SUNNIEST OF SUNDAYS

Travelin' Ford Detroit to SF

Sunday was again hot at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the fourth and final day of the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The mysterious patchy clouds hung around – possibly a quirky wind change blowing down lingering forest fire smoke from Northern California.

The schedule was shorter, with only seven Race Groups – all in the B category. The crowds were more manageable, which usually happens on Sunday, while the early birds head to Pebble Beach for the spit and polish of the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. They return back to the race world in the afternoon, and attend the Reunion Awards Ceremonies – which reward excellence, presentation and authenticity – not necessarily race winners or speed.

Group 1B-1927-1951 Racing Cars had the smallest field and an even smaller starting grid for the morning race. Paddins Dowling’s No.3 1939 Maserati 4CL won the race by 02.400 seconds over Jon Shirley’s No.12 1934 Alda Romeo Tipo B (P3). Perennial winner, Peter Giddings, finished third in his well-known No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza. The average race lap was 67.471 mph. Thirteen of the 21-car field took the checkered flag for the nine-lap race.

The trio won again in that order for the afternoon’s Rolex Race. Dowling’s Margin this time was 06.693 seconds, and he turned the fastest race lap of 2.00.507/66.858 mph on Lap 7. The average race lap was 66.157. The same 13 cars ran the nine-lap race.

Group 2B-1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars morning race was won by Cameron Healy of Portland OR in his No.55 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper. His MOV was 03.256 seconds ahead of Dave Zurlinden’s No.15 Tatum GMC Special. Robert Manson’s No.7 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special. The average race lap was 63.567 mph. All but three of the 30-car field ran the eight-lap race.

Healey won the afternoon Group 2B Rolex Race, this time by only 01.646 seconds ahead of Marcus Bicknell of the UK in his No.15 1952 Streets Manning Special. Third was John Buddenbaum in the No.3 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special owned by Terry Buffum. Healey turned the fastest race lap of 1;51.374/72.34 mph on Lap 7. The field numbered 24 cars for the seven-lap race.

Local driver Donald Orosco won Group 3B-1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc, racing his No.59 1958 Lotus 15. He beat runner up, Gregory Campbell of Canada in his No.356 1955 Devin Porsche 356 PreA by 05.805 seconds. The average race lap was 75.473 mph, for the ten-lap race. Thirty-four of the 36-car field ran the race.

The afternoon Group 3B Rolex Race was again won by Don Orosco in his Lotus 15. It was a local family sweep Runner-up was Brian Orosco in his No.36 1959 Lola Mk1 and third was Chris Orosco in his No.90 1959 Lola Mk1. The Margin of victory for Don Orosco was 00.711 seconds, the second closest of the afternoon. Brian Orosco turned the fastest race lap of 1:45.737/76.197 mph on Lap 4. The average race lap was 65.951 mph. Thirty-one of thirty-five cars ran the race.

Fred Della Noce No.18 1966 Ginetta G12

The Group 4B Race for 1961-1966 GT Cars had the largest field of the day – 49 cars. Fred Della Noce of Brazil won in his No.18 1966 Ginetta G12, 04.326 seconds ahead of his Brazilian compadre, Dalmo De Vasconcelos’s Nol.l85 1965 Lotus Elan 26R. Third place went to Michael Malone in his No.37 1965 Lotus 26R. The average race lap was 70.917 mph.

Timothy De Silva No.30 1962 Austin Mini Cooper

Thirty-eight cars ran the morning race. Young Timothy De Silva only was able to run four laps in the only Mini Cooper this weekend-No.30 1962 Austin Mini Cooper. He is the son of vintage racer Harinda Da Silva, who raced his 1974 Shadow DN3 F1 car in Group 8A.

It was Deja Vu for the afternoon Group 4B Rolex Race – same top three finishers in the same order. Della Noce’s MOV was 05.070 seconds. He turned the fastest race lap of 1:44.685/76.962 mph on the last lap of the eight-lap race. The average race lap was 63.297 mph.

Mike McGovern won the colorful Group 5B morning race for 1963-1968 GT Cars over 2500cc, driving his No.19 1964 Shelby Cobra, a scant 00.709 seconds ahead of runnerup Jeffrey Abronsom’s No.15 1964 Chevrolet Corvtte Roadster. Finishing third was Jim Click’s No.89 1965 Shelby Cobra. The Average Lap was 72.92 mph. The grid comprised 31 cars in a 39-car field for the ten-lap race.

Ironman McGovern did it again in the afternoon Rolex race, finishing 01.278 ahead of Abramson, who was followed by Click – who turned the fastest race lap of 1:42.702/78.448 mph on Lap 7. The average race lap was 77.456 mph.

Not finishing as high in either the morning or after races was Greg Umphenour in his No.81 1964 Mercury Comet, but it certainly was a stylin’ car. It has run the South African Rallye.

The Group 6B Historic Trans-Am Cars-1966-1972 is always a favorite group.The morning race was won by Jim Halsey of Los Angeles in his No.61 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, finishing 01.359 seconds ahead of veteran vintage racer, Ken Epsman in his No.2 red-white-blue 1971 AMC Javelin. The average race lap was 53.097 mph.

Mike McGovern No.16T 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Third was Mike McGovern in his No.16T 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302. Can you imagine how McGovern felt after running those two races back to back in that heat – nearly 90 degrees. He won the morning 5B race.Hope he had a cool suit.

And to show how tough he is, he ran both of his Rolex races (5B/6B) back to back in the hot afternoon and won both!

For the Trans-Am race, McGovern won, Epsman was second and Halsey was third. The MOV was 00.130 seconds – the closest of the afternoon. McGovern had to work for that victory. Halsey ran the fastest race lap of 1:45.998/76.009 mph on Lap 2.

Richard Dean of the UK won the morning Group 7B Race for 1968-1978 Formula 5000 Cars in Zak Brown’s No.6 1974 Lola T332. His Margin of Victory was 11.750 seconds ahead of Paul Zazryn of Australia, racing his No.24 1974 Lola T332. Third was Steven Ross of New Zealand in is No.5A 1973 McRae GM-1. Those blokes from Down Under know their F5000’s.

The Average race lap, in the 12-lap race, was 90.506 mph, the fastest for the morning races.

New Zealand F5000 Shipping Container

The visitors from Down Under took the top three finishing positions for the afternoon Rolex Race. Dean won the race with a 01.726 seconds MOV. Second was Alan Dunkley of New Zealand in his No.42 1968 Lola T140. Paul Zazryn of Australia was relegated to third position by the Chief Steward for Passing under a standing Yellow flag.

Zazryn turned the fastest race lap of 1:27.352/92.234 mph, the fastest of the afternoon Rolex Races. The average race lap was 52.477 mph on the last lap.

During the lunch break the Paddock Stage Presentation was “Legends of the F5000″ with a panel of famous Formula 5000 drivers moderated by Casey Annis, Publisher/Editor of Vintage Racecar/Vintage Roadcar. The drivers included Howden Ganley, John Morton and Brian Redman, along with Shadow Team Owner, Don Nichols. They spoke of the heyday of F5000 racing. The enthused crowd stuck around for an hour in the blazing sun. To my knowledge, at least three of the participants have written books on their racing: Ganley, Morton and Redman.

Don Nichols

Brian Redman

Howden Ganley

Left to Right: Don Nichols, Brian Redman and Howden Ganley. Apologies to John Morton for no portrait. Maybe this will do.

John Morton No.1 1971 Porsche 908/3

John Morton No.1 1971 Porsche 908/3

Don Nichols, Brian Redman, Howden Ganley and John Morton

Don Nichols, Brian Redman, Howden Ganley and John Morton

AUDIO-VISUAL 2.0

SFR Starters Bruce Brunner & Marcia Ulise

Audio Visual 2.0

Saturday afternoon the sights and sounds of the Rolex Races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca were everywhere and intensified by the crowds, racing and displays. The crowds were hug and water was the drink of choice in heat which rose to 91 degrees mid afternoon. Shade was treasured.

