Skip Barber National Finale: Daly Wins a Race — and the Title

Monday, October 06, 2008

The 2008 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda champion: Conor Daly.

Photos from the finale weekend are here

One-page pdf of final points and race-by-race box scores are here

ALTON, Va. (Oct. 5) – Twelve races in the books, two to go. Four drivers within nine points of each other – first and second just five apart – to win all the marbles. Three-hundred fifty thousand of them. Each driver had won at least one race, and each had taken at least one pole. The contenders? Two Americans – Conor Daly, 16 years old, and Josef Newgarden, 17 – and two Brazilians, Felipe Polehtto and Fabio Orsolon, 19 and 21, respectively.

That was the scenario entering the final race weekend of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda, closing the year at Virginia International Raceway. The champion would pocket a paid ride in the 2009 Star Mazda series, worth a cool $350,00. Do you think there might have been some pressure on three teenagers and a young man?

After three practice sessions – Daly put up the best time, a 2:06.853 – came qualifying for race one. When the 40-minutes came to a close, it was Daly on pole, his 2:07.561 destroying Lorenzo Mandarino’s three-year-old record by 6/10s. Second-quick was Connor De Phillippi, shy of Daly by just .063 of a second. Newgarden and Orsolon made up row two, with Polehtto and Lee Carpentier – a strong effort, his best of the year – comprising row three.

VIR’s two very long straights are tailor-made for the big-drafting SBF2000s. Anyone starting in the first five rows is “in with a shout,” provided the draft is smartly worked. (Indeed, Gabby Chaves won one of the April VIR rounds from 18th on the grid!) So it wasn’t a shocker to see someone other than Daly lead the first lap, in this case Newgarden. Despite the lead yo-yo-ing between Newgy, Daly, De Phillippi, Polehtto and Orsolon during virtually every lap – pick any corner and it was likely a different leader from the corner before – Newgarden crossed the line in front the next two laps, too.

But as lap four ended, Newgarden had been shuffled back to fifth, with Polehtto up front, Daly P2, Orsolon third and De Phillippi fourth. And it was just a quarter-mile later that the tenor of this tight championship battle changed entirely…

Screaming down into One was a five-pack. Side by side, Daly on the outside was half a car length in front of Polehtto. De Phillippi was two feet behind Daly, Orsolon was tucked right up under Polehtto’s wing. Newgy was behind Orsolon but was already popping to the outside, at the same time that De Phillippi was juking to the outside to get around Daly. By the time this frantic three-wide plus two-wide formation went to the brakes, De Phillippi was the sandwich meat between Newgarden on the far outside, up against the grass, with Daly on the inside, defending against Polehtto. Directly behind De Phillippi was Orsolon. As they skittered and skirmished over the T1 real estate, Newgarden was barely hanging on to the gripless rim. Orsolon, himself off-line, was underneath him. He then slid up a few inches, but it was enough to get into the side of Newgarden. Newgy duly went for a gentle 360 in the grass. No damage to either car, but now Daly’s closest championship rival was in ninth, out of the lead draft.

The rest of the race was no less dramatic than its opening laps, but was now almost anticlimactic. On the last lap, De Phillippi made a valiant run on leader Daly out of the last corner but fell just .075 short at the flag. Stevan McAleer got past Polehtto in the last corner to take third, while Newgarden recovered enough to take fifth away from Orsolon, although they were nearly seven seconds behind the leading four.

Doing the math post-race, Daly was now down to one title rival, Polehtto. Newgarden and Orsolon had been eliminated. And the only way for Polehtto to stay alive was with a two-step process, the first of which required him to take the pole in Sunday morning qualifying. In other words, if anyone other than Polehtto took the pole for race two, Daly would be the champion before race two even went green. With so many fast guys and so much dependent on timing a perfect double-draft, much credit must be given to Polehtto for doing just that. But the second part was much less likely, but utterly plausible: Polehtto had to win and Daly had to finish 12th or lower.

And neither happened. Another close race, the typical multiple lead changes, lap after lap of two-, three- and even four-wide racing, with Newgarden going from fifth to first on the last lap for the win. Daly was second, De Phillippi third, followed by McAleer, Orsolon and Polehtto. And so Conor Daly, at age 16 years, nine months and 20 days, became the second-youngest Skip Barber National champion. Only Jonathan Goring, the 2006 SBN champ – and newly crowned 2008 IMSA Lites champion – was younger. By one day.

