Summer Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge at Road Atlanta

Monday, July 26, 2010 From Car and Driver magazine on Road Atlanta after putting it on their list of America’s Great Road Courses:

Old-timers swear this track was ruined in 1998 when new owner Don Panoz inserted a chicane into the long back straight, thus bypassing the infamous dip prior to the blind last corner.

But they’re wrong: This undulating ribbon is still one of the most exciting places to drive a car, any car. And it’s insanely quick. The only truly slow corners are the chicane and turn seven, which leads onto the back straight. We love the blind approach to turn twelve and how you have to carry the precise amount of speed up the front straightaway into turn one. The stretch out of that corner into turn five is like running through a huge soup ladle with curves in it.”

We don’t know about soup ladle turns but we do know the term “Hotlanta” applied perfectly to this race weekend as it was hot and humid as a good cup of Campbell’s best microwaved to the boiling point… and everybody had no choice but to drink it in.

Click here to see images from the weekend in our NEW Flickr gallery
Click here for complete results
Click here for Skip Barber Summer Race Series points
Click here for MAZDASPEED Challenge points

Group 1 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Jesus Rios and Thomas McGregor did the first-place two-step as Rios started on pole but McGregor led the first two laps. Rios took back P1 on lap three before McGregor held point from laps four through fifteen with Rios breathing down his neck the whole time, taking back the lead on the second to last (16th) lap.

While P1 and P2 were playing out, Greg Strelzoff began the end of a streak that began in October of ’08. By his own reckoning Greg hasn’t missed a single SBRS Regional Race Weekend since that date and this will be his last race weekend while he and his significant other await the birth of their first child. Turns out there is one thing more important than racing and under threat of death, Greg agreed to admit that and curtail his racing until after the blessed event. We wish the soon to be Strelzoff trio all the best and look forward to Greg’s return to the track with a new family member.

Having said that Greg (being a relatively new master) drove a masterly third place from start to finish. While Rios/McGregor were slicing and dicing less than a second apart in front of him, Greg was in the cat/bird seat poised to pounce if they slipped up.

The next two most progressive over-achievers were Brandon Newey and Austin Dyne who started 14th and 15th respectively and worked themselves all the way up to 4th and 5th with Austin setting fastest lap of the race in the process. Paul Fisk finished where he started in 6th place while Dr. Mike started and was running P4 when he spun in turn 1 on lap 3. After his safety check Dr. Mike fought back all the way from DFL to P7.

With two laps to go and a full course caution, due to a car in the kitty litter, the field was bunched up for an exciting finish.

A NASCAR green/white/checker came out and while Rios led the second to last lap McGregor prevailed at the checkered flag by just over a tenth of a second. Greg Strelzoff was seven tenths back for the third step on the podium. Newey and Dyne were most progressive P4 and P5 both advancing from deep in the field while Paul Fisk kept P6. Dr. Mike came back to P7, David Knight P8, Gus Doppes P9, Joel Janco P10 and honorable mention goes to Ted Jewell for his clean run in P11.

Group 1 Race 2
This race was a bit of a scramble with three wide into turn 10 on lap 1 as Jesus Rios had the measure of the field from the start. (Dr. Stormin’) Jim Norman wasted no time leaping over groups of cars from his 17th place starting position.

Turn three was the collector of hard two-offs, where DiMaggio & Dyne each had one and Strelzoff did it twice earning a black stick for his second indiscretion.

Austin Dyne and Dr. Mike Edwards worked their way up past Thomas McGregor as the race progressed and Strelzoff and Newey seemed to be near each other for most of the scrimmage. Once again a full course yellow for a spinner in turn one with two laps to go bunched the field up for a photo finish.

On the restart Rios once again asserted his superiority and gapped the field to win by 4.67 seconds over Austin Dyne.

Greg Strelzoff and Brandon Newey finally found each other in turn 7 on the last lap with car contact costing them both more than ten finishing spots. It was surely a disappointment after such a hard fought race.

Dr. Mike in P3 held off Thomas McGregor in P4 by two tenths for the final podium spot and Greg (Don’t call me Joe) DiMaggio P5 was seven tenths in back of McGregor having advanced ten spots from his P15 start.

The only racer to advance more than Greg was Stormin’ Jim who started 17th and finished P6 winning most progressive of the race. (Bravo Dr. Jim!)

Paul Fisk was P7 ahead of David Knight P8 who just beat Jarred Douglas for P9.

Gus Doppes had a clean run for P10 and Franz Fleischli in P11 gets honorable mention for keeping the top ten honest.

