THE CAPTAIN WINS!

Roger Penske and the No.2 Newgarden Team

Roger Penske and the No.2 Newgarden Team, Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Verizon IndyCar Team Owner Roger Penske was a double winner Sunday at Sonoma Raceway’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, with the race winner Simon Pagenaud and 2017 Champion, Josef Newgarden. Pagenaud led the last 24 laps of the 85-lap race, with Newgarden hot on his heels. The crucial turning point of the race came on Lap 64 with the last lead change between Newgarden and Pagenaud, with the Frenchman coming out ahead. They raced hard after that stop. It was the eleventh career victory for Pagenaud, and his second straight win at Sonoma Raceway. His Margin of Victory was 1.0986 seconds. Pagenaud completed every single IndyCar race lap, the only driver to do so. He was cheered by his peers in the Sunday Drivers’ Meeting on his performance as the Defending Champion all year.

Simon Pagenaud, Race Winner

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Pagenaud had already depleted two-thirds of his Push to Pass, whereas Newgarden had only used three seconds of the allotted 150. Pagenaud kept Newgarden at bay, finishing with only 7 seconds PTP, while Newgarden never used any more. The Frenchman was on a mission from the get-go, turning the fastest time of 109.575 mph – 1:18.3576 on Lap 13. Pagenaud said “I would rather be hunted than in the hunt.”

Josef Newgarden, Champion

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Newgarden’s race strategy was called by Penske President, Tim Cindric, who kept coaching him to keep focused on the goal – the Championship. Newgarden did and finished second, to become the youngest Championship since the unified series. He and Pagenaud swapped the lead six times, each leading for 41 laps. Newgarden won by 13 points, in his 100th career start. Newgarden said “It’s too awesome.” And “It was hard not to win, but Tim kept coaching me to be smart.”

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden photos by Pablo & Nico Matamoros.

Finishing third through fifth were other contenders: Will Power/No.11 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Will Power

Power said “Obviously, you want to be the one that wins it, but it’s very tough these days, and you’ve got to have a very solid year to get it done, and when I look at this year, no one made mistakes. You see the top six there, top six or seven are the top six or seven almost every race. We had some ups and downs with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team, but it was a good year. We won some races and some poles. We’ll give it another go next year.”

Scott Dixon fueling

Scott Dixon fueling. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Dixon said “”It just seems like the No. 3 car covered us. Every time we short-pitted they followed us and he was just a massive roadblock. Once we got into clean air, we were able to make up ground, but every time we got into traffic we got real loose. Huge credit to everyone on the NTT Data crew obviously not the way we wanted to finish. A big congrats to Penske and Josef (Newgarden) on a job well done.”

Castroneves said “I’m always going to focus on the positive thing. The (Championship) P4 is not what it represents because we were in a battle a lot more years than that. And that’s what I look at. I look because each year that’s what kept me motivated to come back and push hard, and that for me was hard. But to keep up like I’ve been doing all these years, I think it’s the hardest thing to do. But it doesn’t just happen. It comes with a great team. It comes with great dedication from your guys, great trust, and obviously, myself to keep motivated, finding ways to keep pushing and having teammates like I have today, no question, helped me to become a better driver.”

The other championship contender, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda fell out of contention early on, after pitting with mechanical problems. The crew labored for 25 laps and got him back on track to finish in P21. “It was a pretty disappointing day, to have a mechanical issue after the first stop. I think we were in a pretty decent position to possibly get in the top five after our opening stint but it wasn’t meant to be today. A huge shout out to the NAPA Auto Parts team and the Andretti-Herta boys for the hard work back in the garage to get us back out there, we picked up another spot.”

There were only three leaders – Pagenaud, Newgarden and Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, who led once for three laps during leader pit stop rotations. He finished tenth. “I have to thank the boys for keeping faith in the strategy. It was a bold move to make the three-stop call.It was a good consistent race. It was tough – there were a lot of moments of flying through the air and banging wheels with people. It was wild, so I’m just happy to come back in one piece and have another consistent finish to end the year.”

The top Rookie was Israeli driver, Zachary Claman DeMelo/No.13 Paysafe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who finished 17th after starting 21st. “Jack Harvey and Tony Kanaan came together and they got stuck and slowed down a bit more than I anticipated. I just clipped Harvey, who was really close, and unfortunately, I broke the front wing which forced us to make an early pit stop. After that, the pace was really good. I ran with some quick guys like Will Power and Helio (Castroneves), and drove away from Helio. It was a good day. I learned a lot and want to thank Paysafe for the opportunity.”

Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud & Tim Cindric

Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud & Tim Cindric

All kinds of stats came with this caution-free race: Newgarden is the first American IndyCar Champion in five years, the youngest since the unified IndyCar. Newgarden finished with more Push to Pass remaining than any other driver, including those who retired. This was the fifteenth indycar Championship for Roger Penske, and his 197th indycar win. This was the first caution-free IndyCar race in Sonoma Raceway’s 14-year year history. This was the fifth Driver’s Championship for Chevrolet since joining IndyCar in 2012.

Simon Pagenaud.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Nico Matamoros

There wasn’t much in the way of incidents – some banging and blocking, and good racing. Pagenaud was teased about his shortcuts through the turf, and he joked that he wanted to try some dirt racing. There was only one penalty – Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing got a speeding ticket. Twelve of the 19 finishers were on the lead lap. Three retirements were due to mechanical problems.

It was announced during the broadcast that Tony Kanaan is going to AJ Foyt Racing next year. Musical Chairs begins.

Hinchcliffe didn’t have the best of luck this weekend, including the race. “After a good start, we made up a couple spots and then I was trying to set up someone going through Turn 3, and I guess Spencer (Pigot) just went for a gap that was closing and hit us, spun us out and put us to the back of the field and did some damage to the car. From there on it was tough just hanging on to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics machine. Like I said, we don’t give up, and we kept digging, trying to make up whatever spots we could, but ultimately some damage was done to the electronics on the car and the gearbox electronics stopped working so I was stuck in gear. Very unfortunate, but still a lot to be proud of this season.”

Rookie of the Year, Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda retired after 69 laps with technical failures.

Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda retired on Lap 62 with mechanical problems. Early on he had a shredded right rear tire which he nursed back to the pits.

American Flag Parachute Jump

The Push to Pass stats were interesting. Newgarden only used three, while Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber &Data Andretti Autosport Honda and Pigot used up theirs. Along with Pagenaud, other drivers with only seven seconds left were Chip Ganassi Racing Honda teammates, Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba.

UNOFFICIAL GOPRO OF SONOMA RACE RESULTS

POS Car# Driver Car Laps Status

1. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
3. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
5. (4) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
7. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
8. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
9. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
10. (13) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (15) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 85, Running
12. (14) Max Chilton, Honda, 85, Running
13. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
14. (20) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 84, Running
15. (22) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (12) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 84, Running
17. (21) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 84, Running
18. (19) Jack Harvey, Honda, 84, Running
19. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 69, Off Course
20. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 62, Off Course
21. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 60, Running
22. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 52, Electrical

Unofficial Points Standings:
Josef Newgarden 642
Simon Pagenaud 629
Scott Dixon 621
Helio Castroneves 598
Will Power 562
Graham Rahal 522
Alexander Rossi 494
Takuma Sato 441
Ryan Hunter-Reay 421
Tony Kanaan 403

First Lap

First Lap. Photo by Nico Matamoros

HERE’S TO THE KID!

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden and his No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet team gambled on red tire choices and won, taking his first Verizon Pole Position since 2015 and broke the qualifying track record with a blistering lap of 1:15.5205. He had run his sticker reds in the first qualifying round and took the pole on red “scuffs.” This stretches his points gap to four points ahead of closest contender, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda.

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Newgarden was so excited, he had to be reminded what he said when he was told he had the pole. “Are You Kidding Me?”

The pole position doesn’t change his attitude going into the race. “No, this is IndyCar racing. Anything can happen. So, we’ve checked one thing off the box this weekend. We’ve got one big one to check off tomorrow. And then, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll see where we end up at the end.”

