SUNNY SUNDAY!

Group 5B Start

The sun came out and the breeze blew away the fog and clouds to bring on a sunny day for the end of the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With the help of the crackerjack volunteer race officials and marshals of the San Francisco Region of Sports Car Club of America, who gave up their lunch hour, the schedule was righted and the afternoon races went off on time.

Five BMW CSL's

This year the Reunion is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of BMW, with the largest exhibit of BMWs outside of Munich. This brought on many Photo Ops. One was the Five BMW CSL’s which were the winningest BMW’s. Another was the 1979 BMW M1 Procar, which was the outright winner of the 1982 Suzuka 1000 Race.

1979 BMW M1 Procar, overall winner of 1982 Suzuka 1000

One of the things I enjoy about the Reunion paddock, along with the sensory overload from the billions of dollars worth of vehicles, is what I call the Cool Factor – interesting vehicles brought for show and tell. These gems are stashed away here and there among the rolling museum-quality works of art.

Nash Rambler

Goliath

Morris Minor Station Wagon

VW Bug

Motorcycle

Checker Cab

Bernard Juchli of CA won Rolex Race 1B for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars, driving No.86 1955 Jaguar Hagemann Special, and he turned the fastest lap time of 1:53.214 on Lap Eight at 71.164 mph. His Margin of Victory was 00.438 seconds ahead of John Buddenbaum of CA in o.3 1949 Jaguar Special Parkinson. Thirty cars of the 38 entries competed in the eight-lap race.

Gregory Campbell of British Columbia, Canada drove his No.356 1955 Devin Porsche 356 to victory in Rolex Race 2B for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc. He was also the fastest driver with a time of 1:49.221 on the last lap of the seven-lap race, at 73.766 mph. His Margin of Victory was 00.604 seconds ahead of Kaid Marouf of CA in No.60 1960 Siler Quicksilver. Twenty-five of the thirty entries ran the race.

Bob Earl of McKinleyville CA won Rolex Race 3B for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars, driving No.87 1972 Ferrari 312PB. He turned the fastest lap time of 1:31.301 on Lap Three at 88.244 mph. His Margin of Victory was 03.770 seconds ahead of Bruce Canepa of Scotts Valley CA, who was driving one of his several cars this weekend – No.2 1969 Porsche 917K, with its familiar blue and orange livery.

Fred Della Noce of Rio de Janeiro skipped the Olympics to win Rolex Race 4B for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc, in No.18 red and green 1966 Ginetta G12, and turn the fastest lap time of 1:43.077 on Lap Three at 78.163 mph. The Margin of Victory was 01.976 seconds ahead of David Donohue of CA in No.68 1968 Porsche 911 GTR. Thirty-five of the 47 entries raced in the 11-lap race.

It was Age and Treachery vs Youth and Good Looks in Rolex Race 5B. Veteran racer, car preparer and collector, Bruce Canepa won Rolex Race 5B for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. Canepa drove his purple No.10 1986 Porsche 962C ahead of 20-year old Skylar Robinson of Augusta GA in No.116 1986 Porsche 962, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:26.610 mph on Lap 10 of the 11-lap race. The Zoom Zoom score for this group was 140 mph. The Margin of Victory was 12.956 seconds. Robinson is 20-years old and is currently running the SCCA Pro Racing F4 Series for Momentum Motorsports. He spent a year in Europe racing, winning the triple championship in Formula Fords. He’s only had a few laps here at Laguna Seca, and before this car, had never driven a car with more than 100 horsepower. Sunday’s finish ought to help the sales price for the car which is going on the market. Skylar is the son of veteran sports car racer, Chip Robinson. TV Commentator wasn’t as lucky in this race. He drove No.39 1996 McLaren F1 GTR but it experienced mechanical problems on Lap Five.

Thomas Steuer of Bogota Cundiamara won Rolex Race 6B for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc in No.75 1965 Chevrolet Corvette. His Margin of Victory was 01.893 seconds ahead of Jeffrey Aramsom of Alamo CA in No.5 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster. Third place finisher, Chris MacAllister in No.146 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 turned the fastest lap time of 1:41.645 on Lap Four at 79.264 mph. Thirty-two drivers of 41 entries ran the ten-lap race.

Dan Marvin of Berkeley CA capped off the weekend by winning Rolex Race 7B for 1967-1984 Formula One, driving No.82 1974 Brabham BT44. His Margin of Victory was 00.998 seconds ahead of pole sitter and runner-up, Charles Nearburg of TX in his No.27 1980 Williams FW07 B. Nearburg also turned the fastest lap time of 1:23.565 on Lap 11 at 96.414 mph. There were 22 drivers of 27 entries in the 17-lap race.

Canepa has been one of several drivers involved in the REVS project, which ran for four years at the Reunion. Canepa, as well as Brian Redman and John Morton, were literally wired with telemetry head to toe, for research done by the REVS project at Stanford University. The doctors and Ph.D’s were measuring the reaction of racing on the drivers. The REVS Institute for Automotive Research has now opened its 80,000 square foot facility in Naples, Florida and has more than 100 of the most influential automobiles.

Bruce Canepa's No.10 1986 zporsche 962C

The REVS Project

Bruce Canepa's No.2 1969 Porsche 917K

There are no trophies for taking first place. Special awards are presented to drivers in each of the fifteen race classes, as well as special awards. These are part of the Prize Giving Ceremonies, complete with champagne. And …. just maybe we might learn what will be special for next year’s Reunion. Stay tuned!