”If you had asked me a 18 months ago whether I saw myself here now, champion of the Skip Barber National, no way,” said Daly. ”This series has so many fast drivers, you can’t believe how competitive it is… It’s made me a much smarter racer than I was at the beginning of the year. Getting my first win [at Mosport, in June] gave me confidence, told me that I had as good a chance to win as anyone. Man, that I came out in front of a half-dozen super-fast guys, not just one or two… Winning the championship? It’s so unbelievable, so great. But I can’t wait to start testing in Star Mazda!”

Daly’s $350,000 will go to a 2009 Star Mazda ride with a title-contending team, as part of the multi-step MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development ladder system that includes the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda, Star Mazda and the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

Chris Oliver and Peter Tucker won the Masters Division races on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, but it was Dom Bastien winning the 2008 title.

Results, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda

October 4, 2008, round 13 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Virginia International Raceway, 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course
(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (1) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., 11 laps, 24:02.079, 89.795 average speed
2. (2) Connor De Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 11 laps, +0.075 sec.
3. (8) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 11, +0.176
4. (5) Felipe Polehtto, Brazil, 11, +0.402
5. (3) Josef Newgarden, Henderson, Tenn., 11, +6.713
6. (4) Fabio Orsolon, Brazil, 11, +6.774
7. (10) Victor Carbone, Brazil, 11, +12.484
8. (13) Nick Tonkin, Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, 11, +12.741
9. (12) Gustavo Linares, Venezuela, 11, +16.043
10. 1M (9) Chris Oliver, Cornelius, N.C., 11, +16.494
11. (7) Sean Rayhall, Winston, Ga., 11, +26.408
12. (11) Victor Pedrosa, Brazil, 11, +26.599
13. (6) Lee Carpentier, New Canaan, Conn., 11, +26.606
14. 2M (14) Dom Bastien, West Palm Beach, Fla., 11, +26.964
15. 3M (15) Peter Tucker, Dallas, Texas, 11, +27.980

Race length: 11 laps of 3.27-mile road course for 35.97 miles
Time of race: 24 minutes, 02.079 seconds
Conditions: Clear
Margin of victory: 0.075 of a second
Lap leaders: Newgarden 1-3; Polehtto 4; De Phillippi 5; Polehtto 6; De Phillippi 7; Daly 8; De Phillippi 9; Daly 10 – 11
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Daly, 2:07.561 / 92.285 mph
Fastest race lap: Newgarden, 2:07.941 / 92.011 mph, lap 10

October 5, 2008, round 14 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Virginia International Raceway, 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course
(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (6) Josef Newgarden, Henderson, Tenn., 10 laps, 24:02.079, 89.795 average speed
2. (4) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., 10 laps, +1 car length
3. (2) Connor De Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 10
4. (5) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 10
5. (3) Fabio Orsolon, Brazil, 10
6. (1) Felipe Polehtto, Brazil, 10
7. (9) Victor Pedrosa, Brazil, 10
8. (11) Lee Carpentier, New Canaan, Conn., 10
9. (12) Sean Rayhall, Winston, Ga., 10
10. (7) Victor Carbone, Brazil, 10
11. 1M (15) Peter Tucker, Dallas, Texas, 10
12. 2M (14) Dom Bastien, West Palm Beach, Fla., 10
13. (8) Nick Tonkin, Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, 10
14. 3M (10) Chris Oliver, Cornelius, N.C., 10
15. (13) Gustavo Linares, Venezuela, 10

Race length: 10 laps of 3.27-mile road course for 32.70 miles
Time of race: 21 minutes, 58.729 seconds
Conditions: Clear
Margin of victory: 1 car length
Lap leaders: De Phillippi 1; Newgarden 2; Polehtto 3; Orsolon 4; Daly 5 – 7; De Phillippi 8; Daly 9; Newgarden 10
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Polehtto, 2:06.878 / 92.782 mph
Fastest race lap: De Phillippi, 2:07.324 / 92.457 mph, lap 5

FINAL 2008 Skip Barber National points standings after 14 of 14 rounds, top 15 drivers:
1. Conor Daly, 388
2. Josef Newgarden, 372
3. Felipe Polehtto, 366
4. Fabio Orsolon, 362
5. Stevan McAleer, 351
6. Connor De Phillippi, 344
7. Lee Carpentier, 259
8. Nick Tonkin, 257
9. Victor Pedrosa, 228
10. Dom Bastien, 215 Masters champion
11. Sean Rayhall, 190
12. Hayden Duerson 187
13. Peter Tucker, 185
14. Gabby Chaves, 164
15. Victor Carbone, 149

Rick Roso

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