Group 2 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
After a false start the hot buzzing MX-5 bumblebees swarmed cleanly into turn one single file all the way to the esses as Mathew DiLeo took the lead from Tyler Cooke on lap 1 with Cooke taking it back on laps 2 through 4 with DiLeo on his tail.

Lucas Bize got around and held off John Dubets for the first two laps. Then Dubets got around Bize and quickly applied pressure to DiLeo. Dubets appeared to be the man with a plan as he leap-frogged both Cooke and DiLeo on lap 5 to take the lead.

Meanwhile, Steve (The Fastest Flying Randall) Randall was worming his way up from P7 as sleeper of the day Kieron O’Rourke (DFL P12) was playing possum at the back of the field.

Mid-race, Tyler Cooke took back the lead from John Dubets on lap nine and Dubets returned the favor on lap 10 with Cooke then laying in wait to pounce on the last lap.

Steve Randall was comfortable in P3 with David Steinschraber P4 and DJ Randall P5.

As the race wound down, the racing gods did their dirty work while Kieron O’Rourke emerged from the bushes.

DiLeo and Bize had side to side contact on the back straight and had to report for safety checks as did DJ Randall and Steinschraber after finding each other in turn seven.

O’Rourke had worked his way up to P4 around Thomas McGregor when McGregor found the wrong gear and fell back.

Cooke’s last lap plans went up in smoke when his buzzing bee blew-up in the brake zone of turn 10 on the second to last lap handing Dubets a walk away win with the almost twenty-one second lead the two had built together. That’s racin’ boys.

Flying Steve Randall P2 finished four seconds ahead of most progressive Kieron O’Rourke who earned the final podium spot with a smart strong run.

Thomas McGregor finished P4, only two tenths behind O’Rourke, and almost five seconds ahead of Mathew DiLeo (P5) who was first of the one pit-stop strategy.

Rod Randall gained four spots to finish P6 and Lucas Bize worked his way back to P7 after a safety check beating Gar Robinson P8 by two tenths at the finish line. David Steinschraber P9 and D. J. Randall P10 were both on the one-stop plan and Brad Randall is our honorable P11 mention.

Group 2 Race 2
This race had lots of ups and downs and began with domination by John Dubets, who took the lead from the pole and never gave it up. Second, third and fourth positions were contested by Kieron O’Rourke, Lucas Bize and Mathew DiLeo mid-race before it got interesting.

Dex Tuttle was mightily progressive and on fire as he started lucky P13 DFL and took over P2 by lap nine, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 13 while trying to catch John DuBets before the laps ran out. Tyler Cooke was second most progressive starting P12 working his way all the way to P5 before Kieron O’Rourke, overly emboldened by his progress in race one, drove Lucas Bize, who was battling with him for P3, off the track in turn 10. O’Rourke was penalized for over-aggressive driving gifting Cooke with P3.

At the finish Dubets had a near six-second lead over Dex Tuttle in P2 who had five seconds on Tyler Cooke in P3. Mathew DiLeo in P4 nipped Steve (The Fastest) Randall P5 by less than half a second. Steve had worked his way back up the charts after an early setback. DJ Randall in P6 led the Indy Lights battle over Brad Randall P7 and Thomas McGregor P8. Gar Robinson P9 and Lucas Bize P10 finishing out the top 10. The racing gods gave a karmic dishonorable mention to Kieron O’Rourke P11 for doing in Lucas Bize.

Group 3 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Young blood and a hot track were special ordered for this group of seventeen. Only one master (Strelzoff) and three grand masters (Drs. Mike and Jim plus Gus Doppes) were representing (ahem) maturity and restraint (Yeah right).

Sebastian Ordonez started on pole and led all but one lap (You’ll have to wait to find out which one) as the rest of the field nipped at each other’s heels the entire race. Dr. Mike was four-off at turn three on lap 1 and Gus Doppes also went four-off at turn one of lap 2 while no one over age 40 improved their lot in this race by as much as one position, so the term “age before beauty” most certainly did not apply here.

Sebas focused ahead and let the boys be boys in a nose-to-tail slice-and-dice kind of way behind him. Newey, Biangardi, Tittle and McGregor had the tractor beams on each other, and as the race developed they gapped Austin Dyne, Greg Strelzoff and Jesus Rios who also had their carving knives out.

Lots of OMG near miss moments with black sticks pointing in all directions that allowed Sebastian to pull away over 10 seconds ahead of the pack. (OK… The only lap Ordonez didn’t lead was lap 1) At the finish line Luigi Biangardi finished P2 and was only two tenths ahead of Thomas McGregor who was four tenths up on Brandon Newey while Kevin Tittle inP5 made a mad dash that came up a single tenth of a second short. That meant P2 through 5 were less than 8 tenths apart at the line. Now that’s close!