Rolex Reunion Logo

FOGGY MOUNTAIN SLOWDOWN

The fog wreaked a little havoc Sunday morning for the tight schedule of Day Four of the Role Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Each day the fog was thicker until Sunday when the schedule fell an hour behind due to lack of track visibility. But all’s well that ends well. By 11 am, the sun broke through – as it did every day, and the long lunch break helped ease up the schedule … and only seven groups were slated to run Sunday.

Ed Archer and 1920 Transporter

Ed Archer of Hayward epitomizes the spirit of the Tin Pan Alley Gang which has its own lane in the paddock. The spritely senior is always dressed in his period outfit, including dust coat and cap when it’s chilly. For years he drove his Group 1A 1915 Ford T to and from the races on the Bay Area freeways. In 1989 he bought an authentic Chevrolet transporter which he now uses – on the freeways. He gets all kinds of cheers and thumbs up from fellow commuters stuck in the post-race traffic.Group 1A is for Pre 1940 Sports Racing/Touring Cars & 1927-1951 Racing Cars. It’s all Archer says he can do to stay out of the way of the faster cars, but he certainly has fun. He was lapped three times, but still finished twenty-fifth of 41 racers, with everything intact.

Chevy Transporter

No.4 1914 Mercer 45

Pre War Car

IMG_8684

At the other end of the spectrum are Sunday’s Historic Formula One Cars. They have a race within a race, as many of the competitors are part of the FIA Masters Series, which has its own set of gleaming trophies. For Sunday’s morning race, Charles Nearburg of TX has the pole in his No.27 1980 Williams FW007 B. There is another 1980 Williams FW07, driven by Zak Brown (the business mogul, not the musician). As the F1 cars retain their original livery and numbers, one has to be keen-eyed to see the miniscule 1 in front of Brown’s car number. The experienced flaggers – and even their crews – use their helmet designs to distinguish the two in traffic. Nearburg has a mostly yellow helmet, while Brown’s has reds and blues.

Charles Nearburg's Helmet

Zak Brown's No.27 1980 Williams FW07 F1 Car

Zak Brown's helmet

Nearburg won the morning race. Dan Marvin of Berkeley CA finished second after starting fifth, driving No.82 1974 Brabham BT44. The Zoom Zoom monitor clocked him at 140 mph going into Turn One.

Dan Marvin in No.82 1974 Brabham BT44

Dan Marvin in No.82 1974 Brabham BT44

The Reunion brings out all kinds of fans including celebrities and professional/retired racers. Among the crowds this weekend taking in the event live and in person are Scott Pruett, Tom Gloy, Dario Franchitti, and Marino Franchitti. And that includes the TV crew as well. Among the talent for the TV show which will air later this fall are Fox Sports TV broadcaster Mike Joy, who raced Saturday in the Historic Trans-Am Race in No.89 1966 Ford Mustang; Justin Bell, retired sports car driver, who did the Pit Lane commentary on Joy’s Trans-Am race; and Ralph Shaheen. The Reunion broadcast will be in 22 September 2016 on CBS Sports at 8pm. Meanwhile, it is being streamed live on automobilemag.com.

Mike Joy

Mike Joy

Justin Bell

Justin Bell

Dario Franchitti

Scott Pruett

Dario & Marino Franchitti

1999 BMW V12 LMR

1999 BMW V12 LMR, which won 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans

THE A’S HAVE IT!

David Hobbs, Murray Smith, and Jackie Stewart

David Hobbs, Murray Smith, and Jackie Stewart

The A groups had their Rolex Races Saturday afternoon on Day Three of the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The iconic road course hosted eight groups of widely disparate sizes, styles and colors. And in case you didn’t know, well-known motorsport TV commentator and raconteur, Murray Smith, reminded us at the lunchtime Paddock Picnic Palaver – Vintage means before 1930.

Murray ‘hosted’ two well known British humorists, cum A-List racers – David Hobbs and Jackie Stewart. Much of the funny conversation was off the record. But both Hobbs and Stewart were serious on the subject of America and its role in Formula One. Both stressed the need for an American driver to be in Formula One. Stewart said it’s needed to promote Formula 1 in the United States. Formula 1 still is big, colorful and global. There are more driving (racing) licenses in China and India than in America. F1 has the biggest TV audience in the world. Developing countries are putting major investments into racing. “We Need an American driver.” Hobbs said for an American to succeed in Formula One, he (or she) has to move to Europe at age 14-15 to get inured, because that’s where one learns. That’s a major investment for a family. Then the driver has to get into the right car, not just a Manor. That’s the difficult part. Hobbs didn’t see Formula 1 failing, but said it has issues which need resolving. It’s too technological. And he stressed “We Need an American driver.”

Both drivers felt that America, be it state or local municipality, needs to get behind racing. In all of Europe (except Britain) there is state supported racing resources. They promote Formula One teams and circuits and everyone benefits. In America locals or governments build stadiums and arenas for ball games. Why not racing?

The two agreed on something else. Neither wanted to race vintage. The cars are too old. Stewart said the best day of his life was racing a 1929 Nouvelari Ferrari at Laguna Seca with Juan Manuel Fangio.

Chad Parrish, Glen Seton, and Don Dimitriadis

Chad Parrish, Glen Seton, and Don Dimitriadis

Group Eight A is the Historic Trans-Am Group – a tightly knit and well-organized group of drivers and cars. They’re celebrating Fifty Years of Trans-Am with their own Tour, which includes Laguna Seca along with four other well-known circuits – Sebring, Lime Rock, Sears Point and Watkins Glen. The love of Trans-Am spreads beyond our shores. There is a contingent of loyal Aussies who not only love the cars and like to race them in the US, they own them and keep them here. There are three Australian owner-drivers in this year’s Trans-Am race and all have raced here before: Don Dimitriadis in No.21 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 formerly raced by Dan Gurney; Chad Parrish in No.28T 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302; and Terry Lawlor in No.63 1967 Shelby Mustang. There will be Aussie drivers at all Tour venues this year.

