Skip Barber Summer Series finales at Lime Rock Park

Thursday, October 15, 2009 With the 2009 Skip Barber Summer Race Series already decided in the favor of MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development driver Nick Andries, all eyes were on the battle for the MAZDASPEED Challenge Summer Series title, where Lee Carpentier held a slim three-point lead over Phil Mather after calculating drops. This meant that the finale was a “winner takes all” affair to determine this year’s champion. As is often the case in the autumn in northwest Connecticut, the conditions were never ideal but constantly changing. Fortunately all the wind, rain and cold temperatures couldn’t keep the racers down for long.

Click here to see images from the weekend
Click here for complete results
Click here for points standings

Group 1, Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Felix Serralles and Abdul Ahmed led the field to the green for a very cold and wet Race 1 on Friday afternoon. The challenging conditions didn’t prevent Serralles, Ahmed and Spencer Pigot from putting on a three-way battle up front. Serralles led for most of the race, with Pigot grabbing the lead briefly late in the race before Serralles worked his way back around; Ahmed never more than a few car lengths back during the battle.

With the battle up front raging, Greg Strelzoff was putting on the drive of the race. After starting shotgun on the field, Strelzoff got himself comfortable with the wet line and started picking off competitors. By the end of Lap 1 he made up half the deficit, by Lap 3 he was in the top five and by Lap 13 he was in fourth. Fourth became third on the last lap when Spencer Pigot tagged the wall in the uphill a lap after setting fast lap of the race while going for the lead.

With Pigot out of the picture, Felix Serralles picked up the Race 1 win by a comfy 13 seconds over Abdul Ahmed. Greg Strelzoff was the last driver on the lead lap and the last driver on the podium in third. Spencer Pigot dropped a lap down to fourth after his late wall contact while Steve Nelson, who started alongside Strelzoff on the back row, put on almost as good a run, working his way up to fifth. Brian Cook scored a sixth ahead of Jesse Schmidt (last driver one lap down) and Paul Fletcher. Robert Ecklin recovered from an early spin to finish ninth while William Bintzer rounded out the top ten.

Group 1, Race 2
The damp weekend conditions turned Race 2 into a contest of who could stay on track the longest. The off course excursions started before the race did, with Eric Metzger going off in Turn 3 and Steven Nelson and Jeff Poarch going off in West Bend. All three would take the green flag. The hits came fast and furious once the green flag dropped. Race 1 runner-up Abdul Ahmed found the tires outside Big Bend, ending his race after the first lap. On Lap 11, William Bintzer was the next to find the tires in Big Bend. A lap later, Spencer Pigot’s race came to an end with contact in the Downhill.

All those off course excursions allowed Felix Serralles to lap entire field on his way to a dominating victory. Robert Ecklin edged Jesse Schmidt for second place by a tenth of a second while Steve Nelson recovered from his warm-up off and improved one position over his Race 1 result with a fourth. John Mitchell rounded out the top five, ahead of Daniel Dunson and Paul Fletcher. Eric Metzger, another warm-up spinner, came home eighth ahead of Brian Cook while Jon Cook completed the top ten.

Group 2 – BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Wrap-up and results from Sage Karam and Court Vernon’s race wins and Connor De Phillippi’s championship are detailed here.

Group 3, Race 1 – Summer Race Series
For Nick Andries, the season finale at Lime Rock Park was a low pressure affair. By picking up a pair of wins at Road America in August, Andries clinched the 2009 Skip Barber Summer Race Series title; his first championship in his first season of car racing.

Dex Tuttle captured the Race 1 pole in the final qualifying session of the season, and was joined by championship runner-up Al Carter on the front row. A rare 4-off by Andries relegated him to eighth on the grid. Eighth became seventh before the start after the fourth qualified Kevin Tittle went off in the Uphill on the warm up and was unable to answer the call.

The race started in a cold rain and from the drop of the green flag Andries started his march to the front. Picking off Gary Vizioli, Chris Brassard and Greg Strelzoff in the first two laps, by lap four Andries was around Ben Jopling for third place. By Lap 7, he was around Al Carter for second and off after the leader Tuttle. Five laps later the battle for the lead was joined, with Andries taking the lead on Lap 15, surrendering it back to Tuttle on Lap 16 before reassuming the lead for the final time a lap later; the race for the lead allowing the pair to stretch out their advantage over the rest of the field.