It was good people watching, with all the beautiful people and cars.

Bobby Rahal

SCRAMP Gas Pump Vendor in Dunlop Suit

The afternoon schedule called for the Official Rolex Races – twenty minutes long. Saturday’s schedule was the longer of the two days as there were eight race groups and the day went until 6pm. Sunday’s race groups number seven, and the day ends earlier to accommodate the afternoon Awards Ceremony.

The feature Bonham’s Cup Rolex Race was first off – Group 3A for the featured marque – 1965-1970 Shelby 350GT’s.
Winner Tommy Steuer of Colombia started second but won in the No.1 1965 Shelby owned by Bert Skidmore, beating Pole Sitter Terry Lawlor of Australia by 20.327 seconds. Steuer turned the fastest lap of 1:44.124/77.377 mph on Lap 2 of the ten-lap race. Finishing third was Jeffrey Abramson in his No.165 1965 Shelby.

Howard Swig's License Plate No.1931 Chrysler CD-8 Le Mans

Conrad Stevensen of Berkeley CA drove his No.39 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Super Special to victory in Group 1A race for Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars. His Margin of Victory was 01.093 seconds ahead of Joe Harding’s No.111 1939 Lagonda V12 Le Mans and he also turned the fastest race lap time of 2:12.461/60.824 mph on Lap 3. Finishing third was Richard Morrison’s No.12 1939 Lagonda V12. The average race speed was 59.49mph for the eight-lap race. Twenty-four drivers raced from the 29-car field. Early contender, Howard Swig’s 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Le Mans retired early.

Group 2A for 1955-1962 GT Cars was won by Pole Sitter Joe Colasacco of CT racing the 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1 owned by Lawrence Auriana. His Margin of Victory was 11.812 seconds ahead of Ron Goodman of Australia racing his No.21 1954 Porsche 356. Mark Colbert’s No.10 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Competizione was third. Colasacco turned the fastest race lap of 1:51.108/72.513 mph on Lap 4 of the nine-lap race. The average lap was 71.748 mph. Forty-one of the 46 entrants raced.

Bruce Canepa pulled one out of his helmet for Race Group 4A-1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT-GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars. He only ran one lap before retiring in the morning race in his No.12 1979 Porsche 935, but he won the afternoon’s Rolex Race by 05.663 seconds ahead of Pole Sitter Didier Andr of France in his No.76 1977 Greenwood Corvette. Local driver and veteran vintage racer, Ken Epsman finished third in his No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and also turned the fastest lap of 1:32.847/86.775 mph on Lap Eight of the 11-lap race. The average lap was 83.611 mph. Thirty-three of 41-car field ran the race.

The top three finishers in Group 5A-1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc finished where they started and ended in the morning race. Pole Sitter Derek Hill continued his winning streak Saturday afternoon racing the No.3 1962 Maserati Tipo 151 owned by Laurence Auriana, making it the second win of the afternoon for the car owner. Hill’s Margin of Victory was 04.293 seconds ahead of Greg Meyer’s No.41 1962 Dailu MK2. Joseph Diloreto finished third in his No.33 1961 Dolphin SportsRacer. Hill turned the fastest race lap of 1:44.378 mph/77.189 mp on the first lap. The average race lap was 76.027 mph. Hill raced Saturday only. Sunday he headed off to Pebble Beach to host the annual Concours D’Elegance.

Wade Carter of WA drove his No. l74 1974 Lola T294 to victory in Rolex Race Group 6A-FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars. He beat Pole Sitter Keither Frieser’s No.27 1972 Lola T290 by 00.319 seconds, the closest Margin of Victory all afternoon, and turned the fastest lap of 1:25.851/93.846 mph on Lap 2. Finishing third was Chris MacAllister’s No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage. Twenty-six of the 40-car field took the Green Flag for the 12-lap race.

John Delane No.50 1971 Lola T212

Timothy De Silva No.22 1978 Osella PA8

Two of the drivers in this group – John Delane No.50 1971 Lola T212 and Timothy De Silva No.22 1978 Osella PA8, are also racing in other groups. Delane races his 2 1971 Tyrrell in Group 8A for F1 Cars, and De Silva races perhaps the only Mini Cooper this weekend in Group 4B 1961 -1966 GT Cars under 2500cc.

Bruce Canepa won his second race of the afternoon driving his No.100 1990 Porsche 962C in Group 7A-1981-1991 FIA/IMSA GTP, GTO Cars. His Margin of Victory was 08.901 seconds ahead of Parker Johnstone in the No.49 factory/Museum 1991 Acura Spice GTP Light car. Dieter Baljet of Canada drove his No.3 1990 Chevrolet Beretta to third place. Canepa turned the fast lap of 1:26.049/93.63 mph on Lap 3. The average race lap was 92.629 mph.

Steve Millen No.751990 Nissan 300Z

Championship Rally and Drifting driver, Steve Millen started twenty-fifth after having mechanical problems in the morning race, but ran through the pack to finish seventh overall.

Actor and film producer of the new Paul Newman Documentary, “Winning,” Adam Carolla, brought his No.75T 1990 Peerless Oldsmobile, but didn’t run either of the Saturday races.

Charles Nearburg of Texas has been on a roll all weekend with his No.27A 1980 Williams FW07 – figuratively, not literally. He was the Pole Sitter for Group 8A-1967-1984d Formula One Cars. He again won, the afternoon Rolex Race by 00.944 seconds, the second closest MOV of the day. He again beat Erich Joiner’s No.101 1983 Williams FW08/C. Finishing third was Dr. Nicholas Colyvas of San Francisco driving his No.3 1974 Tyrrell 007. Colyvas was one of two local vintage F1 drivers who raced his F1 car in the movie “Rush.” The other was Chris Locke of San Anselmo, who finished ninth Saturday afternoon in his o.5 1976 Lotus 77, which he raced in the movie.

After the race, the group convened to the FIA F1 Masters Cup Hospitality Suite for their prize giving. They have four classes and award loving cups to the top three in class.

FIA F1 Masters Trophies

SCORCHING SULTRY SATURDAY

Shelby 350GT Group 3A Start

Saturday morning it was a scorcher at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the first day of racing at the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The weather was downright hot – 81 degrees F by 10:30am … and climbing. The skies had odd thin wisps and veils of transparent clouds scattered about. People were absolutely everywhere, taking photos, gawking and gaping in the paddock and around the course at the eight Groups of A cars. It was difficult at times to get a clear shot of any car or driver. The morning schedule called for fifteen minute, timed races, followed by afternoon races of 20 minutes each.

The grids for the morning races were set by combining the two practice session times and those race results set the grids for the afternoon races. However, the only times shown on any of the results sheets were those of average and fastest race lap in each race. This vintage weekend is not considered “a competition event.”

Shelby 350GT Start-a

Shelby 350GT Start-b

Shelby 350GT Start-c

This year’s Reunion is honoring The 50th Anniversary of the Shelby 350GT, and they were show cased in the Bonhams 1793 Cup Races for Group 3A – 1965-1970 Shelby Mustang Cars.

Thirty-two of the 38 entries took the Green Flag in the morning race. Terry Lawlor of Australia won in his No.8 1966 Shelby, beating pole sitter Tommy Steuer of Colombia in his No.1 1966 Shelby. Third place was Jim Hague’s No.211 1966 Shelby.

The Margin of Victory was 00.570 seconds, with the average race lap of 70.866 mph. The Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar screen on the Start-Finish bridge clocked a fast lap of 121 mph, but just once.

Although the Group 3A time span was listed as 1965-1970, all the cars were 1965-1966. Twenty-five of the 40 entrants were 1966 cars, and the rest were 1965.