No.21 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302

No.28T 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302

No.63 1967 Shelby Mustang

No.15 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe

Trans-Am T Shirt

Another Aussie, 1993 and 1997 Australian Touring Car Champion, Glen Seton, is racing No.15 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe in Group SixB for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. That car is owned by Dimitriadis. This is Seton’s first time at Laguna Seca. He really enjoys the circuit, finding it challenging. He likened it to Australia’s Bathurst circuit and Phillip Island, with its blind corners. Seton would like to race more American races and likes the Trans-Am Group, as do all the Aussies.

More Aussies, in non-muscle cars: Ron Goodman is driving No.23 1954 Porsche in Group 3A for 1055-1962 GT Cars; Chris Bowden is driving No.21 1979 BMW M1 Procar in Group 4A for FIA & IMSA Cars, and Duncan MacKellar is driving one of the two No.29 1971 McLarens, a M8E in Group 7a for 1968-1974 Can-Am Car. In the B Groups, Chris Farrell is driving No.18 1982 March 821 in Group 7B for Historic F1 Cars.

Derek Hill, son of American F1 World Champion Phil Hill, won Rolex Race 1A for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & 1927-1951 Racing Cars, driving No36 1927 Delage ERA, and he turned the fastest lap time of 1:52.434 on Lap 11 at 71.658 mph. The Margin of Victory was 78.047 seconds ahead of Charles McCane in No.6a 1936 ERA R6B. The top BMW was Thomas Feierabend of Bavaria in No.328A 1937 BMW 328, finishing sixth. There were 41 cars in the 13-lap race, of the 49 entries.

David Swig of Sausalito won Rolex Race 2A for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc. Young Swig drove No.16 1958 Scarab Mk1, and beat runner-up Dyke Ridgley of IL by 01.930 seconds. Ridgley drove No.66 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 and turned the fastest lap time of 1:46.488 on Lap 7 at 75.659 mph. It was a nine-lap race. Fourteen of the 19 entries raced.

Chris Cox of NC drove his No.112 1962 Ferrari 250GTO to victory in Rolex Race 3A for 1955-1962 GT Cars, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:49.042 on Lap Three at 73.887 mph. His Margin of victory was 13.972 seconds ahead of Jeffrey Abramson of CA in his 1959 Morgan Babydoll IV in the 10-lap race. Thirty-five of the 41 entrants raced.

Gunnar Jeanette of FL won the Rolex 4A Race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, and GTU Cars He drove No.0 1980 Porsche 935, and his Margin of Victory was only 00.484 seconds ahead of Ken Epsman of CA in his No.20 1976 Dekon Monza. Epsman also turned the fastest lap time of 1:33.495 on Lap Three at 86.174 mph. Thirty-seven of the 50 entries raced. The top BMW was Chris Bowden of Queensland, Australia in No.21 1979 BMW M1 Procar, finishing fifth.

Marc Devis of Schoten Schoten won Rolex Race 5A for 1963-1968 USRRC & Can-Am Cars. Davis drove No.47 1967 Lola T 70 Mk3B Spyder, finishing a mere 00.044 seconds ahead of Johan Woerheide of SC, driving No.7 1965 Lola T70 Mk II. Byron DeFoor turned the fastest lap time of 1:37.297 on Lap Five at 82.806 mph, driving No.8 1965 Lola T70 Mk 1, finishing fifth. Thirty-two of 38 entries raced in the 11-lap race. Finishing third in the race was the top BMW, Harindra de Silva, father of young Tim de Silva, driving No.196 1965 Elva-BMW Mk8. Like his son, he too races SCCA in the San Francisco Region.

Wade Carter of WA won Rolex Race 6A for 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc in No.74 Lola 2-liter, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:26.345 on Lap 11 of the 12-lap race. His speed was 93.309 mph. His Margin of Victory was 05.445 seconds ahead of Cal Meeker of British Columbia, Canada in No.115 1973 Lola T294. Pole sitter Tim de Silva had mechanical issues with his No.25 1978 Osella-BMW PA8, and finished 16th with two laps. On the upside, it gave him more time to get back up to the grid for his next race in 7A. Seventeen of the 22 6A entries raced.

Kirt Bennett of Monterey CA won the Rolex 7A race in No.101A 1974 Shadow DN4, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:25.499 on the penultimate lap at 94.233 mph. I watched the Zoom Zoom radar gun speed trap sign and top speeds going up into Turn One reached 160 mph. The Margin of Victory was 05.534 seconds ahead of Dave Handy in No.102 1974 Shadow DN4. There were four black Shadows in that race and even more in the paddock. Shadow designer, Don Nichols of Carmel CA, was in the paddock overseeing the cars. Twenty-four of the 27 entries raced in the 13-lap race. De Silva, the son finished eighteenth in No.22 1974 Sting Can-Am.

101 and 102 Shadows

Shadow Eyes

Shadow 1

Pole sitter Ken Epsman of CA won the Rolex 8A Race for 1966-1972 Historic TransAm Cars in his No.2 1971 Javelin. He turned the fastest lap time of 1:43.015 on Lap Four at 78.21 mph. His Margin of Victory over Aussie runner-up Terry Lawlor was 00.353 seconds. Lawlor was driving No.63 1967 Shelby Mustang.Thirty-four drivers of 38 entries raced in the 11-lap race. Unofficially, the Zoom Zoom speed trap showed a couple of cars reaching 120 mph going into Turn One.

