After a break for the holidays (and the Karting Scholarship Shoot-out) we headed on down to Homestead-Miami Speedway for a tripleheader of the Southern Race Series, Western Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour. Drivers, instructors and crew alike found colder-than-expected temperatures in south Florida, but that didn't hold anyone back…
Group 1, Race 1 – Southern Race Series
Trent Hindman picked up his first Skip Barber Race Series win in the first race of the weekend. Starting fifth, he worked his way around points leader Ashley Freiberg, Jim Norman and David Libby before challenging polesitter Dennis Trebing for the lead. As Hindman assumed the lead, Freiberg and Trebing got together in Turn 6, sending the championship protagonists to the pits for safety checks and down in the finishing order.
The loss of second and third place made life a little easier for Trent Hindman, who cruised for the second half of the race to take a nearly two-second victory over Tristan Nunez. Jim Norman completed the podium in third, followed by David Libby and Greg Strelzoff. Brian Cook led the second top five, with C.J. Wilson and Ward Herst in seventh and eighth, respectively. Point leaders Dennis Trebing and Ashley Freiberg salvaged top-10 finishes after coming together on lap 6.
Group 2, Race 1 – Southern Race Series
A combination of good racing and good luck brought Spencer Pigot the Race 1 win. After a spin in qualifying relegated him to ninth on the grid, Pigot, recently a winner at the Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, wasted no time working up to the front, where he battled pole sitter and fellow Skip Barber National driver Isaac Lyons for the lead. The pair sparred, allowing Carl and Jeff Relic to join the lead battle.
Luck was not on Lyons side in Race 1, as a fuel starvation issue forced the Irishman out of the lead (and the race) with two laps remaining, allowing Pigot to streak past for the win. Jeff Relic bested Carl Hober for second with Jim Booth and Leon Blaiweiss rounding out the top five. Bill Shields came home sixth, ahead of Gus Doppes and Neal Agran while Ardee Toppe and Jay Fuchs rounded out the top 10.
Group 3, Race 1 – Western Race Series
Race 1 could best be described as “A Tale of Two Kyles”, as Kyle Kaiser and Kyle Gimple shared the front row for the start. While Kyle (Kaiser) was able to clear the field with the lead, Kyle (Gimple) was left to deal with Scott Anderson, Jim Norman and C.J. Wilson for the top five. Wilson got up as high as second before an off in Turn 2 sent him to the pits for a 4-off check and down in the field.
Wilson's off left the top three to settle the podium between them. While Kyle (Gimple) and Scott Anderson diced, Kyle (Kaiser) led. In the end, he led every lap to take the win by just over second from Gimple and Anderson, who had to settle for quick lap of the race and third. Luigi Biangardi and Brian Cook rounded out the top five ahead of Alan Wong and Greg Strelzoff. Jim Norman came home eighth while C.J. Wilson recovered from his off to finish ninth and George Morales filled out the top 10.
Group 4, Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour
After an early full course yellow for an incident in Turn 2 between Tyler Cooke and Wilson Phillipe, John Snyder made quick work of the front row of David Levine and Ward Herst to take the lead from his third starting position when the green came back out on lap 3. While Levine went off-course later in the run, dropping to 12th at the finish, Herst battled with James Lustman for second and Michael Cooper for third before settling into fourth and into the grasp of Jim Davis.
The dicing for second through fifth allowed John Snyder to stretch out a comfortable three-and-a-half second margin of victory over Lustman, who just nipped Cooper for second by .039sec. Ward Herst held off Jim Davis by a tenth of a second for fourth while Tyler Wolfson won his personal battle with points leader Brian Freiberg, coming home sixth. David Steinschraber finished eighth while Brian Kimmins and Steven Molnar rounded out the top 10.
Group 1, Race 2 With their Race 1 car contact relegating them to ninth and 10th on the starting grid for Race 2, Dennis Trebing and Ashley Freiberg rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Freiberg was first to the lead, taking over from Race 1 winner Trent Hindman on lap 5. Not one to give up easily, Hindman briefly regained the lead on lap 9 before surrendering it to the charging Dennis Trebing a lap later. The two-way battle became a three-way battle with Freiberg re-staking her claim to the lead, then a four-way battle as Jim Norman joined the fight.
After 12 laps, the race came down to a drag race through NASCAR 3 and 4 to the line with Dennis Trebing taking the victory by the slimmest of margins (.011sec.) over Ashley Freiberg, who got around Trent Hindman by just over a tenth at the stripe. Jim Norman hung with the top three, coming home fourth just under a second behind. David Libby completed the top five ahead of Tristan Nunez and Ward Herst. Greg Strelzoff brought his car home in eighth while a pair of Brians, Whitmire and Cook, rounded out the top 10.
