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Thursday, July 07, 2005

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With one of the largest sold-out Race Series fields in recent memory — 92 seats were accounted for — it was a giant, fun weekend at Road America: Revere Greist set the best lap of the weekend (2:34.163). Quentin Wahl repeated his double Masters win of 2003. Mike Kolacki took his first win after 23 years. Midwest mechanic “Doppler Dave” won his first race — on his first weekend. Dr. John Greist did six races and finished on the podium in four of them. And in the National Championship, young Jonathan Goring took his first-ever SBRS win (see separate story).

At the Friday night barbeque at the Osthoff Resort, Sue and Ron Yarab renewed their wedding vows after 20 years of marriage — both wearing Skippy shirts — and set the tone for the huge family reunion that is part and parcel of our Race Series. The grandstand at Turn Five was full of cheering families during every race, and if they were looking for action they were not disappointed as Andy Piscitello and Jeff Kaiser both got rolled there, emerging unscathed, plus several drivers took a trip through the T5 gravel trap (losing places but not their enthusiasm). Oh, yes, the weather was perfect…

G1R1, Eastern Sportsman Group
The excitement started before the race did! Charles Anti choose to start from the back, but he got rambunctious with the throttle before the green flew and hit the pit wall. Moments later Kenny Pardue got stuck in the gravel in Five. Up at the front polesitter Mike Kolacki was truly on-song and it was clear that he was the man to beat in this group. Adrian Dixon kept closing the gap but each time he did, Kolacki stepped up another notch and pulled away. Dixon ultimately dropped into the gravel at T8, handing second to fast-improving Jason Yates, fending off third place Dirk Daems.

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Rookie Mike Kolacki (c.) won his first-ever start! Okay, he’s not a rookie. Nevertheless, Mike won not once, but twice! Jason Yates (l.) and Dirk Daems (r.) join Kolacki on the podium for G1R1.

Behind these guys a mighty battle was shaping up as Robert Hieb led Andy Piscitello, Stephen “Strut” McPherson, Joe Trevino and a hard charging Michele Marden. Joe got by both Stephen and Andy on lap six and the next time into Five, Stephen passed Andy and Michele decided to follow. Unfortunately Andy saw Stephen but not Michele and the resulting collision sent Andy into a series of barrel rolls and into the sand upside down. Michele stopped to help dig him out and the pace car came out to slow the field. Andy got out none the worse for wear and the race was restarted. Once again Kolacki led Dixon with Yates in pursuit. Deams settled into fourth, with Trevino behind. There were scraps all the way to the tail of the field, including new drivers Faith Pellien and Neal Martin passing each other every other lap until the checker. Eventually Neal claimed 10th and Faith 12th, with Eric Steiner between them. Up front Kolacki took his well deserved first win (plus the Masters win) with Yates P2 and Daems third. Hieb’s fourth place was about six seconds up on Matthew Garver’s fifth; a nice job as Rookie of the race. Trevino succumbed to the T5 kitty litter.

G1R2, Eastern Sportsman Group
Kolacki once again took command, Yates settling into second place. Deams led a train of Matt Garver, Hieb, Pardue and Trevino, all jockeying for position until Garver touched Pardue in Five, sending them in for safety checks. Meanwhile all eyes are on Jason Weiner who, having started last with Michele Marden, is moving up through the field: 16th at the start, ninth by lap three, fourth by lap eight. But all this hard driving came to naught when he spun into the gravel at Canada Corner on the last lap! In the end, an exact repeat of R1: another fine win for Kolacki, Yates second, Daems third, Heib fourth. Pardue was fifth, Charles McManus sixth, and Tom Cochran held off Michele Marden, who went from 17th on the grid to eighth.

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Grunt Maalox’s beautiful wife Michelle, with equally beautiful Baby Arelle (“uh-RELL”).

G3R1, Midwest Championship Group
Jonathan Frost was not intending to race as he had a family reunion to attend on Sunday but he felt so good in Thursday Lapping he decided to do Saturday! He qualified third, behind pole sitter Duncan Ende and Jonathan Gore. Frost sailed into the lead at Turn One followed closely by Gore and John Greist, with Ende right behind. Gore went four-off at Canada and dropped to sixth after his pit stop. Ende took third from Greist on the second lap, but John took it back a lap later. Meanwhile Gore and Revere Greist tussled over fourth place — and once again Gore dropped off the road, this time in Eight. Now there were two trains: Father Greist leading Son Greist, Charles Anti and Ende, followed by Mike Gomez leading Steve Goldstein, Chris Weldon, Wes Homan and Adrian Dixon.

Gradually the drivers in the second train thinned out: Homan spun off the track in Three, Weldon spun off at Five (then a mechanical sidelined him at Six). At the front, third-place Ende suddenly found himself backwards into the gravel at Turn Six and Anti went four-off at the Kink, earning himself a pit stop, which dropped him to 11th. At the flag a very happy Frost won from John Greist (who also took the Masters win) with his son Revere in third. Gomez, Goldstein and Gore rounded out the top six.

