Western Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Sunday, February 28, 2010 Warm, sunny skies and gentle breezes off the Monterey Bay… the recent Race Weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca had none of these things. In typical February fashion, the competitors in the Western Race Series braved cold temperatures and intermittent rain and had themselves a great time despite the blustery conditions.

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

Group 1, Race 1
Kyle Kaiser set a new track record with a 1:41.272 to take pole for Race 1 with Connor Ford alongside. Ford grabbed the lead early wit h Kaiser in close pursuit, the pair stretching out a gap over Stephen Hill and Greg Strelzoff.

It all went wrong for Kyle Kaiser, who went straight off into the gravel in Turn 5, bringing out the full course yellow to allow the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca crew to pull him out. Out of the gravel, Kaiser continued around to the pits for his safety check and a chat with coach (and dad) Jeff. He would the race in 12th.

The race went green with two laps to go and while Kyle Gimple made the most of the caution period, closing up to the leader for the restart, Connor Ford was not to be denied, leading every lap to take his first Skip Barber Race Series win. Stephen Hill took the final step on the podium with a fine third ahead of Scott Anderson and Greg Strelzoff. Lee Kaiser moved up one spot from his starting position to take sixth ahead of David Stubbs and Ross Jaffe. John Schauerman and Kent Owens finished their first Skip Barber race in ninth and 10th respective, ahead of Jack Mitchell and the aforementioned Kyle Kaiser.

Group 2, Race 2
With momentum on his side and a pole for Race 1, Stephen Hill was not to be denied, leading every alp and earning his first Skip Barber Race Series win comfortably over Zack Silver, who in turn had himself a comfortable gap back to third place Ross Jaffe. Gus Doppes and John Mitchell rounded out the top five, the last two drivers on the lead lap. Douglas Tuttle led the lap-down contingent in sixth, ahead of newcomer Brennan Slavik, who’s seventh was the best of the Slavik clan. Andrea Zurek followed a great fifth qualifying position with an eighth place finish ahead of the other Slaviks in the race; Evan in ninth and Jim in 10th. Antonio Sabato, Jr., fresh from his role as the victim on a recent episode of “CSI-New York”, made his return to the Skip Barber Race Series with an 11th place finish while Linda Doppes rounded out the field in 12th.

Group 1, Race 2
The “Kyle and Kyle Show” became “The Kyle Show” as Kyle Kaiser had a previous commitment and was unable to compete in Race 2. Conner Ford led from pole with Kyle Gimple, Scott Anderson and Stephen Hill taking chase.

Ford’s attempt at the weekend sweep was interrupted when he went off out of the lead in Turn 6 on the ninth lap. This left Gimple and Hill to battle for the lead… until Gimple got crossed up and ended up in the gravel in The Corkscrew a lap later, bringing out the full course yellow so that he could be extracted.

The race restarted with two laps to go, but separate incidents for Lee Kaiser (spun in Turn 5, stuck in the gravel) and Stephen Hill and Connor Ford (contact) meant a checkered flag one lap early. When the mayhem subsided, it was Scott Anderson with the lead and the win over Greg Strelzoff and Ross Jaffe. Hill and Ford actually crossed the finish line 1-2, but the late contact prevented them from reporting for their mandatory safety checks. A post-race 20 penalty was assessed to each, relegating them to fourth and fifth respectively. Lee Kaiser recovered from his visit to the gravel to finish sixth ahead of John Schauerman and Kent Owen, while Jack Mitchell finished ninth ahead of Kyle Gimple, who lost a couple laps in the gravel in Turn 5 and was credited with 10th.

Group 2, Race 2
Race 1 winner Stephen Hill led the field to green for the final race of the weekend. Behind him, Ross Jaffe and Gus Doppes put on the race of the weekend, battling tooth and nail for second. The battle came to a head on Lap 6 when Doppes ran into the back of Jaffe under braking for Turn 11. Jaffe was able to continue after his safety check, but Doppes car could make it no further than Turn 2, bringing out a full-course yellow.

The yellow tightened up the field, allowing Zach Silver, the beneficiary of the Jaffe/Doppes dust up, to attach himself to the gearbox of Hill. When the green flag came out on Lap 10, the duo set off to decide the win between them. Despite Silver’s best efforts, he came up a scant .385 of a second short to Stephen Hill at the stripe for the win. John Mitchell finished third, leading a second pack of cars that included Ross Jaffe (fourth) and Andrea Zurek (fifth). Antonio Sabato, Jr. improved on his Race 1 result with a great sixth ahead of this race’s leading Slavik, Jim Slavik. Douglas Tuttle finished in eighth ahead of Linda Doppes, while Evan Slavik bested sibling Brennan for the final spot in the top ten while Gus Doppes ended his day in Turn 2 and was credited with 12th.

With a fourth and a win, Scott Anderson was able to cut Kyle Gimple’s point lead to 10, while leading Grand Master Stephen Hill is 31 points back in third. Greg Strelzoff used a fifth and a second to solidify his hold on fourth ahead of Luigi Biangardi, who transferred points into this weekend to stay in fifth. With two Race Weekends remaining in the season, the championship is far from settled.

The Western Race Series hosts a triple-header with the Southern Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the weekend of March 13-14.

Jim Altemus

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