Conrad Stevenson of Berkeley Ca won the Group 1A Race for Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars. And it was a good year for 1939. Stevenson drove his No.39 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Super Sport to victory 19.767 seconds ahead of runner up Joe Harding/s No.11 1939 Lagonda V12 Le Mans. Howard Swig finished third in his No.19 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Le Mans. Only 15 of the 29 entries ran the race. Missing from the field was pole sitter Richard Morrison of KS in his No.12 1939 Lagonda V12.

A large field ran the Group 2A race or 1955-1962 GT Cars. Pole sitter Joe Colasacco of CT won in his 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1, 02.466 seconds ahead of Ron goodman of Australia in his 1954 Porsche 356. Mark Colbert was third driving his 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Competizione.

Pole sitter Bruce Canepa pulled his No.12 1979 Porsche 935 into the pits with mechanical problems after the first lap of the morning Group 4A Race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT-GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars. Didier Andr from France won the race in his No.76 1977 Greenwood Corvette, after starting third. He was 24.885 seconds ahead of runner-up Chris Liebenberg’s No.22 1982 Ford Mustang. Finishing third was Ranson Webster’s No.42 1976 Porsche 935 K3. The average lap was 83.979 mph. The top speed recorded – just once – on the Zoom-Zoom screen was 140 mph.

Patrick Long, Leh Keen and Erich Joiner

Patrick Long, Leh Keen and Erich Joiner

Thirty five of the 41 entrants ran the 11-lap 4A race. Among the drivers were Pro Porsche drivers, Patrick Long – the only American Porsche factory driver running in the FIA World Endurance Cup and Leh Keen, who runs the USCC Series. Also multi-talented veteran driver, John Morton. Long drove Alan Benjamin’s No.61 Porsche 3.0 Carrera RSR, Keen drove David Mac’s No.28 1977 Porsche 934.5; and Morton ran Rob Fuller’s No.49 1972 Datsun 240Z

Derek Hill No.3 1962 Maserati Tipo 151

Pole sitter Derek Hill of CT, son of the late F1 World Champion Phil Hill, won the Group 5A Race for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc, racing No.3 1962 Maserati Tripo 161 owned by Lawrence Auriana. His lead ahead of Greg Meyer’s No.41 1962 Dailu Mk2 was 01.190 seconds. Third overall in the 25-car field was Joseph Diloreto’s No.33 1961 Dolphin SportsRacer. The average race speed was 68.344 mph.

Derek Bell No.96 1959 Maserati Tipo 61

Derek Bell

Derek Bell No.96 1959 Maserati Tipo 61

Another well-known driver in the field was long-time veteran sports car driver, Derek Bell of England. He raced the No.96 1959 Maserati T-61 owned by Jack Croul. The car was qualified by Jon Norman Thursday and Friday as Bell had other commitments. Bell started and finished tenth.

Marino Franchitti No.10 1975 Gulf Mirage GR8

The Group 6A FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars race was won by Pole Sitter Keith Frieser of Canada, racing his No.27 1972 Lola T290. He finished 01.724 seconds ahead of fellow Canadian, Cal Meeker’s No.116 1973 Lola T294. Wade Carter’s No.74 Lola T294 finished third. The average lap was 78.201 mph for the ten-lap race. Twenty-seven of the forty-car field took the Green Flag. Professional sports car driver, Marino Franchitti started and finished sixth in that race, driving Harley Cluxton’s No.10 1975 Gulf Mirage GR8.

Local vintage driver/car enthusiast, Bruce Canepa won Group 7A for 1981-1991 FIA/IMSA GTP, GTO Cars, racing his No.100 1990 Porsche 962C. He aced the start from second place and had a good race with Pole Sitter Parker Johnston, racing the factory No.49 1991 Acura Spice GTP Light. That car has been sitting in the Acura Museum for the past 23 years, since Johnstone last won a race with it. Weldon Munsey finished third in the factory No.77 Mazda RX7-92P. There were three factory Mazda’s in the race, all from a museum, which were driven and worked on by Mazda executives, doing everything on their own time. Jeremy Barnes in No.62 1991 Mazda RX-7 finished sixth and Robert Davis finished seventh in No.56 1990 Mazda RX-7.

Weldon Munsey No.77 1992 Mazda RX-7

Jeremy Barnes No.62 1991 Mazda RX-7

Robert Davis No.56 1990 Mazda 787

Veteran IMSA driver, David Donohue drove his 1991 Championship winning BMW M5 IMSA, which is now owned by BMW of North America.

The Margin of Victory was 02.408 seconds, the average race lap was 75.094 mph and 28 of the 35 entrants ran the race.

The morning Group 8A race for 1967-1984 Formula One cars finished under Caution as the track had been severely oiled by a ailing car. Taking the checkered flag was pole sitter Charles Nearburg in his No.27 1980 Williams FW07. His Margin of Victory ahead of Erich Joiner’s No.101 1983 Williams Fw08/C was 02.090 seconds. Finishing third was Motorcycle World Champion Eddie Lawson in No.20 1977 Wolf WR4. The top three finished where they started. The average race lap was 86.904 mph. Thirty-four of the thirty-seven entrants ran the 12-lap race.

After the morning races there was a nice long lunch break which allowed people to partake and/or participate in a variety of activities. Out on the Island Sir Jackie Stewart and multi championship driver, Scott Pruett held forth for Picnic tales and lores from their respective lengthy careers.

Also, in the paddock was a Haggerty Education Program presentation on Automotive Restoration and Preservation: “Young People and Old Cars – The Future of Restoration”. Diane Fizgerald, National Director of the HEP program geared towards recruiting and involving young people in the automotive restoration field, oversaw the presentation, which was moderated by McKeel Haggerty. The presenters included veteran racer Lyn St. James – also a HEP Ambassador; and longtime racer, Dominic Dobson – who is also National Director of Club Auto, ACM, the largest automotive museum in North America. Others were Josh Baum, private collector conservationist and former HEP intern; Tim Chambers, Laguna Hills High School Auto Tech Instructor; Stacy Puckett, McPherson College graduate and current employee at RM Sotheby’s auction house; and Stephen Murphy, curator and restoration specialist at Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage.

The presentation was recorded and broadcast live.

The panelists had pearls of wisdom for the audience, parents and kids. Parents-expose your kids, and kids chase your passion. Foster curiosity, and be excellent at what you. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Kids who work on cars are the future. Community Colleges are picking up the slack on Auto Shop and Industry classes being cut out of the public schools. Invite kids for rides in your vintage car, at Car Corrals and events. Spark their passion. One driver said there needs to be a smart phone App that kids can use to scan and work on cars. Get a mentor. Vintage cars are rolling pieces of art.

Haggerty Restoration Presentation

FRIDAY’S FIELD

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Flag

Friday the weather at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was even more beautiful for the second day of the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion. Nice warm weather, clear blue skies, and a nice breeze to keep it tolerable.

The Friday schedule was practice for all fifteen classes, 1-8A and 1-7B. The practice times for Thursday and Friday are combined to make the race grids. But no times are on the result sheets as this weekend is not a “competition event.”

Parker Johnstone

Parker Johnstone was once the winningest driver in IMSA, winning 54 races and had the record for 14 consecutive pole positions. This weekend he is driving his old IMSA car – No.49 1991 Acura Spice GTP Light. It’s been in the Acura Museum just as Johnstone left it after the car retired 23 years ago. He got into it this weekend and said it felt like he just raced it last week.

Doug Peterson

Johnstone’s old CompTech partner, Doug Peterson, worked on and set up the car, and Johnson was the fastest car Friday morning in Group 7A for 1981-1991 FIA/IMSA GTP, GTO Cars, and based on his aggregate times for both practice sessions, he has the pole position for Saturday afternoon’s race in a field of 35 cars. This weekend is the 30th year Anniversary of Honda racing.

