Letters from Homestead

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 While some of us were at home here in Connecticut, trying to keep warm huddled in front of a fire and watching the Rolex 24 on TV, Race Series bravely headed south to the warmer climes of Homestead-Miami Speedway for Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2008/2009 Skip Barber F2000 Southern Series, as well a joint MAZDASPEED Challenge South and West Race Weekend. The action, like the weather, was pretty warm.

Group 1, Race 1 (Southern Championship)
Long time Skippy driver Jeff Relic (we’ll avoid using his last name as a cheap punch line as he has been racing with us since 2002) came back for his first race weekend in 14 or so months with very little rust to show for it. .

Starting alongside polesitter Mikhail Goikhberg, Jeff fell behind third place starter Al Carter. Goikhberg’s pole position was short lived as a mechanical issue sent him to the pits and out of the race. Meanwhile Jeff and Al began a race for the top spot that saw the lead change seven times in 15 laps… and that was just at the stripe. Jeff ultimately prevailed, taking the lead for the final time with three laps to go and held on by a second and a half over Carter and third place finisher Robert LaRocca. .

Robert had his own battle, coming from fifth on the grid to engage with a pitched battle for third with Jim Norman. Like the lead battle, LaRocca and Norman went at it hammer and tongs, trading third place three times during the race before Dr. Jim faded late to a seventh place finish, behind Brian Skinner, Michael Rink and Fernando Capablanca. Patrick McGinnis and Andrew Matthews rounded out the top ten. .

Group 1, Race 2
The “Jeff & Al Show” picked up Sunday afternoon where it left off that morning, with the duo swapping the lead another seven times in 15 laps before Jeff finally prevailed for the Group 1 sweep, besting Carter by a tenth and a half at the stripe. .

The drive of the weekend for Group 1 however went to Sunday morning polesitter Mikhail Goikhberg. Goikhberg, thanks to an MDNF in Race 1 started shotgun on the field for Race 2. From his 17th place on the pace lap, he moved up to14th at the drop of the green flag. By the end of Lap 1 he was in 7th. By Lap 2 he was in 4th, then finally into third by Lap 5, where he would finish the race for a well earned podium. .

Robert LaRocca backed the morning’s third place with a strong fourth, ahead of Norman, Capablanca, Rink and David Moore. Gus Doppes and Ardee Toppe completed the top ten. .

Group 2, Race 1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge South & West)
Race 1 for the MX-5s got off to a bumpy start as Doug Schirripa found himself in the tire wall in T1 shortly after the field took the green flag. Doug climbed out under his own power. He is fine but did call it a weekend. .

A lengthy cleanup resulted in an eight lap sprint, with Charles Ng leading to the green ahead of Brian Freiberg, James Lustman, John Snyder and Angelo Dinkov. Freiberg and Lustman worked their way around Ng and swapped the lead a couple times before Lustman, while leading, had car contact with the 58 of Kyle Robertson, which forced him into the pits for a safety check and 13th finish. The last two laps where mayhem, with several cars spinning or going four off. .

When the smoke cleared Brian Freiberg took the checkers ahead of Angelo Dinkov, who kept his nose clean from a sixth place starting position to the runner-up, and Charles Ng, Ng moved up to second after it was determined that Dinkov had contact during the race but did not come in for the mandatory safety check. That penalty dropped Angelo to 10th in the final order behind new third place finisher Bruce Anderson, followed by Steve Phillips, Brad Adams, Dan Moen Ward Herst, Andrew Pasquale and Stephen Nakamura. .

Group 2, Race 2
Sunday afternoon was the comeback of the day as Angelo Dinkov one-upped Mikhail Goikhberg and his Group 1 drive. Starting Race 2 from the 10th position, Angelo took the green in eighth, worked his way to second by the end of Lap 3 and then took the lead on Lap 6. With the exception of Brian Freiberg leading Lap 10, Dinkov led the rest of the way, taking the victory 1.2 sec. ahead of Freiberg. Bruce Andersen made it two podiums in two races with a third, followed by Lustman, Herst, Andrew Pasquale, Nakamura and Snyder. Brad Adams and Kyle Robertson completed the top ten. .

Group 3, Race 1 (Southern Championship)
Mikhail Goikhberg made the most of his double race weekend, picking up max points (and his first Skip Barber Race Series victory) in his first race in Group 3. In fact, compared to his adventures in Group 1 in the morning, Mikhail had a relatively easy time of it, leading all but three of the 14 laps and holding off a tenacious Al Carter by a tenth at the stripe. Andrew Chinnici dropped a spot from his outside front row start to finish on the final step on the podium. .

Matthew Mair with a strong fourth place finish, followed by Mike Donovan, Brian Skinner and Jim Norman. Mateo Perez, Danny Woo and Patrick McGinnis rounded out the top ten. .

The race wasn’t without its excitement, as a Lap 3 dust up between Ashley Freiberg, Shea Holdbrook and Michael Dцrrbecker ended all of their days, with Dцrrbecker coming out the worst of the three by ending up on his lid. All three were okay and came back to race the second race of the day. .

Group 3, Race 2
That the final race in the morning had the same podium as the final race of the weekend, doesn’t tell the whole story of Race 2. Nor does the fact that Mikhail Goikhberg led from flag to flag for his second win of the weekend tell the whole story of Race 2. The story of Race 2 is what could have been, for the want of a couple more laps, for Al Carter and Andrew Chinnici. .

From Lap 2 until Lap 10, first second and third were a drafting battle, and held position… until Lap 11; Al tucked in tight behind Mikhail with Andrew on run on the front straight, ready to pop the front two going into Turn 1. Unfortunately for the front three, the race came to a premature ending due to contact between the #8 of Lindley Rawlins and the 19 of John McCormick, which resulted in McCormick being the second car of the weekend on its lid. Thanks to the strength of the SBF2000 chassis, McCormick climbed out without a scratch. The casualty of the incident was the three-way race for the lead. According to Skip Barber Race Series rules, when a race is black flagged scoring reverts to the last completed lap, which put the top three as Goikhberg, Carter and Chinnici. Without sufficient time to clean up the debris from the Rawlins/McCormick incident, that is how the race ended. Matthew Mair wound up fourth, followed by Mike Donovan, Jim Norman, Matew Perez and Michael Dцrrbecker. Brian Skinner and Danny Woo completed the Top 10 while Goikhberg, Carter and Chinnici got together after the race to commiserate and talk about what might have been….

After 6 out of 10 races in the 2008-2009 Skip Barber F2000 Southern Race Series, the point standings have tightened up considerably. Robert LaRocca is now tied with Andrew Chinnici for the overall lead, while Michael Dцrrbecker and Mateo Perez share third place. The Southern Series next meets up with the F2000 Western Series for a joint weekend February 14-15 at Sebring International Raceway. .

In MAZDASPEED Challenge South, after 6 out of 10 races, the Top 4 are covered by five points, with Stephan Nakamura on 144, Ward Herst on 143, Justin Piscitell on 140 and John Snyder on 139. In the West it is a two-way battle between Charles Ng and James Lustman. Both series race together again March 7-8 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Jim Altemus

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