gatoff takes the lead back and almost simultaneously Bob Gogerty hits the Downhill wall, bringing out a second FCY. On the restart Dixon squeezes back around Gatoff while Mayer hopes they might touch and hand him the lead. But the tussling two-some pass and re-pass as gracefully as ballet dancers and never put a foot wrong. At the line Dixon takes the win by a miniscule five hundredth’s of a second! Mayer is third, Olsen a fine fourth after his tussle with Johnson. Sixth was Spencer, recovering nicely, followed by Englebardt, Amos Givol, Gaydos and Bill Oliver.
Pole-sitting Todor Mitev was hustled instantly back to third by the fast starting duo of Charles Anti and Michael Auriemma. With Anti again taking up the lead whilst a chain of six cars — Auriemma, Mitev, David Casey, Jim Craige and Bill Hammer — all looking for that second spot, it was great racing. On lap three Mitev gets by Auriemma and a lap later Craige pulls off a well-timed outside pass in Big Bend, getting both Auriemma and Casey! Auriemma hangs on to Craige whilst Casey is left to fend off Hammer. Hammer, once again reaching deep into his pockets, blasted by Casey and caught Auriemma. As Casey zipped off the road at the Downhill, Hammer passes Auriemma. While all this is unfolding, Mitev edges closer and closer to leader Anti. With six to go, Anti, his mirrors full of Mitev, drops two at the Downhill and 30 seconds later goes four-off in the Uphill. Mitev is now leading and the flying twosome of Craige and Hammer go by as Anti pits. A relieved Mitev takes the win with Craige second, Hammer P3, Anti a disappointed fourth and an exhausted Auriemma fifth.
Chris Weldon, guns ablaze, rips into third going into Big Bend but unable to control his speed, spun and dove off the track. Anti, surely wondering when his luck will change, took to the grass to avoid. This left Mitev in the lead with the on-form Craige right behind, Hammer and Auriemma disputing third. As the laps wind down, the Hammer/Auriemma battle actually catches the leaders — and Hammer starts to think about getting by for a win! His chance nearly comes when Mitev, under bigtime pressure from Craige, goes wide in Big Bend. Craige takes the lead going into Two — and Hammer tries to slip through but Mitev shuts the door. Craige slowly increases the gap while Hammer takes every chance he can get to unseat Mitev from P2 (and Auriemma watches like a hawk, waiting for his turn). Hammer does get by at Big Bend — but locks his brakes and Mitev gets back around. The next time Hammer tries the same pass, he spins! And both Mitev and Auriemma are clear. At the flag Craige takes a popular win with Mitev second and Auriemma taking maximum Masters points with a P3. David Casey has an untroubled drive to fourth and Anti recovers from his pitstop penalty to finish fifth.
Jim “What a Great Race!” Craige
Pole sitter Jared Fisher put his head down to lead from the start whilst Mike Distualo and Kevin Hoffman dispute P2, Distualo finally getting the upper hand. On lap four Hoffman loses third place to an on-form George McArthur. Fisher has a commanding lead but everyone else wants second place and Distualo has his mirrors full of McArthur, Hoffman, Brassard, Nelson, Dixon and Michael Kratz. Nelson is the first to “go,” spinning himself back to 12th. Kratz takes advantage of the situation by going from eighth to fifth! Dixon doesn’t care much for this and gets by Kratz the following lap — and so does Matt Jordan, who now starts to worry Dixon! At the front Fisher is still putting down consistent laps and McArthur is still looking for a way round Distualo for second. McArthur’s chance comes on a restart (after Glenn Schattman’s car is retrieved from West Bend) but McArthur misses the upshift at the green (or rather his car did) and he looses eight spots on the front straight! Rather than risking the danger of damage by trying to run back through the field, he decides to park it safely in the pits before the checker. The order is now Fisher, Distualo, with Hoffman, Brassard, Dixon, Matt Jordan and Jeff Strain all trying for the third podium spot. Brassard seizes it for a few laps but Hoffman is having none of it and gets back around. At the flag Fisher takes a comfortable win with Distualo second (and first Master), while Hoffman finally made P3 stick from the irrepressible Adrian Dixon. A fine drive by Brassard nets him fifth; Jordan, Strain, Kratz, Barry Salwen and Nelson rounded out the top 10.
Once again Fisher executed a perfect flag-to-flagger, leaving the question marks of P2 and 3 in his wake. Hoffman is pressured by Dixon and they go back and forth until Hoffman makes it stick on lap nine. Dixon now had to contend with young Matt Jordan. “The problem with these youngster is that they are fast learners!” said Dixon later, and Jordan certainly was — he set fastest race lap while having a great battle with Dixon before making third place his own. McArthur was the most progressive driver in the race. Starting almost dead last, George was up to ninth by lap two, sixth by lap six and got by Brassard for fifth on lap 10. Another fine drive through the field was from Barry Salwen who started eighth, dropped to 10th, climbed as high as seventh before dropping back to ninth — and then climbed back to sixth at the checker! At the front Hoffman did his best to catch Fisher but to no avail. Jordan took his first podium, and Dixon piled on the Masters points with his fourth. McArthur, Salwen, Brassard, Nelson, Kratz and Strain finished off the top 10.
Lime Rock/July was the second race for the Eastern Series Triple Crown championship. Jim Craige’s two second places has him solidly in first in the Championship group, and Adrian Dixon’s solid weekend sees him with an even healthier lead (but nowhere near being insurmountable) in the Masters division. Sportsman, however, has four drivers — Kevin Hoffman, Ari Gatoff, Dixon and Jared Fisher — within 5 points of each other. The Eastern Triple Crown titles will be excitingly decided October 14 and 15 at Lime Rock Park.
And just to let you know, we’re going to be posting very soon the 2005-2006 Southern and Western Series schedules! Check back soon…
One final note: We want to commend the exceptional effort on the part of the mechanics during this weekend. The temperatures were stifling and difficult (the drivers sure tore off some corners this weekend!), but they never lost their motivation or enthusiasm. Thanks, guys, for being so good. Todd