Southern Series Finale

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006 The first set of “southern” Skip Barber races was way back in the early 1980s; Barney Oldfield and Bernd Rosemeyer won the first couple of races, if memory serves. (TerryLee was working with ‘em…) The 2005-2006 Southern Series finale was at Sebring International; Chamber of Commerce weather, 38 drivers (nine of them rookie drivers, including a whole mess o’ Randalls), race cars in great shape, the best corner workers in existence, some really fine grub — and some championships to be decided…

All the photos from the Sebring Finale are here!

G1R1 (Sportsman)
Over the course of the season, 67 drivers had entered at least one Southern Series Sportsman event. Yannick Hofman’s four victories – one each at Moroso, Homestead, Sebring and Vegas – combined with a spate of other podiums meant he had already clinched the title. Hofman wasn’t here at the finale (he had a prior FBMW commitment), so this was a battle for championship runner-up between Miles Bell and Tim George, Jr. And the title was still up in the air after this one, because Steve Rooyakkers took his first Skip Barber win, in flag to flag fashion. Right from the git-go it was Stevie the Roo in front, Miles You Can’t Ring His Bell on his gearbox. On lap two Bell dropped two at the exit of One, and now Jay Fuchs was gathering up Bell. With Bell fending off Fuchs (Jay finally got him in 17), The Roo started to gap P2. Jay and Miles were going at it great and with three laps to go, Bell finally rung up Fuchs in Turn Seven to take second place. George, Jr., however, didn’t have the best of races and wasn’t able to get up into the P2/P3 battle, coming home fourth. (But it was good enough to take the championship runner-up fight into Sunday.) George Ebel had a solid fifth, while David Stubbs and Carmine Pici took it down to the wire over sixth and seventh, as did Don Van and Bob Cooper in their tussle for eighth. Michael Fabregat spun himself out of sixth but recovered to 10 th, and Nick Spencer and Neal Martin were on the lead lap in 11th and 12th. The win was the first for Steve Rooyakkers – way to go, Roo!

G1R2 (Sportsman)
This was a great race, action up and down the field. The first lap was executed with comportment, everybody single file heading to the Carrousel. You know, the race notes on this one tell the tale pretty well…‘‘Lap 2: Roo huge lead going into Five… 65 (Van) over 94 (Stubbs) into T3. Bell closing on Roo into Seven; two car lengths behind heading into 10… Miles has run up to 15! Looks… no – and gets sideway! 4 (Fuchs) wants 16 (Martin) going into T16… Miles looks again in 17… Lap Three: Bell goes for it in Seven, makes it work, then Roo almost spins in 10, loses six car lengths (puddle?) 44 and 94 still heated… by T17, Bell up on Roo 10 cars. A bit back, Stubbs gets T.G. (Tim George) when they got up to 17… Lap Four: Lead is chopped, The Roo is catching… Stubbs passes George in 10, Fuchs will probably catch Spencer in T10…P3 (Van) spins in 13! – not four-off… Lap Seven: Bell overslides exit of Carrousel! Roo tries to pop into T7… doesn’t do it…Pops again in 10 – no. Nose-to-trail. Roo makes it work in 17… Last lap: Miles looks to make pass in Three, doesn’t do it… Steve throws it away in 17, goes straight!’’

Wow, okay, there you go… Bell wins, Rooyakkers second, Stubbs a grand third, just ahead of Ebel, who was 11 seconds up on fifth-place George, Jr. And that result sheet made Miles Bell the Sportsman runner-up, Tim George, Jr., third, then Steve Rooyakkers fourth, just a few points ahead of George Ebel. Good stuff, guys!

G2R1 (Championship)
So all the Championship players – Craig Duerson (470 points), Carlos Llano (390) and Ricky Taylor (370) – took the grid. Alex Doman, vying for Rookie of the Year honors with Taylor, was the polesitter, Taylor alongside, Duerson third, Jeff Relic fourth, Andrew Carbonell fifth. Llano? He was back in the third row, a second slower than the front row.

Green flag, and right away Doman gets gobbled up. It was a maelstrom of action, and nearly four miles later Taylor is the man up front, Duerson right there in second, Relic third, then Doman and Llano. Duerson got the run out of 17 on Taylor and went for the lead in One. Now it was a free-for-all between Taylor, Relic, Doman; in fact, Taylor and Relic went side by side through 13. By the time Duerson got up to Turn 16, he was 15 car lengths up the road. The end of lap two saw it Duerson, Relic, Doman, Taylor and Carbonell. But you know that wasn’t going to last… At the start of lap three, we see Doman take over second from Relic — Duerson’s still out front by himself – then, Jiminy Crickets, P4 Taylor spins and goes four-off! (ending up 14th at the checker, he netted 8 points.) Now Doman turned Doberman and reeled Duerson in over the next two laps. On lap six, Doman got the deed done. Duerson didn’t let him get away but he couldn’t return the favor and was a half-second back at the checker. (First-time win for Doman, in impressive fashion, too!) While that was happening, Relic and Carbonell had their own gig going for third place. Two laps to go, Andrew got ‘er done, taking over third place. And while that was happening, David Libby, who had been hauling himself up the lap chart like you read about, took advantage of a Relic mistake and put himself into fourth on the last lap. Michel Garrido was unusually quiet but eventually found himself taking fifth, not far ahead of Llano, who also was a non-factor for win honors. Relic crossed next in seventh, but he still had to absorb a safety-check penalty and wound up classified 12th, so P7 went to Andre Villarreal. John Peterson, Hayden Duerson and Michael Gomez rounded out the top 10.

