Southern Series, Rounds 3 & 4
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Rounds three and four of the 2006-2007 Skip Barber Southern Series was at Sebring, one of the favorite stops on the Skip Barber ‘‘tour.’’ Great weather – Sunday’s races in particular were held under ‘‘Chamber of Commerce’’ skies – an even dozen drivers were doing their first Race Weekend, and we saw three first-time winners: Josef Newgarden, Nick Spencer and Kyle Marcelli.
Thirteen starters in the first race of the weekend and though it was a bit of a procession – the top four finished where they started – polesitter Yuta Wada was tailed closely by George Ebel, eventually finishing just a second and a half behind winner Wada. Wada set fastest race lap, two-tenths quicker than Ebel’s best. Jay Fuchs lost his P3 starting spot on the first lap to eighth-on-the-grid Rhonda Hill but he snatched it back when Hill went from third to fifth on lap two. Nick Spencer also had to give up a spot on that first lap but was back to fourth the next time around. The battle for fifth, sixth and seventh was exciting, as Hill, Harsha Sen and Alejandro Capin really went at it. On the last lap Sen got past Capin but the three of them took the checker covered by less than a second! Michele Marden, Ameer Qalbani and George Tuma rounded out the top 10.
On the first lap, the scramble into Turn Three saw leaders Wada, Sen and Fuchs getting mixed up with each other, with the contact hard enough to park Wada. When things shook out Spencer was the leader, Capin P2 and Hill in third. Spencer and Capin began to check out and Spencer did a great job, handling the pressure of leading and to take the checker for his first-ever win. Way to go, Nick… Meanwhile, Hill was fending off Tuma but soon her adversary changed: Marden attacked and took over fourth from Tuma on lap four and set her sites on Hill. Marden made a last-lap move on Hill and that was that: Michele Marden got her first podium. Great stuff! Hill took a solid fourth while fifth was all Fuchs, nine seconds up on sixth-place Tuma, recovering well from his mandatory pit stop. Chris Nussbaum, Marc Mandt, Sen and Qalbani rounded out the top 10.
Craig Duerson started from pole and never looked back, leaving Ricky Taylor, Gabriel Chaves, Kyle Marcelli, Ryan Booth and Brent Milner to work out the other podiums. On lap three Marcelli, on fire early from his third row grid spot, got a pass done on Chaves to take over third place, behind P2 Taylor. Three laps later Milner also put Chaves behind him, so Milner was back to where he started, fourth, where he would finish. With Duerson out front by a healthy margin, the dice was all about second place as Marcelli now went after Taylor. With one to go, Marcelli got what he wanted. Duerson, Marcelli and Taylor were the only drivers to get into the :26s, their fastest laps less than three-tenths apart. Booth also made a last-lap gain, getting around Chaves for fifth. Jeff Oleen finishing seventh headed a tight group comprised of him, Timmy Megenbier, reigning Eastern Sportsman champion Julia Landauer and Dom Bastien, the four of them crossing the line all well under two seconds of each other.
Veteran Duerson again won, but this time he and Taylor were in a dogfight the whole race for the honor. Taylor ran on Duerson’s gearbox before taking the lead on lap six of this eight-lap dice. But Duerson wasn’t going to be denied and one lap later he took the lead back. The last lap was exciting as Taylor looked for a way around but he fell just short, a scant 5/100s behind Duerson at the checker. Booth, who moved into the third place two laps into the race, stayed there to the finish while Marcelli, recovering from an early mistake that saw him as low as seventh place, fought back for a fourth, just ahead of a charging Chaves, who also had problems on the first lap and had to haul himself up from 11th. Megenbier took sixth, with the Milner and David Libby scrap for seventh resolved in Milner’s favor by just 3/10s of a second. Landauer was ninth and Tyler Dueck 10th.
This race was well-driven by all, just one four-off (first lap, T1) between the 13 starters. When fifth-starting Josef Newgarden moved around Jim Dixon on lap two, it became a race-long dice between he and poleman Paulo Lima for the victory spoils. Lima never ceded the point but Newgarden was only a car length behind at the end. Newgarden presaged his Sunday race by setting fastest race-lap, a 2:28.044, 7/10s quicker than next-best Bobby Ellis’s :29.688. P3 Dixon and P4 Ellis crossed the finish line totally side-by-side, a miniscule one one-thousandth apart! Nick Tonkin was fifth, while Caio ‘’Goodbye’’ Barros improved the most positions, 12 th to sixth at the flag. Sen, Spencer, Don Van and Bob Cooper rounded out the top 10.
Newgarden went right to the front on lap one while Lima chased him, the two of them leaving the field behind. Newgarden won by three seconds+ and again set fastest lap, chopping almost a half-second off his race one time. Dixon was running third but he spun and went four-off in 13 on lap three, handing the position to Ellis. Barros came home fourth, with Sen 11 seconds back in fifth. Van brought it home sixth, with Carmine Pici taking seventh after starting 12 th. Nick ‘’Toy’’ Tonkin mustered an eighth place, ahead of Spencer and Dixon.
