Western & Southern Combo Races at Sebring
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 This was the first of two consecutive Southern/Western Race Series combo events – the next one is at Las Vegas March 7-9 – and it was on the 12-Hour course at Sebring. The weekend was rounds seven and eight for both championships, with more than 40 drivers in attendance, many of them having just come from the 11th annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out. Congrats to Group 4 Sportsman driver Mark Bumgarner, a first-time winner. Below is an overview of the weekend…
Clean-and-green the whole race, Gabby Chaves started P2, took the lead for the first two laps, then had Hayden Duerson overhaul him. Chaves was conten with second place, saving his definitive move for the last lap. Which worked, for the win, Duerson just a couple 10s back at the stripe. Ryan Booth was the poleboy, but in the race’s early laps he ended up slipping back to fourth, behind Michael Self. Booth immediately got the spot back and finished an all-alone third, Roberto Dalton nicely worked his way from ninth on the grid to fourth, while Michael Self, who had gotten as high as third, mid-race, had to settle for fifth. Michael Vincec was sixth, having gapped Dom Bastien, Mike Edwards and Harsha Sen, all of whom crossed the line within a few feet of each other. Michael Ramies rounded out the top 10, with David Libby and Kasey Kuhlman victims of mechanical woes.
Well, this was like Groundhog Day, the Race. No yellows, Chaves the early leader, Duerson taking over then passed on the last lap by Gabby, Hayden just inches behind at the checker. Meanwhile, Vincec notched himself into third at the git-go and stayed there, but fourth was a pitched battle between Bastien, Self, Gary Williams and Roberto Dalton. Great stuff as they duked it out… Ramies, Booth and Lee Carpentier also entertained, rounding out the top 10. Kuhlman was a lonely 11th, with Sen and Libby rounding out the field, also mere feet apart across the line.
Young Sean Rayhall pretty much walked the field in this one, Dennis Trebing almost 13 seconds back at the flag. Alfredo Zebede made up ALL his positions on the first lap – 12th to third! – while Jimmy Simpson’s climb to fourth took seven of the nine laps to accomplish. Jay Fuchs’s drive to fifth was a rollercoaster, as he was as low as ninth at one point. Chris Brassard impressed, as his 13th-to-sixth will attest. He was followed home by Doug Beachem (who had to recover from a pit stop after he, George Fusner and Ashley Freiberg got together in T10), Freiberg and Dan Moen, with 10th taken by Andrew Pasquale.
Rayhall put together another win, again over Trebing, who had been in a good dice with Zebede and Simpson and took second place away from Zebede on the last lap. Laps two and three were FCY to handle a bit of a mess in the Hairpin caused by a Michael O’Rourke/Doug Beachem/George Fusner kerfuffle (Beachem and O’Rourke out, Fusner recovered nicely to seventh). Simpson wound up fourth, a tiny 10 th of a second behind Zebrede. Brassard was fifth, followed by Fuchs and Fusner. The next three, you coulda thrown a blanket over them at the finish line – Moen, Pasquale and Freiberg – while finishing 11th through 13th were Rich Mathabel, Walter Kuhn and Ed Rowland, respectively.
Exciting one as each of the last three laps saw a different leader: Michael Self lap 7, Michael Vincec lap 8, and Gabby Chaves lap 9, for the win. Those three, along with Dom Bastien and Conner De Phillippi, had been the players after the race settled a bit beginning with lap 2. At the checker, Vincec was just a couple 10ths behind Chaves and Self was third – but it didn’t count, as the required stop for a Self four-off in the Carousel earlier in the race wasn’t made. That gave P3 to De Phillippi (who set fastest lap) and fourth to Bastien. Michael Ramies, Peter Tucker and Gary Manheimer were next, with eighth through 10th occupied by Ryan Buetzer, Gary Williams and Emil Sildos. John Scalmanini was 11th and Lee Carpentier suffered an MDNF.
Boy oh boy, Chaves surely has a patent on the last-lap pass for the win! Chaves did lead early, with De Phillippi and Self on his gearbox. But on lap 5, De Phillippi went to the front, at the same time that Williams popped for P3 on Self (who, by the way, had rocketed up from 12th on the grid). On the last lap, Chaves made his move and edged De Phillippi by less than a 10th. Carpentier came from row five to finish fifth, just behind Self, while Buetzer, Manheimer and Sildos were next. Scalmanini, Tucker, Bastien, Ramies and Libby (fastest lap) rounded out the field.
Mark Bumgarner’s first Series win came in classic flag-to-flag fashion, starting in the second row but taking the lead by the end of the first lap (Bumgarner would also set fastest race-lap). Kim Kristian ran second and poleman Maverick Bartlett third as the race settled a bit. Taking his cue from Chaves, Bartlett’s last-lap pass netted him second place, with Sebastien Durango and Jonathan Barcena rounding out the top five. Brad Hagerman was in the mix early, but a spin on lap four set him back, though he did recover to seventh, behind sixth-place Andrew Pasquale. Fabrice Weill, Mike Cascioli and Maryeve DuFault rounded out the top 10.
The fact is, some races are processional and so it was for Group 4’s second race. Bumgarner took his second win of the weekend as the top five drivers – Bumgarner, Bartlett, Durango, Kristian and DuFault – ran that way from lap 3 onward. Richard Schwyn had a fine drive from 11th to sixth, with the next four being Hagerman, Barcena, Dominic Lamanna (from 16th) and Pasquale.
Another big and exciting Western/Southern Series combo weekend is March 7-9 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Then we jump into the start of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda; the season openers are at the 12 Hours of Sebring, March 11-14. There will be very strong field for sure, and we’re likely looking at a 2008 battle that will be extremely close.
Also, the last of the ‘‘spring training’’ Skip Barber MX-5 Cup Race Series is March 28-30 on Sebring’s fast and fun ‘‘test’’ circuit (where the IRL and big sports test). Then, it’s the start of the inaugural Skip Barber MX-5 championship, April 4-6 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Here’s the complete 2008 MX-5 schedule.