Watkins Glen double-header weekend

Saturday, May 30, 2009 images to follow

Watkins Glen International hosted Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2009 Skip Barber Summer Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge over Memorial Day weekend. The 3.4 road course in the Finger Lakes regional of upstate New York is known for producing close, exciting racing and this past weekend was no different.

Group 1 Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
David Cheng and Dom Bastien shared the front row for Race 1, but it was Al Carter who made the most of the start; taking 2nd place from Bastien on Lap 1 before setting off for the polesitter, Cheng. Carter took the point on Lap 2, engaging in a race-long duel with Cheng while Bastien settled into third for the middle section of the race. Meanwhile, Jim Norman, whose spin in Qualifying relegated him to a 12th starting position, was on a flyer. By the end of Lap 1, Norman got around two cars and picked off another two on Lap 2. By Lap 4 he was in fourth place, tracking down Bastien. Norman took third from Bastien on the penultimate lap, finishing his nine place climb and joining winner Al Carter and runner-up David Cheng on the weekend’s first podium. After battling with Cheng for most of the race Carter stretched out a two plus second margin of victory for his first win of the season. Dom Bastien held on to fourth, ahead of the trio of Doug Harrison, Pat Daly and Chris Brassard. Steve Mayer, Gary Vizioli and Don Van rounded out the top ten.

Group 1 Race 2
Based on his Race 1 win, Al Carter earned pole position and led the field to the start of Race 2, but it was David Cheng with the early jump at the drop of the green, leading until Carter regained the point going into the Bus Stop. Cheng was left to defend his position from place Jim Norman, who was looking to improve on his third place on Saturday, and Pat Daly. Daly picked up third from Norman, who ultimately spun a few laps later, sending him to the pits for the mandatory safety check and down into the order. Daly continued in third for some time and appeared to be cruising to a podium until falling victim to the charging Marconi Abreu. Abreu, who started and finished 11th in Race 1, was a man on a mission. Pick off five positions in the first two laps, the Brazilian driver was to Race 2 what Jim Norman was to Race 1; calmly, but with a sense of urgency, overtaking cars as he worked his way to third place, where he finished six and a half seconds behind the lead duo of Al Carter and David Cheng. Carter picked up the Group 1 weekend sweep while Cheng had to settle for fast lap of the race and second. Steve Mayer and Doug Harrison followed Marconi Abreu in fourth and fifth respective, followed by Gary Vizioli and Don Van. Pat Daly and Wade Leathers completed a very racy top ten.

Group 2 Race 1 (MAZDASPEED Challenge)
It was the roadster’s turn in Group 2, as the drivers of the 2009 MAZDASPEED Challenge took to the track. Lee Carpentier led Justin Piscitell and the rest of the field to the green for Race 1, but quickly dropped down to seventh, leaving Piscitell, Andrew Pasquale and Phil Mather to battle for the lead. Pasquale and Mather took turns at the point early; with Pasquale leading Laps 1 and 3 while Mather led Lap 2. Then the rain came.

First to be caught out was Phil Mather, who went off-course in the Bus Stop. Andrew Pasquale followed suit, going four-off in Turn 8. Both drivers would return to the fray after making their mandatory visits to the pits. This left Piscitell in the lead with Carpentier, who quickly made up for his stumble at the start, back into second. Pasquale’s woes didn’t end on Lap 3 as he made a visit to the tire wall in Turn 5 on Lap 7, bringing out a full course yellow. Pasquale was able to continue, but finished two laps down in 17th.

Ultimately it was defending MAZDASPEED Challenge champ Piscitell who picking up his first win of the season ahead of Lee Carpentier. Phil Mather came back from his mid-race spin to complete the podium, ahead of newcomer John Tancredi and Ward Herst. John Snyder came in sixth, ahead of David Steinschraber and Robbie Hill. Jesse Darrow made a pass coming to the stripe at the finish to take ninth over Michael Luzich, who completed the top ten.

Group 2 Race 2
Andrew Pasquale had something to prove. After a disastrous Race 1 that saw him spin once, tag the tire wall and finish 17th, Pasquale was looking for redemption. With speed and a well timed yellow, he pretty much got it.

Lee Carpentier got the jump at the start and led a group that included polesitter Justin Piscitell and Phil Mather, with John Tancredi and Ward Herst not far behind. In the meantime, Pasquale got to work. Picking off two cars a the start, he was up to eighth by the end of the first lap, spent several laps in seventh before cracking the top five and getting into a tussle for fourth with John Snyder. That battle ended with Pasquale in fourth, Snyder in the wall at the exit of the Bus Stop, and a full course yellow to bunch the field.

