Skip Barber National at Lime Rock Park – Karam, Vernon win battles, De Phillippi wins the war

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Sunday, October 11, 2009 Lakeville, Conn., (Oct. 10) – Connor De Phillippi wrapped up the 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda title Friday afternoon by taking the green flag for Race 1 of the season finale at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. With the championship settled, De Phillippi set his sights on breaking 2005 National Champ Gerardo Bonilla’s career win record of eight. If he could win both races this weekend (not that tall an order considering De Phillippi’s season to date), the San Clemente’ Calif. driver would finish the season with nine, an amazing feat since all of this wins would come this season. De Phillippi fell short of his goal, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

Race 1

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Typical fall weather in New England: cold and raining.

After picking up his first career Skip Barber National week three weeks prior at Road Atlanta, Sage Karam’s hot streak continued at Lime Rock. The Nazareth, Penn. driver earned his first National pole in Thursday’s ideal conditions with a track record 56.063 sec. lap. Come Friday afternoon, the conditions were anything but ideal, with a cold, steady rain slowing things down. At the start, outside front row starter Sean Rayhall got a jump on the field and was off. The Austell, Ga. driver built up a lead of several seconds before the race’s only caution came out on Lap 4 for championship runner-up Court Vernon… The pace car picked up the field and effectively erased Rayhall’s lead as the Lime Rock Park track crew pulled Vernon’s car out of the tires.

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Sean Rayhall (56) heads down the escape road as Sage Karam (61) assumes the lead.

During the extended period behind the pace car, Rayhall let his brakes and tires cool down. During the charge into Big Bend and with Sage Karam on his inside, he went straight down the escape road; his cold and wet brakes unable to slow his car for the corner. Rayhall rejoined at the back of the field and would finish ninth. Rayhall’s error allowed Karam to pull out a lead over Dennis Trebing and Isaac Lyons. Lyons, having the weekend of his brief career, made his move on Trebing between Big Bend and the Lefthander with four laps to go for second.

The battle for second allowed Sage Karam to extend his lead to a comfortable (by Skip Barber National standards) two and a half second victory over Isaac Lyons, who continued his much improved form this season for his best finish of the season in second, a tick ahead of MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development driver Dennis Trebing. Connor De Phillippi settled for fourth… and the $350,000 prize as the 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda champion, ahead of Ashley Freiberg and Al Carter. Julian Albarracin nipped Brian Skinner by seven-hundredths for seventh while early leader Sean Rayhall and Court Vernon rounded out the field.

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Race 1 winner Sage Karam

Race 2
With the outright record now out of reach, Connor De Phillippi took aim at tying Bonilla’s career win record during Race 2 on Saturday. While he was didn’t want to hear it afterward, De Phillippi put in his race of the year – a big statement considering his seven wins on the season – on his way to a seventh. From his seventh starting position behind polesitter Sage Karam, De Phillippi took advantage of the wet (but drying) track conditions to gain a spot early before a rare miscue sent him off through the wet grass – and to the back of the pack – on Lap 3.

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Rayhall (56) leads Karam, Trebing and eventual winner Vernon.

The field developed into three groups; Sage Karam, Dennis Trebing, Sean Rayhall and Court Vernon out front, Isaac Lyons, Julian Albarracin and Ashley Freiberg in the middle with Al Carter and Brian Skinner settling things between themselves in the rear followed by a charging De Phillippi. Two and three-wide racing prevailed as the dry but blustery conditions dried the track throughout the race. From tenth, Connor moved past the duo of Carter and Skinner on Lap 8. Freiberg’s big slide through the grass in the Lefthander dropped her back in the field, and by Lap 13 De Phillippi was in seventh. The dicing for position within the field allowed De Phillippi to focus on putting down fast lap after fast lap. With five to go, he was through the remaining second pack of Lyons and Albarracin and on his way to the lead group. Coming to the white flag, De Phillippi made his big move, passing Karam and Vernon to take the lead at the stripe.

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D’oh! Connor De Phillippi takes a wild ride through the grass, losing several positions

That lead was short-lived however as a big twitch during his rim-shot through the Lefthander on the last lap sent De Phillippi out into the wet grass on the outside, the long ride back to the track dropping him down to seventh in the final order and leaving the win to be decided between Sage Karam, who assumed the lead, Sean Rayhall and Court Vernon. Coming through the Downhill the final time, Karam held a slight advantage over second and third. Coming to the checkers a last second flare by second and third and it was Court Vernon carrying the extra momentum across the line to the win by .026 over second place Sage Karam with Sean Rayhall close behind in third. Dennis Trebing faded from the lead pack late to come home fourth ahead of Isaac Lyons and Julian Albarracin. The champ Connor De Phillippi ended his season with a seventh ahead of Ashley Freiberg while Al Carter and Brian Skinner rounded out the field.

