VIR Kicks Off Summer Series with a Bang – On Track and in the Skies

< Back 04/26/2005

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 Freezing wind, heavy rain showers and variable track conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Eastern and Midwestern Regional opening race weekend at the hospitable Virginia International Raceway track.

Rookie drivers took home the wins, Igor Sushko 3 wins in Sportsman, Pablo Sanchez 3 wins in Championship, Christopher Wehrheim a win in Championship, and Steve Ablondi a win in Sportsman. All were first time winners so had to enjoy the traditional icy bath in the freezing conditions before taking their victory laps. Michael Auriemma, Michael Distaulo, Tom Brown, John Petersen, Michael Gomez and Grand Master Rick Balsey shared the Masters honors.

Were you flat through the Esses? This is a great set of corners…

Eastern Championship Group 1 Race 1
At the green flag young Pablo Sanchez-Lopez took off from pole with Michael Auriemma and Tim Urey in pursuit but the action further back in the field started at turn one when Bill Hammer knocked into Murray Marden causing them both to go off and Ivo trying to avoid joined them in the grass. All stopped for a safety check. Murray’s longer than most as he had to have a flat tire changed. At half distance Charles Anti passed Auriemma for 2nd as it started to rain Urey now demoted to 4th. Further back in the field Steve Goldstein crashed bringing out a full course yellow. On the restart Anti spun in turn three and Auriemma went off to avoid, after safety checks, they rejoined in 7th and 8th position. The rain was getting heavier and now it was Jonathan Goring to take 2nd and chase Lopez with young AJ Riley in tow. Ivo Guerguiev recovering from his early off slowly worked his way back to 5th and a lap later he was up to 2nd when Tim Urey spun and AJ went 4 off. At the checkered Pablo Sanchez Lopez took his first ever win with Ivo 2nd Michael fought his way back to 3rd with Tim Urey 4th RJ Smith 5th took the Masters points after early car contact with Jim Craig who finished in 6th.

Eastern Championship Group 1 Race 2
This time a motivated Auriemma led from the start but unfortunately Tim Urey’s car failed at turn two on the first lap, the pace car was called for while the car was retrieved. On the restart Lopez scrambled by Auriemma but Auriemma was determined not to let the youngster go and matched his laps for much of the race but it was Lopez who took the flag for his second win. Behind these two a fierce battle between Ivo Guerguiev, Charles Anti and Jonathan Goring was raging until Ivo went 4 off at turn one leaving Anti and Goring to continue. Goring took the position (3rd) on the last lap and Anti finished three hundredths behind in 4th. Murray Marden pressured Jim Craige into a mistake at turn one and took 5th with a recovered Ivo in 6th.

Midwest Championship Group 3 Race 1
Pablo Sanchez-Lopez tripling up the weekend (he ran in National as well as the two Championship Groups) lost his cool at the start and punted Revere Greist at turn one, two laps later Duncan Ende spun. As they all made their safety checks Jonathan Frost took over the lead chased by Revere Greist and Christopher Wehrheim. At half distance Wehrheim skated by Greist and set off after Frost. With one lap to go Wehrheim caught Frost on the long back straight they were nose to tail going into turn 14, Frost misjudged his braking and went four off, he took the flag in the pits and salvage 3rd but this left Christopher Wehrheim to take his first win in his first SBRS race. 2004 Midwest Champion Revere Greist took 2nd with Frost 3rd, Charles Anti 4th and taking 5th and first Master was John Petersen up from 9th.

Chris Wehrheim (c.) gets two trophies: Rookie of the Race and the winner! P2 was Revere Greist (r.), the 2004 Midwest titlist, and third was Jonathan Frost (l.). Masters winner was John Peterson (front), who finished fifth overall.

Karting Scholarship driver Wehrheim gets his ceremonial dunking on Saturday!

Midwest Championship Group 3 Race 2
Revere Greist took the lead from Wehrheim on lap two and a couple of laps later young Lopez up from 6th took the lead. Behind these two a major fight was developing between Charles Anti, Chris Wehrheim and Jonathan Frost. Eventually Wehrheim shook off the attentions of Anti and made a late attempt to close the gap to Greist but at the flag it was Lopez taking his third win of the weekend setting a new lap record in the process, Greist 2nd Wehrheim 3rd Charles Anti 4th Jonathan Frost 5th and up from 9th and first Master Tom Brown in 6th.