Ryan Booth and Kyle Marcelli were doing a double weekend so we saw them in G2 and G4. Booth was the polekid, with Marcelli joining him on the front row. Milner (also doubling) and Chris Larson had the second row. Booth led lap one, but David Libby’s suspension broke and where the car stopped required an FCY to get it out of the way. Green again for the start of lap four, the order was Booth, Hayden Duerson (he had started seventh), Marcelli, Milner and Larson, but on that lap Marcelli was quickest by more than a half-second. He took full advantage by going from third to first on the next lap, Booth falling to third while Duerson kept his hold on second. But the next time around, it was Duerson leading Marcelli, Booth still in P3. Matt Ferris was fourth, because Milner and Larson had contact in T13, the incident allowing Ferris to get past them. (Larson reported but Milner, possibly unaware, never did; his 20-second post-race penalty meant Milner was classified 11 th despite crossing the finish line sixth.) Duerson kept his lead in front of Marcelli through the seventh lap but Marcelli’s last lap move for the win worked though the margin at the checker was less than 2/10s. Booth was only a half-second further back in third, while Ferris was a fine fourth. Murray Marden, Dale Kistler-Collins and Tim George, Jr., were battling it out for MPI honors (Most Positions Improved): Marden bagged six spots (11th to fifth) and K-C grabbed seven (13th to sixth), but George, Jr., got the most by going 16th to seventh. Sundaresh Kumar, Jim Booth (Ryan’s Pop) and Mathias Calderon rounded out the top 10.
The start got exciting when Marden and Kistler-Collins banged into each other on the front straight, which ended K-C’s day and relegated Marden to DFL. Both Duerson and Booth got around Marcelli on that first lap, with Ferris holding station in fourth. Marcelli wasted no time, taking second from Booth on lap two then dispatching Duerson for the lead a lap after that. Booth went from third to the lead on lap four, but he and Marcelli’s hustle was going to come with a price: Marcelli and Booth had hit each other on the front straight on lap two. So when Duerson snatched the lead from Booth to lead lap five, most of his troubles were, so to speak, behind him; Marcelli retired after spinning on lap six, while Booth’s required pit stop dropped him out of podium contention. With Marcelli parked and Booth re-joining at the back, with two laps to go Larson sat second and Milner in third. Ferris, notably, was fourth — which would become something considerably better after the final lap. First of all, on lap seven Milner went four-off to avoid but elected not to pit, so although he crossed the line in third, the post-race penalty meant he was classified ninth. Secondly, Larson had some sort of trouble on the last lap that resulted in a time of 2:41 (dropping him to fifth). When it all shook out, Ferris Dueller was second to Duerson. David Libby, meanwhile, had quietly made his way to third (fourth on the track) all the way from 10th. Larson salvaged a fourth and Bastien climbed impressively to fifth, from 13th on the grid. Jim Booth got sixth, Kumar seventh and Ryan Booth eighth (in the process putting up a fastest race-lap almost a half-second faster than anyone else in the field).
Thanks to drivers driving well and the usual stellar work by the Skip Barber mechanics, we were able to run two Memorial races. Saturday’s Clay Regazzoni/Baby Huey (Sid Raymond was the beloved cartoon character’s voice) Memorial had an eclectic mix of drivers including a vice president, a hippie and a radar expert. Okay, I didn’t SEE the finish, but I’m awfully suspicious of a HazMatt win of ‘’0.001 seconds’’ over his boyfriend Craig Duerson. I don’t know, I’m smelling Indy F1, 2002, Barichello’s ‘’win’’ over Michael… Regardless, Mini Booth moved up the most positions, going from 16th to third at the flag… In Memorial II, ‘’Puttin’ on the Ritz,’’ Ryan Booth won, Paulo Lima less than a second behind, Gabe Chaves P3. Matt Ferris came from 11th to take fourth, just three-tenths behind Chaves, with Dom Bastien fifth.
Skip Barber Racing is non-stop this winter: The Southern Series’ rounds five and six are just around the corner, January 5 – 7 at Homestead Miami Speedway (we use the so-called Grand-Am road course layout, which is awesome, since it includes NASCAR Turns 3 & 4). Homestead is also the weekend of the Fourth Annual Skip Barber Regional Run-off Championship. This year, almost $50,000 in Race Series (Regional and/or National) credit will be awarded.
You’ll compete in three Regional Run-off races: two “heat races,” with the “Feature” race determining the 2006 Skip Barber Regional Series Champion! Click here for more details – it’s not too late to enter.
Following Homestead and the Shoot-out, the Western Series is at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca January 19-21 for rounds five and six. If you haven’t raced at Laguna Seca – or if you have, but it’s been more than a year – you gotta go. The County Commissioner’s office did a major refurbish of the track recently so it’s better than ever.
And don’t forget about Western rounds seven and eight at Thunderhill Raceway Park
in early February (9 – 11). We haven’t raced here in a long time but it is really cool; fast, huge amounts of run-off, very nice classrooms and hospitality. The track is 3 miles long, 30 feet wide, fun elevation changes, and only 7 miles from motels, restaurant and an airport. Thunderhill is just off I-5, 75 miles north of Sacramento International.