Eastern and Midwest Series seasons off to a fast start at V.I.R
The first race weekend of the season for the Skip Barber Eastern and Midwest Regionals took place this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, with four race groups battling it out over the 3.12-mile long course layout in Danville, Virginia. Vinay Basavaraja, Sean Beziat, Greg Den Herder, Winston DeWardt, Jonathan Ericksen, Alexis Fenton, Barrett Hamilton,Eric Ives, Josh Liel, Brandon Schenkel, and Robin Warner had strong showings in their first-ever race weekend with Skip Barber, with Basavaraja distinguishing himself from the pack with his first win in just his first race. Jonathan Klein also took his first-ever race win in Skip Barber Race Series competition, with Salvador Duran, Louis Dibrell, Chase Patzer, and Marco Andretti adding to their career wins tally during the weekend.
The first race of the weekend got underway with wet conditions as Telmexs Salvador Duran led the field to the green, but was forced to wait as starter Gerry Green deemed the field to be too spread out to take the green on the first try. The second time was a charm, though, as Duran took the point with the rest of the field filing in behind to get through the tight turns one, two, and three cleanly. The damp conditions were to prove tricky, as Brad Jaeger found out early. The young Ohio native spun off-course at the very fast turn ten and ended his race on just the first lap. The Dodge Neon Pace car collected the field as Jaegers car was moved to a safe location. The race was soon underway again, with Duran leading Mark Patterson and Dean Patzer, who had made a big charge early in the race to move up into third place after getting by John Greist. Up front, Duran continued to pull ahead of the field, with Patzer and Patterson working to reel him back in. The two ran out of laps, though, as Duran took the fastest lap of the race on his way to the checkered flag, with Patzer and Patterson rounding out the podium, the latter taking his first Masters win of the season. .
Group 1 Race 2
The second race of the weekend for group two gave the drivers a dry track to work with, with the sunny and warm conditions a stark difference from the previous days racing. Salvador Duran again led the field to the green and held onto his advantage over Dean Patzer as the two battled for the lead heading into turn one. The field again filed in order through the tight opening corners at VIR and gave each other the racing room they needed to avoid making contact. Mark Patterson shadowed Patzer around the 3.12-mile layout at V.I.R., and was able to get by on the sixth lap before Patzer had an off-course excursion just two laps later, forcing him towards the back of the pack. Tim Traver was chasing Brent Milner, who had started the race from back in the sixteenth spot, and got by him to take the third position with just three laps to go. Duran, meanwhile, kept his foot in it as he cruised to his second win of the weekend ahead of Mark Patterson and Tim Traver. With his second place overall, and his second win in the Masters category, Patterson had a strong start to the season.
Group 2 Race 1
The first race of the weekend for race group two was also a wet affair, as occasional rainfall kept the track from drying out, although the conditions were not so severe that there was any standing water on the track. Revere Greist led the field to the green flag and held the lead through the first lap, but was soon usurped by a hard-charging Vinay Basavaraja, who stared in seventh place. Basavaraja moved up to the second spot before the end of the first lap before taking the lead on just the second lap. Greist continued to battle in second spot, first with Michael Yager and then with Jameson Riley before an off course excursion in the wet left the running order Basavaraja, Rodrigo Penatti, and John Peterson. Penatti had also had a strong run to the front, as he had started the race alongside Basavaraja in eighth place. Greist held on to the fourth spot to the checkered ahead of Jameson Riley. John Peterson became the second Masters winner on the weekend with his fine run to third overall as Basavaraja collected his first Skip Barber Race Series Winner trophy and Penatti took third.
Group 2 Race 2
The second race of the weekend for group two also benefited from the clear skies and a dry track. Race one winner Vinay Basavaraja led the field to the green flag from pole with Rodrigo Penatti following in second ahead of Revere Greist. The order remained static through the first laps of the race, but an off course excursion by Penatti shuffled the positions with Greist moving into second place, and Jameson Riley into third from his fifth starting position. Basavaraja kept control of the pace and was well ahead of Greist at the checker, and his fastest lap of the race showed that Basavaraja had assumed full mastery of the extended VIR course.
