Skip Barber Race Series at Watkins Glen

< Back 06/04/2010

Friday, June 04, 2010 Summer is for all intents and purposes here, and so is the Skip Barber Summer Race Series. That means it is time to turn over the race report to our tame race driver/customer…

Some say that his eyes are the same color as the guardrails at Watkins Glen, and that he was seen nibbling on one of Jim Clark’s winner’s wreaths at the Glen Motor Inn for good luck. All we know is that he’s still The Stig’s New York Cousin.

Click here to see images from the weekend
Click here for complete results
Click here for Skip Barber Summer Race Series points
Click here for MAZDASPEED Challenge points

In the media center lobby trophy case of the Watkins Glen International Raceway sits a large silver cup complete with celebratory fingerprints of past winners of the Cameron Argetsinger Trophy. Cameron was the patriarch and virtual creator of the current WGI road course that was built in the 1950’s after it was deemed too dangerous to continue traditional road races on local roads.

The full WGI road course that we use today was home to the United States Formula One Grand Prix from 1961 thru 1980 with the likes of Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney and many other racing legends. All that history belies one of the truly great road courses of North America. Eleven different turns with great elevation changes that challenge and delight every driver who take them on. If you don’t feel honored to be there, you should.

We were especially fortunate to have long time racer, coach, Skippy instructor and son of Cameron, Peter Argetsinger as our chief observer for this second SBRS Summer Series Regional race weekend. On Sunday Pete gave two van-loads of lucky drivers and friends a narrated tour of the old road course that has been given National Historic Landmark status.

Some say Pete still occasionally exercises his 1953 MG in a spirited fashion around the old road course under the narrow railroad bridge and over the rise where Allards and their brethren used to catch air… But only at dusk with the headlights off (Claiming a blown fuse but we know better) so the spirits of great racers past and present may be stirred alive once again.

Well… It must have worked because spirits of all ages were stirred this weekend as relatively young and old took it to the track to create new chapters of racing lore.

Group 1 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Ashley Freiberg, Kevin Tittle, Greg Strelzoff, Dr. Jim Norman and Dr. Mike Edwards led the straining train of cars through turn one of a relatively clean start. Dr Jim spun in turn one of lap 2 but didn’t go 4-off (a virtual impossibility unless you hit the wall) and rejoined in lucky P13. Ashley led the first two laps but a perfect double draft pass into the bus stop let Tittle and Strelzoff grab inside position and shuffle Ashley back to P3 on lap 3.

Freiberg never likes to lose the point and promptly put young Tittle and less young (master) Strelzoff in their places again on laps 4 through 7 breaking away with a 1.5 second lead over Tittle and Strelzoff. It looked like Ashley was going to check out but she bobbled through turn 9 allowing Tittle and Strelzoff to catch back up and make it a race again with Tittle grabbing the point on laps 8, 9 and 11.

Meanwhile, behind our leaders, Dr. Mike Edwards was locked in battle with Thomas McGregor for P4 and P5 trading positions repeatedly, while most progressive Austin Dyne came from P last to fight with Dr. Jim who was in spin recovery mode. Kyle Robertson started P14 and got as high as P6 before fading to P9 and returning grand master Jim Booth got as high as P6 before the draft dropped him back to P10. Chris Brassard fought with Dr. Jim, Jim Booth and Robert Ecklin before getting by Ecklin and riding Dr. Jim’s coat tails to P8. Kyle Roberson was P14 at the start with a very respectable P9 finish.

At the checker Ashley Freiberg used drafting and strateegery to win the race with Kevin Tittle .368 seconds back in second place and Strelzoff four seconds back in third… And then… There was everybody else.

Twenty-six plus seconds back McGregor P4 won his battle with Dr. Mike P5. Austin Dyne P6 nipped Dr. Jim P7. Chris Brassard in P8 had a relatively comfortable two plus second lead over Kyle Robertson who just barely beat Jim Booth by five hundredths of a second for our top 10 finalist.

By all accounts, great racing at all levels from beginning to end.

Group 1 Race 2
The racing gods giveth and the racing gods taketh away and this race was the ugly step-child of Race 1. Ashley Freiberg led the field into turn one and Kevin Tittle took the point into the bus stop before the ugly stick came out. At turn nine, Freiberg out-braked herself into the back of Tittle at the heel forcing both of them to pit for a safety check. The tap in the back somehow upset the ignition of Tittle’s car and he had to retire with a misfire. Freiberg then sped out of pit road and was given an additional stop-and-go penalty as a result.