No.48 1991 Acura Spice GTP Light

Johnstone has been keeping busy with SCCA Club Racing his H Prod 1964 Huffaker Midget in Oregon Region and also vintage racing. This weekend is his seventh race weekend in nine weeks, and the fourteenth race this season so far. He rotates vintage racing among some of the cars he has in Oregon including two of his old IndyCars, a 1977 March Formula Atlantic and a 1967 Austin Healey Sprite.

Tomas Mezzera & Parker Johnstone

Johnstone and Peterson are ensconced in the Accura Garage on Pit Lane. Stopping by for a reunion chat was Tomas Lopez Rocha of Mexico, who raced IMSA with Johnstone back in the day. Lopez retired from professional racing, but has come back to the sport recently, running the Panamericana Carrera-a Mexican sports car race with fields of 75 or more cars from around the world. In five races Lopez had five top-five finishes, including two victories. He races a 600 hp, tube-frame Studebaker, a la OSCA.

Another driver who ran and won the Panamericana Carrera, in 2002, is Doug Mockett of the US Virgin Islands. This weekend he’s racing his 1976 Penske PC4 in Group 8A for 1967-1984 Formula One Cars. Another thing Mockett does is strongly supporting young up and coming race drivers, including the Team USA Scholarship.

GORDON JOHNSON & IRV HOERR

Veteran and now retired road racer and car builder, Irv Hoerr was visiting his old No.6 1991 Oldsmobile Trans-Am Cutlass Supreme Trans-Am race car, now being driven for the first time by Gordon Johnson in Group 7A for FIA/IMSA Cars. Hoerr was asked by car owner Jere Clark to drive his white No.67 1968 Chevrolet Camaro in Group 6B Friday afternoon – the 1966-1972 Historic Trans-AM cars. However, Hoerr declined, citing it’s been too long since he’s been in a race car. When last seen, Lyn St. James was trying the car on for size. Stay tuned.

Dominic Dobson

1961 Cooper Monaco Mk III

Another race driver/team owner coming back, so to speak, is Dominic Dobson, who had a rich and varied career in indy cars, IMSA and NASCAR. This weekend he’s racing (for the first time) the No.61 1961 Cooper Monaco Mk III owned by Jeffrey Heller, originally raced by Bruce McLaren. The car runs in Group 5A for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc.

Dobson recently raced a Radical V8 at Pike’s Peak and won the Unlimited Class. He also won Rookie of the Year for the event.

Jon Norman

1959 Maserati T-61

1959 Maserati T-61

Also running in Group 5A is Derek Hill in a 1962 Maserati Tipo 151, who has the pole position for Saturday’s race. Derek Bell is entered to run the No.96 1959 Maserati T-61 owned by Jack Croul, but so far he’s been busy elsewhere in the area with other commitments including The Quail. Veteran Alfa Romeo driver, Jon Norman, has been filling in and qualified the car tenth of 25 cars.

So Many Cars … So Little Time!

No.93 Andial Whitting Brothers Porsche

1978 Osella

No.94 Crossle

David Swig's 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Le Mans

STARRING LAGUNA

Clint Eastwood

SCRAMP aka Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula, went all out Thursday night for it’s annual Welcome Party for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The theme was Hollywood, complete with movie stars and Walk of Fame Stars. The food and beverages were all locally sourced, the music was pure Sixties and costumes were encouraged. A good time was had by all.

Marilyn Monroe

Gill Campbell's Star

Paul Newman's Star

James Garner's Star

IMG_6910

Mario Andretti's Star

Artist Bill Patterson

Shelby

Ed Archer

John Surtees' Star

Sir Stirling Moss' Star

Sir Jackie Stewart's Star

Jim Clark's Star

Denise McCluggage's Star

IMG_6909

Grand Prix Movie Poster

Racing Sign Post

Winning Movie Poster

The Hills Are Alive with the Sounds of Music – Vintage Style

SHELBY Sign

The golden hills of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca are alive with the sounds of real race cars, a la vintage and historics, for the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion.

There are 15 groups with more than 550 older, beautiful cars, spread out over four days. This year the event is honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby GT350. There are forty Shelbys entered in Group 3A for 1965-1970 Shelby Mustang Cars, and all but one are 350GT’s. The other is a 1996 Shelby Mustang, driven by Charles McKee.They come from far and wide, including Australia, Canada, Colombia and Switzerland as well from the US – mostly (quelle suprise!) from California.

In the morning Shelby practice Tommy Steuer from Colombia was the fastest his 1966 Shelby 350GT.

The Reunion cars this weekend range from Brian Blain’s 1911 National 400 in Group 1A for Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars to three 1983 Formula One Cars in Group 8A for 1967-1984 Formula One Cars – driven by Dino Crescentini/Arrows A6, Cal Meeker/Williams FW08 and Erich Joiner/Williams FW08/C.

All fifteen groups have a twenty-minute practice session Thursday and again on Friday, in numerical order. Saturday the schedule calls for two races each for all eight of the A classes – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sunday, the B Group cars race, and the day is capped with the Awards Ceremony in the Paddock.

FIA F1 Masters Trophies

This year is the first year of the new FIA F1 Masters Series racing at Laguna Seca. And how sweet is that song! This series acquired the US-based Historic Grand Prix F1 group last year. The Masters Series encompasses authentic F1 cars from the three-litre period – 1966 through 1985. The overall pool of such cars isn’t that large, maybe 85-90 total, around the globe. This weekend the F1 cars come from Canada, Europe. Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. The overseas Masters drivers have kept their cars in the United States so they can compete in the five other Masters F1 events at: Road Atlanta, Barber Motorsports Park, Road America, Circuit of the Americas, Sonoma Raceway, and Mexico City. Some of the visitors have raced at Laguna Seca in the past, and nine are enjoying their first experience on the iconic 2.238, eleven-turn elevated road course. The FIA F1 Masters Championship only runs for points in Europe. The American rounds are for pure pleasure and don’t count towards the Masters Championship. Those contenders keep their American ‘fun’ car here and their points-chasing cars in Europe. None of the serious contenders are here this weekend.

John Delane of CA, 2011 FIA Historic F1 Champion, has been racing all over Europe for several years. He’s back racing in the US Masters in his No.2 1971 Tyrrell 002.

Joihn Delane

John Delane's No.2 1971 Tyrrell 002 F1

Charles Nearburg No.27 1980 Williams FW07

In the first F1 practice Thursday noon, Charles Nearburg of Texas was fastest in his No.27A 1980 William FW07. There are 37 F1 cars in this group. Most of the cars are in the same paddock row and many have sign board showing the car’s original driver and history. No times are listed on the results sheet, as the Reunion is “not a competition event.” However the Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar screen on the Start-Finish Bridge showed several cars going 140+mph – the fastest was a 146mph.

Eddie Lawson's No.20 1977 Wolf WR4

Second fastest F1 driver was Eddie Lawson in No.20 1980 Wolf WR4. And yes, he’s the four-time World Motorcycle Champion. He won the F1 Masters race earlier this season at Barber. And, per his crew, he is a “jewel of a guy.”

Keeping track of this exotic group of race cars isn’t easy for Timing & Scoring as the cars sport their original numbers, so there are duplicate numbers, and so some cars don’t correspond to the Entry List numbers.

Niki Lauda's No.1 F1 car

Frederic Fatien No.24 1974 Hesketh 308B

Benneton

Dino Cresencentini No.29 1983 Arrows A6

Robert Blain No.9 1975 March 751

Harindra De Silva No.117 1974 Shadow DN3

Although these drivers are racing authentic old F1 cars, often in period-correct (appearance) driver’s suits, many also opt for the modern-day driver safety items such as the HANS device.

Driver with HANS device

Jean Denis Deletraz

HANS Device

Fox Sports is here this weekend filming for a one-hour TV show on FSN, to be aired Saturday 26 September 2015 at 11:30am PT. Condensing this four-day event into an hour show will be a major effort. The broadcast time is set to follow a live NASCAR practice.

