Eastern Series Finale at Lime Rock Park

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 The Eastern Series and Masters National finale was at Lime Lake — er, I mean, Lime Rock — Park, and despite the perfect (for Noah) conditions, we had excellent racing and everybody had a great time. Guess who won their first races? Read on! Plus, a 15-year-old karter doing his first-ever Race Weekend took home a checkered flag. And at the banquet, some guy named ”Watler Ivering” turned out to be a pretty good MC…

Lake Lefthander. Picturesque, nestled in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. George Ayres caught a 26lb. trout, for a new track record. When George asked his shipmate and bait handler for a “spinner,” the driver of the red car thought he said “spin.”

G1R1 (Sportsman)
Jared Fisher on pole took the lead at the start and he and Ari Gatoff went at it, with Chris Brassard ensconced in third. On the fourth lap Gatoff worked his way past Fisher. They ran this way all the way to lap 16 until Brassard put the move on Fisher in the Righthander to take over second place. These three were all strong — they were the only ones on the lead lap at the end. Leland Englebardt took fourth and Pat Daly fifth. Usual frontrunner Adrian Dixon was out of the mix because he spun in the Lefthander on the first lap, but he did slither his way back to eighth at the end.

G1R2 (Sportsman)
Wet again, the first lap saw little drama, but on lap two Englebardt punted Fisher into a four-off (he rejoined sixth after his pit). Up front, Gatoff was your leader, Brassard second, and with Fisher having had to come in, Pat Daly was third. When Englebardt put his Chris Craft R/T 2000 into the vernal pond just before pit-in on lap seven, we went to a full course yellow to launch the tugboat. (We also got to witness a perfectly executed swan dive and face plant by Englbardt, his well-chosen method of exiting the car, when he fully grasped that he was utterly and totally soaked anyway…)

On the restart, Brassard was perfect and put Gatoff in his wake. Gatoff tried to fix the problem a bit too soon and dropped two wheels — and two positions — at the exit of Big Bend. He further submerged his chances of chasing down Brassard when he almost put it into the lake a couple laps later (he would recover very well to take sixth at the end). For Brassard, all he had to do was keep it clean for another nine laps and he would have his first Race Series victory! Which he did. Way to go, C.B… Meanwhile, Daly had taken full advantage of Gatoff’s offs and came home a solid second — his first podium (way to go, Pat) — and Dixon climbed his way from eighth on the grid to the final podium spot. Fisher was all over Dixon the final few laps but had to settle for fourth, with Steve Nelson rounding out the top five.

G4R1 (Sportsman)
Group Four was the new and mostly new drivers field. And guess what? Their first race was one of the wettest of the weekend. Hey, we normally charge extra for rain… These guys — and gal — did a great job in difficult conditions. Rob Grien had the pole and led the first lap, but Parker Kligerman (a “veteran” karter, all of 15 years old) went to the point with pass going into One at the start of lap two. Grien kept second throughout the 17-lapper, while third was consolidated by Jeff Castellano after he took the position from Davis Parr on lap six (who eventually lost fourth place to Christian Chandler).

G4R2 (Sportsman)
On a tricky damp-to-drying track, Kligerman and Grien put on a tremendous show. The lead officially changed hands six times in the 22 laps — three times in the last five laps — and more than once these guys (who lapped the field) ran side by side through multiple corners. Great stuff… On the last lap, Grien took the lead again from Kligerman down into One, but Parker would have none of it, snatching the front away from Grien with a bold outside-positioning move on No Name, which he made stick all the way to the line. Castellano was the third, a lap down, followed by Steve Berry and Chandler. Great race, and a good job by the tyros…

The inside of the Downhill made for some interesting photo ops, too. Thanks, Lee E.!

And that makes Adrian Dixon the 2005 Eastern Series Sportsman champion. With two wins and four P2s, he scored 390 points to Jared Fisher’s 342, Fisher having also won twice. In third was Chris Brassard, whose win in the final Sportsman race of the year was pretty cool. Ari Gatoff won the most races — four — but he fell 17 tallies shy of Brassard. Michele Marden didn’t run the full championship, but nevertheless did a great job this year to earn fifth overall. Well done, folks, thanks for the great racing.

G3R1 (Championship)
Seventy-seven, 77, 77, 77, 77, 77… That’s the leader’s car number on the lap chart for this race. We were seeing “77” from lap one all the way to lap 18. Problem is, it was a 20-lap race… Michael Auriemma was the 77 and we thought we were witnessing his first SBRS win. Poleman Auriemma had a solid lead after just one lap but too much throttle exiting the Righthander got him sideways and Charles Anti, despite dropping two at the exit of Big Bend, was visibly closing. On lap three, Anti really pressures Michael; inside, outside, a happy dog’s tail back and forth behind Auriemma. He stumbles just a bit, wide at the exit of West Bend, but Auriemma’s in solid control… Sideways again entering No Name, two more times in the following six laps, but Anti cannot find a way by. And now Randy Youngsma begins to catch these two. Auriemma clicks it up a notch, and instead of just getting loose in No Name, he drops two — but it’s still not enough for Anti to take advantage of. Now it’s lap 12 and Anti overcooks T1. He’s four-off! No, we can’t confirm it, Anti can stay out! But Anti’s not sure if dropped four, or just three and seven-eighths, and comes into the pits on lap 16! Okay, here it is, Auriemma’s first win — if the race had ended after 18 laps. Instead, he put it in the fence un the Uphill, his race, sadly, done. Youngsma’s heads-up driving gets him the win and Mike Distaulo’s relatively dram-free run earns him P2. The drive of the race was A.J. Riley. He started on the last row and Australian Freestyled his way to third at the end. R.J. Smith was fourth, and Jim Craige — still mathematically a title contender — fifth. Anti got sixth, Bill Hammer seventh and Auriemma officially eighth. Peter Ludwig spun “a few times” and wound up DFL.

