A field of 52 drivers, including 12 new racers, kicked off the 2001 Formula Dodge Midwestern Regional Championship at Road America this weekend. Racers contested two rounds of action on the modified 2.2-mile circuit. Chris Baker, Craig Duerson and...
A field of 52 drivers, including 12 new racers, kicked off the 2001 Formula Dodge Midwestern Regional Championship at Road America this weekend. Racers contested two rounds of action on the modified 2.2-mile circuit. Chris Baker, Craig Duerson and Whitney Bellows started the season with multiple wins and are now tied for first place in the early season points tally.
Varying degrees of rain fell on track for races on Saturday, each calling out a full course yellow that heightened competition. In group 1 race 1, Chris Baker kept a cool head despite the close attention of John Greist who took the lead on lap-13 only to slide off the track at the Carousel. Baker went on to win over Charlie Hilmer, who also nabbed maximum points in the 40-plus category. Greg Engelsman was a close third at the flag and newcomers Greg Yari, Brian Schmitz and Eric Walker all finished in the top half of the field after early pit stops for safety four-off checks. Kyle Lawrence was the most progressive driver of the bunch, advancing nicely to finish in eighth.
Young Daniel Lancaster took advantage of a full course yellow to regroup and then pass the polesitter and Southern Champion Craig Duerson in group 2 race 1. Lancaster led for only three laps before succumbing to the rain and sliding off at Canada corner. He recovered to keep his second place despite his mandatory pit stop. Duerson, showing gritty verve, took the win to maintain his early season points momentum. Newcomer Alessandro Donnini, over from Italy, was pleased with his third place. The Italian racer was followed closely by the more experienced Tim Traver. Jeffrey Brewer drove a spirited race to earn most progressive driver distinction.
Group 3 race 1 featured an early check out by returning series driver Paul Arnold. John Greist made up for his earlier race miscue by taking second place and the Masters win. Mark Lindman earned third place honors after pitting for a four-off safety check and then later advancing through most of the field. 16-year old Dean Patzer started fourth and advanced as high as second, all the while holding off the more experienced George Scheiderer for three laps before they were both claimed by treacherous Canada corner. Burt Frisselle, visiting from the West Coast, also had an exciting race starting from eighth and climbing to fourth before spinning off and dropping back. Frisselle managed to reclaim fourth and set fastest race lap along the way.
Experienced racer Whitney Bellows has finished on the podium many times over the years but had never won a race in Skip Barber Race Series competition. All that is history. In the day's last action, Bellows drove an exemplary race in terrible conditions to win in flag-to-flag style. Behind Bellows, Eric Jobe took a fine second and most progressive drive, having started from 10th. Tim Traver earned the third podium spot while Jared Wilcox recovered from an early four-off to claim fourth. Jack Aten took the Masters win. Nick Mavridis provided an entertaining run as he set fastest lap after a spin in turn-8, eventually finishing in sixth.
Sunday's weather appeared more promising, if only slightly. The rain had abated but was replaced with a freezing wind that was more characteristic of December. The track was near dry but in the interest of safety, the race was started on treaded tires. Several observers remarked that perhaps snow tires would be required.
In a repeat of yesterday's action, Chris Baker triumphed in the opener, albeit with close attention from Josh Lorig. Charlie Hilmer took third and once again maximum Masters points after a spirited battle with Greg Engelsman. John Greist fought his way up from 12th to finish fifth, advancing through the field and besting the efforts of the gritty trio of Greg Yari, Michael Lattos and Kyle Lawrence.
In group 2 race 2, Craig Duerson won easily over Alessandro Donnini and Tim Traver . Daniel Lancaster was sidelined with a rare mechanical failure. Brian Kellogg had his sights on a podium but had to have been pleased after he climbed from 11th to fourth.
Paul Arnold challenged Burt Frisselle but couldn't break free of the young racer, who drafted and passed him on the back straight with two laps to go. Frisselle, who had started fourth, went on to take his first victory on this track. Arnold followed in a close second. Mark Lindman went four-off on the first lap but managed to keep third place benefiting from a full course yellow on lap three that bunched the field.
In group 4 race 2, Whitney Bellows took his second win well ahead of the improving rookie Eric Jobe, who followed in second. Jared Wilcox took third after Tim Traver went four-off at Haybale corner. John Dubbs III overcame a poor start position to finish fifth and claim the most improved driver of the field. Jack Aten took maximum Masters points with his fourth result overall.
In the Dennis the Menace Memorial, Brazilian Daniel Lancaster kept Craig Duerson honest until the final lap when he dropped a wheel into a hole on the exit of Haybale corner and retired with damaged rear suspension. Duerson would take the win over Chris Baker and Conrad Grunewald.
The Midwestern racers move to Michigan's Grattan Raceway for race action on June 30-July 1.
- Andrew Torres