USTCC: Phoenix debut race report

Richmond, CA -- Phoenix International Raceway was the site of the inaugural United States Touring Car Championship race. The new series uses modified production sedans to replicate the European touring car races. The rules for the series call...

Richmond, CA -- Phoenix International Raceway was the site of the inaugural United States Touring Car Championship race. The new series uses modified production sedans to replicate the European touring car races. The rules for the series call for slightly modified engines and highly modified suspensions with 17 inch Hoosier race tires with a lightweight chassis. The combination makes the cars fast, reliable and inexpensive which is relative in the world of racing.

Many teams brought their cars to Arizona to be a part of this new series but some did not have enough time to prepare their car as well as they wanted. The Gogogear team was very well represented with a three car team. The TRS/Group4 Racing team was supposed to have three cars entered but only managed to have one car present. The Metric Motorsports team has three cars and had two entered for the event but at the last minute they were down to one car. The Lucas Racing team brought their newly acquired Acura Integra Type R for its first race.

After practicing on Friday, many teams found themselves with a lot to learn. The track's oval section was trickier than many had anticipated. By the time the qualifying race had started, many were starting to get accustomed to the track. The qualifying race was a short sprint race to determine the order of the start of the main race. At the finish of the qualifying race, Richard Holdener's Extrude Hone/Ram Air Tech Honda Del Sol was up in front, next to the TRS/Group 4 Racing Honda Accord station wagon of Peter Miller. Third was the Metric Motorsports Honda Civic of Billy Kwan.

Things got interesting as the Del Sol of Holdener was disqualified from the session with mechanical irregularities. That meant that Miller's Accord would start from the pole position with Kwan in second place and Scott Lucas' Acura Integra Type R in third. Holdener would have to start in the back of the grid.

Sunday's main race was full of anticipation. This was the big moment that many had planned for months. At the drop of the green flag, the Accord of Miller took the lead with the back of the grid shuffling positions by the second. A few cars got a little loose at the first few turns and locked up those sticky Hoosier tires but fortunately, everyone stayed clean.

Two cars were on the move from the back of the pack. One was the Del Sol of Holdener which was making up positions in large chunks and another was the Gogogear Honda Civic of Ali Arsham. Arsham missed most of practice, and all of qualifying after debris flew into his eye early on Saturday. He had to spend most of the day in the local hospital getting checked out and was not even sure if he could start the race on Sunday. Arsham's Civic was up to fifth after lap one but the Holdener Del Sol was already up to third.

After a few laps had passed, everyone had settled into a comfortable position with Miller still leading in the Accord, Holdener now in second in the Del Sol, and Arsham was up to third place in the Civic. The top three were about 10 seconds apart. The fight for fourth was even closer between the Type R Integra of Lucas, the Motorsport Dynamics Acura Integra of Jonathan Meris and the Honda Civic of Kwan. The battle for eighth was between the Gogogear Honda Civic of Gordon Pun, the BMW M3 of Sean O'brien, and the Gogogear BMW 325i of Becky Arsham.

The battle up front soon heated up as Holdener passed Miller to take the lead and started to pull away. At the same time Arsham was reeling in Miller's station wagon. As Holdener started to stretch his lead, Arsham and Miller started having a fight. The two Hondas traded positions several times per lap as each showed their strength in a particular section of the race track. The two quickly realized that during their duel, the Del Sol was getting quickly out of reach. Miller said, "All of a sudden I realized that we were just slowing each other down and the hope of a victory was being washed away." Miller, who has won everything from Tecate street races to Toronto street races, wanted to add this race to his resume. The war calmed down a little bit and everyone once again settled into their position. "I was working the car so hard that the water temperature was starting to climb and I was concerned about the engine. I also didn't want to chew my tires up early on in the race." said Arsham.

Holdener was a tough one to catch due to his extensive experience in World Challenge, Bridgestone Supercar, F2000, and shifter karts. He was using every ounce of his extensive background to move the Del Sol.

At the latter stages of the race, more new developments occurred. Scott Lucas in the Integra Type R had a spin which fortunately didn't cost him any loss of position and Jonathan Meris did the same. As soon as it looked like the top three were going to finish with Holdener leading, Miller in second and Arsham in third, things changed. Something was wrong with Holdener's Del Sol and he was being caught up in a hurry. This occurred as the white flag was being waved. The TRS/Group 4 crew were yelling at Miller to step on it and make his move. And Miller did just that. On the last turn leading on the oval, Holdener got a little loose as Miller stuck the nose of the Accord on the inside and made the pass.

At the finish, it was Miller in the Accord, followed by Holdener's Del Sol, and Arsham's Civic. Scott Lucas finished fourth in the Integra Type R and Meris finished fifth in the other Integra.

Miller took home a check for over $1400 with Holdener winning about $1050 and Arsham netted approximately $800. Miller also received cash prizes and gift certificates from Hawk Brakes, Wine Country Motorsports, Wheels America, CL Bryant 76 gas, KAAZ limited slips, and Hoosier Tires totaling over $1900. This included four brand new Hoosier race tires and a limited slip unit courtesy of KAAZ. Holdener took home a similar package worth about $475 which included two free new Hoosier race tires and Arsham netted a similar amount including one free Hoosier tire.

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Series General
Drivers Scott Lucas , Ali Arsham , Gordon Pun