Southern Series at Homestead
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 Rounds five and six of the 2007-2008 Southern Series were at Homestead-Miami Speedway and its terrific ‘‘Grand-Am’’ road course layout. There were two Sportsman groups, one Championship group, and another Skip Barber MX-5 Cup group. We had three first-time winners – Michael O’Rourke in the Skip Barber Formula 2000 races, and Danny Steyn and Carlos Llano in the MX-5 Cup cars. Below is an overview of the weekend…
Scott Panzer led green to checker but behind there was action aplenty P2 and P3 got together early on – Al Carter tagged by Matthew Mair – and Mair’s car would then suffer from vapor lock and he was done. That left second place to Doug beachem, hounded by Ashley Freiberg. But that lasted just a lap as new guy Michael O’Rourke was rocketing up through the field and by lap five was into second place! But Julien Albaracing – what a great name – put everybody behind him for second place. For the next three laps things settled down a bit, with the order Panzer, Albaracing, O’Rourke, Freiberg and Beachem. On lap, however, things changed again as Albaracing unfortunately had to park it with a mechanical while Freiberg put himself into second, trailed by a charging Brian Skinner. Skinner had started on row two but had fallen back to DFL on the first lap. With both Skinner and O’Rourke hankering for P2, they got together on the front straight and crashed, meaning the race was done after 12 laps, finishing under yellow. Panzer wins, Freiberg, Beachem, Evan Kaloglannis and Andrew Pasquale rounding out the top five.
While Panzer, Albaracing, Carter and Skinner were duking it out up front, Panzer leading, O’Rourke and Skinner were driving with their hair on fire. Within four laps, Skinner was in third (from 12th) and O’Rourke fifth (from 11th). One lap later, Skinner was P2 and O’Rourke right behind them. With some help from a two-lap FCY on laps six and seven to take care of a Turn 3 kerfuffle between Beachem and Pasquale, those two got to chasing Panzer on the lap-eight restart. Albaracing was also right there and by the end of lap nine he had displaced O’Rourke for third. Now we had a full-fledged dice up front. Panzer succumbed to O’Rourke on lap 12, but two laps later, it was Albaracing in the lead, O’Rourke second, Panzer third. On the last lap, O’Rourke popped on Albaracing as the top three crossed the line within a gnat’s eyelash of each other. An exciting first-time win for O’Rourke – who promptly stuck it in the beach on his victory lap! Panzer in third was about a second up on fourth-place Skinner, in another sterling drive from 12th on the grid. Fifth was Kaloglannis, followed by Freiberg, Carter, Sunny Juara, Gary Gerrard, David Moore, Beachem and Pasquale.
One of the race-win contenders – Roberto Dalton – got into trouble early on (a tete-a-tete between himself and Hamilton Smith) so now it was game on between Josef Newgarden, Gabby Chaves and Luca Orlandi, your top three for laps two, three and four. On lap five, Orlandi went from third to first, Newgy first to third and Chaves the sandwich staying P2. From this point on, it was a wonderful back and forth affair between Chaves and Orlandi, each taking alternate turns as leader. With three to go, Chaves took the lead for the final time, with Orlandi’s last effort as they rocketed to the finish line falling just .025 of a second short, Newgy also having a winning shot but crossing a 10th of a second behind. David Libby was a fine fourth and Eliot Bachelart fifth. Al Carter ‘‘crossed over’’ to the Championship Side and went from 10th to sixth, followed by Michael Self, Michael Vincec, Dalton, Smith, Nick Darinzo and Angel Benitez.
This one was going okie-dokie until Benitez, Bachelart, Libby and Newgarden went agricultural in Turn Six, so three laps of full course caution ensued. The restart on lap seven saw Newgy up front (would he stop for his four-off?), Chaves and Bachelart (same question…), with fourth and fifth occupied by Dalton and Orlandi. Over the next three laps the top two stayed the same but P3 changed when Dalton and a charging Darinzo both got past Bachelart. But we weren’t done with the yellows, because Libby got his car stuck in the beach. During the second of the two FCY laps, Self passed some cars. That’s a no-no, of course. Lap eight was green again and it was Newgarden leading over Chaves and Self. Chaves then got the lead when Newgarden went four off. At the checker, the order across the line was Chaves, Self, Newgarden, Darinzo, Dalton and Smith – but there were penalties to be handed out. Newgy was slapped with a failure-to-report for his four-offs while Self had to pay the piper for his passes under yellow. So the final standing was Chaves the winner, followed by Darinzo (from 11th), Dalton, Smith and Vincec rounding out the top five. Carter, Orlandi, Self, Newgy, Bachelart, Benitez and Libby finished out the order.
