The United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) cars visited the beautiful Pacific Northwest as they arrived in Portland, Oregon's Portland International Raceway on June 5-6, 2004. The weather immediately showed that it would be a factor with...
The United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) cars visited the beautiful Pacific Northwest as they arrived in Portland, Oregon's Portland International Raceway on June 5-6, 2004. The weather immediately showed that it would be a factor with intermittent rain showers throughout the weekend. Jeff Lepper's Eagle Awards/Impact Engineering Honda Accord was the only car that looked very strong the entire weekend. There were three other cars that looked too close to call that may be fighting for second place. Those three were the Eagle Awards/Impact Engineering Acura Integra R of Thomas Lepper, the Position 1/T1R Honda Civic of Justin Elin and the Gogogear.com Honda Civic of Ali Arsham. The three qualified within 0.3 seconds of each other and they knew it would be a dogfight.
Sunday's qualifying session was a different story as the skies opened up and the track was wet with a few small puddles here and there. With no way to improve their time the teams may have had no reason to really go fast. But they did all try to go as fast as they could because the weather did not look like it was clearing up and as one driver put it "I need to prepare for a wet race so the trick is to figure out how to drive this track in the rain which is totally different than when it is dry."
A few minutes before the race, the weather again decided to provide some excitement. With about 30 minutes before the race, the rain started pouring down but blue skies were on the horizon. Because of all this, it made the race very interesting. Some teams elected for a dry set up while others elected for an intermediate set up with full tread tires. One of the drivers who qualified near the back was even thinking of opting for a full wet set up. As the team manager put it, "When you are in the back, you have to take a few chances."
At the first turn, all of the drivers gave plenty of room to each other as they crept threw the slippery concrete area of the famous Portland chicane. There was a lot of passing going on the first lap as the cars started to separate themselves out. Out front though was Jeff Lepper as everyone else was battling and slowing themselves down. Lepper pulled out a 10 second lead with Elin working his way up to second and Arsham to third. Arsham and Elin had possibly the best battle on the track for most of the race. Arsham managed to pass Elin and was closing in on Lepper. "That 10 second gap that Jeff built up early on was a key factor. I was catching Jeff by a second or so a lap so it was taking a long time to gain it back." Said Arsham afterwards. Meanwhile it was drying up and things were much different as Arsham who was on a wet set up was slowing down and losing ground to Jeff Lepper as well as to Elin who managed to pass Arsham.
In the end, it was Thomas Lepper who finished second in the Eagle Awards/Impact Engineering Acura Integra R. Charlie Frank was awarded third place at the track in the Petmax Honda Civic. Afterwards it was found that Justin Elin's P1 Motorsports Honda Civic was the actual third place finisher despite blowing an oil line moments before the checkered flag came out. It was an unusual case where the timing and location of the mechanical failure helped Elin and hurt Frank. James Ayotte was the A'pex Intregration Top Rookie award winner in his first USTCC start driving the James Racing/Yawata Home Honda Civic.