American Iron West Fontana race notes

NASA- American Iron West, March 11-12, 2006, California Speedway, season opener race report The track: 21 turns, 2.8 miles. The road course utilizes the NASCAR straight and NASACAR oval turns 1 and 2. Very good mix of high speed with technical...

NASA- American Iron West, March 11-12, 2006, California Speedway, season opener race report

The track: 21 turns, 2.8 miles. The road course utilizes the NASCAR straight and NASACAR oval turns 1 and 2. Very good mix of high speed with technical infield.

Friday March 10 test and tune day began with on and off rain. Mostly the morning sessions were very wet track conditions with the main oval track area being less wet and the infield area having streams of water and puddles. Drivers putting their wet driving skills to the test included Dave Royce with Maximum Motorsports, Mike Armstrong and Vageli Karas, Mike Patterson, Gary Umphenour, Andy Bowman, Ryan Walton, Mark and Jonathan Witherow, Hal Massey, Paul McKee and rookie Patrick Lindsey.

The afternoon sessions saw spots of sun, which dried the track enough for the pack to put down fast laps. The day ended up with the fastest laps nearly challenging last year's track records by Dave Royce with a 1.49.95. Vageli Karas, Mike Patterson, Gary Umphenour, Andy Bowman made up the top five in the test in tune day.

Saturday March 11, the rain continued to fall. All the race teams debated over running shaved race tires or full rain tires as half the track continued to show signs of dryness and the infield mostly wet. During the qualifying session, the temperatures quickly dropped and light rain continued as the drivers took the track. But just as the session started, heavier rain began to fall. Driving skills were being tested to the limits on a track that already frightens the best drivers in dry conditions. With no one having defrosters, foggy windows blocked everyone's vision and no windshield washers, compounded the difficulties to get quick lap times. The #91 Maximum Motorsports car with Dave Royce at the wheel, running a IRS suspension (independent rear suspension) took the pole position for the afternoon race. Andy Bowman in his #99 Mustang Cobra grabbed 2nd in qualifying to make up the front line.

Qualifying Line up:
1. Dave Royce #91 Mustang GT
2. Andy Bowman #99 Mustang Cobra SN95
3. Mike Patterson #3 Z28 Chevy Camaro
4. Ryan Walton #54 Mustang GT
5. Mark Witherow (AIX) #04 Mustang GT SN95
6. Vageli Karas #7 Mustang GT
7. Gary Umphenour #73 Saleen Mustang
8. Brian McMillan #4 Mustang GT
9. Paul McKee #94 Mustang GT SN95
10. Patrick Lindsey #117 Mustang GT
11. Christine Knight #29 Chevy Z28 Camaro
12. Hal Massey #46 Mustang GT SN95
13. Bill Daffron #27 (AIX) Mustang GT
14. JR Smith, Z28 Chevy (AIX) - out with mechanical

Saturday Race. With dark clouds overhead and rain off and on, the thirteen American Iron drivers rolled up to the grid for the 2:35pm; 35 minute race. Team pit crews staged in the hot pit area with rags in hand to clear foggy windows during the race. The race would start with the Camaro-Mustang Challenge (CMC) and Vette-Viper Challenge cars and the Super Unlimited cars all following the American Iron start flag. Over forty cars on the 2.8-mile track in all.

The green flag dropped... Dave Royce and Andy Bowman lead door to door until Mike Patterson in the #3 Z28 Camaro blew by on the inside line. Dave Royce pulled a few car lengths ahead of Andy Bowman in the NASCAR oval with the pack closing the gap. Approaching turn-3, a hard braking area with a sharp 90-degree left turn and quick 90-degree turn back to the right, Vageli Karas #7 and Ryan Walton #54 overtake Andy Bowman to take 3rd and 4th. Brian McMillan #4 nearly overtakes Andy Bowman for 5th and the wet infield track begins to take sliding cars and Brian cannot complete the pass. In the hair pin corner of turn-4 Andy Bowman #99 re-takes 4th position from Ryan Walton as Ryan goes wide and nearly slides off track. Racing down the fast straight to the first kink and turn 5, Andy Bowman overtakes Vageli Karas to re-take 3rd place.

