The Masters at The Glen

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Thursday, June 01, 2006 There are few race tracks in America the equal of Watkins Glen International, a track that’s a perfect venue for the ‘‘boys’’ competing in this year’s Masters National. In fact, the weekend’s chief observer wrote, in his report to the office, that the ‘‘two Masters National races were extraordinary, the awesome talent in the field put on a fabulous show…’’

The Media version of the points standings are here.

Here are the photos “Eleven” took at Watkins Glen.

Results, lap charts, qualifying, etc., are here..

Coming into the weekend, Chris Willcox had 48-point lead over John Mayes, with Peter Ludwig in third just five points further back. But don’t forget, this year there are four ‘‘drops’’ in the Masters National…

Race One
In qualifying, Ludwig killed ‘em with his 2:13.374, more than a second up on Willcox’s 2:14.540. The next five drivers were in the mid- to high :15s. This was a 12-lap race that had terrific dices all the way through the field. The only casualty was Mayes, who hurt his car on the second lap and had to park it. Otherwise, Ludwig, Willcox and Dick Lippert (up into the podium spots almost instantly, from his P8 on the grid) made the action in the front of the field spellbinding, while David Casey, Quentin Wahl and Michael Auriemma held the concession on the great mid-pack action. The gaps between the cars varied wildly, as minor mistakes over the Glen’s glorious 3.4 miles stretched and compressed the packs like an accordion.

Ludwig led the first six laps, Willcox the next four, then Ludwig on the penultimate lap… and across the line at the checker it was Willcox, by a half-second over Ludwig, who was only another half-a-tick up on Lippert. Casey had a solid fourth, 20 seconds down from the leaders but well in hand over Wahl, coming home fifth. The next three Auriemma, Jimmy Locke and Murray Marden – came across the line virtually under one blanket, with Doug Harrison and Jim Lowe rounding out the top 10. ‘‘What a race, let’s fuel ‘em up and do it again!’’ was heard in pit lane after the race…

Race Two
Ludwig again had taken pole, Willcox the outside front row… but can you believe this? The who-led-which-laps in this race was exactly the same as race one: Ludwig 1 – 6, Willcox 7 – 10, Ludwig 11, then Willcox the last lap. It goes without saying it was another terrific battle for the win, but this time Willcox and Ludwig left P3 behind because there was an equally frantic fight between Lippert, Mayes, Auriemma and Wahl. Lippert, running third from lap two through six, spun it in Keith Watts’ corner (T1?) and fell all the way back to eighth. But in the remaining five laps he cleaved his way forward, including taking advantage of a Mayes spin-and-continue, and then he and Mayes both got around Auriemma on the last lap to take third and fourth, respectively. Thos three, plus Marden and Casey, crossed the finish line within a scant three second of each other (including Mayes less than half-a-second in front of Auriemma. And it appears the skunk survived this race, too…

We didn’t have to take this picture twice: Both races, Willcox (c.), Ludwig (r.), Lippert!

Ludwig’s solid weekend – two poles, two P2s – means he took second place in the points standings from Mayes, while Lippert’s double-podium puts him in fourth, ahead of Wahl. Locke moves up one position (he’s now sixth) while Auriemma made the biggest leap, 10th to seventh. Despite boxscores that read identically, both Masters National races were truly great stuff. Not unexpected when you combine really good drivers with a really good race track.

Next up is the all-singing, all-dancing weekend at Road America, July 1-2. In addition to the Masters National, it’s a combined Midwest/East event, plus the Skip Barber National Presented by RACER is in town. Road America, of course, is yet another of North America’s best circuits. Last year, Willcox only ran one of the two races – and finished fourth, behind Wahl, Lippert and John Greist…

Rick Roso

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