It was a nail biter of a Firestone Fast Six, with the lead changing a couple of times between Newgarden and Castroneves. The Penske Posse prevailed for the top four: Newgarden, Will Power/No.11 Verizon, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi.

Fifth and sixth were Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda, the only non-contender in the Fast Six, and Dixon.

It was the tenth pole for Team Penske this season – the only team to win any poles in 2017. Now all Penske drivers have at least one 2017 pole on their respective resumes. All in all, Roger Penske’s team has 256 indycar pole positions, more than any other team.

The post-conference was brief and full of levity. While one driver would speak, the others closely perused the T&S monitor.

Penske Posse Paying Attention

Regarding his thoughts on the Championship, Newgarden said “You always think about it. If you tell me not to think about it, I’m going to think about it. So, it’s difficult to not envision it, but I think for us, we’ve got to get through the race. We’ve got to have a good race car. Qualifying is one thing. Having speed is one thing. Winning the race is a whole other deal. So, we’re going to work hard with this Team Penske group. We’ve got four guys very capable of getting it done. For the Captain and for everyone at the factory, we want to make sure one of these Team Penske cars wins the championship. So, that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Will Power

Power was asked how frustrating to be so close, three and a half hundredths off pole. “Yeah, well, I mean, you start going back through the lap in your head. I could have just hit the throttle a little earlier there, yeah. Would have helped me braking actually, push back.

Yeah, it’s tight. It’s just like that sometimes. I mean, gave it everything I got. That’s the situation.”

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud said “That was really close. I can’t be unhappy with the DXC Technology Chevrolet. I thought we had as good a chance as any at the pole, but Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) were a little bit faster. Third is not a bad starting position at all. We’ll be right there if they make a mistake and right there to apply some pressure. We’ll continue to work on the car this evening and tomorrow morning in final practice then put together our race strategy. We plan for it to be a great day for the No. 1 team, but expect it to be a great day for Team Penske.”

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves said “The talent of our group is incredible. Great job on Josef Newgarden winning the pole. Our team is really strong and we work really well together. It’s really exciting for Team Penske that we will start in the front tomorrow. I’d rather Josef get the pole and we get the victory. For us with the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, we wish we had a little more speed during qualifying. We have a great spot up front but wish we had a little more. It’s going to be quite a battle tomorrow with my teammates and Scott Dixon and we are ready for the challenge.”

Roger Penske

Roger Penske.Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Castroneves summed up the Penske Posse philosophy. “But in the end of the day, we still got to deliver this championship to Roger. We understand what we need to do. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

He elaborated. “Yeah, well, you know the top four today here is Team Penske. It made a lot of sense. We planned that at the beginning of the year. We’re surprised actually people did not decide to join Team Penske. I’m not sure how the rules were, if they’re allowed or not. But the point is, they were allowed, right? I don’t understand why.

“As mentioned, a hundred points (for winning race.) Team Penske, we’re throwing everything out there. We wanted this championship as bad as anybody. We do have a chance. We going to obviously try to execute. That’s our goal.

“So we did learn a lot, not only as qualifying but also as race pace. Certainly this place, the weather change quite a lot. So even that we came here, it was one way, but at least that day, we checked that box. We knew what to do. But it was a progress toward the entire weekend for us, to keep improving our cars. Today it showed very well in the qualifying. Now we got to continue finishing the rest of the job.”

Sato said “It was a fantastic feeling. Obviously, the fifth position isn’t pole position, but I think looking at the speed of the competitors, we achieved what we could do. I think certainly, the entire Andretti Autosport and No. 26 guys did a enormous, fantastic job so I’m really happy with them and we got it done all together.”

Scott Dixon

Dixon was philosophical after the session, in which it was down to the wire if he or Rahal would make the cut. “As a team, I think this is always one of our most difficult circuits that we come to. This morning, we made some good gains, but the conditions this afternoon, we just didn’t have the grip. It was kind of strange. The balance felt good. The car was kind of decent to drive, but just couldn’t carry the speed through the corners.

“Kind of interesting. We almost didn’t make group one. Then just squeaked through in Q2. Good to make it through to where we did. It was definitely hard work. A big credit to the team.

“Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there. I think in ’15 we started ninth when we won that race. Definitely you’d want to be a little further up. But that’s the way it goes.

“We’ll make the most of the starting position and see what tomorrow brings.

“We’ll just have to see how the car is on the long run. We always know that the Penskes are going to be strong here. The other manufacturer’s aero kit is going to be strong at this track. We know the deficits that we have. But we can still as a team overcome those, whether it’s strategy or a car on the long run that’s hopefully going to be good.”

His team owner, Chip Ganassi, said he wasn’t going to beat up Dixon.

Takuma Sato

GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA QUALIFYING

POS CAR# DRIVER CAR TIME SPEED

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5205 (113.691)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5556 (113.638)
3. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.6356 (113.518)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.8032 (113.267)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.2208 (112.646)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.3978 (112.385)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.1815 (112.705)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.1934 (112.687)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1968 (112.682)
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:16.5811 (112.116)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.8221 (111.765)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:16.9718 (111.547)
13. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:17.1016 (111.360)
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.7581 (111.858)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:17.1417 (111.302)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:16.9539 (111.573)
17. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.2662 (111.122)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:17.0231 (111.473)
19. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:17.2722 (111.114)
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:17.1602 (111.275)
21. (13) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 01:17.2814 (111.100)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:17.2507 (111.145)

PENSKE POSSE POWER PLUS DIXON

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The Penske Posse dominated yet again in the third and final practice for the Verizon Indy Car Series at Sonoma Raceway Saturday morning, with another contender – Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda splitting them up. In a run-up for qualifying for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 22 drivers ran 247 laps during the 45-minute session. There was almost no drama during the green-flag practice. I said almost. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing did a gentle spin early on, but no harm, no foul, and he continued to finish fifteenth for the session. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had a couple of spins – first in Turn 2 from which he recovered; and later, a spin in Turn 7 about two laps from the end of the practice with a mega tire burnout, and stall. Traffic got around. He was able to run eleven laps before his misstep. He finished seventeenth.

This time the Penske lads mixed up the order, with 2016 IndyCar Champion, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology Chevrolet leading the pack at 112.925 mph/1:16.0329. He was fastest on his third of his eight laps. Dixon pushed his nose into second place, 0.1125 seconds behind.

Third through fifth were Will Power/No.11 Verizon, Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi.

Sixth was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport, followed by Sato’s 2018 teammate, Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals/Soldiers Strong Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda, and Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, in his last race with Ganassi.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Of the top eleven, only Newgarden and Rahal drove ten or more laps. All the rest turned single digit laps. JR Hildebrand/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ran the most laps – 20.

Ed Jones

Jones has captured the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, the second Rookie for team owner, Dale Coyne. The previous driver was Alex Lloyd in 2010. Jones was the 2016 Indy Lights Champion which earned him three starts in the IndyCar Series. He has run the whole season with DCR and is hopes of continuing on next season. When pressed, Coyne was coy about how close was his brokering his 2018 driver lineup with Jones, but said “Just about. We’re very, very close. I would love to have Ed back next year, so..”

Ed Jones & Dale Coyne

Coyne said “When you take a rookie to his first test, you usually know right away what you’re going to get. That’s been pretty straightforward everywhere we go. Ed was that way. The biggest surprise with Ed was his race craft. When we got to the tracks, he’s never crashed this year, he’s had a couple little spins but never crashed. So that’s very welcomed on our team because we crashed plenty with the other car.”

Ed Jones. PM

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jones said it was difficult to pinpoint one specific thing Coyne told him in terms of best advice. “It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of advice that Dale’s given me. But, you know, he’s always been very supportive of learning everything step by step, learning from Seb (teammate, Sebastien Bourdais.) Every time I get to every weekend, even every session, I remember early on it was try to learn as much as you can, take it step by step, there’s no need to overdo it early on.”

Other IndyCar Rookies of the Year currently racing include Alexander Rossi/2016, Carlos Munoz/2014, Simon Pagenaud/2012, James Hinchcliffe/2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay/2007, Marco Andretti/2006 & Will Power/2006, Sebastien Bourdais/2003, and Scott Dixon/2001.

