Road America double-header weekend

< Back 07/10/2009

Friday, July 10, 2009 There aren’t many places better to celebrate the Fourth of July than Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; small town America, brats, fireworks on the lake, all good positive stuff. That is just where the Skip Barber Race Series was on the 4th, with a double header race weekend for the Summer Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge. The four-mile Road America circuit, with its long straights and challenging bits is known for its close, competitive racing and this weekend was no exception.

Group 1, Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Polesitter Harsha Sen brought the field down to the green for Group 1, Race 1, but it was outside front row starter Nick Andries who grabbed the lead at the end of Lap 1 and took off. In the meantime, Sen dropped down to fourth early before getting back around Dex Tuttle and Mike Lattos to reassume second. Dropping back at the start was Abdul Ahmed. Ahmed, at his second-ever Race Weekend, started in fourth, but dropped to the end of the field by the end of the first lap, where he plotted his return to the front. By Lap 4, Ahmed was in fourth, and tracking down the lead group of Andries, Sen and Tuttle when the full course yellow came out for an incident in The Kink involving Gus Doppes. Doppes was okay, and the yellow brought Andries back to the field for a two-lap sprint to the finish. Nick Andries was able to hold on to take the win, followed by a game Abdul Ahmed, who got around Harsha Sen going into Turn 1 on the last lap. Dex Tuttle moved up one spot from his starting position to claim fourth, ahead of Kevin Tittle and Mike Lattos. Paul Subject claimed seventh, with John Shafer in eight and John Mitchell in ninth while Max Maxedon rounded out the top ten.

Group 1, Race 2
With the win on Saturday, Nick Andries brought the field to the green for Race 2, with Saturday’s runner-up Abdul Ahmed slotted next to him in second. Ahmed grabbed the lead on the opening lap but got it wrong in Canada Corner, ending up first in the sand trap, then in the pits for a safety check, then back to 11th to start digging himself out of a hole. Ahmed’s error was to Andrie’s benefit, as he reassumed the race lead with Harsha Sen, Kevin Tittle and Dex Tuttle close behind. Not yet close behind but closing in fast was Skip Barber National driver Ashley Freiberg. Freiberg, who popped in on Sunday for a couple of races, started shotgun on the field but quickly worked her way to the front, taking the lead on Lap 6. Andries battled back, taking the lead and clearing the mayhem that ensued behind him. Jockeying for position going into Turn 6, contact between the cars of Freiberg and Tittle sent both cars around, collecting Sen and Tuttle in the melee. The incident brought out the full course yellow, as Tuttle ended up in the gravel trap and Tittle out of his car a short distance down track, while Freiberg and Sen (with a cut tire) continued around to the pits. The race was halted a lap early, with Nick Andries picking up his second win of the weekend and sixth of the season. Abdul Ahmed recovered from his early mistake, missed the “big one” and claimed another second place, ahead of Mike Lattos. Paul Subject came in fourth while Ashley was credited with fifth place, ahead of Franz Fleischli and John Shafer. Max Maxedon came in eight ahead of Anthony Maioriello while Gus Doppes rounded out the top ten.

Group 2, Race 1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
It was the sports cars’ turn on the 4-mile Road America course with the MAZDASPEED Challenge heading out next. Andrew Pasquale led the eight-car field from pole with Phil Mather in close pursuit. Bruce Robson, the outside front row starter, dropped back into a battle with John Snyder for third, allowing the lead duo to check out on the field. At the end it was Andrew Pasquale picking up his first Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge win by a scant three tenths of a second over Phil Mather, while John Snyder held off Bruce Robson for third. Ken Greenberg came in fifth, ahead of Donald Norby and Fred Chin while Robert Bomkamp rounded out the field.

Group 2, Race 2
Race 2 got off to an inauspicious start as two separate incidents involving Ken Greenberg (mechanical) and Donald Norby (contact) on the opening lap brought out the full course yellow and reduced the field by a quarter. Racing resumed on Lap 4 with Andrew Pasquale and Phil Mather in a two-way battle for the lead. Mather grabbed the lead in Turn 7 on Lap 6 and held off Pasquale for the win by fourth-tenths of a second. John Snyder picked up another third place, edging out Robert Bomkamp by just three-tenths of a second. Fred Chin came in fifth ahead of Bruce Robson, with early exiters Ken Greenberg and Donald Norby scored seventh and eighth respectively.

