SIMMONS WINS WITH MIRRORS AT ROAD AMERICA
ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. (July 11) - Jeff Simmons looked over his shoulder and checked his rear-view mirrors as he rolled his car into victory lane. It was that kind of race.
Simmons of East Granby, Conn., posted his second victory of the 1999 season by edging Michael Valiante of Vancouver, B.C. across the finish line by just over two-tenths of a second in the 40-minute timed race at the CART Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America Sunday afternoon. In the process, the reigning Barber Dodge Pro Series champion, took an 82-71 lead over Nilton Rossoni in the championship chase.
If possible, the race was even closer than the margin indicated.
"It was a dogfight basically the whole time," Simmons admitted while wiping the sweat off his face. "It was just a great time. I was doing some weaving to break the draft quite a bit and watching my mirrors a lot, just trying to get good runs out of the corners and down the straightaways so they couldn't take a shot. It was a very tough race."
Simmons started from the pole, but was under intense pressure from the opening green flag. He traded the lead twice with Valiante on the first lap and the two actually made contact on the fast downhill entrance to the track's legendary Canada Corner, with Simmons' right front wheel bearing the black scuff marks left by the contact with Valiante's tires.
By using his veteran savvy, Simmons maintained his control as the head of the field on two restarts to establish a bit of breathing room. By lap 12, Nilton Rossoni of Curitiba, Brazil had moved up from his seventh starting spot and was glued to Simmons' rear wing, which aided the draft as the two combined with Valiante to put a 10-second gap on the rest of the field.
Rossoni slipped past Simmons and took over the lead on lap 13, but Simmons returned the favor to the defending Road America winner in the entrance to turn five as he faked an outside move and passed on the inside. The three continued the battle until Rossoni spun off on lap 15 in turn six and stalled the car.
"I made one mistake and he was right there to pounce on it. He didn't make very many mistakes, so I had to be right there when he did," Simmons said. "I got a good run coming out of (turn) three and he tried to block coming down the end of the straightaway. I kind of made a little fake to the driver's right and he didn't think I was going to go for it, and he moved over to the middle of the track and gave me that lane down the left-hand side."
Valiante assumed the second position and pressured Simmons as the two drivers actually made contact on the last lap, A brief bobble by Simmons in turn 14 left the door cracked, but Valiante was unable to take full advantage as the pair crossed the finish line separated by a few feet.
"Basically I tried to put everything together into the perfect lap and closed up to Jeff, but it was too little, too late," Valiante said.
Todd Snyder of Sheffield, Mass. finished just behind Simmons and Valiante, followed by Jon Fogarty of Portola Valley, Calif. Fogarty earned a $500 bonus as the Progressive Wheels Most Progressive Driver of the Race, having moved up from a 15th-place starting spot. Townsend Bell of Costa Mesa, Calif. rounded out the top five. Rossoni recovered from his spin to place sixth and broke his own Barber Dodge track record fastest race lap set in 1998 with a 2:13.243 which averaged 109.370 mph turned on lap 17.
Dale Vandenbush of Green Bay paced the three local Wisconsin drivers with a 17th-place finish in his Barber Dodge debut. Scott Mayer of Franklin placed 18th, while Kip Gulseth of Manitowac ended up 20th after contact with the inside wall in turn 14 ended his race nine laps early.
NOTES: Dion Hinskey won the $100 cash award after being selected as the Barber Dodge Pro Series Mechanic of the Race. It was Hinskey's last Barber Dodge race, as he moves on to a new position as a tech inspector with the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Series shortly.
ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. - Results Sunday from the 40-minute timed Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the CART Texaco/Havoline 200 on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn Road America circuit with finishing position, starting position, driver, hometown or country, laps, reason out (if any), and prize money. All cars are identical Reynard Dodge V6, open-wheel, single-seat race cars on Michelin racing tires.
1 (1) Jeff Simmons/East Granby, Conn., 109.915 mph, 17, $12000 2 (2) Michael Valiante/Vancouver,Canada, 17, $8000 3 (4) Todd Snyder/Sheffield, Mass., 17, $6000 4 (15) Jon Fogarty/Portola Valley, Calif., 17, $4500 5 (8) Townsend Bell/Costa Mesa, Calif., 17, $2500 6 (7) Nilton Rossoni/Curitiba, Brazil, 17, $2000 7 (12) Peter Boss/Narragansett, R.I., 17, $1800 8 (14) Matt Plumb/Unionville, Pa., 17, $1700 9 (9) Sepp Koster/The Netherlands, 17, $1600 10 (11) Rodrigo Bernardes/Sao Paulo, Brazil, 17, $1500 11 (16) Roger Yasukawa/Santa Monica, Calif., 17, $1400 12 (19) Alexandre Sperafico/ToledoParana, Brazil, 17, $1300 13 (17) Juan Jose Font/Caracas,Venezuela, 17, $1200 14 (5) Rocky Moran, Jr./Coto de Caza, Calif., 17, $1100 15 (22) Brent Sherman/ Northbrook, Ill., 17, $1000 16 (20) R. B. Stiewing/Lime Rock, Conn., 17, $500 17 (23) Dale Vandenbush/Green Bay, Wisc., 17, $500 18 (24) Scott Mayer/Franklin, Wis., 17, $500 19 (3) Iradj Alexander/Giubiasco, Switzerland, 11, $500, Off Course 20 (21) Kip Gulseth/Manitowac, Wisc., 8, $500, Contact 21 (6) Jamie Menninga/Pella, Iowa, 8, $500, Off Course 22 (10) Memo Rojas, Jr./Mexico City, Mexico, 5, $500, Contact 23 (18) John McCaig/Victoria, B.C., Canada, 3, $500, Contact 24 (13) Brian Pelke/Lansing, Ill., 3, $500, Contact
LENGTH OF RACE: 17 Laps of 4.048 Mile Circuit for 68.816 miles TIME OF RACE: 42 Minutes, 09.391 seconds AVERAGE SPEED: 97.944 mph MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.268 Seconds LAP LEADERS: Jeff Simmons Lap 1 through 12; Lap 14 through 17, Nilton Rossoni Lap 13 FASTEST RACE LAP: Nilton Rossoni 2:13.243 (109.370 mph) Lap 17 (New Record) FASTEST QUALIFIER: Jeff Simmons 2:15.127 (107.845 mph) PROGRESSIVE CUSTOM WHEELS MOST PROGRESSIVE DRIVER: Jon Fogarty, from 15th to 4th TOTAL PAYOUT: $52,100
Points: 1) Simmons, 82 2) Rossoni, 71 3) Bell, 66 4) Moran, 61 5) Koster, 52 6) Boss, 51 7) Fogarty, 40 8) Valiante, 39 9) Snyder, 38 10) Rojas, 33