Jay Frye , Fred McConnell, Ed Jones and Dale Coyne

Jay Frye, IndyCar president of competition and operations; Fred McConnell, Sunoco Director of Fuels Marketing, Ed Jones, and Dale Coyne.

WINNING PRACTICE

Josef Newgarden. PM

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Friday afternoon the weather conditions were the closest they could be to replicating Saturday’s qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The temperature was 79 degrees F with 12 mph breezes. The skies were blue and all 22 drivers took to the track.

Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest driver, at 1:16.2485. This lap is unofficially under the official track record set by Penske teammate, Simon Pagenaud last year in the first round of Qualifying with a time of 1:16.2530. He was pushing the car to the limits and it paid off.

“You don’t get anything for winning practice, but it goes a long way to build confidence,” said Newgarden. He’s topped the first two practice sessions at Sonoma Raceway

Simon Pagenaud

Helio Castroneves

Will Power

Left to Right: Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, and Will Power. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Second through fourth were the other three Penske Posse drivers: Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi, and Will Power/No.11 Verizon. Power’s overall fourth place time was set in the morning. He might have gone faster, but he had a late-session spin on his alternative tires.

Josef Newgarden carrying Will Power

Newgarden & Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Two of the four Penske drivers are fighting physical ailments. Power showed up Thursday with a sore left leg incurred body surfing in Santa Cruz when he got knocked back by a wave. He can drive OK and even left brake. He just can’t walk easily, which is why Newgarden carried him into the Thursday Media briefing. Castroneves has a bad cold for which he’s being treated, gotten when he was fleeing Hurricane Irma and was trapped in the Atlanta humid, crowded airport for hours on end waiting out rescheduled flights.

Nine of the 22 drivers were faster in the morning practice, including Power.

Ryan Hunter-Reay NM

Scott Dixon NM

Marco Andretti. PM

Alexander Rossi. NM

Takuma Sato. NM

Graham Rahal. PM

Fifth through tenth were all four of the Andretti Autosport Honda drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL, Contender Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb, and Takuma Sato/No.26. Photos by Pablo & Nico Matamoros.

Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda in seventeenth place. The other Rookies were Jack Harvey/No.7 AutoNation Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in a dazzling purplish vinyl wrap; and Zachary Claman DeMelo/No.13 Paysafe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in twenty-first and twenty-second.

After the afternoon practice, the IndyCar teams had Pit Stop Practice.

Power's Pit Stop . NM

Power's Pit Stop. NM

Castroneves Pit Stop. NM

Pit Stop Signaler. NM

All Pit Stop Photos by Nico Matamoros.

FULL FRIDAY

Friday at Sonoma Raceway the day started early with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and World Challenge practice. The Verizon IndyCar Series had its first official practice at 10am local time. The drivers were slow to come out. The skies were partly cloudy with a listless breeze and temps in the low sixties.

Josef Newgarden. PM

Will Power. NM

Simon Pagenaud. PM

Penske Posse: Josef Newgarden No.2-Photo by Pablo Matamoros; Will Power No.11 Photo by Nico Matamoros; Simon Pagenaud No.1 Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest, at 112.390 mph/1:16.3950. He took the lead halfway through the session and never looked back. Second and third were his Penske teammates, Will Power/No.11 Verizon and Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology.

Fourth and fifth were Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 UNIFIN Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing teams Honda was sixth and the other contender, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was eighth.

Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Hondas were first out and fastest, until the field filled. Other leaders during the 45-minute session were Rossi, Power and Newgarden.

In the second test session Thursday afternoon, Pagenaud was fastest at 112.014 mph/1:16.6511, considerably faster than the cooler morning session. All of the 22 drivers posted faster times in the afternoon. Penske teammate and Points leader, Newgarden was ninth. Championship contender Dixon was sixth. The top Rookie, of three, was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in thirteenth position.

The only drama was late in the second test session. Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda went off in Turn 6. He wasn’t hurt, but the car was – substantial damage to the rear end. He ended his test and his crew went to work repairing the car. He was out Friday morning and ran 12th overall.

The day’s lone incident occurred when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato went off course in Turn 6, sustaining significant rear-end damage to the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda that ended his day about an hour before conclusion of the session. Sato was unhurt.

There seemingly are some new TV camera angles, making for interesting viewing. NBCSN will broadcast live the second Friday IndyCar Practice at 2pm PT/5pm ET; qualifying Saturday 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET; and the Sunday race on NBCSN and mathematical 360 in Canada at 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET. All sessions are live-streamed on IndyCar.com.

Zachary Claman DeMello

Rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo is racing for the first time at Sonoma Raceway. He’s taken an abbreviated trip up the motorsports ladder, going from Skip Barber to Indy Lights to IndyCar. His goal this weekend is to learn and prepare himself for next year. While he wouldn’t mind running another year in the Indy Lights Series, go for the championship and the IndyCar seat prize money, his goal is IndyCar itself.

DeMelo is finding Sonoma Raceway challenging, with its high speed corners and lots of braking. The IndyCar has more downforce and softer tires. He ran primary tires in the morning practice, and is looking forward to running the alternative reds in the afternoon.

The Rookie trained a lot for this race, so he’s not sore from Thursday’s test session and its higher G forces. He’s finding confidence in running with other cars. Having an experience teammate such as Graham Rahal is very helpful, especially in debriefs. It’s good having Rahal’s feedback.

The number 13 is special to DeMelo. It’s lucky. His grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, she was liberated on the 13th, and her tatooed arm numbers added up to 13.

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

Next year Andretti Autosport can boast being the only IndyCar team which has an all-American driver lineup – four drivers.And they’re all on multi-year contracts. This is the first time team owner Michael Andretti has had all his drivers lined up and signed by the last race of the season. “It will be a good Christmas.”

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

The newest addition, Zach Veach, came all the way up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with Andretti Autosport, and somehow, Andretti knew that someday Veach would be back racing with his team.

Veach and Andretti have a long-term sponsorship agreement with One Thousand And One – a family of insurance companies based in Indianapolis. Dan Towriss, CEO, joined Veach and Andrtti for a media conference. Towriss said “We met Zach earlier this year and we formed a relationship and really just quickly identified in Zach a lot of shared values that are important to us, and as that relationship grew and the opportunity came to be involved with Michael and with Andretti Autosport, we just saw a match there for us that was perfect. We loved the way Zach will represent our brand, and we think, again, those shared values will be key to that.” Towriss wouldn’t go into specifics, but has several plans of how the company plans to activate the sponsorship of the insurance company, which focuses on retirement insurances, but is interested in expanding its reach. He wants to make it more intuitive and accessible. “There also will be activation on the philanthropy side which will involve Zach and what he represents: kind of being able to be involved in communities. We want to do well as a business, but we also want to make sure we’re giving back into the communities where we work and live, and Zach is going to be a big part of that.”

This finale race will award double points – 100 to the winner. Bonus points include one for pole position, one for leading at least one lap, and two points for leading the most laps. The points possibilities charts for the six mathematical contenders are mind-boggling.

A second practice session is set for Friday afternoon, in conditions most replicating qualifying and race conditions. Saturday morning IndyCar has its last practice session, with qualifying Saturday afternoon.

Points Possibility Charts

MORE REUNION RACING

Laguna Seca 60 Years

The last day of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca started out as most with a heavy palpable layer of fog; but it was high enough so the racing started on schedule. The sun broke through at noon and the skies were clear and blue all afternoon, with a gentle breeze. Sunday’s races were for the seven B Groups. The schedule was shorter than the rest, as the weekend concludes with the traditional Awards Ceremony. Even the lunch break was shorter – so short the SFR SCCA volunteers had to have their lunches delivered to their stations.

Black Mercedes Shuttle Van

Everything is classier at the Rolex Reunion – even the Shuttle – a huge black Mercedes Benz Van.