Group 3 Race 1
Group three race one also got underway with the wet conditions providing an additional set of challenges for the field. Jonathan Kein started from the third spot, but was able to take the point by the end of the first lap as he muscled by Brad Jaeger and Chad Reedy for the lead. Reedy and Jaeger contested the second spot vigorously, with Jaeger holding onto the advantage in the opening laps of the race. Reedy made his move on the seventh lap to get by Jaeger, but the two stayed in close contact, never lapping more than a half second apart from one another. Klein kept his advantage to the checkered flag, taking the win by just over four seconds over second place finisher Reedy, who crossed the line just .2 seconds ahead of Jaeger. Local hero Louis Dibrell took fourth overall, and the Masters Category win with it.
Group 3 Race 2
The second race of the weekend for group three was also staged on a dry track under sunny skies, with first race winner Jonathan Klein leading the field to the green flag. Klein took off at the start, leading Dibrell and Greg Den Herder for the opening laps before Dibrell passed Klein for the lead. Brad Jaeger and Greg Den Herder were battling for the third in the opening stages of the race. Den Herders strong run ended with a spin on the fourth lap at the Oak Tree corner, which put his car in the path of Brad Jaeger, as the two made contact. Both drivers were able to continue, with Jaeger fighting back to take seventh spot at the checker. Up front, Dibrell eased out a gap on Klein, with a growing gap back to Steve Vajda and Brent Milner in third and fourth, respectively. Dibrell held on to take the win over Klein by just over two seconds as Steve Vajda rounded out the podium in third after starting from the fifth position. Dibrell scored the Masters category win to go with his popular overall win, earning him a traditional ice dousing from the crew in his car en route to his victory lap.
Group 4 Race 1
Race group 4 got their weekend underway with rain again plaguing the track as Marco Andretti, who took his first wins in Skip Barber Racing competition at Daytona just two weeks back, led the field to the green with Chase Patzer in tow and John Peterson in third. Fred Rasch stared in third, but was fourth at the end of the first lap before Eric Ives passed him for the position. Rasch battled back to take the spot for the next three laps as Andretti continued to build the gap between himself and the rest of the field on each lap. Ives, Peterson, and Rasch continued to dispute positions three, four, and five for the entire second half of the race, each taking a lap in each position before swapping once again. The outcome wasnt settled until the final lap, as Andretti motored to his third race win in as many tries with Chase Patzer consolidating second place ahead of Ives, Rasch, and Peterson, who also took the Masters win with his run.
Group 4 Race 2
The final points race of the weekend saw Marco Andretti again leading the field to the green flag, but Andretti was closely followed at the start by Eric Ives. The two made contact in the first corner as they disputed the lead, but both were able to continue. The contact brought out the black flag for both drivers, and Ives went back to the pits right away to have his safety check. Chase Patser made the most of the opportunity to take the lead with Andretti giving chase. Andretti elected to wait the maximum three laps after being black flagged in the hopes of being able to take his safety check during a yellow that might occur. To Andrettis dismay, the track stayed green, and Andretti had to pit nonetheless, forcing him to rejoin the field back in eighth position. Patzer was then persuader by Fred Rasch and Jameson Riley. The order in the front remained static as Patzer built his lead. Andretti was making a charge through the pack, though, picking off Chris McNamara, John Mayes, and Riley to move himself back up into third position by the time the checkered flag flew behind Rasch and Patzer. John Mayes took the final Masters Category win of the weekend.
The Skip Barber Eastern Regional Championship will race next on the weekend of May 16th at Lime Rock Park, with the next race weekend for the Skip Barber Midwest Regional Championship taking place at Road America on the weekend of May 31st.