SUNNY SUNDAY

Corkscrew

It was another sunny and warm day Sunday for the second/last day of the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Pre-Reunion at the iconic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The schedule called for practice for the groups in numerical order, followed by afternoon races for Groups 1-11.

1992 factory Mazda RX7-92P

The fastest group of the eleven is Group Six for 1981-1991 FIA IMSA, GTP, GTO cars. Sunday morning during practice the cars were hitting upwards of 140 mph, as shown on the Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar screen on the Start-Finish Bridge.

Saturday’s Group Six winner was Weldon Munsey in the factory 1992 Mazda RX7-92P, edging Bruce Canepa’s 1990 Porsche 962C. The average race speed in the 11-lap race was 83.074 mph. He won again Sunday, besting his factory teammate, Robert Davis in one of three factory Mazdas, a 1990 Mazda 787.

Derek Hill's 1962 Maserati Tipo 151

Derek Hill, son of the late Phil Hill, had the pole and won the Saturday Group Five Race for 1995-1961 Sports Racing Cars. Hill drove the white 1962 Maserati Tipo 151.His Margin of Victory was 01.865 seconds, and the average race speed was 61.704 mph in the eight-lap race. He bested Greg Meyer’s 1962 Dailu MK2. This group includes Derek Bell in a 1959 Maserati T-61 but he wasn’t there Saturday.

Sunday Group Five’s race finished under caution, with Donald Orosco’s 1958 Lotus 15 the winner, ahead of Greg Meyer and pole sitter, Derek Hill.

Trans-Am Alley

The Trans-Am Group Eight is always a popular one, with 31 cars from back in the day. One of the those drivers is TV broadcaster, Mike Joy, who is driving No.89 1966 Ford Mustang owned by Kenny Epsman, who is driving No.2 1971 AMC Javelin. In answer to an earlier posed questions – yes, cars sold at the many car auctions held during the Classic Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula do end up racing in the Rolex Reunion races. One such example is No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 originally driven by Peter Gregg. The car is now owned by Epsman, three owners removed from the original auction purchaser.

Mike Joy and son

No.89 1966 Ford Mustang

No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Bob Earl, veteran IMSA sports car driver, now is a driver coach and test driver. This weekend he’s shaking-down three cars. He was set to race the No.87 1971 Ferrari 312PB in Group Seven for FIA Manufacturers both this and next weekend, but has now been pre-empted for the Rolex Reunion by Lyn St. James. He’s also coaching and shaking down two factory BMW’s.

Bob Earl

Bob Earl's No.87 1971 Ferrari 312PB

Bob Earl's Coaching Cars

Peter Giddings/No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza

In the oldest group of cars, Group One, for Pre 1951 Sports Racing and Touring Cars, perennial winner, pole sitter Peter Giddings again won in his much-raced 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza. His Margin of Victory in the six-lap race was 48.482 seconds, ahead of Max Jamiesson’s 1935 Ford Sprint Car. Gidding’s fastest lap of 2:01.307/66.417 mph was turned on the last lap.

Group Two for 1955-1962 GT Cars/1958-1963 Formula Junior Cars was won by pole sitter Chris Locke in No.27 1963 Lotus 27 Formula Junior. His Margin of Victory was 02.528 seconds in the nine-lap race, ahead of Timothy De Silva’s 1963 Huffaker Mk6. Locke turned the fastest race lap of 1:44.507/77.093 mph on the last lap. The average race speed was 70.175 mph.

Group Three for 1973-1991 FIA, IMSA, GT, GTX, AAGT, and GTU Cars was won by Mike Thurlow in his 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, with a Margin of Victory of 00.821 ahead of pole sitter Ranson Webster in No.42 1976 Porsche 935 K3. Thurlow turned the fastest race lap time of 1:36.257/83.701 mph on Lap 4 of the ten-lap race. The average race speed was 76.264 mph.

Group Four for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars was won by pole sitter Cameron Healy in his 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper, with a Margin of Victory of 15.580 ahead of Rob Manson’s No.7 Balwin Mercury. Healy turned the fastest lap of 1:49.555/73.541 mph on Lap 5 of the nine-lap race. The average race lap was 67.015 mph.

Group Five for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under/over 2500cc was won by local driver, Donald Orosco in his 1958 Lotus 15. The Margin of Victory (01.311) isn’t indicative of the race finish, as the Pace Car led the field to the checkered flag. Orosco turned the fastest lap of 1:46.870/75.389 mph on Lap 5 of the seven-lap race.

Group Six for 1973-1991 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, and GTU/GTO Cars was won by pole sitter Weldon Munsey. His Margin of Victory over factory teammate, Jeremy Barnes’ 1991 Mazda RX7-92P was 20.804 The fastest race lap was turned by local driver, Bruce Canepa in his 1990 Porsche 962C. His time was 1:26.947/92.663 mph on Lap Eight on the eleven-lap race. He finished ninth of the sixteen-car field. The average race lap was 83.812 mph.

Group Seven for FIA Manufacturer’s Cars was won by Keith Frieser’s No.27 1972 Lola T290, 06.300 seconds ahead of pole sitter Cal Meeker’s No.115 1973 Lola T294. Third place finisher, Chris MacAllister’s No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage, turned the fastest race lap of 1:26.463/93.182 mph on Lap 5 of the eleven-lap race. The average race speed was 84.467 mph.

Group Eight for 1966-1972 Historic TransAM Cars was won byJim Hague in No.16A 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 by a mere 00.148 seconds ahead of Ken Adams in No.45 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302. Pole sitter Ken Epsman’s No.2 1971 AMC Javelin finished fourth behind Mike McGovern in No.16T 1971 AMC Javelin. Bruce Canepa’s No.6a 1970 AMC Javelin finished sixth, but turned the fastest race lap of 1:45.960/76.036 mph. The average race lap was 68.236 mph in the nine-lap race.

Group Nine for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc was won by pole sitter Fred Della Noce from Brazil in his colorful No.18 1986 Ginetta G12. He beat his Brazilian teammate, Dalmo De Vasconcelos in No.85 1965 Lotus Elan 26R by 02.957 seconds, and he turned the fastest lap of 1:46.086/75.946 mph on Lap 6 of the eight-lap race. The average lap speed was 67.513 mph.

Fred Della Noce's No.18 Ginetta G12

Justin Wilson's No.54 911 67S Porsche

Patrick Long's No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T/R

IndyCar driver, Justin Wilson of England, was a last minute entry in No.54 911 67S Porsche. He qualified third and finished fifth in the race. The only American Factory Porsche driver, Patrick Long of CA, finished twentieth in No.68 Porsche 1968 Porsche 911 T/R.

Group Ten for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc was won by Chris MacAllister in his No.146 1964 Cobra 289, 04.113 seconds ahead of Dale Akuszewski’s No.55 1965 Sunbeam Tiger. Pole sitter Mike McGovern’s No.19 1964 Shelby Cobra came in twelfth. The fastest race lap of 1:41.430/79.432 mph on Lap 3 of the eight-lap race was set by Edward Hugo’s No.996 1996 Corvette. The average race lap was 61.748 mph.

Group Eleven for F1968-1976 Formula 5000 Cars was won by pole sitter Zak Brown’s No.51974 Lola T32. His Margin of Victory was 00.140 seconds over Craig Bennett’s No.0 1975 Shadow DN6. Bennet also turned the fastest race lap of
1:27.971/91.585 mph on the last lap of the nine-lap race. The race was punctuated by a caution. The average lap was 60.788 mph.

Next week’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion starts Thursday, for a four-day festival honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby GT350.