Results, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
October 9, 2009, Round 13 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Lime Rock Park, 7-turn, 1.54-mile road course

(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (1) Sage Karam, Nazareth, Penn., 15 laps, 56.641 average mph
2. (5) Isaac Lyons, Hillsborough Down, Northern Ireland, 15
3. (6) Dennis Trebing, Cape Coral, Fla., 15
4. (4) Connor De Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 15
5. (10) Ashley Freiberg, Homer Glen, Ill., 15
6. (8) Al Carter, Greenville, Del., 15
7. (7) Julian Albarracin, Bogota, Colombia, 15
8. (9) Brian Skinner, Philadelphia, Penn., 15
9. (2) Sean Rayhall, Austell, Ga., 15
10. (3) Court Vernon, Key Biscayne, Fla., 3 (contact)

Race length: 15 laps of 1.53-mile road course for 22.95 miles
Time of race: 24 minutes 23.304 seconds
Conditions: Rain
Margin of victory: 2.332 seconds
Lap leaders: Sean Rayhall 1 – 10; Sage Karam 11 – 15
Cautions: 1 for 5 laps
Fastest qualifier: Karam, 56.073 / 98.229 mph
Fastest race lap: Karam, 1:10.044 / 78.636 mph, lap 14

October 10, 2009, Round 14 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Lime Rock Park, 7-turn, 1.53-mile road course

(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (5) Court Vernon, Key Biscayne, Fla., 25 laps, 91.136 average mph
2. (1) Sage Karam, Nazareth, Penn., 25
3. (3) Sean Rayhall, Austell, Ga., 25
4. (2) Dennis Trebing, Cape Coral, Fla., 25
5. (4) Isaac Lyons, Hillsoborough Down, Northern Ireland, 25
6. (6) Julian Albarracin, Bogota, Colombia, 25
7. (7) Connor De Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 25
8. (6) Ashley Freiberg, Homer Glen, Ill., 25
9. (9) Al Carter, Greenville, Del., 25
10. (10) Brian Skinner, Philadelphia, Penn., 14 (contact)

Race length: 25 laps of 1.53-mile road course for 38.25 miles
Time of race: 25 minutes, 10.935 seconds
Conditions: Damp
Margin of victory: 0.026 seconds
Lap leaders: Sage Karam 1 – 10; Sean Rayhall 11 – 21; Karam 22; Rayhall 23; Connor De Phillippi 24; Court Vernon 25
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Karam 1:10.522 / 78.103 mph
Fastest race lap: De Phillippi 58.378 / 94.351 mph

2009 Skip Barber National final standings, top 10 drivers:
1. Connor De Phillippi, 422
2. Court Vernon, 380
3. Sage Karam, 339
4. Dennis Trebing, 312
5. Isaac Lyons, 286
6. Ashley Freiberg, 283
7. Sean Rayhall, 281
8. Julian Albarracin, 271
9. Kyle Marcelli, 248
10. Felipe Polehtto, 231

—–

There is no rest for 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda champ Connor De Phillippi and World Speed Motorsports Rookie of the Year Court Vernon. Immediately after accepting his championship trophy and the check for $350,000 to use for a ride in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship at the late night banquet, De Phillippi and his family were on their way to Boston to join fellow Skip Barber National driver Brett Smrz on a flight to England where they will race at the Formula Ford Festival and for the Walter Hayes Trophy as recipients of this year’s Team USA Scholarship. Follow Team USA’s progress from the Brands Hatch and Silverstone circuits later this month at www.teamusascholarship.org. For Vernon, he and at-large pick Sage Karam will both test a Star Mazda machine later this month with World Speed Motorsports. Follow Court and Sages’ progress at www.teamworldspeed.com.

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If he isn’t cold an wet enough. The Skip Barber crew celebrates with Connor De Phillippi his 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda championship.

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Sage Karam (61) leads Sean Rayhall in Race 2

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For Court Vernon, his second win of the year

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Your Race 2 podium (l. to r.) Sage Karam, 2nd; Court Vernon, winner; Sean Rayhall, 3rd.

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A very wet Connor De Phillippi celebrates his championship with his very proud papa, Craig.

Jim Altemus

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