At the finish, it was Nick Andries picking up the win, his tenth of the season in 13 starts to date, by three-quarters of a second over Dex Tuttle. Ben Jopling brought his car home in third, ahead of David Cheng with Greg Strelzoff rounding out the top five. Pat Daly came in sixth, ahead of Harsha Sen and Masters champ Al Carter, with Gary Vizioli and Chris Brassard completing the top ten.

Group 3, Race 2
Race 2 took the green flag in dry, but unseasonably cool conditions Saturday afternoon. The field got the best of pole sitter Nick Andries, dropping him to fifth at the start and seventh at the end of the first lap. Ben Jopling took an early lead before being joined by Al Carter and Kevin Tittle for a three-way tussle for the lead; the trio gapping the field.

Now championships aren’t won by giving up after a bad start, so it didn’t take long for Andries to find his way back to the front. From seventh at the end of the first lap, Andries worked methodically, crawling back to fifth by Lap 5, fourth by Lap 9 and third by Lap 11, with only Ben Jopling and Kevin Tittle separating Andries from the lead and his 11th win of the season.

The battle between Jopling and Tittle reached its zenith on Lap 12, with the braking zone for Big Bend becoming a game of chicken between the two, with Tittle running down the inside of Jopling, locking up and making contact with the leader, sending both drivers wide and allowing Andries to sneak underneath for the lead. Jopling and Tittle would pit for their mandatory safety checks, dropping them down in the field and allowing Dex Tuttle and Al Carter to move up and challenge the new leader.

They would get close, but Nick Andries wouldn’t be denied, picking up that 11th win of the season by just over a second over the chasing Dex Tuttle and Al Carter. Harsha Sen finished out his season with a fourth place, ahead of Greg Strelzoff and early leaders Ben Jopling and Kevin Tittle. David Cheng his car home in eighth ahead of Gary Vizioli while Chris Brassard finished out the final top ten for the championship group this season.

Group 4, Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
After ending his first race at Road America in the gravel in Canada Corner, Lee Carpentier knew that the point lead he one held over Phil Mather was all but gone. In fact, Mather picked up 18 points on Carpentier at Road America and came to Lime Rock Park with an eight point lead on raw points. In Skip Barber regional racing (SBF2000 and MAZDASPEED Challenge) your two lowest finishes are deducted from your point total. Before Lime Rock, Mather’s drop number was 54; Carpentier’s was 43. This gave Carpentier a scant three-point lead on net score. With 35 points awarded for a win and 18 drivers entered, the championship came down to the wire.

Carpentier drew first blood Friday morning, scoring pole for Race 1 and leading the 18 car field to the green in the afternoon with Phil Mather starting fourth behind Matt Koskinen and Jim Craige. The wet conditions combined with Carpentier’s knowledge of the track worked to his advantage, made the first round of the finale a bit anticlimactic; leading every lap to take the win by 2.665 seconds over Mat Koskinen. Phil Mather picked up third when Jim Craige caught the wall in the Uphill early in the race and retired; the top three within 3.393 seconds. Another half minute back was the pair of Andrew Pasquale, who came from 16th on the grid to fourth, and Steven Craige in fifth, followed by Curtis Riley and John Snyder. Ward Herst came back from 13th to eighth ahead of David Levine while Ralf Ludwig rounded out the top ten.

The win moved Carpentier two points closer to Mather in raw points, 345 to 342, but with their drop totals unchanged, 54 to 43, Carpentier stretched his lead to eight points heading into Race 2 on Saturday.

Group 4, Race 2
The pole in hand thanks to his Race 1 victory, Lee Carpentier led the field to green in much drier, if not blustery, conditions Saturday afternoon, with Matt Koskinen, Phil Mather and Andrew Pasquale rounding out the first two rows. Carpentier had his hands full in Race 2 with Pasquale, who wasn’t saddled with a bad starting position on Saturday and was therefore able to fight for the lead instead of fight through the field. After getting around Koskinen for 2nd on Lap 7, Pasquale caught up to Carpentier and for the balance of the race was never far from his rear bumper.

Andrew Pasquale’s challenges notwithstanding, Lee Carpentier was not to be denied. Leading every lap, Carpentier took the win – and the 2009 MAZDASPEED Challenge title – with a scant .034 sec. victory over the game Pasquale, with championship runner-up Phil Mather 3.8 seconds back in third. Matt Koskinen followed up his second place in Race 1 with a fourth, followed by Curtis Riley and John Snyder. Ward Herst finished the season with a seventh, followed by Jim Craige and Ralf Ludwig, while David Levine filled out the final top ten of the season. Carpentier’s pair of wins moved him into a seven-point lead over Mather on the raw total. With the two drops deducted his lead was extended to 18 in the final standings.