Big, big field for Group 3 – 19 drivers took the green, with Luis Martinez on pole and Scott Panzer alongside. We only got one hot lap in, however, as Ricardo Mejia and Brad Hagerman ended up in the kitty litter in Two. The ensuing FCY laps had Panzer leading, trailed by Martinez, Sean Rayhall, Dennis Trebing and Brian Skinner. Green again to start lap five, Martinez and Rayhall both put Panzer down, then a lap later Rayhall grabbed the top spot while Martinez got back around Panzer. Then Rayhall and Martinez were reported to have both spun, with some contact. They both continued but Rayhall didn’t come while Martinez did. Lap eight showed Rayhall leading over Skinner and Panzer; a lap later Panzer took over second place, so laps 10 through 12 were steady with a Rayhall-Panzer-Skinner top three. On lap 13, not only did we go full course yellow to yank some cars out of the sand, but Rayhall made his stop. Regrettably, the race had to end under yellow, but it was fine win nonetheless for Panzer, with Skinner in second place. The #55 of Alfredo Zebede crossed P3, but it was no good as Zebede forgot to stop for a four-off – and he passed under yellow. That meant third went to Dan Graeff, fourth was Dennis Trebing and fifth went to Carl Hober. Jay Fuchs went from 15th on the grid to sixth, Skinner got seventh, followed by Rayhall, Ed Rowland and Sunny Juara.
No yellows, and some wonderful dicing throughout the field. Two potential players, Trebing and Martinez, took themselves out of contention when they had contact on the first lap, whilethe polesitter, Panzer, fell off the road in Turn Two, leaving the front to be fought over by Hober (he led the first six laps), Rayhall (he led the last eight laps), Skinner, Graeff and Zebede. On the last lap, Graeff got around Hober for second, so the final order was young Rayhall, Graeff, Hober, Skinner and Zebede. Sixth through 10th were Ashley Freiberg, Martinez, Panzer, Trebing and Rowland.
G4R1 & 2 (MX-5)
Danny Steyn and Carlos Llano became first-time MX-5 Cup winners in a pair of terrific ‘‘spring training’’ races. These two mixed it up in race one, swapping the lead a number of times (Sam Schechter led a lap also, but brushed the wall early on and had to pit) until Steyn’s last-lap draft got him the win by .139. Carl Hober had a mighty fine drive to third, followed by Shawn ‘‘fast’’ Faust, Scott ‘‘Jesse’’ James, Drew Dinsmore, Schechter and Pax Lemmon, a former MX-5 winner. In race two, Steyn and Llano did it again. This time, Llano led the last two lap, but Steyn had a run coming to the checker and finished just .010 behind. Third went Schechter, followed by James, Faust, Dinsmore and Lemmon. Good stuff, folks. We’re going to be running a Skip Barber MX-5 Cup Regional Series soon, so get on the list to enter!
Evel Knievel/Ike Turner Memorial
Brian Skinner’s lap chart looked like Evel’s cardiogram – lots of up and downs – but made the whole thing work with a super-slim win over Sean Rayhall: .004 of a second. Gabby Chaves went from 10th to third, Al Carter and Steve Welk rounding out the top five.
The most famous run-off in the world of racing scholarship awards is the 11th Annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, February 1-3 at Sebring International. Approximately $130,000 in scholarships are handed out to the most deserving drivers as they make their way up the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development ladder system. Two weeks later, the much-anticipated Southern/Western Combo race weekend is at Sebring (February 15-17), followed three weeks later by the other combo at fast and fun Las Vegas (March 7-9). And then we jump into the start of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda; the season opener at the 12 Hours of Sebring, March 11-14. There will be very strong field for sure, and were likely looking at a 2008 battle that will be extremely close.