Same Winners, Different Track; Newgarden and Miller CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 24) Rounds five and six of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda championship was supporting the Champ Car Cleveland Grand Prix and both races were wheel...
Same Winners, Different Track; Newgarden and Miller
CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 24) Rounds five and six of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda championship was supporting the Champ Car Cleveland Grand Prix and both races were wheel to wheel affairs from beginning to end. The two winners in the previous two rounds did it again: Josef Newgarden proved his win at VIR in April was a sign of further success to come when he not only took pole for both Cleveland races but converted the first one into a win, while fellow VIR winner Joel Miller took command a third of the way into the second race to get his second win of the year. And we also saw the debut of a 13-year-old Colombian making his first Skip Barber National start, one Gabby Chaves, who fought for and earned a podium.
Race one: On the first lap, polesitter Newgarden not only lost the lead to Chaves, the kid who's barely into his teens and had qualified third, but had to slot into third behind Riley. With passes happening in every corner up and down the 30-car field, the next time around we saw Newgarden in the lead and Chaves third, Riley keeping P2. When Chaves and Riley started duking it out mid-race, ``Newgy'' opened up a small gap. But when Riley disposed of Chaves for the last time, on lap six, he went after Newgarden and chased him down. On the final lap, Riley timed a move through the front-straight chicane that gave him a run on Newgarden to the checker -- but the effort fell 3 feet short. Jeff Relic, who hadn't been in a National in more than a year, was a superb fourth, while Conor Daly, the young son of Derek making his first pro start, came home an impressive fifth.
Race two was even more closely fought, with six drivers racing scarily close over the first 12 laps: Newgarden, Chris Wehrheim, Miller, Riley, Chaves and Ricky Taylor. Wehrheim led lap one, then Newgarden took over. MIller snatched the lead from Newgarden on lap seven and then took advantage of the frantic fighting behind to eek out a small gap. Wehrheim had to recover from a four-off on the backside that had dropped him from second to eighth on lap four; by lap 12, he moved around Newgarden to take over second place. Wehrheim kept the whip to his Skip Barber Formula 2000 and chased after Miller, but the 2007 Skip Barber/Stars of Karting Scholarship winner was perfect and Wehrheim couldn't get closer than 2 seconds to Miller's gearbox. Meanwhile, with four laps to go, Newgarden succumbed to Riley and got within two-tenths of Wehrheim at the checker. Fifth was Taylor, Chaves sixth, with Stevan McAleer, Timmy Megenbier, Juan Carlos Sistos and Daly rounding out the top 10.
Championship leader Miller increased his lead a tiny bit (by two points) despite a mechanical issue in race one that left him 13th at the finish. Miller's second win of the year (he took one of the two VIR races, Newgarden the other) puts him at 178 points. Riley's double-podium weekend jumped him from sixth in the standings to second, with 161 tallies. Newgarden's climb up the points is even a bit more dramatic, 11th to sixth.
In the Masters Division, Jeff Kaiser won both races with rookie Alan Baia second each time. Dom Bastien was third in race one and erstwhile points leader Dick Lippert was P3 in race two; Kaiser takes over the points lead in the division, four up on Lippert.
With Skip Barber National rounds seven and eight (of 14, with one `'drop'') in early August at Road America, there are more title contenders at least nine than you can shake a stick at.
-credit: skip barber