INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 10, 2007) – More than 100 SCCA Club Racers came to the 2.5-mile O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis for the fun and festivities of the Indy Grand Prix National over the July 7-8 weekend, the only National scheduled for the holiday weekend. Perfect weather, tight racing and some inspired runs from the back of the pack made for a memorable event.
The first group to race featured the big-bore GT cars, and Jim Bradley, of Gaston, Ind., led from the pole and was running strong in his Chevrolet Corvette. Tom Patton, of Hamilton, Ohio, had the measure of the track with his GT-2 Sunbeam Tiger and held right on Bradley’s tail through the whole race. Dick Greer, of Columbus, Ohio, was a little slower in qualifying, and started his Chevrolet Corvette back in fifth, but worked his way through the field to pass Patton on lap nine. He then passed Bradley for the lead a couple laps later. Greer kept it steady for the GT-1 win, crossing the finish line 2.274 seconds ahead of Bradley. Patton finished third overall, taking the GT-2 win.
Mike Cyphert had an amazing race in his GT-3 Toyota Celica, staying in sight of the lead GT-1 and GT- 2 cars throughout the race. Cyphert, of Aubrun Township, Ohio, took GT-3 handily, only 11 seconds back from the winning GT-1 car.
In the same group, Andy McDermid, of Grand Ledge, Mich., qualified his American Sedan Ford Mustang two full seconds faster than the Mustangs of Steve Hynes and the Jason VonKluge, and ran away from the two when the green flag waved. VonKluge, of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Hynes, of White Lake, Mich., commenced a great battle further back, which became the battle for the win when McDermid broke after 11 laps. VonKluge managed to hold on with his Mustang, crossing the finish line just half a second ahead of Hynes.
Race two featured winged formula cars. In Formula Atlantic, Rick Reilich, of Dayton, Ohio, started his Ralt from the front row and used the power to get ahead of Bobby Caldwell in Formula Continental on the long front straight. Reilich set fast time of the weekend as he began to pull away. Fabio Castellani, of Streamwood, Ill., and J.R. Walker, of West Hanover, Ill., missed qualifying and started from the back of the field, but worked their way up as the race progressed. Meanwhile, Reilich had a significant problem at the carousel on lap 16 and was unable to continue. Castellani’s Swift made it through the field to finish second overall and take the FA win. Caldwell, fresh from his win at the June Sprints, drove his Van Dieman FC to the overall win.
In Formula Mazda, Juan Marchand, of South Haven, Mich., was the fastest qualifier by a second over Guy Piptone, from Copley, Ohio. After a couple laps of close racing, Marchand pulled away for the win by 7.175 seconds, with Piptone holding the second position in class.
The third group out on Sunday morning was the Touring and Showroom Stock gang, with a split start for the Spec Miatas. Jim Lynch, of Chesterfield, Mo., put his T1 Dodge Viper on pole, qualifying ahead of the pair of Tracy Corvettes. John Buttermore, of Pontiac, Mich., also had his Corvette in T1, and started at the back of the field after missing qualifying. Buttermore soon got through the field to mingle with the Tracys, passing them both in a couple laps. He then chased down and passed Lynch for the lead on lap nine, setting a new T1 track record of 1:41.171 in the process. At the finish line, Mike P. Tracy, of Morton Grove, Ill., was only 0.374-second behind Buttermore for a nice, close finish.
In the T2 class, Bill Baten, of Indianapolis, Ind., was fast qualifier, keeping his Chevrolet Camaro Z28 ahead of Jason Henderson’s Nissan 350Z. At the start however, Henderson, from Cincinnati, Ohio, got the jump and stayed ahead through the entire race. Baten gave it all he could, getting the fastest time for T2 in the race, but missed catching the flying Z by 1.767 seconds.
The T3 battle had Dwight Faitz, of Trenton, Ill., keeping his Subaru Legacy GT ahead of Nathaniel Ellis’ Honda S2000. Faitz eventually finished two seconds ahead of Ellis at the finish.
The SSC contenders were nose-to-tail for much of the race, with Ralph Porter, of Kokomo, Ind., bringing out his old Dodge Neon to scrap with Tim Myers’ Mazda 3 from Marietta, Ga. Both held the lead several times, until Myers started to pull a slight edge. On the last lap, Myers was a several seconds ahead, but was balked by traffic in the final turn. Porter got the better drive off the corner onto the long front straight, and slowly came alongside and passed at the flag, just 0.046-second ahead of Myers, the closest finish of the weekend.
