The Road Atlanta Race Weekend
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 It was a ”Lime Rock-style” race weekend at Road Atlanta – Thursday through Saturday – for the East, Midwest and MAZDASPEED Challenge competitors. As usual, Road Atlanta helped provide some top-notch racing…
Josef Newgarden took the lead from Dennis Trebing on the second lap, just before a full course yellow was needed for a Grant Krieger crash in T11. When we got started again to start lap seven, it was Newgy over Trebing, Sean Rayhall, Julien Albarracin and Robbie Dalton. Rayhall and Albarracin went back and forth in the squabble for P2 after Trebing fell from second to fourth. At the checker, Newgarden crossed the line less than half a second in front of Rayhall, who made a last-lap pass on Albaraccin, who was just a 10th behind. Trebing was a distant fourth, about a half-second up on P5 Dalton.
There were two separate FCYs in this one – laps 3, 4 and 5, and laps 11 and 12 – but in between was good battling between Rayhall, Dalton and Albarracin. The second re-start had Dalton with the lead, barely ahead of Rayhall and Albarracin. At the checker, Rayhall nipped Albarracin at the finish line, but not without a little contact. After the penalty, that gave Luca Orlandi second place and Trebing third. Ben Searcy and Kevin Tittle were a very tight fourth and fifth, while Harsha Sen, Ashley Freiberg and Brent Milner were an equally close sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Jim Kettelkamp was ninth, with Rayhall and Albaraccin officially 10th and 11th.
This race was clean and green the whole way as we watched a terrific battle. Court Vernon led, having taken the lead from poleman Milner on lap one, with Thiago Calvet third, Brian Skinner fourth and Al Carter fifth. Skip Barber National frontrunner Josef Newgarden had started way back in 15th but shot to sixth by the time lap two had started. But it came with a proviso, as Newgy had some nose damage from contact. Regardless, Newgy was proving a point and sliced his way into P2 before half distance, then came in and parked it. Now it was Milner trying to hassle Vernon for the lead, with Skinner and Calvet also in the mix. But carter also had something to say about things, and after falling as far south as sixth place, he was working his way back to the front. With a lap to go, Carter was fourth, just behind Skinner and just in front of Calvet. But on that last lap, Milner got freight-trained back to fifth while Carter went to second, behind winner Vernon. Skinner was just a micro-tick behind Carter, and Calvert finished 4/10s up on P5 Milner.
A barnburner between Vernon and Calvet, with Vernon coming to the good but just a tenth of a second ahead at the finish line. While that was going on, Carter and Milner had an equally close tussle over the rights to P3, a battle eventually won by Carter. Kim Kristian was a quarter-lap further back in fifth, while Matthew Durward came up from 11 th to finish sixth. Scott Panzer, a regular frontrunner, had to park it after suffering an MDNF.
G3R1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
Well, this was a wild and wooly one between Chris Topping and Dwight Kelly, with Kevin Clayton also mixing it up, and as they crossed the finish line it was Topping, Kelly, Clayton. But Wait, There’s More! At some point Topping and Kelly had had contact, and Clayton violated the sacrosanct Cone Rule. Sooooooo…. post-penalties, the winner was Justin Piscitell, over Keith Holdbrooks and Clayton. Ken Greenberg, Chris Brown, Topping and Kelly were next, while rounding out the field were Kieron O’Rourke, Paul Quirk, Tom Tobin and Pat Tierney.
G3R2 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
More wonderfully entertaining dicing for the lead between Clayton (the leader laps one through six), Piscitell (seven through 11, until he fell off the road in T1) and Topping (last four laps). Kelly was in the early mix, but he went agricultural in T3. Topping won by just 0.192 of a second over Piscitell, who was miles ahead of P3 Holdbrooks. Brown and O’Rourke rounded out the top five.
In the wet, Julien Albarracin, Luca Orlandi, Corey Lewis, Freddie Zebede, Julien Gerbi, Brian Skinner, Al Carter, Brent Milner and Dennis Trebing – shew! – were all jukin’ and jivin’ toward the front but Lewis held the lead from lap three onward while it was a mixmaster behind him. Orlandi got tagged by Trebing on lap three, ending Trebing’s day and Orlandi’s chances. Even a late FCY could not loosen Lewis’s grip on P1. When the checker flew, Lewis had the win while crossing the line second was Zebede. But he had passed a car under yellow and didn’t fix it, so after Zebede’s penalty, Gerbi was second and Albaraccin third. Skinner and Carter were fourth and fifth, with Milner, Orlandi, Doug Beachem, Scott Panzer and James French rounding out the top 10.
This was a really good dice between Albarracin and Lewis for 12 of the race’s 15 laps, but sadly Lewis’s car began to act up and he had to park it. Albarracin got the win, but there was also a really good drive from Zebede. Starting on the fifth row, within a handful of laps he was up to fourth and before halfway, we saw him in third, hounding Lewis. At the three-quarter mark, Zebede found himself shuffled back to fifth, at which point he started climbing back up, all the while dicing mightily with Carter. By lap 12 Zebede was back in third – then got P2 with Lewis’s retirement. Carter came home third, Milner fourth and – was this the drive of the race? – Trebing fifth, after starting 17th.
G5R1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
Well, not the best of weekends for points leader Lyonel Kent, to put it mildly. He had a gearbox go on Friday while leading, then a motor went soft on Saturday… Anyway, in Friday’s race, when Kent retired, that handed the lead to Myron Turner, with Carlos Llano right on his bumper. Disputing third place were Dan Graeff and Mike Brunley. At the checker Turner and Llano were one-two, but they had had contact so post-penalty, the winner was Graeff over Brunley, with Turner and Llano officially third and fourth. The Tucker Bros., Scott and Joel, were fifth and sixth, followed by Michael Schein, Ray Philibert and Michael Thompson.
G5R2 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
Wow, this was a blazin’ battle between Turner, Llano and Tucker, S. Leading the penultimate lap was Turner, but on the last lap both Llano and Tucker got around Turner, Llano getting the win by less than a second. Fourth was Graeff, Brunley fifth, followed by Schein, Quirk, Thompson, Tucker, J., and Philibert.
… are rounds seven and eight of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., with the Grand-Am Daytona Prototypes. Then at the beginning of August (1, 2, 3) is the much-anticipated Midwest and East races at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in St. Jovite, Canada, followed by the National at Road America (August 8-10) with ALMS. Then there’s the killer weekend at the all-new New Jersey Motorsports Park: Rounds 11 and 12 of the National, with the Grand-Am DP machines, on the Thunderbolt track, plus rounds 11 and 12 of the Midwest and East Series on the Lightning track. This is the first time we’ve had the chance to show-off both Regional and National at the same venue and the same time.
Click here to read about the first-time-ever MAZDASPEED Challenge ”Enduro” race at Lime Rock, supporting the giant NASCAR weekend in August. There’s still time to enter…