Wet weather wasn't enough to dampen spirits at California Speedway this weekend, particular those of Burt Frisselle, who won four consecutive races in Formula Dodge Western Series action. John Knudsen was similarly dynamic, winning the balance of...
Wet weather wasn't enough to dampen spirits at California Speedway this weekend, particular those of Burt Frisselle, who won four consecutive races in Formula Dodge Western Series action. John Knudsen was similarly dynamic, winning the balance of races, two of the six that ran on the 3.0-mile asphalt road course. A special nod goes pit lane coordinator Larry Grabb, who despite the rain, managed to maintain order in the wet and accommodate two practice sessions and qualifying for each of the three race groups.
After the Fontana weekend, Leonardo Maia holds a six-point lead over Brett Arsenault in the overall points tally. Frisselle's effort was instrumental in allowing him to close the gap and position himself third overall. Steve Sylvester remains in front in Master's competition, ahead of Peter Ponder-Pistor and Lester Quam.
Hopes of a dry course went unrealized on Saturday. Group 1 race 1 started the day on slicks but had to retrofit for treads after the pace lap. In heavy rains, John Knudsen pulled off a great start and won the damp contest in flag-to-flag fashion. Tom Atherton and Robbie Montinola squared off for P2. With two laps to go, Montinola secured the second position and his first podium finish. Atherton would follow in third. Seiji Tojima was the most progressive racer, finishing fifth after a start from the back of the grid.
In group 2 race 1, Burt Frisselle, who would be dubbed Rain-Meister after the weekend, worked his way to the front to take his first Skip Barber Race Series win. Brian Johnson and John Mefford followed him home. Tamafumi Kamiya was in the hunt but received a 20-second penalty for not pitting after an on-track incident. Lester Quam was best among Master's racers in this group.
In the day's last race, Tophie Stewart led from the pole but was reeled in by Frisselle, who was clearly comfortable in the sloppy conditions. Stewart finished in second and Leonardo Maia third. Javier Gonzalez and Keith Basso waged a good battle for fourth in front of a soaked field that was forced to peer through fogged up visors. Richard Smith-Allen notched the Master's win in this race.
Second day action brought a reduced amount of rain but similar results. John Knudsen started and won from pole in front of Robbie Montinola and Seiji Tojima. Montinola and Brett Arsenault exchanged positions until Arsenault spun out in turn-3 allowing Montinola to take his second podium. The Racing Experience [TRE] instructor Mitch Perry, Tom Atherton and Whitney Bellows cycled in close proximity in a heated battle for fifth position. At half distance, Atherton spun off in the hairpin and retired. Geoffrey Swortwood had a great battle with TRE's Kelly Bussey, eventually besting him when Bussey suffered two uncharacteristic spins.
In group 2 race 2, Burt Frisselle continued his winning ways, setting a fastest lap of 2:08.719 sec. along the way. He was joined on the podium by John Mefford and Brian Johnson. Johnson and Tamafumi Kamiya scrapped a bit for P3, which Johnson controlled after using draft dynamics to his advantage. Lee Novak drove an inspired race from 14th to finish sixth. Lester Quam secured his second Masters win as well as an overall fifth place result.
By the last race of the weekend, Burt Frisselle must have been "Singin' in the Rain." Seeking a fourth consecutive victory, Frisselle successfully held off a talented Leonard Maia to record a three-second-margin win. On the first lap of action, Tophie Stewart and Javier Gonzalez had contact after Maia sailed up the inside line in turn-3 as they tried to pass each other. Stewart was forced to retire with a broken A-arm. After pitting for contact, Gonzalez was able to return to the flooded track a lap down. Richard Smith-Allen and Tom Atherton had a ferocious fight for fifth place, which Master racer Smith-Allen eventually secured. Alex Latteri and John Adams showed improved confidence in acclimating to the rain and treaded tire set-up.
The Formula Dodge Western Regional Series searches for dry weather as it moves to Laguna Seca on March 17-18.
- Andrew Torres