Sunday’s schedule calls for seven races and the Prize Giving Ceremonies.

JUST GO FOR IT!

Group 4A FIA & IMSA Cars

Group 4A FIA & IMSA Cars

Saturday’s activities at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca had all eight of the A Groups on track for races. Two of the groups included BMW’s. Group 4A for the 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT and GTU Cars had 21 BMW’s from 1971 to 1980, which included well known drivers such as Al Arciero, Jim Busby, Bruce Canepa, and John Morton, among others. This was a fast group which also saw Porsches, Mustangs, Shelbys, Monza’s, Ferrari’s and Corvettes. In practice the unofficial radar gun in Turn One indicated top speeds upwards of 133 mph.

Group 4A is the Bonham’s 1793 Cup Race, and Cooper MaxNeil of Florida has pole position for the afternoon Rolex race based on his finish in Saturday morning’s race, driing his 1980 Porsche 935. The top BMW was Chris Bowden of Queensland, Australia driving No.21 1979 BMW M1 ProCar. The average race speed was 84.954 mph, and there were 41 cars in the 12-lap race.

Group 1 A for Pre 1940 Sports Racing/Touring Cars & 1927-1951 Racing Cars had five BMW’s – a 1935 315/1 Willis Special and four 1937 BMW 328’s. Paddins Dowling of nearby Carmel won this race in his 1934 ERA R2A, beating Derek Hill (son of the late Phil Hill) driving a 1927 Delage ERA by 04.985 seconds. The top BMW in this race was Thomas Feierabend of Bavaria driving No.328A 1937 BMW 328, to finish seventh. The average race speed was 56.011 mph. Forty-one cars ran the nine-lap race.

There are a wide variety of BMWs on display throughout the paddock. In the Display Tent is the Ralf Schumacher 2000 BMW Williams FW22-02 Formula One Car, bringing BMW back into F1 where it had been absent since the eighties. Schumacher finished fifth that season in the points, teaming with Jenson Button, who finished third for the year. At the other end of the spectrum is the quirky little BMW Town Car, outside but near the Display Tent.

BMW Town Car

Rals Schumacher BMW F1 car

BMW Town Car

Tim de Silva

Tim de Silva

It’s always a treat to see a young vintage driver, often younger than the car he’s driving. One such instance is Tim de Silva of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. He’s driving No.25 1978 Osella-BMW PA8 in Group 6A for 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. That BMW, by the way, revises upwards by one, my count of BMWs racing this weekend to 56. He’ll start Saturday’s Rolex race from the pole position, having finished first in his Saturday morning race. Tim is also racing back to back Saturday, as he is driving No.22 1974 Sting Can Am in Group 7A, where he will start sixth out of 27 cars. Tim is a San Francisco Region SCCA driver, competing in the Pacific F2000 Series, in which he just wrapped up the championship at the Sonoma race in July. The young lion is one of ten finalists in the Team USA Scholarship, which provides opportunities for talented American race drivers in the early stages of their careers. One of the long-time sponsors and supporters of Team USA is Doug Mockett, who is racing this weekend in the Historic Formula One Cars group (1967-1984.) Mockett, from Christiansted Virgin Islands, races his red, white and blue 1976 Penske PC4. Mockett’s races are Sunday so his car is getting its tune-up Saturday.

No.28 1976 Penske PC4

One of the joys of the Reunion is Paddock Strolling, taking in all the sights and enjoying the Eye Candy.

Led Zeppelin Sports Car

Green #24

No.17 Samson

BMW ART

BMW ART

The 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is celebrating the 100th anniversary of BMW, with the largest exhibit of BMW’s outside of Munich. A large well-appointed display is the centerpiece of the paddock at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In front of and along the sides is a revolving exhibit of famous racing BMWs – revolving as they are being raced in some of the fifteen classes of historic cars this four-day weekend.

Jeff Koons BMW Art Car

Jeff Koons BMW Art Car

Alexander Calder BMW Art Car

Alexander Calder BMW Art Car

Among the famous BMWs inside the display tent are two of the well-known BMW Art Cars – the first Art Car, created in 1975 by American Artist, Andrew Calder – mainly known for sculptures and mobiles; and the 17th BMW Art Car – the BMW M3 GT2 designed by Jeff Koons signed in 2010. The No.93 Calder car, a BMW 300 CSL, was one of his last art works. It was raced at the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans by American Sam Posey and Frenchmen Jean Guichet and Herve Poulain; and has been on exhibit ever since. The No.79 Koons car was raced at the 2010 24 Hours of LeMans by Andy Priaulx, Dirk Werner, and Dirk Muller.

Other display cars include the No.25 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL which won the 12 Hours of Sebring with Sam Posey, Brian Redman, Allan Moffat, and Hans Stuck; the 1938 silver Mille Miglia class-winning BMW 328 – the last pre-war 1000-mile event. Only three of these 328’s were made.After the war, this display car was taken to Russia, and returned to Munich after the fall of the Berlin Wall, where it was restored by BMW.

1938 BMW Buegelfalte

1938 BMW Buegelfalte

The weekend schedule calls for practice Thursday and Friday for all fifteen classes on the 2.238-mile elevated road course. Saturday the eight A Classes will race, and Sunday there will be seven B class races, followed by the Prize-Giving Ceremonies.

There are 55 BMWs in five of the 15 classes: 1A for Pre 1940 Sports Racing/Touring Cars & 1927-1951 Racing Cars; lots in 4A for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars; 3B for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars; 4B for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500 cc; and 5B for 1981-1991 FIA Manufacturers Championship IMSA GTO/GTP Cars.