Group 1B was for 1955-1962 GT Cars, with a field of 48. Forty-two ran the Rolex Race. Kevin Adair in No.171 1959 Austin Healey 3000 won the race and turned the best time of 1:52.0 on Lap Five of the nine-lap race. Ron Goodman from Australia was second driving No.23 1954 Porsche 356, followed by Wolfgang Friedrichs from Westphalia in No.51T 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT. Fourth and fifth were Ranson Webster in No.39 191 Porsche Abarth Carrera and Kaid Marouf in No.38 1960 Alfa Romeo SZ.

In the morning race, the order was Goodman, Jeffrey Abramson in No.145 Morgan Babydoll IV, Adair, Friedrichs and Webster. Forty of the 48 entries ran in the morning race.

Robyn & Dave Handy and No.44T Austin Mini Cooper station wagon

Dave Handy drove the family No.44T 1962 Austin Mini Cooper station wagon in 1B, finishing sixteenth in the Rolex Race after starting in P20. The car was originally purchased as a street car in the mid-eighties by Robert Pass, father of Mrs. Dave Handy, and converted to a race car while being tricked out as a promotional car for his company, Passport Transport. After Dad quite racing, the car was then sold and had a motorsports hiatus for 15 years. Then Robyn Pass Handy, Mrs. Handy, became nostalgic for the car and somehow through Facebook connected with the then-current owner at Watkins Glen last September. She indicated they would be interested in buying it back if the owner-now getting on in years- wanted to sell it. In November the owner said he’d sell, but Robyn, sadly, wasn’t able to get it at that point. But unbeknownst to her, hubby Dave bought it and gave it to her as a Valentine’s Day gift this year.

No.44T Passport Austin Mini Cooper Station Wagon

He’s racing it this weekend, but is used to racing bigger cars, so from here on out, Robyn will race it. And yes, that’s her name above the door, already. The Handys keep their race cars and their Sasco Sports race prep shop at Virginia International Raceway, and attend 30 races a year. They also run a non-profit “Vintage Racers for Rescues” to raise money for other non-profit pet rescue organizations.

And speaking of such organizations, Dean Case, who handles the PR for Mazda North America is a long-time advocate for MUTS and he uses motorsports to promote animal shelter adoptions. This weekend is “Clear Out The Shelters” weekend, hoping to adopt as many pets as possible. His promotion this event is for the benefit of the Monterey County SPCA shelter across the street from the Laguna Seca main gate. The fundraiser is the auctioning of four custom-designed race helmets donated by SPARCO. All the artists donated their talents, including Bill Patterson, who designed the Reunion Poster and Program Cover.

All the proceeds go to charity.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/spcaofmontereycounty/m.html?item=182717528886&ssPageName=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562

Group 2B was for 1958-1960 Formula Juniors – front engine and drum brakes. These were the older, smaller of the two groups of cars gathered at Laguna Seca to celebrate its 60th Anniversary. Twenty-five cars comprised the field for this group, coming from Australia, Denmark, England, New Zealand, and all points West. Twenty-one of the field made each race.

Mr & Mrs Ray Mallock

Mr & Mrs Ray Mallock

Chris Drake from England won both races, driving No.55 1961 Elva 300, and won by a good margin in the Rolex Race Sunday afternoon. But the fastest car in the group was the runner-up, Ray Mallock in his No.32 U2 Mallock Mk2. His best time was 1:46.8. Third place winner Joseph Colasacco in No.55 Stanuellini Formula Junior was the second fastest car in the race, with Drake third fastest. Mallock and Collasacco had a good dice in the beginning, with Mallock gridding ahead of Collasacco. They passed and repassed and Mallock held on for the rest of the race. They had the same sort of race in the morning, with a Safety Car bunching up the field. Collasacco was, accoding to Mallock, a bit over-eager on the re-start and tapped the rear of the British Racing green Mallock. It skidded Mallock a bit so he had to play catch-up and repass for second position. After the race Mallock had cosmetic damage to repair. The Mallock race cars are still being built in England by Ray’s brother, Richard.

Twenty-one of the 24-car field raced, same as in the morning’s race. The finishing order for the top three was the same for both races.

Group 3B was for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc. This was the largest field, with 51 entries, with 43 running the races.

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

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

Patrick Long, the only American Porsche factory driver, won the race in Ron Benjamin’s No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T.R, and by a country mile. His fastest lap was 1:43.763 on Lap 7. Second was Michael Malone in No.37 1965 Lotus 26R, followed by Dalmo De Vasconcelos in No.185 1965 Lotgus Elan, Dennis Kazmerowski in No.199 1964 Ginetta G4 and Patrick Byrne in No.162 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa.

Patrick Long & Gunnar Jeannette

Patrick Long & Gunnar Jeannette

Long’s car has an impressive resume, with wins in the 1975 24 Hours of Daytona and 1979 12 Hours of Sebring – both in the GTU Class. Two Class runner-ups, 1969 Daytona 24 Hour and 1971 Sebring 12 Hours.

Among those who didn’t run was professional racer, Gunnar Jeannette in No.67 1964 Abarth Simca 2 Mila Corsa. He was also entered in two other races.

Dr. Lee Talbot & Ginetta

Another driver of note in the field was 87-year old Dr. Lee Talbot, who raced a MGA in the first-ever raceat Laguna Seca in 1957. This weekend he’s racing his No.62 1967 Ginetta G4, whom he calls “Ginetta.” This is the first time she has been out West. Talbot towed her himself all the way from McLean VA. He has been racing for 69 years. Talbot ran sprint cars for a couple of years back in the day, before he turned to SCCA road racing. He’s enjoyed both Laguna Seca course configurations, and said at the time he drove the first Laguna Seca road races, that it was the best course in the North. It was a real road course. At that point SCCA was running airport circuits, such as Cotati and Vaca Ville, Stockton and Crows Landing. This current configuration is very much different, but it is safe and much more technical. The width is wider, and the camber has changed. It has many turns. He likes it.

IMG_0450

Dr. Lee Talbot in No.62 Ginetta

Talbot Crew Shirt

Talbot has raced on four continents including rallyes in Africa. Among his racing honors are 1969 SVRA Driver of the Year, and he’s a member of Road Racing Drivers Club, an honorary invitational driver’s club, whose current president, Bobby Rahal, is on site this weekend as a spectator.

Group 4B was for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. It was another large field, with 46 entries and 41 starters for the Rolex Race.

Lorne Leibel won both Sunday races in No.96 1965 Cobra AC, but second and third places were reversed from morning to afternoon. Thomas Steuer in No.75 was second in the Rolex Race driving No.75 1965 Chevrolet Corvette, followed by Kyle Kelley in No.32 1966 Chevrolet Corvette. In the morning it was Kelley and Steuer. Fourth and fifth in both races were claimed by Jeffrey Abramson in No.5 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster and Bill Ockerlund in No.98 1963 Shelby Cobra.

Steuer was the fastest driver with a lap of 1:40.7.

Kyle Kelly in No.32 1966 Chevrolet Corvette

John Morton in No.74 1964 sunbeam Tiger

Mike Joy in No.89 1966 Ford Mustang

Left to right: Mike Joy, John Morton & Kyle Kelley.

Veteran racer, John Morton, drove Buck Tripel’s No.74 1964 Sunbeam Tiger to eleventh place, David battling many Goliaths. TV Broadcaster, Mike Joy, drove Ken Epsman’s No.89 1966 Ford Mustang, and finished twenty-fourth, on the lead lap of ten.

Among those who DNS were Chris MacAllister in No.146 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 and Dyke Ridgley in No.86 1963 Jaguar Lightweight XK-E. Both drivers are in multiple events.

Group 5B was the newer, faster Formula Juniors – 1961-1963 with disc brakes. The field numbered 39, with 34 starting the Rolex Race. Ten drivers came from overseas, including Australia, England, Nuevo Leon, Scotland, US Virgin Islands, as well as the US. Major kudos go to Karol Andrews who facilitated the organizing of the FJ gathering. She was always too busy to have time for an interview. My loss.

Several of the (local) FJ drivers also race historic Formula One cars and have extensive track time at Laguna Seca. It certainly helped.

