RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Oates runs off with T2 race

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RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Oates runs off with T2 race

Thomas Oates is one of the drivers who entered several races at the 2002 Valvoline Runoffs and he dominated his first one of the weekend. His Touring 2 Camaro Z28 was on the pole and he got a good launch from the green flag. Second starter T C...

Thomas Oates is one of the drivers who entered several races at the 2002 Valvoline Runoffs and he dominated his first one of the weekend. His Touring 2 Camaro Z28 was on the pole and he got a good launch from the green flag. Second starter T C Kline went into the race's first turn outside of Oates and David Roush tried the inside, but Oates pulled ahead and raced off into the distance. Oates led every lap and was out of sight of the rest of the field by lap 3.

The start: Thomas Oates leads the field.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Part of the reason for Oates' big lead was the fierce battle behind him. Kline put his BMW M Coupe into second place ahead of Roush's Camaro on the start, but their close competition was being shadowed by Kim Campbell's BMW M3, Mark Sandridge's Porsche Boxter, Bill Baten's Z28, and Jordan Sandridge's Pontiac Firebird. Jordan Sandridge was the driver on the move, as he first got by Mark Sandridge (his father), then passed Baten under the starter's stand at the start of lap 2, then Campbell in the same place a lap later.

On lap 4, Jordan Sandridge passed Roush for the third position and drove away to harass Kline over second place. Mark Sandridge then started working to put Roush back another position. Kline's car was beginning to show signs of overheated tires, and on the next lap, Jordan passed him for second. On lap 6, Roush and Mark Sandridge got around Kline as well, but he didn't disappear form their mirrors.

Brian Kelm and Don Mills.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

By lap 10, Jordan Sandridge's line was getting sloppy as his tires began to overheat and he drove off the track in the esses, losing all the advantage he had built up over the battle for third place. Mark Sandridge tried to take third place right behind his son's bobble, but didn't get close enough and drilled Roush in the side. Sandridge senior spun around and fell to 6th place.

Roush kept Sandridge (junior) in close contact, but then he spun at the right-hander that leads into Thunder Valley and returned to the fight in the middle of the battle between Brian Kelm and Don Mills for 6th place.

Campbell now led the charge to get around Jordan Sandridge for second and he pulled alongside on the pit straight. Sandridge used his Firebird's power to keep the spot, then again pulled away from the two BMWs on the back straight. His car slipped in the esses, though, allowing the two German cars to get right back on his rear bumper. The continuing sparring among these three drivers allowed Mark Sandridge to catch up and make it a four-car race for second place. Roush had not done so well since his spin and lost 7th place to Mills on lap 17.

Mark Sandridge.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Mark Sandridge had conserved his tires and now had the fastest car on the track. Coming into the esses on lap 17, he passed Kline for 4th place. A lap later, he made the same move the take third from Campbell. Behind them, Mills finally resolved his long joust with Kelm to hold 6th place. Mark Sandridge used the remaining lap and a half to try to pass his son for second place but could not get it done. Kline was able to hold off a similar charge by Campbell for 4th.

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Series SCCA