Thursday night in the paddock was the Oktoberfest Welcome Party complete with beer, costumed SCRAMP staff members, and typical German food – with an oom-pah-pah band and instant art painted by official track artist, Bill Patterson.

Bill Patterson

Bill Patterson

Among those attending and taking photos of the cars and drivers was world-famous driver, Brian Redman. The affable Brit took one of his old race cars out for a spin Friday morning – No.25 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL – one of five imported into the US. Redman ran the 1975-1976 IMSA Camel GT Series with Ronnie Peterson. It was one of the most successful BMW production race cars, and all those five race cars still exist. The car is entered by BMW North America and driven by Ludwig Willisch of New Jersey.

Brian Redman

Brian Redman

No.25 BMW CSL

No.25 BMW CSL

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

Saturday’s schedule calls for Qualifying Races in the morning and Rolex Races in the afternoon – for all eight of the A Groups.

STEWART SMOKES SONOMA!

Tony Stewart

Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

Tony Stewart/No.14 Code 3 Assoc/Mobil 1 Chevrolet squeezed by the battling Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Cares Toyota in Turn Eleven on the last lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 Race at Sonoma Raceway. Stewart touched Hamlin as they went in side by side, Hamlin bobbled, tagged the wall, and Stewart pulled ahead by 0.625 seconds to take his first victory in 84 races. Then Smoke, as he’s called, did just that spinning doughnuts and buzzing his motor up in Turn Seven. At the end of this season, Stewart retires from Cup racing and moves on to the second half of his race career.

This was Stewarts 49th win, his eighth road course victory, and his third victory at Sonoma. He led once, for 22 laps.

Stewart’s Crew Chief Mike Bugarewicz said nothing else was working on their pit stops, so decided to go off-strategy and brought Stewart in during a late green flag run, when it sounded on the radio like there might be debris on the track. Five laps later there was a debris caution, and with 22 laps to go, Stewart took the lead, while there were wholesale pitstops by the pack.

Stewart lost the lead on the last lap in Turn Seven when the charging Hamlin passed him. The two raced around the last few turns going for the finish, while everyone held their collective breath watching them go through Turn Eleven, the last chance for a pass. And it happened, not exactly a surprise.

#14-Tony-Stewart. Photo by Mike Burghardt

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Stewart was in a “must win” situation at Sonoma – being 35th in points and winless. In order to make The Chase, after missing eight races at the beginning of the season due to his broken back, he has to be in the top thirty in points and have a win. He delivered….barely. He’s now 32nd in the standings, narrowing the gap to the cutoff to nine points. And he’s got his obligatory win.

Stewart co-owns a NASCAR team of four cars with Gene Haas, and two of their cars are 1-2 in the Owner points – Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet and Kurt Busch/No.41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet – drivers who are still first and second in the Driver Standings, 35 points apart. Harvick has extended his contract with the team.

Stewart – ” They’re all good (wins), but this one is special. Hamlin told me he was so proud of me when he stuck his head in my window.” In talking about his last lap, Stewart said “I wasn’t going to be cordial going through that corner. If it was a street fight, he’d have two black eyes. I’m going for more wins, and I don’t lay down for anything. But if this is the last win, I’m OK with that.”

Tony-Stewart-leads-field-into-T2. Photo by Mike Burghardt

Photo by Jeff Burghardt

Hamlin led twice for 30 laps, the most of any leader. He said “I shouldn’t have given him that opportunity. I allowed him to get a good run on me. I knew he was going to put me into the wall. He did what he had to do and I did what I had to do, and all’s fair in love and war.” He also said I”It was a great, fun race. We had the car good enough to win.” Regarding Stewart’s mood at this point, he opined “His give a shit factor is pretty low” as this was probably his best chance to get into the Chase. We just a little ‘heart to heart’ when I talked to him through his window after the race.”

#22 Joey Logano. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

#19-Carl-Edwards. Photo by Mike Burghardt

#19-Carl-Edwards. Photo by Mike Burghardt

Photos by Jeff and Mike Burghardt.

Finishing third through fifth were Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Pole Sitter Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota, and Martin Truex/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota.

Tony-Stewart-leads-field-into-T2. Photo by Mike Burghardt

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Sixth through tenth were Harvick, Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s 75th Anniversary Toyota, Ryan Newman/No.31 WIX Filters Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne/No.5 Great Clips Chevrolet, and Kurt Busch.

Logano said “We’re probably witnessing a historic moment in NASCAR today with Tony getting that win today. Shows he has what it takes. I started next to him and he was hammering it from the start. So, I said ‘We’ve got that Tony Stewart today.”

Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota had the pole position, led the first eight laps before being beaten on a restart by second fastest qualifier, A.J. Allmendinger/No.47 Ralphs/Kingsford Chevrolet. Edwards led twice for 24 laps, and turned the fastest race lap. He also won the Duralast Brakes “Brake in the Race” Award.

#47-AJ-Allmendinger-Photo by Mike Burghardt

Photo by Mike Burkhardt

Allmendinger led four times for 20 laps. He had an up and down day, finishing down after a penalty for “uncontrolled tire” during his last pit stop, which relegated him to the end of the pack of 35 cars at the last restart. AJ finished 14th after charging back through the pack after his penalty, and earned the Ingersoll Rand Power Move Award.

Other leaders, via recycling through pit stops, were Harvick for three laps, Kyle Busch once for two laps, Paul Menard/No.27 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet once for three laps, and Stewart’s teammate, Danica Patrick/No.10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet once for three laps.

#24-Chase-Elliott. Photo by Mike Burkhardt

Photo by Mike Burkhardt

Chase Elliott/No.24 3M Chevrolet was the top Rookie, finishing 21st. This was his first time at the wine country road course.