Group 3, Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Robert La Rocca claimed pole for Race 1 and joined a race-long battle for the lead with Western Series driver Jeff Kaiser. Kaiser, who got around Harsha Sen at the start, and La Rocca swapped the lead seven times during the race’s ten laps. All this back and forth allowed Sen to keep in contact with the leaders, and on Lap 9 he made his move. First, he challenged La Rocca with a late braking move going into Turn 1 and took second. Sen then went after the leader, Kaiser. Kaiser dropped wheels on the exit of Turn 14 going to the white flag, allowing Sen to draft up to and then pass for the lead. Kaiser got back around Sen in Turn 3 and the battle went back and forth before Kaiser finally went four-off in Turn 12, surrendering the lead for the final time to Sen. Harsha Sen picked up the win by a half second over Robert La Rocca with David Cheng six seconds back in third. Jeff Kaiser was assessed a time penalty for not pitting after the four-off on the last lap, dropping him from second on the road to fourth in the final result, ahead of Terry Clyburn and Doug Harrison. Greg Strelzoff came in seventh ahead of Ben Jopling and Matt Harper while Gary Vizioli rounded out the field in tenth.

Group 3, Race 2
After the first start was waved off, Race 2 got off on an exciting note with a three-wide battle for the lead going into Turn 1 between Harsha Sen, Robert La Rocca and Jeff Kaiser. La Rocca won that battle, with Kaiser close behind followed by Sen. Sen dropped a couple more positions early before working his way back into the lead battle. In a near repeat of Race 1, La Rocca and (this time) Kaiser swapped the lead several times at the stripe on the next eight laps, with David Cheng, Ben Jopling and ultimately Sen taking turns in third. Third became second for Sen as La Rocca spun (but did not go off course) dropping to third. Jeff Kaiser continued on to take the win by a comfortable eight seconds over Harsha Sen, while Robert La Rocca, late spin and all, maintained enough of a gap to retain third place at the stripe over David Cheng and Doug Harrison, who waged a late race battle with Terry Clyburn for fifth. Matt Harper came in seventh, followed by Greg Strelzoff and Gary Vizioli, with Ben Jopling rounding out the top ten.

Group 4, Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Race 1 could be best described with two words: Kyle Kaiser. Reminiscent of Sebastien Vettel’s recent British Grand Prix performance, the junior Kaiser took pole, set fast lap and after briefly giving up the lead to Trent Hindman for two corners, led every lap to take victory by a more than comfortable 19 seconds over a pack that included Brian Buri (2nd), Bruce Robson (3rd) and Neal Agran (4th). After briefly flirting with the lead on Lap 1, Trent Hindman spun in Turn 2, dropping back to the tail of the field after his mandatory safety check. Hindman worked his way back up to fifth at the end of the race, ahead of Franz Fleischli and Steven Wilmeth. Ted Jewell finished eight ahead of Wade Leathers while John Muehl finished where he started, in tenth.

Group 4, Race 2
Episode 2 of the “Kyle Kaiser Show” was pre-empted by a special performance by Ashley Freiberg, Freiberg, with the controversial finish to Group 1’s race fresh in her mind, again started shotgun on the field in Group 4 but didn’t stay there long. By the end of Lap 1, she went from 15th to third behind Kaiser and Trent Hindman. The full course yellow came out on Lap 2 for an incident in The Kink that put Jim Kettelkamp into the fence and out of the race. The yellow tightened the pack and Freiberg took the lead from Kaiser soon after the green came back out on Lap 5. Kaiser regained the lead and stretched it to 10 lengths through The Carousel, but Freiberg reeled him back in, regaining the lead going into Turn 5 on the following lap. The pair continued to duel for the lead, with Hindman in close pursuit in third, culminating in a last lap drag race to the stripe. Ashley Freiberg ultimately prevailed; nipping Kyle Kaiser at the finish by .077 sec. Trent Hindman was close behind in third by seven-tenths of a second. Brian Buri led a group that included Bruce Robson and Neal Agran to finish fourth. Tom Brown came in a strong seventh, ahead of Steven Wilmeth and Stephen Mayer, while John Muehl rounded out the top ten.

After eight of 14 races in the 2009 Skip Barber Summer Race Series, Nick Andries holds a 26 point advantage over second place (and Masters Division leader) Al Carter, with fellow Masters Division driver Pat Daly in third with 220 points. The Summer Series next heads north of the border to Circuit Mont Trembant in Quebec the weekend of August 1-2.

Lee Carpentier holds a 10-point advantage over Phil Mather in the 2009 MAZDASPEED Challenge standings, with Andrew Pasquale a further 20 points back in third. The drivers of the MAZDASPEED return to Road America the weekend of August 22-23 for Rounds 9 and 10 of their 12 Race series.

Jim Altemus

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