Road America Neon Charity Challenge report

Race Two of the PPG Neon Charity Challenge Presented by Yazaki closed out the Motorola 220 race weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., today. Sixty-nine professional club racers and charity drivers battled in four classes of competition;...

Race Two of the PPG Neon Charity Challenge Presented by Yazaki closed out the Motorola 220 race weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., today. Sixty-nine professional club racers and charity drivers battled in four classes of competition; SSB (coupe), SSC (sedan), Charity Pro and Charity Novice. Bill Bartlett returned to the podium in SSB competition in Race Two, capturing the win after an early battle with Mark Hansen and Toby Grahovec, and captured the championship. Saturday's SSC winner, Tom Start, led the early laps before retiring with a mechanical problem. Joel Lipperini claimed his first PPG Neon Charity Challenge victory, leading defending series champion Larry DuLude, who repeated as champion with his second-place finish, and Ralph Porter finished third.

Tom Cotter, chairman and CEO, Cotter Group, repeated as champion of the Charity Pro class. The class, designed for corporate drivers with some racing experience, proved to have one of the most exciting races as Harlan Bettenhausen, owner, Bettenhausen Dodge, battled with Cotter for the entire 11-lap event. The two ran side-by-side through several corners with each driver spending time off the track. One off-road excursion cost Bettenhausen second position late in the cautionless race as Ed Jensen, racing for GustBuster Umbrella, slipped past to clinch the second position on the final lap.

In Charity Novice action Floyd Hall, former chairman, president and CEO of Kmart, captured his first race win after competing in the series for two years. Hall lead a field of first-time podium finishers as Frank Borschke, vice president, Doeren Mayhew CPAs took second position followed by Andy Moore, vice president, Henderson Glass, who was racing for the Rainbow Connection. This weekend's PPG Neon Charity Challenge presented by Yazaki event raised $154,000 for the Pontiac, Mich.-based Rainbow Connection which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Bill Bartlett, SSB class winner and overall winner: "Yesterday there was a lot of carnage. There was a lot today too, and it was too bad that the two guys I was racing with took themselves out of competition. I was having a great race with Mark (Hansen) and we were hoping to pull away from Toby (Grahovec), but Mark made a mistake and I got past him, then a couple of turns later, Toby got into Mark and took him out. After that, it was a different race all together because I had a sizeable lead over the second-place car. I've had a lot of seat time in these Neons, and to win the very first Neon Race at Road America, and to close out the series with a win in the final race of the series at Road America is a great feeling."

Joel Lipperini, SSC class winner and third overall: "Yesterday our car was a little scarred, and people were driving very aggressive. My crew had a lot to do last night. I really can't believe it. This win is like a dream. To win the last Neon Charity Challenge race here is really something special. In no other series in which I raced was the driver's ability so important. Coming into this race, I used a video game to help learn the track, that was surprisingly accurate and helped me prepare for the real thing."

Tom Cotter, Charity Pro winner: "It's a fantasy for me…having back-to-back wins. The Neon Charity Challenge is just a great program. We raised $154,000 this weekend for charity. It's an ideal program. To ask people to put their hands in their pockets and give them nothing is a challenge. To ask people to put their hands in their pockets and ask them to be a race car driver for the weekend brings out the Walter Mitty in all these corporate guys. They give generously, especially after seeing the Rainbow kids this weekend. We'd all gladly do it again. I'll go back to my vintage racing now, although I know Roger Penske has his eye on me."

Floyd Hall, Charity Novice winner: "I've been racing with the Neon Charity program for two years; this is my fourth race, my second at Road America. That may have given me a little advantage over some of the other guys. When you get seat time you learn so much every time out there. I know more than last year, but still have a long way to go. I'd love to get more seat time and do more of these, especially now that I'm retired. I love this Neon car, with the front-wheel drive and 135 horsepower motor that you can get a lot out of. It's a tight and easy to drive car."

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Series Charity
Drivers Joel Lipperini , Tom Cotter , Tom Start , Toby Grahovec , Ed Jensen , Roger Penske