Group 5, Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Friday was a rainy, cold affair and for Group 5 there was no exception. Given the conditions Race 1 turned into a bit of a procession with Andrew Chinnici taking advantage of starting on pole by leading every lap to take his first win, cruising to a comfortable 27-second margin of victory over R.J. Smith and Leland Englebardt, who started second and third respectively. Colin Thompson was the most progressive driver of the race, coming from last on the grid to fourth place ahead of Steven Hahn and Jason Krikorian. David Knight finished where he started, in seventh, the last car on the lead lap. George Lucas finished eighth while Gus Doppes and Brian Copperthite rounded out the field.

Group 5, Race 2
Although Race 2 ran in dry, if not blustery conditions, the result was going to look the same – a walkover by Andrew Chinnici. Two words changed that form: Greg Strelzoff. Jumping into Race 2 for some extra seat time, Strelzoff started from the twelfth position at the drop of the green. It didn’t take long for him to get to the front. In fact, Strelzoff moved up a remarkable NINE positions on the first lap, and by Lap 4 he as in second and off after Chinnici for the lead.

In a classic example of “if I only had a couple more laps” Greg Strelzoff ran out of time in his pursuit of Andrew Chinnici, getting within 2.263 seconds of the leader in the end with Leland Englebardt more than 30-seconds back in third. Jason Krikorian came home for the final race of the Summer Series in fourth, ahead of Brian Copperthite, R.J. Smith and Colin Thompson, the last driver on the lead lap. David Knight finished eighth while Gus Doppes and Steven Hahn filled out the top ten.

MAZDASPEED Challenge Masters Championship
After all the points racing was done, it was time for the “old guys” to come out and settle the Master division titles. First up was the MAZDASPEED Challenge, with John Snyder and Ward Herst leading the field to the green flag based on Masters points earned during the season. They were joined in a top five breakaway that also included Jim Craige, Ralf Ludwig and Steven Craige. Contact between Ludwig and Steven Craige late in the race sent Craige to the pits for a mandatory safety check, dropping him down in the final results.

John Snyder led all 21 laps to pick up the Masters win, edging out Ward Herst by .119 seconds at the stripe. Ralf Ludwig finished third on the track but a 20-second penalty for the contact with Steven Craige dropped him to fourth behind Jim Craige. Matt Fassnacht rounded out the top five ahead of David Steinschraber, Larry Flick and Chip Thielen. Steven Craige’s late visit to the pits relegated him to ninth ahead of Pablo Cisilino, while Evan Glasner made his only start of the season, stayed out of the way and came home in 11th.

Summer Race Series Master Championship
Next up was the Masters Championship race for 40 plus year-old Summer Race Series drivers. Pat Daly took the early lead, followed by Harsha Sen and Chris Brassard. Starting 11th but working his way to the front was Al Carter, who took seven laps to get up to a battle for third with Jim Craige. Sen took the lead from Daly on Lap 12, with Daly falling off the track in Turn 4 a couple laps later. He would pit for the mandatory 4-off check and would drop down in the results.

Al Carter completed his run to the top with two laps to go, taking the lead from Harsha Sen and bringing Jim Craige along with him. Carter would take the win by a little less than two seconds over Craige with Sen settling for third. Robert Ecklin came home in fourth ahead of Pat Daly, who recovered from his agricultural tour to finish fifth. Chris Brassard took sixth ahead of R.J. Smith, Steven Hahn and Franz Fleischii while Gary Vizioli rounded out the top ten.

Congratulations to the 2009 Skip Barber Champions:

– BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda – Conner De Phillippi
– Summer Race Series – Nick Andries
– Summer Race Series Masters Division – Al Carter
– Summer Race Series Grand Masters Division – Pat Daly
– MAZDASPEED Challenge – Lee Carpentier
– MAZDASPEED Challenge Masters Division – John Snyder

There’s no rest for the staff, driver coaches and technicians at Skip Barber. The 2009-2010 Southern Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge South fire up October 24-25 at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C., while the Western Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge West begin their season a week later, October 31-November 1 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Jim Altemus

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