Pole sitter Timothy de Silva, driving his No.10 Gemini MkIV was fastest in three of the four sessions and led for the first seven laps until he experienced what could have been suspension problems, and he limped around to the pits and retired. The crew tried shaking the car, to no avail. Danny Baker had been charging through the field from his fifth grid spot, to take the lead on Lap Eight in his No.36 1963 Lotus 27. Hot on his heels was Art Hebert in his silver No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A, turning fastest laps. His Lap 5 time of 1:39.6 held to be the best 5A lap of the day.

Art Hebert No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A

Art Hebert No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A

Baker and Hebert finished 1-2, with Mark Shaw from Scotland drove is No.77 1963 Brabham BT6 to third. Fourth and fifth were Andrew Hibberd in No.272 1963 Lotus 27 and Joseph Colasacco in No.30 1962 Stanguellini Delfino FJ.

In the morning race, de Silva won, with ibberd as runner-up. Third was Robert Hoemke in No.4 1962 Cooper 59, with Shaw and Baker in fourth and fifth. Thirty-five drivers started the race.

Group 6B was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc. The field was 37 strong, with 27 starters for the Rolex Race, and nine DNS.

Cameron Healy won both races Sunday, in his No.55 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper. He also had the fastest race lap of 1:50.7 on the last lap of the nine. Second and third in both races were Jeff Mincheff in No.52 1956 Lotus Eleven and Thor Johnson in No.99 1959 Lotus 17.

In the morning race, there were 31 starters and six DNS.

Start of 7B Race

Group 7B for 1973-1991 IMSA GTu, GTo/Trans AM Cars. Ground Pounders one and all. And fast! They turned the fastest times of the day.

Bill Ockerlund won the race in his No.33 1991 Chevrolet Duracell Camaro, and turned the fastest time of the race and the day at 1:31.4 on Lap eight of the ten-lap race. Finishing second was Joel Miller in the ear-splitting No.62 1991 Mazda RC-7. Third was Ken Epsman in his No.53 1984 Pontiac Firebird, a car first raced by Bill Doyle in the original Trans-Am Series.

Those same three finished in the morning race, in a different order: Miller won, followed by Ockerlund and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Keith Frieser from Canada in No.63T 1984 Mercury Capri, and Kenneth Davis in No.8 1985 Roush Mercury Capri.

The day ended in bright sunshine, as it did all six days of the Reunions. A far cry from the early morning fog experienced some of the days. But – it didn’t stay.

Foggy Morning at Laguna Seca

The 2018 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will be one week later, to accommodate the PGA Tournament. So mark your calendars for 23-26 August 2018. And stay tuned for the featured marque. “It took two hours to decide and now it will take Legal two weeks to clear.” The Formula 5000 cars will be back. And the 2nd Annual Spring Classic will be back 18-20 May 2018. And the Porsche Rennsport has already been announced for 27-30 September 2018. So plan now. See you there!

REUNION RACING

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Foggy Friday. The deep fog enveloped Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the start of the morning Group A Races at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. There was line-of-sight between the Turn Stations so it was safe to race, but it was cold, palpable fog. The sun didn’t appear until noon, and then it shone on all the many and varied activities.

The eight Group A races were run in chronological order, as there were no sound limits for the weekend. The morning races set the grids for the afternoon Rolex Races.

Group 1A No.37 Luca Maciucescu 1934 Ford Granite State Special & No.18 Brian Blain 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special

Luca Maciucescu No.37 & Brian Blain No.18

Group 1A was for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & Touring Cars. These cars were really old, dating back to 1911 and up through 1935.

In the Rolex Race, Luca Maciucescu, who gridded third, won in his No.37 1934 Ford Granite State Special after a hard-fought battle with pole sitter, Brian Blain in No.18 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special. Finishing third was Rick Rawlins in No.11 1926 Bugatti 37A. Maciucescu turned the fastest race lap time of 2:15.6 on Lap Five.

The oldest car was driven by Charles Test. He ran a best time of 2:52.8 in his 1911 No.19 National Speedway Roadster. The youngest cars were two 1935 Rileys. Richard Jeffery drove No.117A Riley Special Brooklands and Greg Powell drove No.16. Riley-Ford Single SeatChamp car. Sixteen drivers of the 20 entries ran the race.

In the morning race, Blain won, ahead of Rawlins and Maciucescu. Fourteen drivers ran the race.

Group 2A was for 1927-1951 Racing Cars.

Paddins Dowling won the Rolex Race in No.7 1934 ERA R2A, from the pole position after winning the morning race. Runner-up was Hans Hugenholtz in No.26 1950 Talbot T26C, who hadn’t run the morning race. Third was Charles McCabe in No.6A ERA R6B. Dowling had the fastest time of 1:58.1, on the final lap of the eight-lap race. Eight drivers DNS, including Derek Hill, son of F1 World Champion, Phil Hill, who was to drie No.51 1931 Bugatti Type 51.; and Alain de Cadenet of London, who is also part of the CBS TV Reunion telecast. He was to have driven No.106 1936 Alfa Romeo 8C.

In the morning race, Chris MacAllister came in second, behind Dowling, in his 1938 ERA 14B. That made up for not starting the morning race. Third finisher was Peter Giddings in his familiar No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza.

Group 3A was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc.

Dyke Ridgley drove his 1960 Chaparral I to victory in the Rolex Race, and turned the best time of 1:43.2 on Lap five of the ten-lap race. He finished second in the morning race. Greg Meyer came in second in No.84 1959 Sadler MkIV. They ran close together. Charging hard to catch them was David Swig in No.16 Scarab MkI. His best time was second fastest of the race – 1:44.1. Fifteen drivers ran and all finished the race. Five drivers DNS including Dominic Dobson in No.60 Cooper Monaco MkIIII.

Between races, Swig received from Executive Director Mark Gessler of the Historic Vehicle Association – on behalf of the Scarab – the beautiful glass bowl which signified the Scarab had been accepted into the HVA Registry. Each year at the Reunion it selects/honors an important car. Last year it was a Cobra. This car is owned by Dyke Ridgley.

David Swig and Scarab Trophy

Vintage Registry Trophy

David Swig & Scarab Owner

1958 Scarab MkI

David Swig and Scarab

1958 Scarab MkI

Race Group 4A was for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars.

This was a large group, with 48 entries, of which 41 ran.

Local driver Bruce Canepa won the Rolex Race after failing to finish in the morning race. He was driving his fast No.12 1979 Porsche 935, which turned the fastest time of 1:32.3 on Lap four on the ten-lap race. Second was Kiel Hogan in No.24 1976 Dekon Monza, one of three in the race. Not often one sees that many such cars in the same place at the same time. Finishing third was Cooper MacNeil in No.0 1980 Porsche 935.

Canepa owns a large restoration facility nearby in Scotts Valley in which he houses his collection of historic vehicles. He also hosts a monthly Cars and Coffee event which is so well-attended that local volunteer college students staff it.

Fourth and fifth were Ken Epsman in No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and Zak Brown in No.18 1981 Porsche 935.

Adam Corolla finished 16th in his No.70 1979 Porsche 935, and 19th in the morning race.

Sat AM Race 4A photo finish

In the morning race, two Porsches proved yet again you don’t have to win or be in front to have an exciting race and photo finish. Mid-pack, Alan Benjamin in No.61 1975 Porsche 3.0 Carrera RSR and Cameron Healy in No.11 1977 Porsche 911 Carerra RSR finished neck and neck, in positions 21 and 22.

MacNeil won the morning race, followed by Gunnar Jeannette driving No.28 1977 Porsche 934.5 and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Hogan and Brown. Forty-five drivers started that race with three DNS.

Also in the morning race, three fast drivers DNF’d after two laps – Canepa, Mike Thurlow in the boldly colorful No.53 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, and Charles Nearburg in his No.70T 1980 Porsche 935 K3; with Thurlow and Nearburg among non-starters for the Rolex Race.