This gave the rest of the field a shot at leading and some were more civilized than others. Greg Strelzoff, Austin Dyne and Thomas McGregor all played nice as they battled hard for and eventually took the lead on various laps most of them going to McGregor and Dyne.

Then the Pair-O-Docs (Dr. Jim Norman and Dr. Mike Edwards) who devote their lives to healing and saving patients showed little patience with each other and Jim Booth, as their three-way battle disintegrated to the bedside manner of a knife fight in a phone booth. Leaving each other little or no room at every opportunity, Dr. Jim went four off through the bus stop, Jim Booth had contact somewhere with someone that no one saw and was thus given a time penalty after a post race inspection. Dr. Mike bounced off the safer barrier at the exit of turn eleven late in the proceedings and was also time penalized for not pitting for a safety check. Dr. Jim retired early when his pop-off valve popped off. To say their collective driving style was aggressive would be an under statement but no one benefited from it or escaped unscathed. Lets just call it a wonderful learning opportunity.

Chris Brassard and Sergio Pasian found each other in turn nine on the last lap and were also time penalized for failure to pit.

Other than that, it was a perfect race.

Thomas McGregor earned a strong P1 with a 4 plus second lead over Austin Dyne P2, and Greg Strelzoff P3. Kyle Robertson rose from P9 to P4. Ashley Freiberg put her head down after two trips to the pits and scratched back to P5. Gary Vizioli was most progressive from P12 to P6. Dr. Mike P7, Jim Booth P8, Chris Brassard P9 and Sergio Pasian P10.

Group 2 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
Angelo Dinkov, Tyler Wolfson and Ashley’s dad, Brian Freiberg led the snarling gaggle of MX-5’s through turn 1 with John Du Bets, Bruce Robson and Ward Herst in hot pursuit. Freiberg took the lead on lap 2 but hit the blue bushes exiting the laces ending his race as WGI medical personnel were required to examine him when he pitted in for a safety check.

Thomas McGregor worked his way up to P7 from P11 when on lap 7 he was so optimistic through turn one that he made it across the runoff area to the barrier. With broken steering he was unable to continue but was able to nurse the car safely off course so the race was able to continue without delay.

By this point the race had pretty much sorted itself out, but with one important exception: On the last lap Tyler Wolfson, who had been running second for most of the race, caught Angelo Dinkov and while doing everything he could to wrestle the lead away from Dinkov got into the back of him through turn 11. Neither car pitted before the checker and so both were assessed a time penalty. This made John Du Bets a very happy boy first time winner with Ward Herst and Bruce Robson on the second and third steps of the podium. John Snyder grabbed P4 then came time penalized Angelo Dinkov P5 and Tyler Wolfson P6. Evan O’Connor P7 beat Robert Bornkamp P8 by a second and a half and Larry Flick P9 finished ten seconds in front of Brian Kimmins P10

Group 2 Race 2
With a little bit of drizzle sprinkling the track Angelo Dinkov grabbed the point with Ward Herst and John Snyder in an early three-car break away. The misting ceased as Herst took the lead on lap three while Tyler Wolfson caught the lead pack. Dinkov and Herst traded the lead numerous times as the race progressed and Wolfson pushed his way to the front. On lap eight, Wolfson took command of the race with Dinkov, Herst and Du Bets at his heels. John Snyder, Bruce Robson and David Steinschraber were on the move mid-pack. Steinschraber managed a tank slapper through the bus stop that dislodged his muffler. He continued both unabated and un-muffled.

Unfortunately this time Angelo found Tyler with car-to-car contact forcing both to finish in the pits. This allowed Ward Herst to lead laps 10 and 11 with John Du Bets and John Snyder still in the hunt. Du Bets, inspired by his inherited first win in race one rose to the occasion and passed Herst for the lead on the last lap to win for the second time by half a second over John Herst. John Snyder beat Bruce Robson by a little more than a second for the final podium spot. Tyler Wolfson finished P5 after his safety check, David (I don’t need no stinkin’ muffler) Steinschraber was P6, Angelo Dinkov P7, Evan O’Connor P8, Robert Bornkamp and Larry (Scandinavian) Flick P10. The time sheet indicated Brian Freiberg as P6 finisher but he wasn’t listed in the lap times or lap chart so we give him phantom credit here.

