Southern Series, Roebling RoadMar 10, 2005
Thursday, March 10, 2005 In the great Peach State of Georgia is Roebling Road, where we went for rounds 11 & 12 of the Southern Series. As born-and-bred Southerner “TearLee” puts it, “Roebling has to be one of the all-time favorite locations to hold a Skippy weekend. The track produces some of the best battles we witness each year, plus it’s really ‘car friendly,’ with plenty of run-off. And Savannah itself is worth the trip alone, steeped in rich Southern tradition, and even richer Southern cooking!”
Or, as Juicy Member Gerardo “Bobo” Bonilla put it, “Savannah: Home of possibly the best downtown hole-in-the-wall restaurants any high-metabolism boy would love.”
Gastronomics aside, we had two race groups at Roebling, which put up some top-notch racin’…
Matt Varsha was angling to clinch the Southern Series title this weekend, and having nipped David Libby for pole (1:19.5 to “P” Libby’s :19.8), Varsha checked out right from the git-go. Behind, Libby, Laura Rowe, Chris Hill and “Murray the M” Marden (who would be “re-named” El Gato during his Sportsman race. We’ll explain…) were at it like you read about, switching positions about every lap. Tell you what, the best description comes right from the race notes from the Control Tower… “Lap 5, Varsha has 5.65 lead…Libby and Hill play pass/repass in T2… L7, Marden tries pass in T2, um, reconsiders and Laura stays P4…Murray makes it work into Two, takes P4 from LR…Libby and Hill have a slight gap back to P4… L10, Varsha slows! shows “4” with his hand. (Lost 4th gear? Or stuck in 4th?)… Lap 11, Libby passes Varsha in T2, Varsha back to P3…” When everything shook out, Libby won by just nipping Hill across the line, Rowe third, Murray fourth, Varsha limping into fifth and Susan Addison sixth.
Talk about “nipping!” In qualifying for this race, Mike Gomez put up a 1:21.6 to Marden’s 1:21.7. But at the start, as the field crossed the line at the green, Murray had lost a spot to Jack Aten. Then “Murray the M” became “El Gato,” as a cat (okay, PETA members and those with queasy stomachs need to stop reading for a second), obviously a rookie to the racing world, chose the wrong time and place (Turn Four) to cross the (Roebling) road. No gory details, but you can imagine the end result when front wing meets feral pussycat at warp speed. Dropping to fourth, nevertheless “El Gato” wiped the teardrops from his eye and went after P3 Carlos Llano, Aten in second and leader Gomez. The Cat dispatched Llano on lap two, then a lap later popped on Aten for second going into Two. By the time lap four was in the books, The Cat was the Top Dog as Marden purred his way to a 12-second margin of victory over second place Gomez.
This was Murray’s first Series win and he was as happy as a cat in a parakeet cage! (Is that the wrong analogy to make?) Llano and Aten meanwhile manifested exactly what Mr. Earwood was talking about — great back and forth dicing for the last podium step! That battle was eventually won by Senor Llano, after A-Ten became A-Four thanks to a in-the-heat-of-battle four-off in Turn Four on the last lap. Llano’s drive, we found out later, was even more impressive: a small gearbox leak from Aten’s gearbox had been spraying Llano’s car — and visor — almost the whole race! Rhonda Hill snagged fifth, with Greg Willard, Andre Villarreal (first ever race), John Aigeltinger and Newklear Ash (first-ever race) rounding out the result sheet.
Note to all readers: There is a major debate about when, exactly, Puss ‘n’ Boots met his demise. Murray, in his television interview with Dr. Jerry Punch and Dan Rather, claims it was during the Saturday Sportsman race. Series observers, however, have a recollection of it being Sunday. The cat, meanwhile, wished it never happened…
This is the race that did it for Varsha: he took pole (over Libby, again), then led every lap to clinch the 2004-2005 Southern Series championship. Way to go Matt, and go kick some butt in the National!
Meanwhile, this was another terrific dice for positions two through five. And again, the Control Tower notes prove most articulate… “Varsha leads by 4 seconds after four laps… same four-car battle as Saturday between Libby, Hill, Rowe and Marden… Chris Hill being hounded by Rowe for his P4… Late look! by Libby on MM — but tucks back in… Rowe pirouettes, leaves Marden/Libby/Hill battling for P2-P4… Marden takes P3 from Hill… Libby spins L13, Marden into P2, Hill P3… Varsha wins, 12 seconds up on The Cat, Hill 1 second behind in third, Libby recovers to fourth, Rowe fifth, Susan sixth.”
We’ve got plenty of racers of the distaff persuasion, but we’d love to see even more. Pass the word around, guys, starting with your own wives! Left-to-right: Susan Addison, Laura Rowe, Ashlei Newkirk and Rhonda Hill. Not shown are Michele Marden, Sarena Traver, Merle Libby.
Marden, like a cat with its tail on fire (is that not an appropriate analogy?), rifled his way to the front by taking over first place on lap five when Llano did a “four-off in Four.” Though it was bit lonely up front, it was a helluva riot between the rest of the field. In fact, second-through-sixth crossed the line all inside a second-and-a-half! Action packed like you read about, the lap chart zigs and zags and Llano, like a cat with its tail on fire (okay, come on, that was funny!), sliced his way back up to second place. Gomez was brilliant, finishing third after starting eighth, and Brandon Huff came back particularly strong (he missed Saturday’s racing after his crash during Q1) to take fourth. Villarreal did awesome to grab fifth, followed by Aten, Rhonda Hill, Willard, Ashlei Newkirk and Aigeltinger. Great stuff, thanks for the fantastic show!
Bill Tanner ‘The Main Man’ Memorial
With yet another lap chart that looks as random as a Yahtzee roll, this race saw Laura Rowe get her first “unassisted” Race Series win (she had been victorious more than once in team enduro Memorials), to the delight of the crowd. Yes, Bobo had to make a “pit stop,” but that takes nothing away from her furious dice with Libby, who took second. Bonilla recovered to third, Gomez was fourth, Llano fifth, with Villarreal and Rhonda Hill rounding out the finish.
Big “thank you’s” to the mechanics, who did their usual stellar job, plus a round of applause to Keith Watts: This southern boy gone good was given the Pit Lane Coordinator reins for Savannah and did a fantastic job. Stevie D., look out!
The Southern Series finale (April 1-3) is going to be fantastic; absolutely be sure to enter this Race Weekend! It’s on a track that Jim Pace personally told me, “If you do ONE thing in your life, Ricky, do a Skippy race at Daytona!” We’re on the full 24-hour course, and the racing is so fun you’ll break your jawbone from smiling so much. It’s a full week of Southern Series Skip Barber-ness: ADV2 Monday and Tuesday, Lapping and Lead/Follow Lapping Wednesday and Thursday, Practice Friday, etc. Plus, it’s rounds five and six of the ultra-competitive Masters National Championship.
And here’s the best part: The banquet is at “Daytona U.S.A.” It’s a 60,000-square-foot interactive motorsports attraction that is a world-class showplace. The Southern Series banquet is going to be huge fun, hosted by the world’s third-best MC, Mr. Terry Lee Earwood! Remember, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an Eastern, Midwestern or Western Series driver — if you’re with us at Daytona April 1-3, you’re going to the banquet.
Please call your School & Series Advisor now, because we’ve already sold close to four dozens seats, so there’s only a couple dozen seats left. See ya there!