Don Zurlinden No.25 Tatum-GMC Special

Don Zurlinden & No.25 Tatum-GMC Special

Race 5A was another large group, for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars. Many of these cars used to race in the Del Monte Forest before the opening of Laguna Seca. Most of the Group’s cars are in Row Q at the Reunion, and most of them will still be there Sunday. Several, including four owned by Rob Manson, will be showing at the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday, including the winner of both races – Dave Zurlinden of Monterey CA. He drove Rob Manson’s 1953 Tatum-GMC Special (with car body by Hagemann) to victory in both races, and turned the fastest time of 1:50.4 on Lap Four of the nine-lap race. Second in the Rolex Race was Dyke Ridgley in No.17 1953 Jaguar C-Type, with John Buddenbaum in No.3 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special, which also will be showing at Pebble Beach. They all finished in that order for the morning race also.

Fourth and fifth were local driver, Don Pepperdene in No.77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special and Marcus Bicknell from the United Kingdom in No.15 1952 Streets Manning Special.

Thirty-seven drivers started the race, with seven DNS, including Joe Huffaker in No.77 1955 MG TF 1500, who had mechanical problems after the first lap of the morning race, Bruce McCaw in No.65 1961 Austin Healey Sebring Sprite and Manson in No.9C 1953 Kurtis 500S, who didn’t run the morning race either.

Finishing fourth and fifth in the morning race were Bernard Juchli in No.86 1955 Jaguar Hagemann Special and Don Pepperdene in No77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special.

Young Timothy de Silva is one of a new generation of vintage racers. The college student won his two races last weekend at the Pre-Reunion. I mistakenly wrote that he didn’t run the second of the Formula Junior races (as his car broke.) But what I didn’t know, and neither did Timing and Scoring, was that Scott Drnek offered up his 1963 Brabham BT6 for de Silva to drive. Timothy started ninth in Group Nine for FJ’s with disc brakes – the faster cars. He won the race.

This weekend, deSilva was fastest in all four of his sessions for Group 6A – 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. He won the Rolex Race and was nearly three seconds faster than the next closest car, driving No.25 1978 Osella PA8. Runner-up was Cal Meeker from British Columbia, driving No.115 1973 Lola T294. Third was Andre Lara Resende i o.126 1978 Chevron B36. Eighteen cars started the race, with three DNS including Mike Thurlow, who finished second to de Silva in the morning race. Thurlow drove No.4 1973 Lola T294. Nearly all drivers ran their fastest time on Lap Seven.

Meeker was third in the morning race., which had nineteen starters and two DNS.

Group 7A was for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars. There was a nice turnout of 34 cars, plus the seven DNS.

Chris MacAllister won from the pole position in No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage, and was four and a half seconds faster than the runnerup, Cameron Healey in No.20 1970 Porsche 908/3. Third was Richard Dean of England in No.46 1970 Chevron B16.

Fourth and fifth were Gray Gregory in No.44 1970 Chevron B16 and Bob Kullas in No.23 1969 Chevron B16.

In the morning race, the finishing order was MacAllister, Healey, Gregory, Kullas and Dean.

Scott Barrett & No.53 1965 Koch Special

One of the drivers who didn’t run Saturday afternoon was Scott Barrett of Texas. He drove his No.53 1965 Koch Chevy Special in the morning race. The car was built by Wayne Koch, with a 440 hp, 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder Chevy engine, with Porsche 356 rear end. Back in the day it ran a lot of races, including the American Road Race of Championships. Koch won the ARRC DMod class his first year. After that the class became DSR and was a larger, more inclusive class and the Koch Special was not as competitive. Barrett has had the car for nearly four years and completely rebuilt it, saying it’s ‘awesome.”. At the Reunion he runs with the larger FIA Cars, in what he calls a “most diverse class”

Group 8A was the smallest run group all day, with 11 starters in the 19-car field. This group of 1981-1991 IMSA GTP Cars were the fastest all days. Winner Charles Nearburg in his No.99 AAR Eagle MkIII GTP ran a lap of 1:23.9, two seconds faster than runner-up Jonathan Bomarito in his No.202 1989 Mazda 767-B, who didn’t run the morning race. Third was Wade Carter in No.68 1984 Porsche 962. The DNS list for the afternoon was impressive, including Bruce Canepa, who only ran two laps in the morning race in his No.10 1986 Porsche 962; and Zak Brown, who finished third in the morning race, driving No.16 1986 Porsche 962. He won both his Pre-Reunion races in that car last weekend.

The McLaren M23 Formula One car, driven by former F1 driver, Mika Hakkinen, in Exhibition Laps Friday and Saturday, is being packed up and crated for its trip back to the UK. This was the first Hakkinen had driven on the 2.238-mile elevated road course. He found the braking zones required a lot of skill, and The Corkscrew was challenging. He thought German Touring Cars at Laguna Seca would be fun, but it was a long way from Germany.

McLaren M23 F1 Car in Turn 11

McLaren M23 F1

Freight-Prepping McLaren M23 F1 Car

Laguna Seca Sunset

FOGGY MOUNTAIN SHAKEDOWN

Foggy Start

It started out foggy at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Day One of the annual Pre-Reunion races. The fog-delay was short-lived and the cars took to the track only 15 minutes late. The sun came out mid-morning and remained for the rest of the day, with just the smallest of wispiest clouds dotting the skies. The weather was breezy, warm in the sun and chilly in the shade. All in all, a beautiful day for racing. The fog didn’t start rolling back in until the last race, which started after 5pm.

One of the nice things about vintage racing is that the paper work comes out quickly. The practice/qualifying and Saturday race results don’t show times, just positions, and race results come out right away, as there are no protests. The Sunday results will show times.

The Pre-Reunion event has ten groups of cars with 309 entries, ranging from 1949 Sports Racing and GT Cars all the way up to 1991 FIA and IMSA cars. This is the run-up to the 8th Annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which will feature three anniversaries including the 60th for Formula Juniors, 60th for Laguna Seca as a race track, and 70th for Ferrari. Lots of history there! Mobile Museums on an iconic circuit.

There was a nice turnout of anniversary Formula Juniors at Pre-Reunion, which comprise two of the ten race groups – Group Four for 1958-1960 with drum brakes and front engines, and Group Nine for 1961-1963 with disc brakes.They came from far and wide, including Australia, Denmark, England, Scotland and all over the United States, totaling 48 cars.

Saturday morning was practice sessions, with races in the afternoon. It was a busy day from 8am until 5:30pm. The Pace Car/Safety Car driver got as many laps as some of the race cars. One car spun out on the Pace Lap and hit the wall in Turn Eleven. The driver wasn’t hurt, but the same couldn’t be said for the car. For this event there are two roll-back/flat bed tow trucks. All of the San Francisco Region Sports Car Club of America volunteer Emergency Crew and Course Marshal Crew worked long and hard retrieving historic cars which suffered from spins or a variety of mechanical woes. Many involved leaking fluids, and the Course Marshals put the sweeper truck to good use. More than 20 bags of oil dry/grease sweep were used Saturday.

Zak Brown #18 Porsche 935

Zak Brown’s #18 Porsche 935

Race Six saw the Safety Car come out after the first lap for a car which didn’t negotiate the front straight. Mike Thurlow, the pole sitter in his 1976 Corvette retired in Turn Six with mechanical problems. The race was ultimately won by local driver, Bruce Canepa in his 1979 Porsche 935, who gridded second. He was followed by Zak Brown of England in his blue with yellow 1981 Porsche 935, originally raced by Rolf Stommelen. Yes, that Zak Brown, now of McLaren. He said afterwards he always loves coming to Laguna Seca. He flies all of his team’s cars from England. They all will be back next weekend, and can be found in the small garages fronting the Pit Lane. And NO, contrary to all the Internet rumors, Brown and his F1 driver Fernando Alonso will not be skipping the Singapore F1 race to compete in the season’s finale IndyCar race at Sonoma Raceway.

