AI West: Sears Point round two notes

The 2nd round of the American Iron (AI) West series began with a passionate debate over the track configuration to be used for the weekend. The weekend would use the NASCAR chute versus the typical sports car configuration at Infineon raceway and...

The 2nd round of the American Iron (AI) West series began with a passionate debate over the track configuration to be used for the weekend. The weekend would use the NASCAR chute versus the typical sports car configuration at Infineon raceway and there was some concern over this layout. Typically, road racers love the sports car road course and it is a favorite of drivers worldwide, but the drivers hit the track over the weekend and loved the shorter track and fast pace which provided lots of on track action. 2005 AI Champ Gary Umphenour said, "the chute is a lot more fun than I expected". Gary must have enjoyed it as he was setting down record lap times.

Competing drivers included Gary Umphenour, Brian McMillan, Andy Bowman, Jonathan Witherow of Team Witherow, Dave Royce with Maximum Motorsports, Bruce Griggs with Griggs Racing, rookies Patrick Lindsey and Derek Thew participating in his first AI race. The 8 AI drivers were joined by 30 Camaro Mustang Challenge cars and 8 Factory Five Racing drivers.

Saturday qualifying saw rookie Patrick Lindsey moved to the AIX class as his engine was re-tuned with more power just before the weekend and ended up being 100lbs too light and the Maximum Motorsports car also moved to AIX class with an engine computer change. Results for the session were:

AI :
1. #73 Gary Umphenour, AI, 1.30.26
2. #99, Andy Bowman, AI, 1.30.88
3. #34, Brian McMillian, AI, 1.31.29

AIX :
1. #91 Dave Royce/Maximum, AIX, 1.29.03
2. #117 Patrick Lindsey, AIX, 1.29.37
3. #04 Jonathan Witherow, AIX, 1.30.68
4. #40 Bruce Griggs, AIX, no time
5. #28 Derek Thew, AIX, no time

The rolling-start race began with AI in front, AIX behind and the CMC class following with a separate flag. Umphenour, Bowman and McMillan diced door to door through Turn 1, In Turn 2, Umphenour quickly closed the door to secure first place. Bowman was able to close the gap approaching each corner out-braking Umphenour, but the 2005 Champ, the "Iceman", was just too smooth for any pass attempt as the two lead cars pulled further from the pack in the opening few laps.

Slicing away from behind, Royce in the nicely prepared Maximum Motorsports car began to cut through the field. In the 3rd and 4th laps, the Griggs Racing GR40 car was also wasting no time grinding the field down to get at the #91 Maximum Motorsports car to take the AIX first place. Jetting down through Turns 8, 9 and 10, Royce and Griggs overtook Bowman heading into the hairpin Turn 11. Royce had the perfect line driving like a pro as Griggs narrowed the gap with Bowman bringing up the rear of the 3-car battle for the corner. As the group entered Turn 11, the GR40 Griggs car suffered a brake failure and slammed into the rear-passenger of the Royce Maximum Motorsports car sending both cars spinning and car parts flying. Bowman barely missed the crash by diving to the slick outside part of the corner. This fracas left Umphenour a bigger lead up front. The #91 Maximum car returned to racing once the smoke cleared, but the Griggs Racing car was forced out of the race with front-end damage.

Just behind the lead pack, Lindsey, Witherow and McMillan went at it like champions as the two older Fox Mustangs challenged the newer Witherow SN95 GT door to door. However, in lap 6, more trouble struck #117 Lindsey as his motor destroyed a piston which took Lindsey out of the race.

After working back up to speed, Royce was able to pass Witherow and then pass McMillan and Bowman for a last ditch effort to take the overall top spot from Umphenour. However, the Iceman held on and took the overall and AI first place with the entire field finishing within just a few seconds of each other.

Saturday Race Results:

AI :
1. #73 Gary Umphenour, AI
2. #99, Andy Bowman, AI
3. #34, Brian McMillan, AI

AIX :
1. #91 Dave Royce/Maximum, AIX
2. #04 Jonathan Witherow, AIX
3. #117 Patrick Lindsey, AIX
4. #40 Bruce Griggs, AIX-DQ
5. #28 Derek Thew, AIX-DNF

Sunday began with even better weather than Saturday as the morning sun warmed up the track and the green rolling-hills of the Sonoma wine country. The talk of the morning was the switch to standing starts for the day's racing. Qualifying would now be even more important for a strong grid position, so drivers and crews were checking data sheets during the warmup session to verify critical setup information. Sure enough, the crew work paid off with even faster lap times compared to Saturday and more track records were set. The CMC and ASC cars held a qualifying race but the AI group slipped in the middle behind the ASC cars as the AI cars were only getting qualifying laps instead of racing.

Sunday Qualifying results:

AI :
1. #73 Gary Umphenour, AI 1.26.73
2. #99, Andy Bowman, AI 1.27.62
3. #34, Brian McMillan, AI 1.29.95

AIX :
1. #91 Dave Royce/Maximum, AIX 1.25.19
2. #04 Jonathan Witherow, AIX 1.29.32

The standing start grid for Sunday was set by qualifying times, which gave the #91 Maximum/Royce car pole position with Umphenour on the outside front row. Bowman, Witherow, McMillan and rookie Derek Thew gridded up for the last standing flag after the CMC and FFR standing starts. The stage was set and the fans were on their feet. American Iron muscle V8's revved up and the starting flag flew with 6 AI cars racing off from the standing start in true world class style. Royce led into Turn 1, with Umphenour, Witherow and Bowman door to door up to Turn 2. Umphenour broke hard for the turn nearly forcing Bowman and Witherow into each other as they battled for the next spot, with Brian McMillan in the #34 Mustang and the new rookie Derek Threw inches behind. Royce quickly checked out and opened a gap ahead of Umphenour, but Umphenour was opening up his own gap with Witherow and Bowman in pursuit. Bowman was unable to get around the bright orange SN95 Witherow machine, but the two racers were able open a gap from McMillan. At mid race, the #04 Witherow car broke away from Bowman as CMC and FFR lap traffic approached. Bowman eased up on the throttle to take an anticipated 2nd place in AI, but received a big surprise when the hard-charging #34 McMillan car showed up on his bumper. As Bowman and McMillan fought for 2nd and 3rd place through lap traffic, McMillan began to setup Bowman in Turn 8 for a pass. 4 CMC cars were also in the mix too, which forced Bowman to bounce over the tall rumble-strip but he still managed maintain 2nd place with McMillan and Thew just behind. Dave Royce brought the #91 Mustang home in 1st place, giving the team 4 awesome wins for the year with 2 in AI and 2 in AIX. Gary Umphenour took the win for AI which put him in AI 1st place points position for the season. Team Witherow with Jonathan on the throttle took the 2nd place AIX position to maintain a healthy AIX points lead for the season.

Sunday Race results:

AI :
1. #73 Gary Umphenour, AI
2. #99, Andy Bowman, AI
3. #34, Brian McMillian, AI

AIX :
1. #91 Dave Royce/Maximum, AIX
2. #04 Jonathan Witherow, AIX
3. #28 Derek Thew, AIX

The 2006 AI-West points after Round 2 show Umphenour, Bowman and McMillan making up the top 3. AIX has Witherow on top, with Maximum Motorsports in 2nd, and Lindsey and Thew tied for 3rd. The next round will take place on May 27-28, 2006 at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA.

-nasa-

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About this article
Series Road racing
Drivers Dave Royce , Patrick Lindsey