After a quick clean up the green came back out on Lap 10 for a two lap sprint to the finish with Carpentier, Piscitell, Mather and Pasquale in the top four positions. This set up a dramatic finish with Mather taking the lead on over Piscitell and Carpentier on Lap 10 while Pasquale continued to make up time. At the finish it was Phil Mather taking his first Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge victory over Lee Carpentier, who took another second to expand his points lead and Andrew Pasquale, who came from shotgun on the field to complete the podium, nipping Justin Piscitell for the final podium spot, and scored himself a new track record while he was at it. Ward Herst came in fifth, ahead of James Lustman, John Tancredi and Robbie Hill. Jesse Darrow and Michael Luzich completed the top ten. To illustrate how much the late yellow bunched the field, the top seven finishers were covered by a mere three and a half seconds at the checkered flag.

Group 3 Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Race 1 was the Daly Show, as in Pat Daly. Starting from the fourth position, Daly joined in a three-way battle for the lead with Harsha Sen and Dom Bastien. A quick full course yellow early helped keep the field bunched, with Daly, Sen and Bastien each taking turns at the point and checking out on the field. Pat Daly took the lead on Lap 10 and held off a charging Harsha Sen by a tenth of a second, with Dom Bastien fourth tenths back in third. Ben Jopling and Bruce Robson rounded out the top five, ahead of Chris Brassard, Gary Vizioli and Greg Strelzoff, while Franz Fleischii and Christopher DeNicolo completed the top ten.

Group 3 Race 2
If Race 1 wasn’t in fact the Daly Show, Race 2 sure was, as Pat took advantage of this well earned pole to lead every lap and win by a comfortable 7.639 seconds over Ben Jopling. Jopling, who started fourth, raced early with Harsha Sen and Dom Bastien for second, third and fourth before Sen spun out of contention on Lap 4. That left Jopling and Bastien in a two-way fight for second. At the checkers it was Jopling with a nose and .073 seconds over Bastien for second. Marconi Abreu made another mad dash through the field; coming from 14th at the start to claim a solid fourth ahead of Chris Brassard and Gary Vizioli. Greg Strelzoff and Bruce Robson finished 7th and 8th respectively while Harsha Sen recovered from his spin to finish 9th ahead of Christopher DeNicolo.

Group 4 Race 1 (Summer Race Series)
Race 1 was a three-way dog fight between polesitter Kevin Tittle, Nick Andries and Dex Tuttle. Lap after lap the trio battle gearbox to nose nipple, being joined mid-race by Paul Subject. Tittle led from the green before being passed by Tuttle for the point on Laps 1 and 2. Tittle regained the lead on Lap 3 while Tuttle got into it with Andries; the trio never being more than a car length or two apart and the lead changing hands at several points around the circuit, though Tittle was able to lead the remaining laps when it counted. Coming onto the front straight for the final time, Andries, tucked in tight behind Tittle, made one last pop for the win but it was too little, too late. Kevin Tittle held on for the win with a margin of victory of .074 over Nick Andries, with Dex Tuttle a half second back in third. After his brief flirtation with the lead pack, Paul Subject came through to finish fourth ahead of Reid Stewart and George Klein. Bill Oliver came in seventh, ahead of Jeff Rothstein and Glenn Bryant while Gus Doppes rounded out the top ten.

Group 4 Race 2
Race 2 featured the same protagonists as Race 1 (Tittle, Andries, Tuttle and Subject) but this production was a bit more exciting and included a dramatic ending. Nick Andries opened an early lead on polesitter Kevin Tittle, who was left to battle with Dex Tuttle for the runner-up spot. Behind them, Paul Subject took up the fight for fourth with Reid Stewart, a battle that would end up meaning more than either would realize. With the “hammer and tongs” racing in the top five, contact was in inevitable and Lap 10 was the setting.

Incident number one involved second place combatants Tittle and Tuttle, who came together on the approach to the Bus Stop. While both cars were able to drive away from the scene, Tuttle didn’t get much further before pulling off and climbing out. The incident promoted Subject to second place, following by Stewart. Subject’s position was short-lived as he got it wrong in Turn 11, sticking in car into the fence and bringing out the red flag, stopping the session and ultimately the race. All drivers emerged unscathed, but the same couldn’t be said for timing and scoring.

When the dust settled, the results reverted to the last completed lap. Nick Andries picked up with win over Reid Stewart and George Klein. Jeff Rothstein and Glenn Bryant filled out the top five, followed by Steven Hahn and John Mitchell. Bill Bintzer was eighth, ahead of Paul Subject while Dex Tuttle was credited with tenth, the last car to complete race distance.

After four out of 14 races in the 2009 Skip Barber Summer Race Series, Nick Andries holds an 11 point lead over Al Carter with David Cheng close behind in third. In the 2009 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge Lee Carpentier has a seven point advantage over Phil Mather with Ward Herst in third. Both series return to action June 11-13 at Lime Rock Park in northwest Connecticut for a double-header race weekend.

Jim Altemus

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