Southern Series Rounds 7 & 8
Monday, February 26, 2007 It was chillier weather than usual for Florida for rounds 7 & 8 of the 2006-2007 Southern Race Series, but that didn’t matter to the five dozen drivers racing hard on Sebring’s classic 3.7 miles. There was a lot of great racing — there was just one full course yellow and one black-all — with some of the credit going to the Race Series debut of the Skip Barber ‘‘Hamster Device’’ (explained below). And ‘‘congrats’’ to three first-time winners – Luca Orlandi, Harsha Sen and Dan Palma (plus Aaron ‘‘Hippie’’ Nash in the Memorial).
The crew gets a big congrats, too, working late each day in the inclement weather to have all the cars up and running each morning (best group in many years!). So wonderful to have Kelly Deneen back where she belongs; thanks to her and Kim Herman and Nick-Nick for a great job in timing/stewarding. And awesome ‘concessions’ by Laurie Tyler, assisted by Linda Snyder: Great selections and variety. Thanks!
In 1998, the late Greg Moore won the Champ Car U.S. 500 in the first use of the Handford Device (‘‘Hamster’’ Device in Skippy terms!). In essence, it is an upside-down Gurney Flap, attached to the trailing edge of a rear wing, perpendicular to the main flap. Invented by aerodynamicist Dr. Mark Handford, it creates drag and opens up a much bigger drafting ‘‘hole’’ for the cars in its wake. This in turn results in closer racing and a much greater ability to draft-and-pass. We tried our version, after months of testing, during the Sebring Race Weekend – and it worked great.
Here the race group re-caps…
Pat Daly was the polesitter but as race cars are wont to do, his halfshaft gave up the ghost on lap two. But even before that, Luca Orlandi had taken the lead. With Daly out and two other contenders, Carlos Medina and Jay Fuchs also falling back (Medina spun, Fuchs four-offed to avoid), Rick Balsley and Orlandi went at it. Balsley grabbed the lead on lap two, then Orlandi took it right back a lap later. Then Balsley returned the favor on lap three! But as that lap was closing out, a charging Fuchs got together with P5 Leland Englebardt in 17, necessitating one lap of FCY. Green for the start of lap five, Balsley kept the lead but on lap six, Orlandi went back to P1 while Chris Brassard and Harsha Sen both put Balsley back. The dicing wasn’t done as lap seven saw Sen take over second with a move in Turn One. Next lap, Sen repeated his T1 move, this time on Orlandi, to take over the point. But on the last lap, Sen locked ‘em up, a door-opener that let Orlandi through to the win. Sen kept second place, just a half-second behind, Brassard was a fine third, with Balsley coming home fourth, putting in the fastest race lap in the process. Mark Olson deserves a shout-out for making P5 after starting 12th.
Orlandi took full advantage of pole and led laps one through four on a damp to drying track, the first two with Sen on his gearbox, the next two with Brassard under his Hamster. By the time lap five was in the books Brassard had popped for the lead then proceeded to gap the field. But just one lap later Brassard slid the car a bit too much and that let Orlandi and Sen get him back in their sights. Now it’s the last lap and Orlandi is hustling to both catch Brassard and fend off Sen. But Orlandi got it wrong in the Hairpin and went agricultural, handing second to Sen. Even with a 20-second penalty (for not pitting), Orlandi kept third ahead of Balsley, with Medina rounding out the top five. John Giddens had a nice 12th-to-sixth run. Brassard’s run to the victory included a killer last lap, the fastest of the race and a full 1.6 seconds quicker than his next best.
There was lots of action behind flag to flag winner Josef Newgarden. P2 starter David Libby led through One and Two at the start, but Newgarden had the lead by Three. By the second lap Jeff Oleen had charged all the way from eighth to second, with Matt Ferris right there in third. They stayed that way for a few laps but the frenetic Oleen vs. Ferris battle was letting Newgarden get away. On lap five Ferris made his move on Oleen work to take over second place, but it took only one lap for Oleen to reclaim. No surprise that Ferris returned the favor immediately. But their exciting battle had a downside: Jordan Taylor, who had started sixth but had fallen to eighth after the first lap, was quicker by about 1 second per lap than Ferris and Oleen. By the sixth lap Taylor was all the way to fourth. With three to go, Ferris snathced P2 from Oleen, Taylor still in fourth. With two to go, Oleen took the spot back from Ferris – and yes, Taylor stayed fourth. It was on the last lap that Taylor got past both of them to take over second place. Good stuff… Juan Carlos Sistos was fifth.
The track was mostly dry for this very exciting race, nose to tail from first to sixth for much of the contest. It was a rollercoaster ride for Newgarden… Oleen led the first three laps, with Ferris taking over second from Newgarden on lap three. On lap four Newgarden and Oleen swapped — Oleen first to third, Newgarden third to first, with Ferris remaining in second the whole time. On lap six it went bad for Ferris and Oleen. They crashed in Turn One, both done for the day. That gave Newgarden a permanent hold on P1, so the last three laps were a terrific dice for second between Sistos and David Libby, with Taylor, Brent Milner and Dom Bastien all part of the mix. Libby and Sistos swapped spots a few times but in the end the experienced Libby had the better of Sistos, with Taylor, Milner and Bastien completing the top six. The MoV for Newgarden over Libby was 2.5 seconds, but P2 Libby to P6 Bastien was covered by a mere 1.3 seconds.