Group 3 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
At the start Greg Strelzoff took the lead with Stormin’ Jim Norman squeezing Pat Daly to P3, Robert Ecklin P4, Lee Englebardt P5, Chris Brassard P6, Gary Vizioli P7 and Austin Dyne P8.

On lap 2 Norman took the lead and then almost took out Strelzoff and Daly when he used all of the turn one run off area and re-entered wildly causing Strelzoff and Daly to check up and swerve to avoid contact. Despite this near miss, Norman kept the lead with Strelzoff challenging and Daly a passive observer two car lengths back. Leland Englebardt and Robert Ecklin battled for P4 before Austin Dyne spun and went four-off in the bus stop. Leland caught Daly and they worked together to catch the leaders before Daly had a moment through turn one and Leland avoided contact by spinning into the runoff area and continuing. Later that lap without Daly’s help, Leland did the same thing in the turn 10 run off area without losing a position (Bravo!). Gary Vizioli and Chris Brassard had a great back and forth battle going for P6. George Kline assumed sole ownership of P8.

In the closing laps Norman led with Strelzoff breathing down his neck and Daly maintaining P3. On the white flag lap Strelzoff made a strong outside pass into the bus stop for the lead that held through the checker with Maytag repairman Daly in P3. Robert Eklin P4 holding off the challenge of Leland Englebardt P5 by a tenth of a second. Chris Brassard P6 won the gentleman racer battle with Gary Vizioli P7 and George Kline P8 had a solid clean economy run. Blake Teeter P9 and Austin Dyne finished out the top ten honors.

Group 3 Race 2
Dr. Jim unsheathed his scalpel to take the early lead over Greg Strelzoff with Chris Brassard, Pat Daly and, (also with unsheathed scalpel) most progressive Dr. Mike Edwards carving his way quickly to the front from P Last.

The world was upside down for a few laps as Chris Brassard took the lead while Greg Strelzoff and the pair-o-docs sharpened their instruments behind him. Austin Dyne pushed Daly all the way back to P6 as he jockeyed to the front. Stormin’ Jim’s front wing got severely bent upward but observers didn’t see it happen so he continued, choosing to wait for confirmation in an after race inspection.

If patience is a virtue, no one was virtuous in this group. Strelzoff, Dr. Jim, Dr. Mike, and Austin Dyne fought like nine year olds in a sandbox. Daly got around Brassard for P5 as the laps wound down but the leaders gave no breathing room to each other.

The white flag showed Dr. Mike leading with Dyne, Strelzoff , Norman and Daly all close behind. In turn nine it came to tears as Dr. Mike and Austin Dyne had wheel to wheel contact giving Strelzoff the lead and the race. It was confirmed that Dr. Jim had contact after the race and he was time penalized. Dr. Mike and Austin Dyne were also time penalized after they failed to stop for their contact on the last lap. This gifted patient and virtuous Daly and Englebardt with P2 and P3 after Englebardt’s late race pass over Chris Brassard P4. Robert Ecklin was a solid P5. Blake Teeter P6 and Greg DiMaggio P7 less than a tenth of a second apart at the stripe. Dr. Mike dropped back to P8, Austin Dyne P9 and Stormin’ Jim was our final top 10 finisher.

Group 4 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Youth would not be denied in this race as Kevin Tittle and Thomas McGregor quickly moved to the front after Doug Harrison enjoyed a two lap term leading the race before he was freight trained into the bus stop back to P4 on lap 3. Daly jumped to P2 behind new leader McGregor with Tittle P3. On lap 4 Tittle got around Daly and they settled into a pattern of McGregor leading most laps with Tittle occasionally challenging for and taking the lead. Daly held P3 while Doug Harrison first held off Paul Subject and then Dr. Mike Edwards as the laps wound down. Paul Subject P6 was ahead of David Knight P7 when most progressive Jim Booth came up from P15 to get around Steve Hahn for P8.