Eastern Sportsman Group 4 Race 1
On a drying track Jimmy Holden led for a lap until new driver Igor Sushko got by in turn one, Holden hounded Sushko to the flag and they finished one tenth apart. Igor later enjoying the ice bath for his first SBRS win. Fighting for 3rd Mike Distaulo and Todor Mitov were nose to tail until Distaulo went off at Oaktree and Mitov spun a couple of laps later promoting the skirmishing duo of Greg Willard and Jared Fisher to battle for third. On the penultimate lap Willard made a better exit from the Oaktree turn and passed Fisher on the back straight. At the flag Sushko wins followed closely by Holden a gap to Willard who takes 3rd from Fisher 4th, Vataj 5th and Mike Distaulo who had been as high as 3rd from a 9th place start finished 6th and took the Masters win.

Eastern Sportsman Group 4 Race 2
Igor Sushko led from the green flag but Jimmy Holden took the lead going into turn one on the second lap and held on until half distance when a collision between Charles McManus and Marc Charbonneau brought out the pace car for 2 laps. On the restart with three laps to go Mike Distaulo misjudged his braking into turn one and hit Holden. Distaulo pitted but Holden chose to stay out and continue to race Sushko. At the flag the 25-second penalty dropped him from 2nd to 7th. Behind these two Greg Willard held 3rd until he went off letting Todor Mitov take that position. When the checker came out Igor Sushko had won his second race, Todor Mitov took 2nd after the penalty dropped Holden out of the order. Mike Distaulo took 3rd and first Master with new driver Jason Yates 4th and Chris Peters was 5th.

Midwestern Sportsman Group 5 Race 1
It rained heavily as the cars grided and the rain continued unabated throughout the race. The field was ragged coming to the flag the first time so the starter did not display the green and the field was black-flagged to regrid correctly. On the green flag pole man Chris Davis sailed off the road so Dane Moxlow starting from 3rd took up the lead with Chris Weldon following in 2nd. Moxlow succumbed to the conditions in turn 1 so Chris Weldon took over first place with a hard charging Steve Ablondi the only man reveling in the terrible conditions up from 11th now in 2nd and pushing Weldon hard. Behind these two Edwin Soto-Quinones, Rick Balsey, Michael Gomez and the recovering Dane Moxlow tried to make the last podium spot their own. With two laps to go Ablondi tired of sitting in the spray from Weldon’s wheels took the lead and went on to win his first race. This left Weldon 2nd Edwin Soto-Quinones 3rd Rick Balsley 4th and first Master Michael Gomez 5th and Dane Moxlow with a 25 second penalty 6th. At the back of the field Igor Sushko entertained the crowd with a record 7 spins and 4 offs “I guess I have a lot to learn about driving in the rain” the winner of the two Eastern Sportsman races said later.

Steve Ablondi (c.) was a first-time winner in Saturday’s race. Joining him on the podium are Chris “Give Me Room!” Weldon (r.) and Edwin Soto-Moto-Roto-No Bobo-Quinones (l.) Rick Balsley (front left) was the Masters winner, coming home fourth, and the Rookie of the Race was Dane Moxlow (front right), who came home sixth.

Midwestern Sportsman Group 5 Race 2
At the start Steve Ablondi took the lead and Chris Weldon spun and went 4 off at turn one. Rick Balsey took up the second spot for a couple of laps until he too spins out and gives Mike Gomez a chance to chase down Ablondi. Meanwhile Igor Sushko is gradually making his way back through the field after an early coming together with Dane Moxlow and with three laps to go he is right behind Chris Davis who has been swapping places with Edwin Soto-Quinones for 3rd. On the second to last lap Chris Weldon goes off in turn one bringing out the pace car and on the restart Sushko is close enough to take the lead. At the flag Igor Sushko takes his third win of the weekend with Steve Ablondi 2nd Michael Gomez first Master in 3rd Dane Moxlow 4th Chris Davis 5th and Edwin Soto Quinones 6th.

Here’s your “podium”: Winner Igor Sushko (c.), P2 Steve Ablondi (l.) and your Southern Series Sportsman Runner-up, Mike Gomez (r.).

The Gonzo Memorial
A happy Duncan Ende led the Memorial race from start to finish. Tom Brown watched him disappear into the distance whilst he fended off Jonathan Frost and Mike Gomez . Frost squeezed by Brown with two laps to go to take 2nd with Tom Brown 3rd Mike Gomez 4th and Doppler Dave 5th.

Thanks to everyone who came to VIR! We look forward to seeing you at the next event, which is an Eastern Series weekend at Lime Rock Park, May 12th – 14th. Watkins Glen is after that on Memorial weekend and is filling up fast! The Glen is going to be an East/Mid-West combo as well as host the 7th and 8th rounds of the Masters National. If you don’t have your seat reserved, call now….. before it’s too late!

Divina Galica

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