Richard Dean No.46 1970 Chevron B16

Richard Dean’s No.46 1970 Chevron B16

Zak Brown No.16 1986 Porsche 962

Zak Brown’s No.16 1986 Porsche 962

Brown also ran in Group Ten, starting on pole position with his No.16 1986 Porsche 962. He led flag to flag in the ground-pounding field of 1981-1991 FIA and IMSA GTO & GTP cars. They were as fast as they were loud, with the Zoom-Zoom radar gun in Turn One recording a high of 141 mph. Finishing second was Bill Okerlund in his No.33 1991 Chevrolet Camaro and Kenneth Davis in No.8 1985 Roush Capri. Some of the cars looked like old Trans-Am cars, including Ken Epsman’s No.53 1984 Pontiac Firebird, which had originally been raced by Bill Doyle with its famous teal and yellow Caterpillar livery, which the crew also wears. Epsman started and finished sixth.

Richard Dean ran Brown’s No.46 1970 Chevron B16 in Group Eight, finishing fourth. Keith Frieser from Alberta, Canada won that race in his No.27 1972 Lola T290. This group is the 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. Fellow Canadian Cal Meeker finished second in No.115 1973 Lola T294, followed by Mike Thurlow of California in No.4 1973 Lola T294.

Harindra & Timothy de Silva

Harindra & Timothy de Silva

Group Nine for the later Formula Jr cars, with disc brakes, was a lively group with drivers well known in vintage circles. There were two father-son combo. One was the de Silvas, who each also race locally at Laguna in SCCA – Timothy de Silva in No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV, who won the Formula Continental race two weeks ago and his father, Harindra de Silva in No.96 1963 Huffaker Mk3A. The other was the Bakers, Danny the son and Bob the father.

Timothy de Silva No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV Formula Junior

Timothy de Silva’s No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV Formula Junior

Art Hebert had the pole position in his silver No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A FJ, but he spun in the Turn Three oil dry on the first lap, and then played catchup for the rest of the race. Danny Baker, who had gridded eleventh in his No.36 1963 Lotus 27 FJ had charged to first by Lap Two. Timothy de Silva was close on his heels in second place, and eventually caught Baker and Joseph Colasacco in his No.30 1962 Stanguellini Delfino FJ. The young de Silva won, followed by Baker and Colasacco. Hebert finished ninth in a field of 31 FJs.

Some of the FJ drivers are also owners/drivers of historic Formula One Cars, which aren’t running this weekend. They include Dr. Nick Colyvas in his 1962 Lotus 22, finishing eighth; Chris Locke, who drove his F1 car in the movie ‘Rush’ finished eleventh Saturday in his 1963 Lotus 27; Bob Baker in his 1963 Lola Mk5A; and John Anderson in his 1961 Cooper T56.

According to the Zoom-Zoom scoring on the Start-Finish Bridge, the second wave of FJ’s were faster than the leaders, clocking upwards of 114 mph going over the hill in Turn One.

Sunday’s schedule calls for more morning practice, and Sunday afternoon races, with the grid set by the finishing positions in Saturday’s races.

The Run Groups for this weekend are:
1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars
1955-1962 GT Cars
1955-1961 Sports Racing cars under & over 2000cc
1958-1960 Formula Junior – front engine & drum brake cars
1961-1963 Formula Junior – disc brakes
1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc
1963-1966 GT cars over 2500cc
1970-1984 Sports Racing cars under 2100cc
1973-1981 FIA, IMSA, GT, GTX, AAGT
1981-1991 FIA / IMSA GTO, GTP

One of the highlights for me at the Reunion events is all the eye candy, and I don’t just mean the race entries.Back in 2000 Gill Campbell, now SCRAMP Senior Vice President of Event Operations, determined that the paddock was too full of generic rental cars parked with the race cars, and felt an upgrade was in keeping with the event. Special Parking Passes were issued for Classic Cars, which weren’t competing. And the idea grew. Now there aren’t many modern-era cars seen anywhere in the large sprawling paddock, but there certainly are some interesting, intriguing, unusual and flat-out gorgeous vehicles interspersed everywhere.

Take a look at just a small sampling.

Wolfe

Mini Convertible

Old Jag

Ferrari Testarosa

Figaro

Lancia Rallye Car

I Ain't No Balloon Foot"

HAPPY HARVICK!

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Kevin Harvick aka Happy Harvick, made it two for two in winning races this weekend, putting his No.4 Mobil 1 Ford in Victory Circle Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. He won the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Harvick was the 11th winner in the 16 Cup races so far.

Harvick, the California Kid, had never won a Cup race at Sonoma, the Cup track he considers ‘home.’ His team owner, Tony Stewart, won the race last year. This year, the Stewart Haas, owned by Stewart and Gene Haas, team switched to Ford.

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

“It’s been a lotta work, a lotta hours, and it’s paying off. This is worth the wait, to come to Sonoma for so many years. This weekend has worked out well.

“It means a ton to get this Sonoma win. To finally check this one off the list. I feel like we have been close a couple times but never put it all together. Being so close to home and having raced here so much, this was one that was on the top of the list and today we were able to check that box.”

Harvick hadn’t won a race this year, so this was his first win of the season, his 36th career victory, and his first win since his team switched to Ford for this season. The team has won twice, the other victory belonging to Kurt Busch. Ford has won seven races this season. Harvick’s win brings him up to third in the Driver points.

Kevin Harvick No.4 Ford

Photo by Mike Burghardt

As race wore down, Harvick was slowing down to save fuel, but still maintaining a healthy lead ahead of contending SHR teammate,Clint Bowyer. Harvick led twice in the race, laps 65-66 and the last 21 laps.

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer

Harvick beat Bowyer by 8.036 seconds. Harvick had slowed his pace to save on fuel, gambling on there being no late-race caution. Bowyer had some interactions with a couple of other drivers, but hung in there to finish runner-up. “You get there back in traffic and you’re so much faster than them you have to check up to save a mistake. You run over them and you don’t mean to; you get frustrated and get a little bit farther behind and a little bit farther behind. I saw the 42 (Kyle Larson) check up and I get into him and I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ll both survive this’. And then all of a sudden the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) was coming through him and I smoked him and hurt the left front. We were fast all weekend. With clean air and an long run, that’s always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just had to start dead last to get it.”

Cars 3

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Clint Bowyer No.14 FordBowyer had the CARS 3 racecar this weekend. For those who need more encouragement to go see the movie just out, which features substantial voiceovers from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, here is another photo of the Pixar CARS.

SHR Team: Crew Chief, Rodney Childers; Co-Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas

SHR Team: Crew Chief, Rodney Childers; Co-Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas

Third through fifth were Brad Keselowski/No.2 Freightliner Elite Support Ford; Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota; and Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota.

Dale Earnhardt No.88 Chevrolet

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran as high as third, but finished sixth overall. He was asked what stood out for him in his 17-race career, making him the most proud. “I think the wins and everything, are great. I enjoyed celebrating those. But, long after your career; guys come along and win races and some of your accomplishments on the track sort of get forgotten. But, who you are as a person never gets forgotten. People never forget who you were. I hope people just thought I was good and honest and represented the sport well. I hope people that work with me enjoyed working with me, whether it was in the Late Model ranks or whatever; and I hope the guys I raced against enjoyed racing with me. That’s really all that will matter. And, what people I think will remember, is always you’re alive and beyond. Hopefully I left a good impression. I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Kyle Larson

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Pole Sitter Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet led for the first nine laps before being passed by Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota. He then ran off course and fell backwards. Larson won four different races in the past week, but was lapped in the fading moments of the Cup race. He finished twenty-sixth. However, Larson maintain his points lead, 659 points, thirteen ahead of Truex.

Daniel Suarez/No.19 Stanley Toyota was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth.

Harvick won Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race, and said then, and now, that he wanted to keep busy on weekends, wanted to get more laps on a road course, and definitely wanted to bring more attention to and work with the Western series to help them get more attention and sponsorship. The Western drivers sometimes don’t get equal representation or focus as do the Eastern series, and Harvick wants to change that.

Martin-Truex

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota won the first Stage, making it the eleventh stage he’s won this season, which helps him points wise. With two wins and 11 stages, he has 21 Playoff Points, more than any other Cup driver. His day didn’t end so well, however, as his engine failed and he retired on Lap 86.