So that was that! With Duerson’s P2 – and with Llano and Taylor getting, in practical terms, shut-out – Duerson became the 2005-2006 Southern Series champion. The Doman win now put him in contention to win the RoY over Taylor…

G2R2 (Championship)
With driver-turned-instructor Matt Franc joining this club at the back, good friend Duerson donated his P2 starting spot so he and Franc could race each other in the Sunday contest. Carbonell was the donee, so he started alongside Doman. Row two was Libby and Garrido. Remember, the coveted Rookie of the Year was still at stake; Taylor had 378 points coming into this final race, and Doman 369. Because the rules require the dropping of your single worst race result, Doman’s 369 was ‘‘real.’’ That is, he had already had a bad race; he scored 0 points in one of the Moroso races, so whatever he scored in this race would be added to his total. Taylor’s worst race, on the other hand, was the 8-pointer on Saturday. Which meant whatever points he collected in this race would be reduced by those 8 points. Put another way, he actually started the race with 370 points – just one more than Doman. With Doman on pole, and Taylor starting 13th, needless to say the prognosis was exactly the brightest for young Mr. Taylor.

But he gave it a healthy shot. His cause was not aided by the start, however. Or rather, the lack of one. The first attempt at a green was sloppy and was waved off, but it took a long time for the field to figure it out. So long, in fact, that we had to send the pace car out to catch them as they began lap ‘‘two!” Now yet another pace lap had to get underway, and combined with the 1 and 7/8’s warm-up, the race had to be shortened from its originally scheduled eight because of fuel concerns. And that meant Taylor had but five laps to make his mark. Give him credit, Taylor made it up to seventh. Would three more laps have given him a shot at Doman? Probably not. Doman’s average lap was a 2:27.570; Taylor’s was a 2:28.333. But an awful lot can happen – positive and negative – in three laps’ time at Sebring. But, that’s racing… Doman’s dominant win, a near 4-second victory over Carbonell, gave him a perfect weekend and moved him to third overall in the standings — and a 37-point MoV over Taylor for Rookie of the Year.

And what about Duerson and Franc? Franc is wicked fast, like Duerson, and the two ratcheted quickly up the lap chart. By the next-to-last lap, Duerson was fifth and Franc sixth. But from there, their fortunes went totally different directions. Duerson snuck past both Garrido and Llano to take third, while HazMatt threw it off the road somewhere and he was scored a lap down (probably did that on purpose, so he wouldn’t have to suffer a 10-spot grid penalty at the next race…).

G3R1 (Sportsman)
Okay, it says ‘’G3R1’’ just above, but here’s what this really was: The Flying Randalls Family Group Hug-and-Race Race One.” How cool is this: Brothers Steve and Rodney, plus Steve’s son Brad and Rodney’s son D.J., all did their Three Day and ADV2 and Lapping and this Race Weekend. Together. That’s awesome.

And so is Brazilian Felipe Stanev, also a pure rookie, who took the pole for this one. Felipe led from the go, Damon Petty in second battling mightily with Flying Randall Steve, Dan Graeff and Flying Randall Brad. But Petty fell off the road near the Carrousel on lap three so now, with Stanev on the non-stop bullet train to V.C., Flying Steve had second and Flying Brad third, and that’s where they finished. Two-thirds of one podium = one family! The drive of the race had to be Bob Cooper, who started 10th but rocketed to fourth by the end. Graeff salvaged a fifth, while Jim Booth started and finished a fine sixth. Eduardo Pellerano, Jr., went from 11th to seventh, while Flying Randall D.J. was just ahead of ninth place Petty, in turn a some yards up the road from Flying Randall Rodney. Harsha Sen took 11th, and Tim Allen had an MDNF and was classified 12th.