Bruce Kawaguchi's No.29 1965 Shelby GT350

Sunshine and Strawberries

1965 Shelby GT350

More than 330 vintage and historic cars are gathered at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Pre-Reunion races. They come from far and wide, and the years range from a 1924 Duesnberg Model A Speedster in Group One Pre 1951 Sports Racing and Touring cars, to a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro in Group Six for 1981-1991 FIA, IMSA GTP, GTO and GTO cars. There are eleven race groups in all.

This weekend is the precursor to the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby GT350 Mustang car. There are more than 550 entries for that weekend.

Saturday’s weather was ideal – low seventies, blue skies with no fog or clouds, and a brisk breeze to keep it temperate.

For the Pre-Reunion, 21 Shelby GT350’s are racing in Group 10 for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc, out of a fifty-three car field. There are also a wide variety of other Shelby’s, Mustangs and Cobtras, as well as cars of other marques. This is the largest of the eleven Pre-Reunion groups.

Formula 5000 Banner

There are 38 entries in Group 11 – Formula 5000, and they come from far and wide. The US has a strong Formula 5000 Drivers Association. Australia also has an F5000 association, and the F5000 drivers in New Zealand have a really strong group. The two Down Under Groups really wanted to run this race, so there are 11 cars from New Zealand and four from Australia. There are also entries from Denmark and Canada, as well as eight states including California. Of the foreigners, at least ten are racing at Laguna Seca for the first time. All love it. And some go to any lengths to prepare their cars.

1968 Lola T140 from New Zealand

1973 Begg FM 5 from New Zealand

1968 Lola T140

One unfortunate F5000 driver, Johnny Crean of New York, had a mishap with the Turn Eleven wall, but he is alright. The same can’t be said for his car.

1972 Lola T300

Eric Haga from Renton WA, ran in the original F5000 series back in the day. He still has that original F5000 car, but it’s not quite race ready. For this F5000 gathering, he’s racing his No.94 blue 1972 Lola T 300, originally raced by Eppie Weitzs back in 1972…this weekend and next.

Based on the morning practice session, Zak Brown of IN had the pole for the afternoon F5000 race, driving No.5 1974 Lola T332. He won the race by 01.277 seconds ahead of Steven Ross in his 1973 McRae GM-1. The nine-lap race ran 20.142 miles in 18.35.180 minutes. The average race speed was 65.022 mph, slowed by some cautions for stranded cars.

One of the perks of being a participant at the Pre-Reunion is the afternoon (local, fresh) Strawberries and Cream provided by Gill Campbell, President of SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula.)

Gil Campbell with Strawberries & Cream

KYLE & KURT FINISH 1-2 AT SONOMA

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch. Photo by Bob Tarvin-Tarvin Images

Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota won the 27th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 race at Sonoma Raceway, The new father may still walk with a limp from his February fractures, but he had a lead foot when it counted in the waning laps of the 110-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup race. He floored it from seventh place on the last restart and plowed through the field on new tires.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch Photos by Mike and Jeff Burghardt.

This was the fourth road course win for Kyle, second victory at the ten-turn, 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma Raceway, and his 30th Cup win. He now has the third most road course wins among the active Cup drivers.

It was the first Cup win for crew chief, Adam Stevens. After the checkered flag, Rowdy did heavy-duty doughnuts, spreading smoke far and wide. Mosquito abatement, NASCAR style.

Kurt Busch

Clint Bowyer

Kevin Harvick

Photos of Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick by Mike and Jeff Burghardt.

Second was big brother Kurt Busch/No.31 Haas Automation Chevrolet, who had started second. The Margin of Victory between them was 0.532 seconds. There is a seven year spread between the brothers, who started out racing Legends cars.

Clint Bowyer/No.15 5-Hour Energy Toyota was third from a sixth place start, followed by points leader Kevin Harvick/No.4 Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevrolet, who started seventeenth. Kyle Busch and Harvick are now tied for 23rd place in all-time Cup wins.

Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Ford was fifth after starting nineteenth, the largest position gain in the field.

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon. Photo by Mike and Jeff Burghardt

It was the largest NASCAR crowd in the last decade, and some credit could be due to the track’s extensive promotion and it being the last race for local driver, Jeff Gordon/No.24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet. Gordon started fifth, ran as high as third, and fell back after the last restart on old tires, to finish a disappointing sixteenth.

The weather was hot, near low eighties, but the typical Sonoma breeze cut the heat quite nicely.

AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger. Photo by Mike and Jeff Burghardt

Pole sitter AJ Allmendinger in No.47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet led twice for a lap and ran strong behind Kurt Busch until the first pit stop. Then he fell afoul of fuel pressure issues, which required repairs in the garage. He returned to the fray, and worked back up to 37th place, 12 laps down.

Alex Kennedy/No.33 MediaCast Chevrolet was the top Rookie, finishing 25th on the lead lap from a 36th place start.

Despite the victory, Kyle Busch will still need to be 30th or better in the standings to make the Chase. He is 37th in the standings, due to missed races because of his months off for recovery/rehab after his February crash breaking his left leg and right foot. NASCAR granted a Chase-eligible dispensation to Kyle Busch. Ordinarily, a driver must run the entire season to make The Chase.

Twenty-seven drivers finished on the lead lap, and 37 finished overall. There were nine lead changes among five drivers – Johnson, Busch’s Kyle and Kurt, Bowyer and Allmendinger. Five was also the number of cautions, for 21 laps.

There were no issues with post-race inspections, and three cars were taken back to NASCAR’s R&D Center in North Carolina for further inspections – Kyle Busch’s Toyota, Kurt Busch’s Chevrolet, and Joey Logano’s Ford.

One would think there were targets painted on the tire walls and concrete blocks based on the number of hard hits and near misses. David Gilliland/No.38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford had his left front tire go down and he hit the tire wall hard in Turn Ten. That brought out the first caution, two tow trucks and five service vehicles to make repairs. It was during this four-lap caution that the designated Lap 24 fell, the time when all the Gordon fans did their Gordon wave. Yeley finished last in the race.

The second caution turned into a ten and a half-minute Red Flag after Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet hit the left side Turn Eight tire wall so hard it pushed back the concrete blocks. He had been hit by David Ragan/No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota. Up to that point, Truex had been doing well in his brand-new road course car, but his day ended with a forty-second position finish. Ragan continued. More down time for wall repair, including quality fork lift work.

JJ Yeley/No.23 Dr.Pepper Toyota had a hard hit to the right side Turn Ten tire wall, bringing out the third caution. He DNF’d in forty-first place.

Ragan was involved in another incident, crowding last year’s Sonoma winner, Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota into the right side Turn Eight tire wall causing Caution Four. This time Ragan wasn’t able to continue, nor was Edwards. They finished thirty-ninth and fortieth, respectively.

The wildest DNF honors fell to Casey Mears/No.13 GEICO Chevrolet. He had an axle failure in Turn Ten, and made it to the Turn Eleven infield, where the axle and left rear wheel went flying across the infield into a catch fence. Normally Cup cars have strong steel tethers to avoid just such situations; but in this case the axle housing failed so the whole shebang came off. Mears finished thirty-eighth.

QUOTES

Kyle Busch – “I can’t say enough about my medical team who got me back in shape and ready to go behind the wheel. My foot hurts a little bit, not as bad as I expected it to. It actually hurt worse in practice. I think I warmed it up on Friday. It felt pretty good on Friday.

“It was a fun race. The cautions and pitting when we did was an awesome strategy. It was a very good short-run car.”

He thanked a very long litany of sponsors.

Kurt Busch – “I wanted to deliver a win today. I just didn’t get the restart I wanted. We had a great car and I think we made a statement. Congratulations to my little brother. I don’t know how many races Busch’s finished 1-2, but I’ll let him win it. I thought we had the winning strategy with the cooler tires, rather than worn-out tires at the finish. I just ran out of laps to run down Kyle. I was a bit too patient.”