Clint Bowyer/No.15 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet didn’t have a great day. He started eighteenth, but retired early with an apparent ignition/electrical fire on Lap Eight. Bowyer got out of the car in a hurry and was unhurt. He will be the replacing Stewart in the No.14 next year, which will be a Ford when the team switches manufacturers.

Overall, it wasn’t the most exciting of races…until the last few laps. The leader packs didn’t change much. There was some good battles between Edwards and Allmendinger, between Hamlin and Truex battling Stewart, and it was fun to watch Allmendinger charging through the pack after his penalty. There were four cautions, one for Bowyer, debris when Austin Dillon/No.3 Dow/Utility Trailers Chevrolet had a problem in Turn One, spring rubber debris during a long boring parade stretch, and when Michael McDowell/No.95 Circle Sport Leave Chevrolet pulled off in Turn 10.

Five drivers were new to Sonoma Raceway: Rookies Elliott, Ryan Blaney/No.21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, and Brian Scott/No.44 Safeway/Blue Emu Ford, plus Chris Buscher/No.34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford and Dylan Lupton/No.93 Bell Bros Plumbing, Heat & Air/Elk Grove Toyota.

All the cars pulled for inspection passed – Stewart, Hamlin, Logano, Edwards, Truex and ‘random’ Blaney. Stewart and Hamlin’s cars go to the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord NC for further inspection.

The weather was low nineties with somewhat of a breeze. The crowd looked impressive.

#11-Denny-Hamlin-leads-field-into-esses. Photo by Mike Burghardt

Photo by Mike Burghardt

PACE PICKED UP

Pit Lane Crowd Scene

Sunday breaks sunny and the Sonoma Raceway is filling up with fans for the 28th Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. The big news is that Toyota has renewed its race co-title sponsorship in a multi-year agreement. Toyota has been co-title sponsor for the past ten years, and is also the official vehicle sponsor of the track. Toyota will also continue as title sponsor of the track’s annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 preview show on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. The 30-minute special, which airs during the month of June, has been nominated for a sports Emmy award in past years.

The track has several entrances, which help control the traffic flow. I came through the Lakeville Road gate Saturday morning, a new experience for me. I was in awe at how much property the track actually owns, in between land parcels owned by the Sonoma Trust. I also was amazed at how many motorhomes and RV’s were seen along the way – not all visible from the paddock/pits. There were a lot of folks. Little villages with their allegiance flags waving in the breeze.

The track and its Traffic Manager work closely with the California Highway Patrol to control/lessen the traffic disruption for what is one of the Bay Area’s largest single-day sporting event. Thirty CHP and Cal Trans staff work the event. Up to 85 percent of the traffic by the circuit is non-race related (i.e. wine country interested.) Many informational directional signs are posted to direct towards those non-race fans who are looking for alternative routes throughout the area, the goal being to keep them away from the race track. Other posted directional signs point out the various entrance gates for fans, depending on their ticket/credential situation. Two sold-out Fun Trains come from the Sacramento area stopping right at the track’s front gate, the arrival of which is shown on the track’s live TV screens. Twenty-nine SportsFan Express shuttle busses bring traffic from around the Bay Area. Free parking on the many hills inside the track fill up, with shuttles running the fans back and forth to the paddock or their viewing areas. Strict monitoring of the DMV Handicap Placards allows those users to have their special parking.

It’s summer in California which means that the beautiful lush green from the winter’s less than hoped-for El Nino has turned to brown. To do its part towards fire mitigation and suppression, the track has its Wooly Weeders, a flock of more than 300 sheep which live on the property keeping everything nibbled to the nub. Additionally, for rodent control the track works with local owl agencies to provide owl nesting boxes throughout the property. Rats have ever-growing teeth in search of things upon which to gnaw, including wires and cords. The owls help the many garages and shops on site which don’t really like nibblers in their buildings and equipment yards.

Trylon-Bottom 20

Trylon- Top 20

The track has installed a new four-sided LED Trylon above Turn One, replacing the former installation. This gives more than 5,000 of square-foot LED screens showing track position of the race cars. The leaderboard display alternates between the top twenty race car positions and the bottom 20. Also new is the 84×12 Panasonic LED screen on the three-story Drag Tower opposite the John Cardinale Media Center and the second of the two Pit Lanes. This also gives the leaderboard information, as well as the laps completed and time remaining.

Sunday’s Race Day Schedule calls for a variety of fan-oriented activities. There are special tours and access events for specially credentialed fans. There is a PG&E Military STEM Job Fair, Stunt Plane Performance and the annual twenty-five minute Patriots Jet Demonstration Team Air Show, as well as a pre-race Concert performed by Jackson Michelson. There are the usual Ceremonial Introductions, Driver Introduction and it’s always fun to gauge which driver gets the biggest reaction, positive or negative. That is followed by the Driver track tour as part of the NASCAR pre-race ceremonies. Not to mention the Skydivers Jump.

After the race, the track is bringing back its popular track walk, which has two-fold consequences. It means fun for the fans who get to walk/see the track and have a pseudo-scavenger hunt for special lug nuts around the track redeemable for prizes; and it helps ease the flow of post-race traffic.

The weather will be in the low nineties and hopefully the typical afternoon breeze will kick in.

Let’s Go Racing!

NASCAR Paddock

FAST EDDY

Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota

Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota is the NASCAR Coors Lite pole winner for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 race at Sonoma Raceway. His lap was 95.777 mph/74.799 seconds. Edwards narrowly edged last year’s pole sitter, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Ralphs/Kingsford Chevrolet, who had just run what was then the top time-95.676 mph/74.878 seconds. Edwards had also been the fastest driver in the first qualifying session.