Group 2, Race 2 On paper, Race 2 could be seen as a bit of a yawner; Spencer Pigot leads every lap from pole to take a comfortable 16-second victory over Carl Hober and Jeff Relic. The thing is, it wasn't quite so simple.
While Pigot was out in front of the field, Isaac Lyons was at the rear, working his way from the 13th position on the grid he started from because of mechanical issues in the first race. By the end of the first lap, Lyons was up to seventh, and by the third lap he was battling with Hober and Relic for second. Second place in hand a couple laps later; Lyons began pulling away for what should have been a comfortable runner-up finish, until…
With two laps to go, Ardee Toppe spun in Turn 8 and reported immediately to the pits for his safety check. After his car was looked over by the Skip Barber crew, Toppe accelerated out of the pits, rejoining the track and blending into…the passing Isaac Lyons. While Toppe circulated back to the pits for a second safety check, Lyons finished the race in second position on track, but a time penalty assessed post-race for the contact dropped him to eighth in the final standings.
Lyons' misfortune promoted Carl Hober to second, two one-hundredths of a second over Jeff Relic at the stripe. Leon Blaiweiss led a second pack of cars to the finish in fourth, ahead of Neal Agran and Jim Booth. Bill Shields brought his car home in seventh ahead of the post-penalty Isaac Lyons and Matthew Thill. Gus Doppes completed the top 10. Lyons weekend has a ending as he picked up a win in Sunday afternoon's Memorial Race; leading every lap and beating Spencer Pigot by a hair under six seconds.
Group 3, Race 2 Race 2 quickly turned into a battle between Race 1 winner Kyle Kaiser and Scott Anderson. A quick yellow brought out when George Morales collected the spinning Walter Kuhn helped shuffle the second starting Kyle Gimple back to fourth place. Racing resumed on lap 5 with Kaiser continuing his lead over Anderson, followed by Jim Norman and Gimple.
The lead duo stretched out a gap, with Kaiser leading every lap…but the most important one. Coming onto the front straight for the final time, Scott Anderson picked up the draft from leader Kaiser and as they approached the striped he popped, timing his slingshot perfecting and crossing the finish line for the win by just a tenth. Gimple bested Greg Strelzoff by an even closer .04sec for third, while Brian Cook led a third pack home in fifth. Luigi Biangardi finished sixth ahead of Alan Wong and C.J. Wilson. Jim Norman came home ninth while John Mitchell rounded out the top 10.
Group 4, Race 2
Winter Tour point leader Brian Freiberg came from midpack to post his second win of the season in close fashion over James Lustman and polesitter John Snyder. Snyder led early before being overtaken first by Michael Cooper on lap 5, then by Lustman on lap 9. Meanwhile Freiberg, coming from seventh on the grid, worked his way up to the lead pack by lap 7, taking over third from a fading Cooper. Third became second on lap 9 as Freiberg followed Lustman around Snyder and the battle was joined.
Running nose to tail for much of the second half of the race, Brian Freiberg took the lead on lap 15, holding off the charging James Lustman by .172sec for the win with John Snyder another half second back in third. Jim David finished another second back in fourth while Tyler Cooke led a second pack in fifth. David Levine came home sixth, followed by Ward Herst and Wilson Phillipe. Ed McCall finished ninth while Brian Kimmins completed the top 10.
The weekend's results tightened the sharp end of the Southern Series points. Ashley Freiberg still holds a lead over Dennis Trebing, but the gap is down to two. Trent Hindman made up some ground this weekend and now trails Freiberg by only three points. David Libby is fourth overall and the Masters' division leader with Grand Master leader Jim Norman in fifth. The Southern Race Series next visits Sebring International Raceway the weekend of Feb. 13-14.
The Western Series is a bit more comfortable with Kyle Gimple holding a 20-point lead over Scott Anderson. Luigi Biangardi is in third, followed by Greg Strelzoff. The wild card in the points is Kyle Kaiser, in fifth but with one less race than the four ahead of him. Walter Kuhn is the Master and Grand Master leader with 130 points and sixth overall. Next up for the Western Race Series is a return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Feb. 21-22.
With his second win of the season, Brian Freiberg increased his lead in the MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour points to 20 over Tyler Wolfson. Ward Herst is the leading Masters division driver in third place, just a point behind Wolfson. John Snyder is fourth overall and second in the Masters division while David Levine rounds out the top five. The MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour joins the Southern Race Series at Sebring International Raceway Feb. 13-14.