Harsha Sen jumped out to a big lead instantly, yet Jeff Glassman – from 10th! – was equally efficient and was slotted into P2 by the end of the first lap. Glassman eventually hauled Sen in and on the second to last lap took the lead. That didn’t last long; Sen re-took the lead going into One, then moments later Glassman spun – and that put him just in front of the scrabbling pack that included Nick Spencer, Juan Pablo Glover Contreras (from 11th) and Michele Marden. Those positions – second through fifth — didn’t change on the last lap, but the four of them were covered by just 1.5 seconds at the checker. For Sen, it was a well-deserved first time win!
They were seven-wide as they crossed the line at the start, but everybody behaved and the field had ‘‘settled down’’ to single file by the time they reached the Hairpin. Spencer had the lead, Rhonda Hill smartly slotted into P2 and Sen, gobbled up at the start, was third. Glassman and JPGC were fourth and fifth, respectively. On the second lap, from sixth place Marden got herself three positions heading down to the Hairpin, but Don Van, who was following her, made contact that ended Michele’s race. While this was happening JPGC snatched second place, putting Glassman third, Hill fourth and John Giddens fifth. It took but one lap for Contreras to hunt down Spencer and motor off to victory, but the P2 battle was great, Glassman and Spencer taking turns. In the end it was Glassman getting second and Spencer third. Sen crossed the line fourth but because he hadn’t pitted for contact with Bill Oliver very early in the race, the 20-second penalty moved him back to sixth. That meant fourth place to Hill and fifth to Eric Brumme, coming up from 11th on the grid.
Ricky Taylor led every lap, trailed closely by Josef Newgarden and Jeff Relic during the first four laps. Relic took P2 away from Newgarden on lap five, but lost it back to Relic the next lap. Rocketing up from mid-pack was Revere Greist, a winner in one of the National races last year (Road America) and with three laps to go, Newgarden fell to fourth, putting Relic second and Greist third. Come the last lap, however, Relic got shuffled back to fourth as Greist and Newgarden got by – and Newgarden was just a 10th of a second behind Greist at the checker. Juan Carlos Sistos nipped Brent Milner for fifth, and Tim George, Jr., came from 12th on the grid to finish seventh. Peter Tucker, Joel Miller and John Peterson rounded out the top 10.
First time by the start was waved off, so now this would be an eight-lapper. This one was a dice between Taylor in P1 and Newgarden in P2. Taylor led every lap but Newgarden was never out of touch. In fact, he popped for the lead in the Hairpin mid-race, but couldn’t make it stick. Miller was marching up through the field and by the fifth lap had gotten to fifth place, just behind Quentin Wahl… but next time by they touched in T1 and they would end up toward the back after their required stops. With Relic relatively comfortable in third place, the last three laps saw a cool battle between Milner and Greist, swapping the spot back and forth, with Greist eventually taking fourth by a hair.
New guys Ricky Ehrgott and Dan Palma starred in this one, with Ehrgott leading from pole for the first eight laps. Palma lost one position from his P2 starting spot on lap two to Herman Jensen but Palma stole it back by four. With one lap to go Palma pounced and cruised to a 9-second MoV. Meanwhile, P3 Jensen spun and went four-off in Turn Five on lap eight, which moved Dan Graeff and Gustavo Linares into third and fourth, respectively, and Blake Kreiger eventually taking fifth, ahead of Jensen.
When contenders Linares and Jensen had contact in T15 on the first lap, that left the battle in the early laps to Pat Daly , Ehrgott and Palma. Daly led after lap one but lost the lead – he fell to third, in fact – to Ehrgott and Palma. But on lap four Ehrgott got it wrong in Turn Three, a big enough crash that called for a red flag. After the clean-up, the re-start on lap four saw Daly take the lead back, only to have Palma return the favor a lap later. But wily Daly came right back and when he snatched the lead from Palma on lap six, Daly stayed there the rest of the way despite intense pressure from Palma. Palma crossed the finish line in second place just a 10th of a second behind Daly. The heated battle up front was matched by the dice between Jensen and Kreiger for third (which, for a couple of laps mid-race, also included Jimmy Lee), with Jensen’s last-lap pass sticking. Fifth was Graeff, with sixth taken by a recovering Linares.
B.P.B.H. (Benny Parsons/Bobby Hamilton) Memorial
The top two podium steps were taken by two Skip Barber mechanics, Aaron ‘‘Hippie’’ Nash and Doppler Dave Lunenberg. Stars of Karing Scholarship driver Joel Miller was third, with Gerardo Bonilla ahead of the gracious and giving Peter Tucker, who ponied up bigtime with respect to the Mechanic’s Fund.
The action this winter is hard to slow down as rounds nine and 10 of the Western Series is March 2-4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Soon after are the 2007 opening two rounds of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda, supporting the 12 Hours of Sebring March 14-16. Then the Southern Series revs up for its rounds nine and 10 at Moroso Motorsports Park March 23-25. Then, the finale for the West is March 30-April 1, at Laguna.
A large part of what makes Skip Barber Race Weekends so much fun is because of experienced, talented corner workers. People such as Frank and Pam Miller, of Palm Bay, Fla., who’ve been working our races for a long, long time. Now ready to ‘‘retire-retire,’’ this was their last weekend with us. Thanks, folks, we’re going to miss you!
Rick Roso; Pix A.N., K.D. & K.H.