Carl Edwards

It was the nineteenth career pole position for Edwards, and third pole this season. He was presented with his Sonoma Raceway DriveSafe award in Victory Circle. This is the first pole for Edwards at Sonoma Raceway.

Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards. Photo by Jeff Burghardt.


“The car is fast. We’re out here in Toyota country here, in a Toyota for the Toyota. I’m really excited. It’s easy to mess up. I’m glad we hung on for the pole and just really excited. You’re looking at the guy who wrecked out last year. It’s one race I really look forward to all year. There’s no other track that you get to drive like this. You really get to – no lap is perfect here, like I said, you’re bouncing off of kerbs, you’re sliding around, you’re spinning the tires, you’re locking up brakes and this is what driving a race car is about.”

AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

Allmendinger said It was a struggle yesterday. This is definitely a big gain from where we were yesterday. There’s no pressure on me. Edwards has won here before. Best I’ve done is seventh. All we can do is our best. This is a big weekend for our sponsors, who are locally based – Clorox in Oakland and Ralphs here.”

For Sonoma’s qualifying, there were two qualifying sessions. In the first session all 41 cars ran, with the fastest 12 advancing to the second round to set the final field.

Third through fifth were Martin Truex Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota; Kurt Busch/No.41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet; and Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet.

Sixth through twelfth were Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Cares Toyota; Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Ford;Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s 75th Anniversary Toyota; Paul Menard/No.27 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet; Tony Stewart/No.14 Code 3 Assoc/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, who was finally getting better luck this weekend; his teammate, Danica Patrick/No.10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet; and Brad Keselowski/No.2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick. Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

Current points leader, Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet qualified twenty-fifth. He ran seventeenth and eighteenth in the first and second practice sessions.

There are 36 Charter teams, which have guaranteed starting positions for their drivers. In the 41-car field, one unlucky driver didn’t make the 40-car field. In this case, it was Cody Ware/No.55 CarPort Empire Chevrolet.

Cody Ware

Cody Ware

I misspoke previously, saying there were no Rookies in the 2016 Cup field. There are three: Ryan Blaney/No.21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, Brian Scott.No.44 Safeway/Blue Emu Ford and Young Chase Elliott/No.24 3M Chevrolet, who took over the seat formerly occupied by retired NASCAR Cup Champion, Jeff Gordon. Elliott missed out making the top 12 for Cup qualifying, but he was the top qualifying Rookie for Sunday’s race, starting sixteenth. And icing on the cake for the son of NASCAR Champion, Bill Elliot – he has the pole for Saturday afternoon’s Chevy’s Fresh Mex 200 NASCAR K&N Pro Series, West race.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott Cup Car. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

Chase Elliott K&N Chevrolet

Chase Elliott K&N Chevrolet

For the race, there are 20 Chevrolets, eleven Fords and nine Toyotas. Chevrolet currently leads the Manufacturer points with 606, followed by Ford with 559 and Toyota with 623.

Matt Kenseth’s No 20 Dollar General Toyota accumulated its fourth warning Saturday during pre qualifying inspection. As a result, the team will have last pit stall selection for Sunday’s race. Now the total reverts back to zero.

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon, retired NASCAR Champion and now Fox Sports TV analyst at NASCAR, is ending his first season in the TV booth with this weekend’s race. He met with the media Saturday morning, before calling the qualifying session. After this weekend, he’ll be able to spend more time with his family. He said he was flattered, in response to questions re is plans for the rest of this season, to have his name associated with ABC’s “Live” morning TV show which he has co-hosted in the past. “My priority is FOX and FOX Sports and NASCAR, so I will definitely be back in the booth next year. If there was something that would fit into and around that, great. I don’t know if that’s a reality, but it’s been really interesting kind of seeing that unfold. I really don’t have anything I can say about it.”

Gordon has a book coming out in October. “It’s been an amazing experience for me to reminisce with my stepdad (John Bickford) over all these great stories that have never been told before, including things with Bill and Gail Davis, to my experience at Hendrick and the success and things off the track and family and divorce and all these things that are all kind of brought in a way that I think has never been done before. So, yeah, looking forward to it. I mean, this summer, when summer is over, that’s what I’ll be ramping up towards, and being at the racetrack. So, looking forward to it.”

Saturday afternoon’s K&N race starts at 1pm local time, and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race starts at noon Pacific Daylight Time, airing live on Fox Sports 1, as well as PRN Radio, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and NASCAR.com.

FAST IS FAST

Kyle Larson No.42 Target Chevrolet. Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images.

Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images.

The Ganassi Gang was on the go for the first practice for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway. Kyle Larson No.42 Target Chevrolet was the fastest driver Friday morning with a lap of 1:15.299/95.141 mph, the only driver to hit 95 mph. His teammate, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet was second, running 94.544 mph in 115.774 seconds. Their fastest times were turned near the end of the session.

AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger. Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

Larson holds the qualifying record at Sonoma, set last year with a lap of 1:14.186/96.568 mph. It was in the first round of qualifying, but unfortunately not in the round that counted, giving the pole to another local driver, A.J. Allmendinger of Los Gatos CA in No.47 Ralphs/Kingsford Chevrolet. Allmendinger ran nineteenth in the morning session and fifteenth in the afternoon.

Third through fifth were Martin Truex Jr/No.78 furniture Row Toyota, Dale Earnhardt Jr/No.88 Axalta Chevrolet, and Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota. Edwards had led much of the 115-minute long session.

