SBRS: Western championship decided at Laguna Seca

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Schmidt takes Western Championship at Laguna. The Skip Barber Western Race Series final race weekend took place at Laguna Seca last weekend with the championship battle on the line as Ricky Schmidt and Brian Frisselle both hoped to emerge as...

Schmidt takes Western Championship at Laguna.

The Skip Barber Western Race Series final race weekend took place at Laguna Seca last weekend with the championship battle on the line as Ricky Schmidt and Brian Frisselle both hoped to emerge as the champion. Both did what they had to do, as Frisselle took two wins, but Schmidt held on to the championship with two fine drives to second place. New Skip Barber Race Series drivers David Holt, Alex Polonsky, Paul Albert, Tom Davidov, Augusto Sasso, Dmitry Sumin, and Bobby Grewohl had an excellent weekend of racing at the famed Laguna Seca track, and three drivers emerged from the weekend as first time winners in Skip Barber competition.

The first race of the weekend started under dry conditions, as second-spot starter Rick Graves passed Emil Sildos in turn two on the first lap, as a battle for third quickly emerged behind the two. Ted Jones found his race hampered significantly, as contact with the wall on the first lap put paid to his hopes of moving up from his tenth starting position. Curt Berg had a strong run for the podium, running as high as second during the middle stages of the race before being bested by Sildos and Dennis Rock, who took second and third respectively behind first-time winner Rick Graves.

Group two, wrought with Western Series Championship implications, got off to a fast start in their first race of the weekend as Brian Frisselle took the lead from Ricky Schmidt as the two braked for turn one, with Bret Macdonald in third and Yoshi Murata in fourth. MacDonald found himself behind Patricio Jourdain on the second lap, and when he went to make a pass in turn six, decided against it, but not in time, as he clipped the back of Jourdains car with his nose, and forcing him to the back of the field. Frisselle established a lead over Schmidt as Jourdain slotted into third before falling back after the contact with Macdonald. Vito Racano took up the charge in third before Yoshi Murata got by on the tenth lap.

MacDonald was working his way back through the field before going off-course at turn six in his attempt to get by Bryan Hixon on lap nine. Racano and Murata battled over the third spot before Racano went off-course on the twelfth lap. Brian Frisselle motored to the win with a wide margin over second place finisher Schmidt Yoshi Murata.

The third race group got their weekend off to an exciting start as Peter Ludwig, who started in fourth spot, launched his car on the curbing in turn ten and was forced to end his race early as Doninque Claessens took the lead from pole. Brian Johnson, who started in second position, was not going to let Claessens cruise to the win, though, as he harried him for the lead, while Yukinobu Nakayama and Jose Guzman had a similar dispute over third spot. Guzman got by Nakayama on the fourth lap as the two entered turn six, and Nakayama took to the grass, forcing him to rejoin back in the pack and giving Guzman a clear run to third spot. The field grouped together for a full course yellow after Bobby Grewohl crashed in turn six, leading to an exciting NASCAR green-white-checker finish, with Claessens taking the win, joining Rick Graves as a first time winner on the day. Brian Johnson took second place, with Jose Guzman rounding out the podium.

The second race of the weekend for group one again saw dry conditions greet the field as Rick Graves led the pack to the green, and established a strong lead in the opening laps. The gap grew smaller, though, as Emil Sildos and Curt Berg brought their battle for second up into Graves mirrors. Sildos took the lead on the fourth lap, passing Graves in turn 11, and Graves tried to return the favor three laps later when Sildos slid wide at the exit of turn three, but Graves thought better of an attempt when didnt have the room to make the pass safely. On the following lap, Graves efforts were halted on the front straight after he suffered a mechanical issue with his car and was forced to retire, leaving Sildos hold onto the lead and to take the checkered flag, making him another first time winner for the weekend.

The second race of the weekend for group two got underway after two aborted starts as the field showed itself to be too anxious to get racing before getting to the stripe. The race finally went green with fifteen laps to go, and Schmidt found himself behind both Brian Frisselle, who took the lead from pole, and Yoshi Murata by the third turn. Muratas race changed character after a spin in turn nine forced a very close call with Schmidt, and dropped Murata back to fourth with Nick Jones slotting in to take third in the running order. Tim Traver and Seth Neiman, who started in seventh, kept things interesting behind the leaders as the two passed and repassed each other with Traver emerging to hold on to the spot and come home in seventh. Brian Frisselle took his second win of the weekend, but came up short in the championship tally as Ricky Schmidt took second place in the race ahead of Nick Jones. Bret MacDonald scored most progressive honors with his run from tenth up to fifth.

The second race of the weekend for group three saw Dominique Claessens lead the field to the green flag and hold onto his top spot as Jose Guzman and Brian Johnson battled for second, with Johnson holding the spot for the first half of the race. Guzman stayed close, looking for a way by. The top three broke off into their own battle, with a large gap back to fourth and the rest of the field. Brian Johnson made it easy for Guzman, though, when he went off course at turn six and found himself stuck in the gravel at the exit of the corner, bringing out a full course yellow for two laps. The race went back to green with six laps to go as Grewohl and Nakayama battled for fourth while the front three positions were working on their own dispute for the lead. Claessnes was able to hold off Guzman and Grewohl, who joined him on the podium, making it two wins for the weekend for the young racer.

Masters Race
The Masters race, a special all-Masters affair, saw Vito Racano lead the field to the green with Bret MacDonald taking second from the third starting spot, and Jim Mashburn slotting into third. Rick Graves and Dennis Rock made contact in the early laps, ending their runs for the win. Phil Saville brought out a full course yellow after meeting the tire wall in turn seven late in the race, allowing Vito to get a good jump on the field from the lead at the restart as Guzman took second spot from MacDonald in turn three on the thirteenth lap. Last-lap contact with Racano and MacDonald left Guzman to reap the rewards of a win with a strong drive through the field, also earning him the most progressive driver kudos.

Memorial
In the Barry Sheen Memorial, Yohshi Murate led the first laps of the race before being passed by Brian Frisselle, who in turn was passed by Burt Frisselle. The race became a was a sibling affair, as Brian Frisselle fought with older brother and Pro Series pilot Burt for the lead, with experience overcoming youth in this instance as Burt took the win from ninth starting position. Mikel Miller recovered from starting the race in the pace car to take the third spot on the podium.

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