Bowyer – “I tried, just came up a little short. I tried to get up to him (Kyle Busch) and get a little rough with him, but it didn’t work. I made the effort, but it just didn’t come through for me. He had the right line and I didn’t. He beat me to the punch.”

Gordon was clearly disappointed with his finish. “It’s been a long time since I won. We tried hard.” He ran as high as third, but didn’t pit for tires on the last restart and fell back.

Jimmie Johnson/No.48 Lowes Pro Service Chevrolet led twice for the most laps – 45, but his two-stop strategy didn’t work. He finished sixth. JJ was one of five drivers who didn’t pit for tires on the last restart. It showed. “I felt pretty good at first as there were so many cars behind me and those who had new tires. About a lap and a half later, I didn’t feel so good.”

The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Race is the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola on Sunday 5 July at Daytona International Speedway. This marks the halfway point in the Cup schedule, and the first race for TV broadcast partner, NBC. Sonoma was the last race of the year with Fox Sports.

UNOFFICIAL RACE RESULTS.

1. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 2 hrs, 55 mins, 39 secs after 110 laps
2. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
3. Clint Bowyer Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
4. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
6. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
8. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
9. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
10. Sam Hornish Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
11. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
12. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
13. Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
14. Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
15. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
16. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
17. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
18. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
19. Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford
21. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
22. Cole Whitt Front Row Motorsports Ford
23. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing Ford
24. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
25. Alex Kennedy Circle Sport Chevrolet
26. Boris Said Go FAS Racing Ford
27. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford
28. Josh Wise Phil Parsons Racing Chevrolet – 1 lap
29. Matt DiBenedetto BK Racing Toyota – 1 lap
30. Justin Marks Front Row Motorsports Ford – 1 lap
31. Alex Bowman Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet – 1 lap
32. Jeb Burton BK Racing Toyota – 1 lap
33. Michael Annett HScott Motorsports Chevrolet – 1 lap
34. Michael McDowell Leavine Family Racing Ford – 1 lap
35. Justin Allgaier HScott Motorsports Chevrolet – 3 laps
36. Landon Cassill Hillman Smith Motorsports Chevrolet – 11 laps
37. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet – 12 laps
38. Casey Mears Germain Racing Chevrolet – 13 laps Rear Axle
39. David Ragan Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota – 32 laps Accident
40. Carl Edwards Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 32 laps Accident
41. J.J. Yeley BK Racing Toyota – 39 laps Accident
42. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet – 79 laps Accident
43. David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford – 90 laps Accident

UNOFFICIAL DRIVERS’ STANDINGS

1. (–) Kevin Harvick 616pts
2. (–) Martin Truex Jr. 563pts (-53pts)
3. (–) Joey Logano 559pts (-57pts)
4. (+1) Jimmie Johnson 546pts (-70pts)
5. (-1) Dale Earnhardt Jr. 545pts (-71pts)
6. (–) Brad Keselowski 505pts (-111pts)
7. (–) Jamie McMurray 497pts (-119pts)
8. (+1) Kasey Kahne 483pts (-133pts)
9. (-1) Matt Kenseth 479pts (-137pts)
10. (+1) Kurt Busch 469pts (-147pts)
11. (-1) Jeff Gordon 462pts (-154pts)
12. (–) Paul Menard 452pts (-164pts)
13. (–) Denny Hamlin 438pts (-178pts)
14. (+2) Ryan Newman 435pts (-181pts)
15. (–) Aric Almirola 431pts (-185pts)
16. (+1) Clint Bowyer 430pts (-186pts)

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon. Photo by Mike and Jeff Burghardt

RAHAL WINS EXCITING FONTANA RACE

Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal/No.14 Mi-Jack Honda came from a nineteenth starting position to win the action-packed racy MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway. Also winners Saturday afternoon were the fans – at the track and at home watching on TV. They witnessed history being made, although it wasn’t without controversy.

The race had 14 leaders; the most-ever lead changes in IndyCar history and at Auto Club Speedway – 80; and 3173 passes. All this despite a red flag with a three-lap shootout and still ended up under caution on the last lap; six cautions for 46 laps/58.41 minutes in a 250-lap race. And the first caution didn’t come until Lap 136 for Helio Castronves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet spun while leading the most laps.

There were several driver crashes on course, including one spectacular flip, but no drivers were hurt. All the (noticeable) contacts brought out cautions, along with two for debris.

They were pack racing. Paul Tracy, the color analyst in the TV booth, said “Three and four abreast racing, one and two rows deep – it’s staged low altitude flying. Twenty-three fighter pilots in formation fighting for position.” And that was said before the cars were trying running five abreast. It was breathtaking.

This was Rahal’s second IndyCar victory, 124 starts after his first at St. Petersburg in 2008. Rahal has now run four races at Fontana. He led four times for 15 laps.

Rahal said “I didn’t think it (my victory) would come at a track like this. I knew yesterday the car was good. You don’t know how good this feels. I was definitely a little worried after that pit stop. I couldn’t be more honored and thankful for a group like this.”

Tony Kanaan

Second was Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, who led eleven times for 23 laps. He was quite outspoken afterwards about pack racing. “It was a crazy race and I’m just glad I’m OK. It was a great race for the fans. The people who criticize should try this – pack racing at 215 mph. There definitely is a fine line between pack racing and close racing. For us – people have to understand how stressful it is for us. I lost my best friend in exactly this way in 2011 (Dan Wheldon). If there were 100,000 fans we might want to race that way. To do this in front of 5,000 people is stupid. At Texas, there were no problems, but it was criticized for being a boring race. How can we make everyone happy? Maybe we can find a compromise over the course of this year the fans and the drivers. I have an opinion and I hope you respect that. It was a nerve-racking race, but I guess it was fun. Did I like it a lot – no. It was a heck of a race for the fans.”

AJ Foyt was asked about pack racing after his driver, Takuma Sato, crashed. “I loved racing like that when I did it. It just wasn’t our day.”

Marco Andretti

Third on the podium was Marco Andretti/No.27 Snapple Honda, after leading ten times for 31 laps, more laps led than the total of all his Auto Club laps led in his three prior start, including his 2012 pole. Andretti said about pack racing: “It was extremely dangerous but that’s what we signed up for. I think the fans got a good race. I mean, it’s fun. It’s definitely crasy, but it’s risk and reward. I mean, in my opinion, I think a good car should win the race, not one that’s just taking the biggest chance. And I’m not taking anything away from Graham, he drove a heck of a race But I’m sort of in the middle on it, maybe because I’m in the middle on age.”

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet was fourth, which kept him from having a chance at the IndyCar Triple Crown. He led three times for five laps. He said “I thought it was a little stupid. Full pack racing and sooner or later someone’s going to get hurt. We don’t need to do that. Rahal drove a helluva race and he deserved to win. I have no opinion on (Rahal’s) refueling issues.”

Fifth and top Rookie was Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet. He led twice for five laps – his first-ever IndyCar lead laps. Karam said “To be mixing it up at the front is so good”.

The other leaders were: Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske – 20 times for 62 laps, the most in the race; Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California – eight times for 43 laps; Takumo Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda – six times for 31 laps; Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda – twice for 14 laps; Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda five times for seven laps; Scott Dixon/No.9 Degree Chevrolet – four times for seven laps; Pole Sitter Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet – once for five laps-he finished ninth; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda-who led his first laps this season – once for three laps; and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CHR Chevrolet, once for a lap.

Sixteen of the twenty-three starters finished the race, with fourteen drivers on the lead lap, drivers finished the race, and there were seven retirements, all for contact. The race ran 2 hrs 57 mins 40.6179 secs under yellow after 250 laps.

Two drivers received Official Warnings – Tony Kanaan for Pit Entry and not holding is line and Graham Rahal for blocking.

Ed Carpenter's No.20 Chevrolet

Those who retired were: Castroneves, whose crew repaired his car in the garage and then retired after the car wasn’t running well; Carpenter and his teammate Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CHR Chevrolet, who hit each other; Power and Sato who hit each other; and the two Ryans, Briscoe and Hunter-Reay, who hit each other, bringing out the Red Flag to clean up the debris.

