SBRS: Road America race notes

SBRS: Road America race notes
May 25, 2004, 6:56 PM

Skip Barber National at Road America: It's Mandarino on Saturday, Andretti on Sunday ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (May 23) - Lorenzo Mandarino in the dry on Saturday and Marco Andretti in the wet on Sunday scored wins in the Skip Barber National ...

Skip Barber National at Road America: It's Mandarino on Saturday, Andretti on Sunday

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (May 23) - Lorenzo Mandarino in the dry on Saturday and Marco Andretti in the wet on Sunday scored wins in the Skip Barber National double-header at Road America, the first time in Victory Circle for each of them in the championship. Andretti collected 36 points over the weekend --20 for the Sunday win plus 16 for second place on Saturday -- a haul of points big enough to boost him over erstwhile leader Benny Moon as the series heads to rounds seven and eight in two weeks' time at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit.

Qualifying for Road America's first race (round five) was in the dry and Moon took the pole. Andretti qualified second, Victor Ramos third and Skip Barber Karting Scholarship driver Mark Burt fourth. At the start, Moon braked too early for One (he was in an unfamiliar car, having switched after the practice sessions) and all the frontrunners went by. Burt also got a bad start, falling back to eighth, but it was Mandarino who made the most of it; from his grid position of seventh, Mandarino rocketed to third on the first lap, was into second by lap six (after two laps of full course yellow to extract John Pew and Andrew Alfonso from the gravel in Canada Corner), then took the lead from Marco Andretti on the back straight heading to turn five with two laps to go to take the win. It was extremely bold, close, nose-to-tail racing (with one observer remarking, "This is the most testosterone I've seen in one place at one time!"), and all but two of the 21 starters made it home on the lead lap, the last finisher less than half-a-lap behind the leaders. Finishing third behind Mandarino and Andretti was Gerardo Bonilla (starting from sixth), with Ramos fourth (he also set fastest race-lap) and Chris Prey, winner at VIR in late April and second in points coming in, fifth. Robbie Pecorari, the Stars of Karting/Skip Barber scholarship winner, took sixth, with Moon just behind ("I just didn't drive well today..."). Rounding out the top 10 were Burt, 13-year-old John Edwards and Jeff Relic.

The qualifying session for Sunday's round six was in the wet, and only two drivers broke into the three-minute flats: Andretti (3:00.515) and Bonilla (3:00.824). Ramos in third with a 3:01.082 was no surprise, but Robin Warner's 3:01.714 was. In only his second year of racing, he took full advantage of having raced at Road America in Skip Barber Regional four times in 2003 -- three of which were in the rain -- and would start fourth, with Mandarino fifth.

It was dry for the start, but off-and-on rain over the entire week prompted series officials to start everybody on the BFGoodrich wets. A good call, as before even lap one was in the books rain was reported on the backside of Road America's expansive four miles. Bonilla slotted into second behind Andretti through One and Two but absolutely nailed Turn Three and was past Andretti well before the big braking zone for Turn Five. But on the next lap, with the conditions still mixed, Andretti put the pass on Bonilla through the outside(!) of Five. From that point,

Andretti ran away, but Ramos immediately attacked Bonilla and took second two laps later. By now it was a steady, solid rain, and toward the end it claimed its victims. Mandarino and Prey were fifth and sixth, respectively, with a lap to go, but fell off the road, and Edwards, Moon (coming from 15th), Relic and Sergio Perez took full advantage. Prey had trouble near the end, going from sixth to ninth on the last lap, but Harrison Brix got himself to 10th after going back to 13th early on. Warner? He went from third on the first lap to sixth on the second, but got one spot back when Matt Varsha -- totally new to racing in the rain and doing quite well -- made a mistake. Warner then impressively got around Mandarino on lap five to get back to fourth, where he would finish.

When the weekend's points were all accounted for, Andretti leapt from nine behind Moon to seven up. Ramos now sits third, just two back from Moon, with Prey fourth and Bonilla fifth. The chase for the $100,000 title bonus resumes with the Skip Barber National stand-alone event at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit outside Tulsa, Okla., June 4-6.


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