G3R2, Midwest Championship Group
John Greist led for a lap before son Revere took command. Gore and Gomez had a short battle before Gore passed Gomez and soon after took second from John Greist. Gomez now had his mirrors full of Peter Ludwig and Tom Brown, but not for long as Ludwig spun out at T5 and Mark Fee got by Brown. Gomez then passed John Greist for P3 at Five, but John neatly sidestepped him and took the place back a lap later. Once again Gomez had to defend fourth from Fee and Jeff Kaiser, who had entered the mix. Further back Ludwig recovered from his early spin and came up on Brown. The battle between these two for eighth place had the huge crowd in Five on its feet as they passed and re-passed each other, side by side through the Carousel, Kink and Canada. It was terrific… Finally, at the line, Tom Brown took the position by two-tenths.

At the checker it was Revere Greist over Gore, with John Greist again taking maximum Masters points in third. Close behind in fourth was Gomez, followed by Kaiser, Fee and Charles Anti, recovering from an early four-off.

G5R1, Midwest Sportsman Group
Polesitter “Doppler” Dave Lunneberg led into turn one but Mike Gomez took the lead on lap two and Doppler had to fend off Wes Homan. On lap three Homan passed Lunneberg into Canada and set off after Gomez; they make contact on lap four and both earn a safety check, dropping Gomez to fourth and Homan out of the race with damage. Jack Aten caught Lunneberg and pressured him to the flag. Gomez squeezed by Steve Ablondi for third (on the track, but Gomez would subsequently get a 25-second safety check penalty), and further back new driver Mark Repka was doing a nice job holding off Mike Kolacki in fifth. Rick Balsley in seventh had his mirrors full of Rhonda Hill and John Muehl. With three to go, Rhonda spun into the gravel at Canada giving up eighth place and ending her race. At the flag an ecstatic Lunneberg took his first win in his very first race, an equally delighted Jack Aten took second (and the Masters win). After penalties, it was Ablondi third, newbie Repka fourth and Kolacki fifth.

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It was so cute! Carl “Papa” Lopez and Ray Scott renewed their wedding vows at the Friday night BBQ! Duck and Stevie D. have also been together for a long time, so they renewed theirs, too. Poor Ron and Sue Yarab; their 20-year renewal went completely unnoticed…

G5R2, Midwest Sportsman Group
Aten led from the start with Doppler Dave on his tail. On the first lap Kolacki turned in too early at the Kink and collected the wall, bringing out the black flag. At the restart Aten stayed in command as first Lunneberg and the Gomez try their best to lead. Gomez does in fact lead for a lap before Aten takes it back. Meanwhile Homan is on a charge: by lap four he is up to third (from 10th!) and a lap later he takes the lead. Now there is a three way battle for second place between Gomez, Lunneberg and Aten. They pass and re-pass but on the last lap Lunneberg drops off the road and earns a 25 second penalty (which classifies him ninth). Behind this battling trio there is another chain of cars led by Balsley and followed by Muehl, Repka and Dirk Daems. They also swap places and at the flag it’s Homan winning from first Master Gomez followed closely by Aten, Ablondi, Balsley, Repka and John Muehl (eighth). G6R1, Midwest & East Championship Group
A sixth group was made up to accommodate all the doubling Championship drivers from both East and Midwest. This race started at 5:50 p.m. Saturday (Thanks, Road America, you’re the best!) and although everyone watching was pretty tired, the race proved every bit as entertaining as the previous five! Jonathan Gore led from pole but dropped two wheels in Five, giving hard-charging John Greist the point. Gore snatched the lead back on lap two — but lost it again when he spun out at Five! Now Revere took up the challenge and headed his Father, with Jonathan Frost and Charles Anti close behind. Unfortunately Greist and Anti touched while trying to share the same piece of real estate in Turn Five, dropping to them to the back of the pack. Now Michael Auriemma took up the third spot ahead of Tom Brown and Steven Goldstein. But Auriemma also dropped into the Gravel in Five and at the checker Revere Greist won from Frost, with Brown third, Goldstein fourth and John Peterson fifth.

G6R2, Midwest & East Championship Group
What a battle! Revere Greist and Gore swapped places every lap — sometimes twice! — whilst John Greist settled into third and Auriemma fourth, with John Peterson, John Mayes, Laura Rowe and Jason Weiner just itching for Michael to wobble. Peterson dropped into the T14 gravel, leaving “Maisy” to try and find a way round Auriemma. At the flag R. Greist took the win by one-tenth from Gore, with J. Greist in a comfortable third. The battling duo of Auriemma (fourth) and Mayes (fifth) was settled only by four-tenths, and Rowe took sixth over Goldstein.

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Sing with me now!… “Oh, Can-a-Duh, Our home and native sand…”.

Whew! What a weekend… The drivers had a great time, our mechanics did a stellar job (again!) and it must be said, the Road America track crew is absolutely the best in the business. Thanks to everybody for making the largest Skip Barber Race Weekend in five years the huge success that it was.

Next up: Eastern Series, Lime Rock Park, July 14-16 (plus golf tournament on Sunday the 17th!), and East/Midwest/Masters National at Mont-Tremblant July 29-31.

See you there!

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“Walter, is that really seven drivers trying to get to the apex at the same time?”

“Yes, Donna. That’s what Stephan told them to do. He’s been working with them…”

Click here to see the full Midwest and East Triple Crown Points Standings!

Divina Galica & Rick Roso

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