Jimmie Johnson/No48 Lowe’s Chevrolet won Stage Two, his first. He already has two victories, so he’s in the Playoffs.

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick/No.10 Code 3 Associates Ford had a character-building race. She had her best start this season, sixth. Patrick had contact with Earnhardt in the first stage, and finished thirty-seventh. That brought out a caution to rearrange the tire stacks. She started Stage Two from twentieth, and had another contact with Earnhardt which included AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger Chevrolet, which spun her wherein she was then hit by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr/No.17 Fastenal Ford. Patrick finished that stage in 34th. She started Stage Three from eighteenth spot and finished 17th, on the lead lap. “It definitely wasn’t the day the Code 3 Associates team was expecting, but we were able to battle back to a decent finish. The car was just awful in the final laps of the last two runs, but we made the most of it at the end.” Her boyfriend, Stenhouse, was evaluated and released from the infield care center.

Also into character-building was Allmendinger. He started fifth, led for four laps and then had encounters and excursions. He then lost power and finished thirty-fifth, six laps down. “I don’t know what happened there. I just noticed what was going to be our final pit stop I kind of looked down and just noticed the battery starting to die. From there that was it. Shutting all the switches off and everything wasn’t going to work. I’m mad at myself for not driving very well. The car was pretty good. That first stint was good. The No. 78 (Martin Truex) was pretty good, but thought we were going to be okay. I just didn’t drive very well and just bad luck again.”

Kasey Kahne/No.5 Microsoft Windows Chevrolet hit the wall hard on the last lap which brought out a caution but didn’t affect Harvick taking the victory. Kahne finished twenty-fourth, one lap down. He was evaluated and released from the infield care center. “It was a hard hit. No. 15 no clue who he is, I saw him a lot today lapping him, but he went low down the front stretch and then just, I was going to his outside and he just turned right and just hit me, put me straight in the wall getting the white flag there. No clue what he was thinking. You obviously don’t know what he’s doing either.”

There were ten leaders and thirteen lead changes. Other leaders were Truex three times for 25 laps; Hamlin twice for thirteen laps; Keselowski once for 17 laps; Johnson once for 12 laps; Kyle Busch once for three laps; JTG Daughtery Chevrolet teammates, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger and Chris Buescher/No.37 Kingsford, each once for four laps; and Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, once for a lap. McMurray also turned the fastest lap

Harvick Cup Banner

As the race progressed, the average race speed increased to 77.710 mph, but never reached last year’s average of 80.966 mph. The three-stage race was interrupted by six cautions for 12 laps, but none for the third and final stage – 60 laps.

There were several speeding tickets, including Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Joey Logano.

Other penalties included too many crew over wall or over wall too soon or not in contact with outside tire, and pitting before pit road open.

Post Race Tech Inspection Report: First and second place cars plus the random car, No.1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and left for the NASCAR R&D Facility in Charlotte. The third, fourth and fifth place finishing cars passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and were released. NASCAR Tech had an issue with the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota having two lug nuts not safe and secure. This means a one-race suspension for the Crew Chief and a $20,000 fine. The Kyle Busch team is already serving a Crew Chief suspension for having five lug nuts not safe and secure leaving the pits at Dover. That wheel left the car. At Sonoma, the No.18 Assistant Crew Chief was filling in. Now the No.18 team will go to the next backup Crew Chief.

The next race is 1 July 2017 at Daytona International Speedway.

Stage Three Restart!

SONOMA SUNDAY

Sunday morning at Sonoma Raceway was overcast and downright chilly. But the enthusiastic fans didn’t seem to mind.The RV field across the road and down aways from the track was very full with campers and lots of team flags. The Trackside TV show was broadcast live from Victory Circle with various drivers and notables. Remnants of colorful confetti from Saturday’s Victory Circle were strewn everywhere. Happy fans were queuing up for parade laps around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile NASCAR track configuration.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick. Photo by Mike Burghart

Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race was, as always, exciting and filled with drama. Pole sitter, Will Rodgers/No.7 Solvang Brewing Company Chevrolet led most of the race, but in the end was beaten by 2014 NASCAR Cup Champion, Kevin Harvick, who started sixth, drove No.4 Fields Ford. He turned the fastest lap of 88.302 mph/1:21.131. The Margin of Victory ahead of Rodgers, a Rookie, was 0.530. Rodgers was running his first K&N road race.

Finishing third through fifth were David Mayhew/No.17 MMI Racing Chevrolet; Michael Self/No.9 Sunrise Ford; and Rookie Derek Kraus/No.19 Carlyle Tools Toyota, who is now third in the standings.

Will Rodgers

Kevin Harvick

David Mayhew

Left to Right: Will Rodgers, Kevin Harvick, and David Mayhew.

Harvick, one of four Cup drivers entered in the race, said he wanted to run the race for fun and give back to the series which gave him his start. “It always feels good to win no matter what it is. The main objective was to come have fun, shine a little light on the series and shine a little light on how much talent is in the series. This particular series did a lot for me and to come back and be a part of it, see the health of it and see the young guys racing was the main objective.

Kevin Harvick banner

“It’s always fun to race in front of your home state fans. It’s been a long time since I raced in this particular series here, so it was a fun weekend.”

Rodgers said “For some funny reason, I had a feeling as far back as four weeks ago that it was going to be me and Kevin coming into turn 11 on the last lap. And sure enough, there we were. He ran a really good race, I learned a lot from him. We were able to lead some laps there in the beginning. It doesn’t feel too bad to finish second today.” Rodgers moved up to fourth in the standings.

Todd Gilliland/No.16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota maintained his lead in the standings, with his sixth place finish.

The other Cup drivers running the race were Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez. Blaney, driving No.88 Discount Tire Ford, ran hard and well, before his starting third and then ending up at the rear, and working his way back up the field. He unfortunately had to retire mechanical on Lap 53 of the 64-lap race. Suarez started seventh and had worked up to third near the end only to suffer mechanical issues which dropped him back to eleventh at the finish. This was his first Cup weekend on a road course, his first time at the wine country track. All the Cup drivers drove hard and well, and the K&N drivers appreciated the opportunity to race with the professionals, giving them a chance to learn from the best.

Kevin O’Connell from the Cup race was also entered, but withdrew after qualifying.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Sonoma round of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series is one of the first race tracks to which Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won’t be returning, as he ‘retires’ from full-time Cup racing. Track President & General Manager, Steve Page and his staff set the bar high in terms of unique and memorable ways to salute NASCAR’s most popular driver for the past 14 years. Drawing on Dale and wife Amy’s love of dogs, Sonoma Raceway will sponsor the training of three service/comfort dogs who will work with children. The three puppies, named Dale, Junior and Amy were introduced to Earnhardt in a surprise ceremony Friday just prior to his scheduled media conference.

DaleEarnhardt No.88

Earnhardt was also presented with a a more traditional Sonoma Raceway (huge) wine bottle for his trophy case. There will be other highlights during the Sunday pre-race ceremonies. He starts the race from tenth position, and there will be no missing Junior’s racecar on track, with its in-your-face yellow. Way to go, Dale!

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter. Photo by Mike Burghart

Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer and Executive Producer of the movie, CARS 3, John Lasseter, is the Official Pace Car Driver for the Cup race; and Cristela Alonzo, the voice in CARS 3 of elite trainer Cruz Ramirez, is the Grand Marshal. He said he wasn’t nervous until he got his Pace Car lessons from Brett Bodine. There is no Cruise Control on the tricked-out Toyota Pace Car, so he’ll have to manually control the mandated 40 mph pace car speed. But he said “It was the thrill of a lifetime” getting his lessons

All CARS movies were directed by Sonoma County residents, and Sonoma Raceway President/General Manager, Steve Page, facilitated Lasseter’s introduction to the world of NASCAR.

The cowl area of the front engine cover has an air intake opening which teams cover up for aero reasons. The teams seem to delight in finding trick emblems to affix on these covers while the race cars are on the grid prior to the race.

No.1 Cessna

No.34 Love's Stop

No.20 Stanley

Cup Starting Grid