On track at the same time, the Spec Miatas started far enough back for a great, clear track and close racing. Qualifying was close, as expected for essentially identical cars, with Chris Prey, of Oshkosh, Wis., running slightly faster than Jeff Luckritz, from St. Joseph, Mich., and Brian Post, of Akron, Ohio. At the green flag, Prey did not get a good start and fell a slightly behind Post and Luckritz. Prey quickly got around Luckritz into second, while all three raced bumper to bumper for the entire 17 laps. The trio passed under the checkered flag, Post, Prey and Luckritz, separated by less than a second.
The Production Group kicked off activities after lunch. EP contenders Gary Martz in a Mazda RX7 and Ken Patterson in a Honda Prelude composed the front row. The second row had Rick Haynes’ FP Midget inside, with Tom Feller’s flying HP Spitfire beside him. Bill Wessel put his GP Datsun Roadster inside the third row, with Bill Partridge griding his GTL Nissan beside him, putting all of the top qualifiers in the first three rows. Buried back in the tenth row was Sam Halkias, of Westerville, Ohio, with his wonderful old Triumph TR-6, who had some bad breaks in qualifying. Halkias corrected the problems, and proceeded to rocket through the field, reaching second overall by the third lap, and passing Martz, of Canton, Ohio, for the lead during on lap five. Now in the lead, nothing was going to slow Halkais down and he finished the race with a lead of more than 26 seconds and set a new EP track record of 1:43.592, beating Dave McDowell’s record of 20 years.
Rick Haynes, of Columbus, Ohio, kept his Midget in third overall for a fast and steady run to the FP win. Meanwhile in GP, Chuck Mathis, of St. Jacob, Ill., drove his VW Rabbit from the fifth row to catch Bill Wessel’s Datsun SPL311, then getting by after Wessel’s lap six error. Wessel, of Madison, Wis., spent the rest of the race trying to run down Mathis, but was still four seconds back at the checkered flag.
Tom Feller, of Clarkston, Mich., kept his HP National Championship Spitfire in the front running for the whole race, finishing four spots and nearly 20 seconds ahead of second place Chris Crisenberry's Spitfire. The GT-Lite field spent the entire race trying to catch Bill Partridge, of Mooresville, Ind., in his Nissan Sentra. Brian Floyd, of Cincinnati, Ohio, managed to keep his Sentra on the same lap, but ended up a half minute behind at the flag.
Next up were the Spec Racer Fords, with Jeff Beck, from Ingleside, Ill., on the pole, and Jim Marinangle, Jay Geen, Lauren Scarpace and Nick Evans all within a second on the grid. At the green, Beck started pulling away, while Evans and Geen snookered Marinangle on the start. The three ran close together in that order, gradually dropping back from Beck until the lap 17, when Beck had a rare mechanical failure and stopped on course. On the final lap, Geen and Marinangle got around Evans, with Geen, of South Charleston, W.Va., taking the checkered flag two seconds ahead of Marinangle, and Evans another six seconds back.
The last race of the weekend had the F500, FV and FF racers taking to the track. Indy Region’s own Jason Knuteson qualified his Scorpion F5 on the pole, followed by the Formula Fords of Wes Allen and Craig Jones, with James Weida filling the second row with his F5. At the start, Knuteson drove away from the rest of the field, finishing 34.605 seconds ahead of Weida, with Jerry Weida coming from the back of the field to finish third in F5.
Allen, of Lexingon, Ky., kept his Piper in second overall and first in FF, steadily pulling away from Jones’ Van Diemen at about a second a lap all the way to the end.
The FV race was a real dogfight for all 17 laps, with Chris Jennerjahn, of Hartford City, Ind., and Jeff Loughead, of Darien, Ill., changing the lead about every lap thanks to some heavy drafting. Neither driver made any mistakes, and neither could find any advantage, and they crossed under the checkered flag just over a second apart.
The Great Lakes Division has three more National Races on its Club Racing schedule. Next up is the NeOhio National at Nelson Ledges on July 28-29, followed by the Dog Days Summer National at Grattan August 11-12. The season concludes at Grattan, on August 25-26, with the South Bend National. For more information check out the Great Lakes Division Web site at www.greatlakes-scca.org.-30-