Summer Race Series openers at VIR

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

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Brett Smrz (36), Connor de Phillippi (58), Felipe Polehtto (49) and others, Turn Three, race one. More photos below…

ALTON, Va. (April 26) – In rounds three and four of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda at Virginia International Raceway, the racing was typically frantic and fraught with action. Drafting, passing and lead changes galore are the Skip Barber National norm at VIR, and when everything shook out, on Saturday we had seen a first-time winner – Brett Smrz – while on Sunday a ‘‘veteran’’ from last year, Felipe Polehtto, won his second career National race.

Polehtto had taken pole for both races, even with an abbreviated race-two qualifying session thanks to a big crash by Matthew Mair that ended the session after just 15 minutes of the scheduled 30 (shook up after about a half-dozen barrel rolls, Mair’s ok).

In race one, though the lap chart shows Polehtto leading the first seven laps, more than a few times he had lost the lead (to Connor de Phillippi and Smrz) after crossing start-finish, only to get it back under braking into Turn 14. Leading a pack of 10 nose-to-tail cars, on lap eight de Phillippi was first, ahead of Smrz and Polehtto. But the next time around Polehtto was again at the point, de Phillippi second, Smrz third. With two laps to go, it was de Phillippi P1. On the last lap, the final move – one that stuck – was Smrz drafting down the back straight and taking the lead under braking into T14. He was (barely) able to keep de Phillippi behind him – by .067 of a second – with Polehtto third. Court Vernon, one of this year’s two ‘‘full ride’’ Karting Scholarship winners, started ninth and finished fourth, while crossing the line fifth was Sean Rayhall, who was DQ’d after the race for driver misconduct. That gave P5 to Kyle Marcelli. Sixth, seventh and eighth, covered by a blanket at the line, were Ashley Freiberg, Jason Toft and Julian Albarracin, with Mair and Arrie Maree less than a half-second back in ninth and 10th.

The second race of the weekend was a bit messier… Laps one and two were led by poleman Polehtto, leading a train of a dozen. But during the second lap, Karem, Michael Vincec and Marcelli found themselves spinning off in Turn 10, while Robert LaRocca – who had qualified third – had contact somewhere on the backside with Jason Toft and broke a tie rod. A full course yellow was called on lap three (at some point de Phillippi had an issue and fell to 17th) to haul off LaRocca, Toft and Marcelli’s cars. Green again to start lap six it was Polehtto, Stevan McAleer, Smrz, Rayhall, Corey Lewis, Dennis Trebing, Vernon (up from 18th), Isaac Lyons (Richard Lyons younger brother), Costa (up from 21st; take that, Vernon!) and Albarracin. This pack was a train of front wings glued to gearboxes – but only when they weren’t three- and four-wide heading into the two big braking zones or hub-to-hub through the corners.

On the last lap, as the train left the station at Oak Tree, Smrz was up front. But he didn’t get through the famous corner as clean as he could have and by halfway down the long backstraight, Smrz got smoked by Polehtto, Lewis and Vernon. Down the long roller coaster of turns 14 through 17, everyone was trying to get a run on everyone else and when they flew across the line, Polehtto was the winner, two-tenths to the good on Lewis and Vernon, Smrz taking fourth and McAleer (the leader on the penultimate lap) fifth. Lyons, Trebing and Rayhall came across under a blanket, with de Phillippi and Karam rounding out the top 10.

With four of 14 races on the record, de Phillippi’s points lead (he won both of the openers, at Sebring) went from 10 over Marcelli to 1 over Polehtto, with Smrz leaping from ninth to third, his 103 points edging Vernon’s 102. Next up is Thunderbolt, N.J., June 13-14, where it’s an all-Mazda show.