G3R2 (Sportsman)
Stanev had it a lot less easy in this one, as two Flying Randalls both had eyes on the prize. Flying Steve ran second to Stanev, but guess who was right behind Steve? His son Brad! Do you think Dad was feeling pressure? Well, in Turn 10, Steve went wide, allowing Brad to close within a gnat’s eyelash – and then used that to get under Dad in One the next time by. But Flying Brad succumbed to the pressure, too, four-offing in front of Dad in T16. (Steve would finish second, behind winner Stanev.) But while all that was happening, the fight for P3 was a-boil. Graeff was running fourth, so when Brad spun and had to pit, Graeff took over third. Then Graeff went off, also at 16, handing third to Petty! And so the field was static the last three laps (Stanev, S. Randall, Petty, Pellerano, Booth, Graeff, D.J. Randall, B. Randal, Sen, R. Randall and Allen), except for Flying Brad, who went back and forth with Sen on laps six and seven.

Masters Southern Regional Run-off
With a ‘‘reverse’’ grid – the fewer points you have, the higher up you start in this final run-off – starting ‘‘11th’’ in a nine-car field was Craig Duerson, who had already clinched this title. Eighth was John Pew, then continueing up the grid it was Laura Rowe, Michael Gomez, John Peterson, David Libby, George Ebel, Dom Bastien and poleman Neal Martin. Here’s the play-by-play, courtesy of Race Notes Reporters Linda Snyder and Ashley Launey… ‘‘Lap 1 & 2, nose nipple falls off the 54 car [Libby]… sort of… Duerson pulling away from Pew [yes, he and Pew got right to the front during the first lap. Ed.]… Duerson ahead by about three car lengths into T1… Lap 3, Laura on the gearbox of 68 [Peterson] into Turn One… Peterson over-rotates into 16… Rowe passes 68 [Peterson] in 17, extends gap by start/finish… Lap 4, a three-car race for P3 into T15… Lap 5, Laura trying to catch up again… Lap 6, 54 with a run on the 65 [Gomez] into T13… pop for lead into 17!, side-by-side… 55 takes the lead. Side-by-side across the line… Lap 7, S-by-S into One! Duerson passes. Pew closing, tries, can’t make work in Hairpin… Peterson has pulled out a couple of car lengths on Rowe and Dom into Turn 10: Laura and Dom battling the whole lap… Last lap, 8: Laura makes the pass and is P3 going into One. Dom fighting with Peterson for P3; Peterson makes the pass back in Seven and then in T10, Laura makes the pass…’’Good race, the final result being Duerson, Pew, Rowe, Bastien, Peterson, Gomez, Libby, Ebel and Martin.

Gene Pitney Memorial
[Pitney had more than 20 hits, including songs like ‘‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’’ and ‘‘Something’s Gotten Hold of my Heart.’’ A friend of The Rolling Stones, Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach, Pitney was also a noted songwriter. Ed.]
I nice big, fat field, the Pitney was stocked with Skippy instructors – and a fast mechanic. So, unlikely though it is that you may ever doubt the greatness of a Skip Barber instructor, I offer up the results of this Memorial: Gerardo, Phil ‘‘The Greek’’ Lombardi, HazMatt, Eleven. Then John Peterson, The Dom, then a fast 14-year-old, then the Weatherman (Doppler Dave), Laura Row the Boat Ashore, Murray the Cat, Milner, G.E., Nick ‘‘Not Nick-Nick’’ Spencer, some fast 14-year-old, Michele ‘‘Wanna Race?’’ Marden, Stubbs and Sen.

Hey, that was a pretty good Southern Race Series season, wasn’t it? All told, we saw 67 different drivers in Sportsman races and 35 in Championship. A lot of the drivers said the track mix was really good (Daytona, Moroso, Homestead, Sebring and Las Vegas), so we’re going to try for a similar mix for 2006/2007 (we’re looking to open at fast and fabulous Road Atlanta…).

A big congrats to Yannick Hofman in winning the Sportsman title! He won four races and had only two finishes outside the top-five. Miles Bell won twice and finished second, while Tim George, Jr., was a consistent top-five finisher and got third in points.

In Championship, Craig Duerson won six times in 10 starts, which meant the two wins and two second-places by Carlos Llano weren’t quite enough to win the title. (Duerson also won the Masters trophy, ahead of Michael Gomez.) Alex Doman was third overall, edging Ricky Taylor. As the highest scoring rookie, Doman was, of course, winner of Rookie of the Year honors.

John Peterson had a good year, too! Not only was he the Grand Master champion, and third in Masters, but John was named Most Improved Driver, earning $2,000 in racing credit. Honorable Mentions for Most Improved went to Carlos Llano, Hayden Duerson, Ricky Taylor and Alex Doman.

The Western Series finale is this weekend (April 14-16), and less than three weeks later is the opening weekend of the Midwest and East – the big combined event at VIR, May 5-7! It also includes rounds three and four of the Masters National. But before that, the Skip Barber National goes for rounds three and four at VIR, as part of the Grand-Am Rolex and Grand-Am Cup pro race weekend, April 21-23.

Here are the rest of the quick links…

Sebring results here

2005-2006 Southern Series Final Points Standings

All the schedules are here…

Ricky Lusso

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