The Ryan’s crash was spectacular to watch, once it was learned drivers were all OK. Briscoe flipped up airborne, twisted and turned before landing. RHR faulted Montoya who pushed him up. Briscoe had no place to go. RHR said “I’m glad we’re both OK, glad Briscoe is alright.” Briscoe – “First I had to call my wife and tell her I’m OK. I’m glad everyone is OK. The racing has been close all day. I wish it didn’t happen. Not the way I wanted to go out. I just want to keep wishing Hinch a good recovery.”

Will Power

Power was visibly furious after his crash with Sato. Power said “What are we doing. It was pack racing. It was Las Vegas again. I’m just glad no one’s hurt. Exciting as it is, it’s insane. You can’t get away and gain massive track position. We don’t need another Vegas incident. It’s just a matter of time.”

Carpenter faulted lack of sufficient spotter information regarding the closeness of Castroneves. Newgarden had no place to go. Carpenter’s car retired. Newgarden’s crew beavered away to get him back out for points, but he only got four more laps before retiring.

Only one drive-thru penalty was assessed – Briscoe for avoidable contact in the incident where he drifted up into Castroneves, causing him to crash.

Jack Hawksworth

Jack Hawksworth

Four drivers will face Post Race Reviews for Pit Safety Violations: Montoya, Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda, and the two Dale Coyne Racing Hondas of Pippa Mann/No.18 and Tristan Vautier/No.19. Oren Trower, inside inside front tire changer, was transported by ground for further evaluation of his lower extremities injuries. He had been hit by Vautier during a Pit Stop. This is the third DCR crew member to be hurt this season, the other two injured at the Indianapolis 500 in an incident involving all three of the DCR drivers pitting simultaneously.

Graham Rahal

No penalty was assessed to Rahal for leaving his pit box with the fuel filler hose still attached, spewing fuel out the car and landing the filler cap on the ground. Race Control left that matter for post-race review. At the time, the team was quoted as saying “Human error mistake. no one on team assessing blame on that one.” Afterwards, Rahal said “Obviously, a penalty would have killed us. You know, Phil, my fueler, he’s being pretty hard on himself right now. I think he was concerned that we didn’t get in all the fuel that we needed to, which we did, and unfortunately he tried to kind of jam it back in there. But yeah, we were definitely lucky with that one. Unlucky but lucky because I went out of pit lane, and I was like, the frigging thing won’t shift. I mean, I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then I looked in the mirror, and I was, like, you’v got to be kidding me, not again, and then luckily it wasn’t in all the way, so when I kind of moved the car back and forth, it finally popped out

“But, I got called for blocking, and I don’t know who else did, but you know, it’s — unfortunately right ow, I mean, we’re being told to give room and stuff, but nobody is, and yet there’s no penalties for it. When I was starting to get pushed around, I don’t feel like it’s right to be pushed around, so I just started to push back, and that’s the kind of way it goes.”

On pack racing, Rahal said “I think it’s racing. We have taken ourselves to a place over the last few years to where we’ve reduced the downforce so far that we couldn’t even race. I don’t think it needed to be as close as it was today. Some of those guys sit and say it was easy today should have beat me then, because it wasn’t easy for me. Yes, it was the closest racing we’ve seen in a long, long time, but it was very different than the old pack racing style where it was just flat and you place it where you want. You still had to pick the best spot I think today we were very fortunate to be in the position that we were in.”

“The wake of a Honda is different than the wake of a Chevy. Have to think of a lot of different things. Chevy puts out a bigger wake, so it’s harder to follow. Honda puts out a cleaner wake.” Rahal was definite in his answer that nothing should be done about it. “One doesn’t need to be a penalty to make them equal.

“Today was the closest racing we’ve seen in a long time. Today we were very fortunate. Very lucky after that race, as TK was faster than was I. TK’s got enough wins, he can share one.” It’s been seven years since Rahal’s last victory.

“It’s a big deal for us. Glad for my Dad (who was in Watkins Glen with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW Team for the TUDOR race.) This feels good to win, for sure. It’s going to be fun tonight. We’re not a one-hit wonder. I don’t know if we can win it, but I think we can finish in the top five for points. We’re understaffed by a couple of people. No wind tunnel, only one shaker. We don’t have the resources others have.” “It’s ticked me off before watching other people win and how can they be so lucky. But I’ve already believed everything happens for a reason. And today was the day I got it. This is a big day for us. Honda has worked tirelessly for us to be in this place today. Honda hasn’t given up. They’re committed to making this thing better.”

Rookie Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins Curb Honda didn’t start with the field, joined after repairs and started last. He finished twentieth, the last car running, 13 laps down.

IndyCar’s Mark Robinson walked his 10K steps Saturday afternoon – back and forth to the Media Center Deadline Room to announce the various penalties, reviews, and stats.

UNOFFICIAL RACE RESULTS

1. (19) Graham Rahal, Honda, 250, Running
2. (6) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 250, Running
3. (3) Marco Andretti, Honda, 250, Running
4. (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 250, Running
5. (10) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 250, Running
6. (7) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 250, Running
7. (23) James Jakes, Honda, 250, Running
8. (13) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 250, Running
9. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 250, Running
10. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 250, Running
11. (11) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 250, Running
12. (21) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 250, Running
13. (22) Pippa Mann, Honda, 250, Running
14. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 250, Running
15. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 249, Contact
16. (16) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 249, Contact
17. (20) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 246, Running
18. (9) Takuma Sato, Honda, 241, Contact
19. (8) Will Power, Chevrolet, 241, Contact
20. (18) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 237, Running
21. (12) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 161, Contact
22. (4) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 157, Contact
23. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 1

Fastest Lap
Takuma Sato AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda 33.0027s 218.164mph on lap 229

Championship standings

Drivers
1. Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske 407pts
2. Will Power Team Penske 361pts
3. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 358pts
4. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan 334pts
5. Helio Castroneves Team Penske 330pts
6. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport 308pts
7. Sebastien Bourdais KV Racing Technology 290pts
8. Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing 285pts
9. Josef Newgarden CFH Racing 277pts
10. Simon Pagenaud Team Penske 256pts
11. Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing 248pts
12. Carlos Munoz Andretti Autosport 236pts
13. Takuma Sato AJ Foyt Enterprises 213pts
14. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport 210pts
15. James Jakes Schmidt Peterson 190pts
16. Gabby Chaves Bryan Herta Autosport 178pts
17. Jack Hawksworth AJ Foyt Enterprises 171pts
18. Luca Filippi CFH Racing 161pts
19. Stefano Coletti KV Racing Technology 140pts
20. James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson 129pts
21. Sage Karam Chip Ganassi Racing 126pts
22. Tristan Vautier Dale Coyne Racing 91pts
23. Conor Daly Dale Coyne Racing 81pts
24. Ryan Briscoe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 75pts
25. Simona de Silvestro Andretti Autosport 66pts
26. Sebastian Saavedra Chip Ganassi Racing 61pts
27. JR Hildebrand CFH Racing 57pts
28. Pippa Mann Dale Coyne Racing 46pts
29. Rodolfo Gonzalez Dale Coyne Racing 40pts
30. Francesco Dracone Dale Coyne Racing 38pts
31. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing 32pts
32. Carlos Huertas Dale Coyne Racing 31pts
33. Alex Tagliani AJ Foyt Enterprises 27pts
34. Ed Carpenter CFH Racing 27pts
35. Justin Wilson Andretti Autosport 25pts
36. Oriol Servia Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing 10pts
37. Bryan Clauson Jonathan Byrd’s Racing 10pts
38. James Davison Dale Coyne Racing 10pts
39. Buddy Lazier Lazier Partners Racing 0 pts