Results, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda

April 25, 2009, round 3 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Virginia International Raceway, 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course
(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (6) Brett Smrz, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 11 laps, 91.867 average mph
2. (3) Connor de Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 11 laps
3. (1) Felipe Polehtto, Brazil, 11
4. (9) Court Vernon, Key Biscayne, Fla., 11
5. (4) Kyle Marcelli, Barrie, Ont., Canada, 11
6. (7) Ashley Freiberg, Homer Glen, Ill., 11
7. (11) Jason Toft, Petaluma, Calif., 11
8. (14) Julian Albarracin, Colombia, 11
9. (15) Matthew Mair, Miami, Fla., 11
10. (16) Arrie Maree, Swift Current, Sask., Canada, 11
11. (10) Isaac Lyons, Northern Ireland, 11
12. (13) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 11
13. (8) Victor Pedrosa, Brazil, 11
14. (2) Ian Costa, Danville, Calif., 11
15. (19) Dennis Trebing, Cape Coral, Fla., 11
16. (18) Robert LaRocca, 11
17. (22) Michael Ramies, 11
18. (12) Sage Karam, Nazareth, Pa., 11
19. (21) Carlos Linares, Venezuela, 11
20. (20) Michael Vincec, Stouffville, Ont., Canada, 11
21. (5) Corey Lewis, Nazareth, Pa., 3 (contact)
DQ (17) Sean Rayhall, Winston, Ga., driver misconduct

Race length: 11 laps of 3.27-mile road course for 35.97 miles
Time of race: 23 minutes, 29.565 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and hot
Margin of victory: 0.067 seconds
Lap leaders: Polehtto 1 – 7; de Phillippi 8; Polehtto 9; de Phillippi 10; Smrz 11
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Polehtto, 2:05.318 / 93.937 mph
Fastest race lap: de Phillippi, 2:05.391 / 93.882 mph, lap 7

April 26, 2009, round 4 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Virginia International Raceway, 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course
(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (1) Felipe Polehtto, Brazil, 10 laps, 69.738 average mph
2. (5) Corey Lewis, Nazareth, Pa., 10 laps
3. (18) Court Vernon, Key Biscayne, Fla., 10
4. (7) Brett Smrz, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 10
5. (6) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 10
6. (14) Isaac Lyons, Northern Ireland, 10
7. (9) Dennis Trebing, Cape Coral, Fla., 10
8. (11) Sean Rayhall, Winston, Ga., 10
9. (2) Connor de Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 10
10. (17) Sage Karam, Nazareth, Pa., 10
11. (12) Julian Albarracin, Colombia, 10
12. (21) Ian Costa, Danville, Calif., 10
13. (4) Victor Pedrosa, Brazil, 10
14. (15) Arrie Maree, Swift Current, Sask., Canada, 9
15. (22) Michael Vincec, Stouffville, Ont., Canada, 9
16. (20) Michael Ramies, 9
17. (8) Ashley Freiberg, Homer Glen, Ill., 9
18. (19) Carlos Linares, Venezuela, 7
19. (3) Robert LaRocca, 1
20. (10) Jason Toft, Petaluma, Calif., 1
21. (16) Kyle Marcelli, Barrie, Ont., Canada, 1
DNS (13) Matthew Mair, Miami, Fla., qualifying accident

Race length: 10 laps of 3.27-mile road course for 32.7 miles
Time of race: 28 minutes, 08.037 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and hot
Margin of victory: 0.212 seconds
Lap leaders: Polehtto 1 – 6; Smrz 7; McAleer 8; Polehtto 9 – 10 Cautions: 1, for 3 laps (3 – 5)
Fastest qualifier: Polehtto, 2:05.589 / 93.734 mph
Fastest race lap: Vernon, 2:05.590 / 93.734 mph, lap 7

2009 Skip Barber National points standings after 4 of 14 rounds, top 15 drivers:
1. Connor de Phillippi, 126
2. Felipe Polehtto, 125
3. Brett Smrz, 103
4. Court Vernon, 102
5. Kyle Marcelli, 98
6. Dennis Trebing, 95
7. Isaac Lyons, 85
8. Stevan McAleer, 83
9. Corey Lewis, 81
10. Sean Rayhall, 77
11. Jason Toft, 74
12. Ian Costa, 73
13. Matthew Mair, 70
14. Arrie Maree, 70
15. Sage Karam, 69

042609b
Brett Smrz (l.) and Connor de Phillipi finally spot the two VIR Victory Circle girls…

042609c
Polehtto would have been happier with something other than third place in race one. Just gotta wait a day, I guess…

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Brett Smrz (c.) got his first Skip Barber National win, while Connor de Phillippi added valuable points with a second place. Polehtto? He’s been here before, too.

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Sunday, race two, Polehtto has just pulled his car into the winner’s circle

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For Court Vernon, the future may be looking so bright he’s gotta wear shades.

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Polehtto, waiting to climb the top step after race two

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Race two podium, no caption needed.

Rick Roso, words & photos

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