Making a Point
Thursday, November 18, 2004 The Summit Point Race Weekend was rounds three and four of the 2004-2005 Southern Series championship. The weather was cold and windy, but sunny, with the exception of Friday when we had rain all day. We compensated for the Friday conditions by offering the whole group the opportunity to get in the usual two sessions and then do the extra sessions on Saturday when the weather promised to be better.
The racing was entertaining in both groups, with the quicker drivers in the Championship group making enough mistakes to keep everyone close. The high number of new drivers in the Sportsman group made for very exciting wheel to wheel action. Also, we may have had an SBRS first: We had three ladies in the same race on Sunday when Susan Addison and Rhonda Hill joined Laura Rowe in the Championship group. None of us could remember having this many lady racers in one race before!
Matt Varsha was the winner of both Championship group races despite his best efforts to throw it all away by spinning in the first race and spinning in Sunday qualifying. First time winner Derek Blinken found himself crossing first in Saturday’s Sportsman event, and Mike Gomez made an impressive charge from the back of the grid in Sunday’s Sportsman race that nobody else seemed to want to win.
Coming to the last turn on to the front straight and the green flag, Susan Addison ran in to the back of Laura Rowe. Both pitted as the green came out and re-entered a straightaway behind the pack. First time through Turn One, Matt Varsha and Lucas McConnell ran side by side, with Varsha on the outside — out in the gray, he spun! Lucas took the lead with Chris Hill close behind. Varsha, meanwhile, had stayed on the track, found first gear and rejoined in seventh.
Hill hounded McConnell as Varsha picked off at least one car per lap. By lap seven, Varsha popped past Hill for P2 and set his sights on Lucas. Out of the Turn Seven carrousel and up into sweeping Eight, McConnell spins in front of the field! He ends up four-off and everybody avoids, including Varsha, your new leader. While this was happening, David Libby and Steven Mayer, who had been slicing and dicing from the drop of the green, had some fun behind the leaders: Mayer came up the inside into T1 and they ran side by side through the apex. Libby, on the outside, encountered some residual water from Brent Milner’s earlier four-off-and-return and started to spin. Oh, oh! Mayer couldn’t avoid, both cars were damaged, and oil got put down. The pace car gathered the field (this was a big break for Rowe) and brought them to a stop on the front straight so we could bust out the kitty litter.
On the re-start, Lucas quickly got around lapped traffic and resumed his battle with Hill, now for P2 rather than the win. With four to go, Lucas takes second away from Hill. They see the white flag and the McConnell fan club goes wild in Turn Six — Lucas has second! But Wait, There’s More! Coming into the last turn, Lucas drops two wheels in the brake zone and hits the brake marker cones. Normally not a big deal, but in the searing tropical heat of Virginia in November, the cones break Lucas’s tie rod and he spins off into the grass! Jiminy Crickets… Anyway, that gives P2 to Hill, P3 to the well-recovered Milner and P4 to Rowe.
Poleman Adrian Dixon had a start like you read about and led Derek Blinken through One. Right off we could see that in some parts, Dixon was quicker, but in others Blinken was the faster of the two, so Blinken stayed right on Dixon’s box for the first six laps. Come lap seven, Blinken makes his move and takes the lead. He gradually pulls on Dixon and brings it home for his first ever win…(Congratulations, Derek!)
Behind third place Carlos Llano, who had dashed there very quickly from sixth on the grid, what we all wanted to know was, Who could stay on the track? Carlos LlanoOn lap three, Shawn Moser goes four-off in Turn 10. During lap seven, Brandon Huff and Rhonda Hill have contact in T5; Rhonda is unable to continue racing, but she’s good enough to bring the damaged car back to the pits. Grafton Downs spins and goes four-off in One, dropping him out of P6. Newbie Todd Winter also goes agricultural on lap 10, dropping him from fifth to ninth. A bit later, Downs wasn’t satisfied with his first spin and so tries again, but this time keeps it on the tarmac. After pit stops, Huff and Winter are locked in mortal combat and on the last lap, they both fall off the road! On this same last lap, in a empathetic gesture to make Lucas McConnell (see G1R1 story) feel better, new guy Seth Goldberg spins and makes it to the tire wall in the last turn, with the checkered flag in sight! Can you say ”Jiminy Crickets!” again?
G1R2 (Championship) In this 20-lapper, Varsha did not start on pole, seeing how he found the dirt during qualifying, but from back in the pack he scythed his way quickly to the front. Before halfway Varsha snatched the lead from McConnell and that was that, winning by a bit more than three seconds. Hill was third, Milner a lonely fourth.