G3R2 (Championship)
At the start, Youngsma took his pole position and ran with it, R.J. converted Grid Po four into P2 and Craige did similarly, from fifth on the grid to third. Second lap, Craige takes over second with a pass into One. So it’s Youngsma, Craige and Smith for the next three laps, until Distaulo snatches third from Smith. Then, on lap 12, it all goes wrong for Youngsma, as he pulls an Auriemma and fences it in the Uphill. FCY for a few laps as it’s now leader Craige, Distaulo second, Smith third. Green on lap 15. Distaulo is so close to Craige you could throw MHP’s Herringbone duvet cover over the both of them. Lap 18, however, Distaulo has to “escape” in Turn One, handing Anti P2 and Smith P3. On the last lap, Riley takes over third when Smith and Auriemma get all cattywampus in Big Bend. The final order was Craige, Anti, Riley, Hammer, Smith, Distaulo, Auriemma.

So, your 2005 Eastern Series Championship Championship champion (I’ve always wanted to write that…) is Charles Anti. Four times a winner, the Pittsburghian put up 568 points to Jim Craige’s 537. Craige won twice on his way to runner-up, a scant six points ahead of Michael Auriemma’s 531 (no wins… but keep reading). Other Championship group race winners were Peter Ludwig, Len Forman, Todor Mitev, Randy Youngsma and A.J. Riley, each winning once, and Sy Aryeh, a double winner.

Regional Masters Shoot-out
The way we settle Regional Masters titles is pretty exciting: stick ’em all in one group for one champion-making race. The Eastern Series Masters 25-lap finale was in the dry, an 11-man, one-woman affair. The grid is based on the Masters points standings, and on the pole was Michael Auriemma. Yes, Auriemma was the points leader coming in, but he hadn’t yet won a race (you’ve already read about his G3R1 disaster). Alongside him was Adrian Dixon, with Bill Hammer and Chris Brassard on row two. Just like G3R1, from the start Auriemma’s car number was at the top of the chart. Through five laps, and 10 laps, and 15 laps, and even 20 laps, “65” was first. But with three laps to go, R.J. Smith, on fire after popping for P2 two laps earlier, got a run out of the Downhill and took the lead from Auriemma just past start-finish. Damn, was it over for Auriemma again? No way, Giuseppe! Bit in the teeth, nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel and foot to the floor, Auriemma stared destiny in the face: On the last lap, he threw his _alls over his shoulder (the one not against the wheel) and got through the Downhill better than Smith. He drafted… he popped… and he beat R.J. to the line by .037 of a second! As the Brits say, “He broke his duck!” (What the hell does that mean, anyway?)

Great race, great first win, and he’s the 2005 Eastern Region Masters champion. Adrian Dixon finished fifth in the race to nip Bill Hammer (fourth) for second in the championship, while fourth overall was Chris Brassard (eighth on track), just in front of Dom Bastien (ninth) and Mike Distaulo (third in the race).

Like he wasn’t wet enough already? Just kidding, our drivers loooooove the “Gatorade” Dump. There is nothing like your first-time win, right Michael?

Jerry Juhl Memorial
Hey, Josh Rehm is nobody’s muppet. Matt Franc is like the Cookie Monster when it comes to sniffing out race wins. Gerardo Bonilla and Chris Willcox are no Bert & Ernie (thank God…). Sy Aryeh and Kermit the Frog have things in common (“It’s not easy… being Sy… “). Peter Ludwig and Fozzie Bear… ever see them in the same room at the same time? Didn’t think so. Ari Gatoff: Mr. Poodlepants denies knowing him. John Mayes? We know for a fact that he never dated Miss Piggy (besides, he’s got a career as an advertising model to worry about…). Jameson Riley, however, has hankered for Hildegarde. Jim Craige? He’s seen Big Bird more than once… Oh, and the above was the top-10 finishing order in the Jerry Juhl Memorial, a motley cru of 17 PBS-loving, All Things Considered-listening, National Geographic-reading drivers. But they put on a good show.

Masters National Finale
See Todd Snyder’s separate web story.

So, another Eastern Region season (this was the 30th!) is in the books, the awards banquet was lots of fun, Divina got her well-deserved props, Charles Anti joins a champions’ list that includes lots of other famous names, A.J. Riley was Rookie of the Year, Mike Distaulo was Most Improved Driver — and we can’t wait for the West and the South to throw the green flag. They’re both around the corner (including improved Triple Crown championships), so don’t be shy about calling your SSA if you want in on the action.

Thanks to all you drivers — the best customers in the world — for a great season, and especially to the talented, hard-working mechanics who make this work for all of us. See you at the track…

Rock Rizzo

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