Larson grew up 90 minutes from the wine country circuit, in Elk Grove. He’s run 90 Cup races to date, and said it would be awesome to get his first win in his home state here, close to home. “This is probably one of my best tracks too. I really enjoy road course racing, especially here with friends and family that will be here. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know about pressure (from team owner Chip Ganassi, or teammates,) but it would be nice to be the next new person to win a Cup Series race. It’s been a long time since a new person has won. There are a crop of us young guys in our early 20’s that would like to get a win.” Larson reckons that since California has “got the best food there is that’s probably why California has always been a kind of racing hotbed.”

The morning temperature was in the low eighties with a breeze. The track temperature was upwards of 130 degrees F.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr./No.88 Axalta Chevrolet was fastest at the end of the afternoon practice session, turning a lap of 95.298 mph/115.175 seconds. He passed Casey Mears/No.13 GEICO Chevrolet mid-way through the session and the two remained one-two for the rest of the 105-minute session. Nine drivers eclipsed the 95 mph mark.

No.13 GEICO Chevrolet

The temperature cooled a bit to 84 degrees F, with a breeze.

Kyle Busch

Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images.

Third through fifth were Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Cares Toyota, Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota, and 2015 Cup Champion and last year’s Sonoma race winner, Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s 75th Anniversary Toyota. Busch was one of several drivers having fun riding the blue and gold kerbs in Turn Seven, inside/right side wheels airborne. Busch also took a ride on the wild side through the outside grass going through Turns Nine and Ten.

Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway President/General Manager, admits that when he took over the running of the Northern California circuit, the kerbs were red. A die-hard UC Berkeley grad, he exercised executive privilege a few years back and repainted the kerbs Cal’s iconic blue and gold.

Friday afternoon two well-known colorful characters in NASCAR were inducted into the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame: Retired Cup driver, Ernie Irvin and Tony Stewart/No.14 Code 3 Assoc/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, who is running his last Sonoma Cup race this weekend. Stewart emphasized he was not retiring from racing, just from Sprint Cup race. “I’m getting ready to start the second half of my racing career.” He admitted he’s not feeling as good as “I thought I would with this being my last race here in Cup. “I’ve dedicated 18 years of my life to this series and it’s done great by me. But, at the same time there are other things in life I want to do other than be at a NASCAR track three days a week for 38 weekends out of 52 weekends a year. There is just not enough time to do everything you want to do. It’s time for me to do this. I’m just not sure what they (non-racing things) all are yet.”

Ernie Irvan

Ernie Irvan, Steve Page & Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart
Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway President/General Manager said Irvin’s amazing run in the 1992 Sonoma Cup race is the fan-voted top moment/event in the 25-year NASCAR history of the track. He started second, jumped the start earning a black flag to the rear of the field, and proceeded to work his way through the entire 43-car field to win the race.

Ernie Irvan and Tony Stewart

SONOMA SOLTICE PLUS

Sunoco Victory Lane

Three days after the Summer Soltice, sunny and warm California weather greeted the NASCAR folks Friday at Sonoma Raceway for the first of two road course races of the 2016 season. A light breeze kept it comfortable as the crews set up and readied their cars for the morning practice.

Two NASCAR series are on schedule this weekend – the premiere Sprint Cup Series with 41 cars entered for the 40-car field, and 31 car field for the K&N Pro Series, West.

No.88 Axalta Chevrolet

NASCAR Scrutineers in Cup Garage

No.21 Wood Bros Ford

Perhaps it was the beautiful weather. The pace seemed less rushed than usual as the teams prepared the cars for the obligatory scrutineering process, which involves lots of checks and measuring. Cars were being prepped in the garage stalls, pushed through various lines, and generally detailed for the first of two Friday practice sessions. Both series qualify Saturday morning.

Sunoco fuelers

Down at the Sunoco pumps, the cars are fueled by Sunoco gas men appropriately garbed in fire-resistance suits covered by a fuel-repellant apron, and standing on pig-mat, which absorbs any overflow. The pumps are grounded from the pump through to the truck and deep into the ground tanks.

No.93 Toyota

Although there are no Rookies in the Cup field, one driver will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Dylan Lupton from nearby Elk Grove CA will drive No.93 Bell Bros Plumbing, Heat & Air Toyota for BK Racing.

Patrick Carpentier in No.32 Ford

This year’s Sonoma race appears to have but one so-called ‘road race ringer.’ That’s the slang for a road racer brought in for the non-oval track races. This time it’s open-wheel racer with stock car chops, Patrick Carpentier from Quebec, Canada. He will be driving No.32 Can Am Ford. Mostly retired, the affable French-Canadian occasionally comes out to play; and the wine country stop is the first of two for him this year. G0 FAS Racing also hired Carpentier for the Brickyard 400 Cup race. Both circuits are familiar to him. He ran NASCAR with Ray Evernham for several years after winding down his road racing.

Spotting at Sonoma Raceway is crucial. All teams have at least one spotter – up above the RV’s on the hillside above Turns Two-Three. Some teams also have a second spotter on top of the three-story drag tower.

Fox TV Camera Crew

Fox Sports has set up one of its TV camera crews atop the hauler of Kasey Kahne/No.5 Great Clips Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. This is the last NASCAR Cup broadcast for the network, before the mid-season switch to NBC. This weekend marks the end of the Jeff Gordon’s debut season in the TV Broadcast Booth. He will be joined by Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds.

Sonoma is a ten-turn, 1.99-mile elevated road course. The highest point is 174 feet in Turn 3A, with Turn 10 being the lowest at 14 feet. a change of 160 feet each lap. The Toyota/Save Mart 350 race will run 110 laps, which equates to 350 kilometers/218.9-miles.