Mid-pack, we saw a great race. Four drivers duked it out in the early laps and then separated in to two duos: Libby and Mayer battled it out for fifth and sixth, while Laura Rowe (she decided to double) and Blinken (deciding to move up to Championship from Sportsman) sparred over seventh and eighth. Even Susan Addison and Rhonda Hill battled for much of the race. In the end, Libby took it over Mayer, Rowe over Blinken and Rhonda over Addison.
G2R2 (Sportsman) With Adrian Dixon not doing Sunday and Derek Blinken moving up, Sunday’s race had an all-new atmosphere. David Emig, coming back to race with us after a multi-year sabbatical, impressively grabbed pole.
At the drop of the green, ”Drafton” Grafton Downs got up on Emig and led the field into One. Pure rookie Todd Winter, who started a fine third, tried a late look on Emig into One and it looked like they had contact. Shawn Moser dropped two BFGs exiting the first corner, which allowed Llanos and Huff to get by. Winter was back up to second by the third lap then took the lead from Downs on lap four. A couple laps later Llano, charging nicely from fifth on the grid, takes over second because Downs four-offed himself (re-joining in seventh after his stop). Meanwhile Gomez was gathering steam following his start from the fourth row.
Then it got real exciting… First, Llano flies off in One, then Emig exits in Five. That meant Huff blew into P2. But in his quest for P1 glory, Huff dropped two wheels coming out of the last corner and spun back to the pit wall. He just skimmed it with the nose, but when Huff tried to re-enter he got high sided — and that brought out the call for an FCY. As the pace car came out, Winter, leading, went sailing by at full git. Plus, another car was accidentally black flagged. So racy control decided to black flag the whole kit and caboodle to fire up the Cray supercomputer to sort things out…
On the restart, Winter had lapped traffic between himself and Moser, now in P2, followed by the galloping Gomez. But this didn’t last long: Moser went off in Turn One on lap 17, then two laps later Winter did the same thing, same corner! Mr. Gomez politely said ”Gracias,” then went adios. Emig got second, Llano third, Rhonda Hill fourth (and like a Minardi pilot, she had started the race from pit lane) and Scott Golden was golden in fifth.
Gerardo Bonilla and Matt Varsha are buds. They’re also hard-nosed National Championship competitors. Bobo’s goal: beat MV. Of course, there were eight other drivers with the exact same mindset…
Laura Rowe was on pole and executed a picture-perfect start (yep, like you read about!), while Varsha and Bonilla started DFL (as well they should). Laura led for a whole bunch of laps — well, okay, one — before Gerardo and Vatt Marsha were one-two, having shot past ”Big” Dave Harris, Don Sharp, David Emig, Steven Mayer, Derek Blinken, David Libby and Brent Milner. Bobo had about six car lengths on Varsha, but ever so gradually Varsha ran him down, passed him, and pulled him by about the same six lengths.
Behind these two a great battle ensued between the rest of the field. Rowe had everybody right behind her, a six-car train. Blinken, after multiple attempts, was able to get by, which also opened the door for Mayer and Libby. Heading down into One, Harris was behind Rowe. As they got to the brake zone, Harris lost his brakes and ran into the back of Rowe, at about 120 m.p.h. Rowe spun out into the gravel while Harris did his best “Air Snyder” impersonation and sailed across the gravel to the tire wall. The race went full course yellow while the cars were extracted.
Varsha brought the field to the green, but Bobo timed it perfectly to pass by on the way to T1. As the field came through Nine, Mayer got wide and went off into the tire wall. When the car hit the tires, it bounced up and flipped over (Mayer wasn’t hurt). The leaders crossed the line as ”Black All” was called, and since there were only two laps to go, racy control decided it was necessary to end the race. Racing rules dictate that the last green-flag lap determines the finishing order — which meant Varsha was scored the winner. Gerardo was second, followed by Milner, Blinken and Mayer.
With the Race Series having not been to Summit Point ”original” in a long time, it was cool to go there again. What we found is a much improved facility, a track that really suits the R/T 2000. It is a fun and challenging track that has a great mix of high, medium and low speed corners. We are excited about the possibility of making Summit Point a ”regular stop” on the Skip Barber tour, with the further prospect of Summit’s soon-to-be-opened Shenandoah Circuit added to the mix…
Next up for the Southern Series? Moroso Motorsports Park, December 3-5, our traditional date at this always fun circuit. See you there…
Rick Roso & Todd Snyder