On the last lap Daly tried to catch the leaders with a late brake over-achieve into the laces and spun without hitting anything letting Harrison and Edwards past. McGregor P1 got by Tittle P2 on the last lap to take the win and Edwards P3 backed up Harrison P4 in turn eleven with a third gear downshift at the apex to grab the last podium step. Recovering from his spin Daly finished P5. Paul Subject P6, a second and a half up on David Knight P7. Jim Booth came home P8, while Steve Nelson P9, Bill Shields P10 and Steven Mayer all finished less than a second apart.

Group 4 Race 2
Youth would be denied and age honored in this race but not without a fight in both cases. Thomas McGregor took the lead with Kevin Tittle on his tail while Doug Harrison, Paul Subject, and Pat Daly hounded them. If McGregor and Tittle had been wise enough to work together they could have run away and gapped the field but if this race weekend had proved anything it was that impulse control is hard for kids of all ages.

McGregor and Tittle challenged each other continually the first seven laps through the bus stop, carousel, laces, toe, heel and everywhere else they could stick a nose in. They spent more time side by side than conjoined twins and Doug Harrison finally had enough, using a perfect draft up through the esses to smoke them both into the bus stop and drive away. This did not sever the umbilical cord however and Tittle tried to drive down inside of McGregor through the carousel as he had the lap before. With his left front wheel up next to McGregor’s right rear the car began to push left and Tittle had nowhere to go. He tapped McGregor’s right rear and they both pirouetted around without hitting anything. Daly, on Tittle’s gearbox, managed not to fixate on the spinning twins and set sail after Harrison who had long since fled the scene.

Meanwhile, Jim Booth, David Knight and Steve Nelson were having exceptional runs in P3, 4 and 5 on lap 9 before Paul Subject put on his Superman cape passing both Knight and Nelson. Post race it was determined Booth had contact so he was also assessed a time penalty and Subject leapfrogged Booth as well.

At the front Harrison, who after 9 1/2 seasons of SBRS racing was starting to smell his first win, had Daly getting larger in his mirrors. Daly however, hit a pothole at the edge of turn 1 and bent his left front tie-rod. He adjusted his driving style to avoid curbs and keep the car as balanced as possible. Perhaps Pat should drive like he has a bent tie-rod all the time as he closed the gap on Harrison and set fastest lap of the race! But while the car turned to the right more easily it was a handful in left hand turns and through the laces Daly narrowly avoided serious contact with the track-out guardrail mowing enough grass to bill WGI for lawn care.

In the end none of it mattered as Doug drove clean, smart and fast to become the newest Skip Barber happy boy. There were cheers and tears in pit lane as the guy who has given Skip Barber’s faithful so many happy moments over the years with his finely crafted banquet videos was thoroughly dunked with ice water and given a checkered flag for the finest lap in motor racing.

No better way to end an action packed regional race weekend on the historic pavement of Watkins Glen International than to have Doug Harrison warmly received into it’s winners circle. All’s right with the world and the racing gods were smiling.

The Jason Holehouse RCI Memorial
This was Jason Holehouse’s last race weekend as SBRS Eastern Regional Chief Instructor before heading off to Monticello to run their club racing operations. His analytic mind and phenomenal skill as a test and race driver will be sorely missed going forward but it’s nice to know he won’t be far away.

David Knight, Jim Booth, Greg DiMaggio, Bruce Robson and Will Pagan were given the dubious distinction of starting at the front. This was dubious because we all know it wasn’t a question of if the front starters are going to be passed, it was only a question of when they’ll be passed. With the likes of Steve Welk, Peter Dannon Jr., Ashley Freiberg and Dr. Mike Edwards everyone knew it wouldn’t take long for the field to invert itself.

In what must be some kind of record Peter Dannon Jr. took less than two laps to take the lead with Ashley Freiberg joining him in P2 on lap three. Ashley took the point on lap four with PD Jr., Dr. Mike Edwards and Austin Dyne giving chase. Steve Welk took his time arriving in P3 on lap 10 and Dr. Mike retired a lap early.

At the checkered flag Ashley Freiberg was the winner with Peter Dannon Jr. P2 less than three seconds back. Steve Welk P3 almost 11 seconds back and Jim Booth P4 beat out Austin Dyne P5. Sergio Pagan nipped David Knight by seven tenths who squeaked by Greg DiMaggio by four tenths.

And a good time was had by all.

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