Jesus Rios was most progressive starting 14th and finishing P6, seven seconds behind Tittle and four seconds ahead of Austin Dyne P7 who just beat first master Greg Strelzoff P8 by two tenths of a second. Jim Norman P9 was the first grand master besting Zach Silver P10 by 1.4 seconds.

Group 3 Race 2
Same drivers… different results. Jesus Rios had his superman cape on as he wasted no time finishing the forward progress he started in race one going from P6 to the lead in less than one lap. This put Ordonez into the clutches of Luigi Biangardi, Brandon Newey, Thomas McGregor and Greg Strelzoff. Youth was wasted on the young, as there was only one brief failed attempt at working together to reel in Rios.

Brandon Newey was playing hard ball most of the race battling with Luigi for P3 but did himself in with a spin in turn one on the next to last lap. Greg Strelzoff got back the three positions he lost in race one advancing from P8 to P5.

Kevin Tittle got as high as P5 before tagging the wall in turn four. He was able to drive it back to the pits but his race was over.

Rios won with a seven second lead over Sebastian Ordonez P2 who was just over two seconds up on Luigi Biangardi in P3. Ten seconds later Thomas McGregor in P4 arrived with two cars, Greg Strelzoff in P5 1.2 seconds behind and Austin Dyne in P6 less than a tenth behind Strelzoff. Fifteen seconds later, Jim Norman in P9 led Dr. Mike (P10) across the line by four tenths of a second.

Group 4 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
Angelo Dinkov had pole and led the field through turn one with Tyler Wolfson on his tail. They had a mini-breakaway from John Snyder, Matt Di Leo, Dex Tuttle, John Dubets, and Thomas McGregor.

While Dinkov and Wolfson were nose to tail Tuttle got by Di Leo for P4 and then challenged Snyder and took over P3 on lap 6. Snyder fell back into the clutches of Di Leo on lap 8.

Wolfson got tired of following on lap 9 and took the lead for the first time as Di Leo took P3 back from Tuttle. In fact, Tuttle and Di Leo’s battle was so good that Tuttle got black sticked in turn five before the racing gods took their revenge in turn one when he went four-off and had to report for a safety check.

Steve Randall and Thomas McGregor were having a pitch battle back in the pack when Randall got into the back of McGregor on lap 15 ending their fun prematurely.

At the checker, Wolfson held on with a solid 1.6 second lead, and after trading places with Di Leo, Dinkov took back P2 by a slim two tenth margin over Di Leo P3. John Snyder P4 led the Indy Lights group 16 seconds back with Gar Robinson P5 keeping Snyder honest less than two seconds back. DJ Randall took P6 and Dex Tuttle who was on the one-stop plan in P7 beat Brad Randall P8 and Mitch Landry P9. Rod Randall was our top 10 finalist.

Group 4 Race 2
The podium for this race was settled on lap one but the finishing order of that podium was so hard fought and so close the human eye couldn’t tell the winner at the finish line.

Wolfson, Dinkov, and Di Leo ran as one from the green flag trading places so many times… Well, you just had to be there. Suffice it to say it was a fitting finish for a Hotlanta race weekend.

Rod Randall had an off on lap 2 in turn five, hit the wall and was able to continue. Fourth position was all John Snyder except when John Dubets came up on lap 13 to grab that spot for one brief moment. Gar Robinson battled with Dubets for most of the race until Dubets dropped back at the end.

This race was all about the finish line and in the end Angelo Dinkov beat Matt Di Leo by the slimmest measurable margin possible: 001 seconds. That’s one thousandth of a second folks! (Though we did have two races end in identical times on the same weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park a couple of years ago). That margin made Tyler Wolfson’s two tenths margin back to P3 look almost leisurely. Kudos to all three for a great race.

Over 10 seconds later John Snyder finished in P4 and led Gar Robinson P5 and Mitch Landry P6 across the line. The new fastest Randall, Brad Randall in P7 beat Steve Randall in P8. DJ Randall in 9 was next with Thomas McGregor rounding out the top 10.

Moving forward:
Hot weather, laps, and drivers are what Atlanta is all about and it fully lived up to its reputation. We bid farewell to Road Atlanta and Greg Strelzoff as the GPS brings us back north to Lime Rock Park where the first week in August may bring more hot weather and is certain to bring more hot driving at the Road Racing Center of the East.

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