Up front, Dave Royce in the Maximum Motorsports #91 Mustang GT is putting the pressure on Mike Patterson in the Chevy Z28 Camaro. Mike Patterson is a Southwest regional champion from Texas and is showing his skills dicing with Dave Royce. But the monster torque and horsepower of the LS1 powered Z28 is enough to hold the Mustang back. Mike and Dave slowly pull away from the pack but only a few feet per lap.

Back in the back, Christine Knight and Hal Massey have another Chevy versus Ford battle going on running door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper. The rookie Patrick Lindsey in the #117 Mustang GT is also dicing laps with Paul McKee in the orange #94 SN95 Mustang. Mid-pack just behind Andy Bowman in 3rd place, Vageli Karas, Brian McMillan, Mark Witherow, Ryan Walton and Gary Umphenour battle for corners and swap positions.

As the racing gods will have it, the #3 Chevy of Mike Patterson leading the race blows and oil-cooler line in lap 6, just approaching turn-3. Mike begins to spill oil on the track and has a large plum of smoke following his car. # 91 Dave Royce takes 1st place as Mike is forced off track with Andy Bowman gaining 2nd and Vageli Karas taking 3rd.

The race continued with rain and drivers sliding in the infield track areas. After 15 laps and 35 minutes of racing, Dave Royce takes the checkered flag for the west region season opener, with Andy Bowman keeping 2nd place for his first career podium, and veteran Vageli Karas holding onto 3rd.

Saturday March 11 race results:
1. Dave Royce #91 Mustang GT
2. Andy Bowman #99 Mustang Cobra SN95
3. Vageli Karas #7 Mustang GT
4. Ryan Walton #54 Mustang GT
5. Gary Umphenour #73 Mustang GT
6. Brian McMillan #4 Mustang GT
7. Patrick Lindsey #117 Mustang GT
8. Paul McKee #94 Mustang GT SN95
9. Christine Knight #29 Chevy Z28 Camaro
10. Mark Witherow #04 (AIX) Mustang GT SN95
11. Hal Massey #46 Mustang GT SN95
12. Mike Patterson #3 Chevy Z28 - out with broken oil line
13. JR Smith, Z28 Chevy - out with mechanical
14. Bill Daffron #27 (AIX) Mustang GT - out with mechanical

Sunday March 12

Sunday morning brought scattered, but dark clouds and very cold temperatures. The adjacent San Bernardino mountains near the track glowed white with snow and was perfect for a racing backdrop. With the cold temperatures, the track was sure to be a challenge in order to obtain optimum tire temp. All of the AI cars headed out for the warm-up session except #99 Andy Bowman and #3 Mike Patterson. Mike broke a lug bolt and was forced to make repairs. After the twenty-minute practice session, Ryan Walton and other drivers commented on the slippery track, and yellow flags were flying which slowed down speeds.

As the qualifying session neared, the sun and warmer temperatures came. The track was warmed up with Time Trial, HPDE and race groups laying down rubber. The American Iron, CMC, Vette-Vipers and Super Unlimited drivers headed out for qualifying in much better conditions then the previous day.

During the session, Vageli Karas hit a cone, which another car put on track, Vageli hit the cone doing well over 100MPH and damaged his front splitter. During the session, Vageli then broke his transmission in the #7 Mike Armstrong Racing Mustang GT. Bill Daffron in the #27 AIX Mustang GT then hit the tire barrier driving hot into turns 16 and 17 and damaged his front right panels and splitter. But Mike Patterson gained AI pole position in the #3 Z28 Camaro with near record setting speeds. The rest of the pack were barely behind Mike and the line up was set for intense racing.

Sunday Qualifying Results:
1. #27 Bill Daffron (AIX)
2. #3 Mike Patterson
3. #7 Vageli Karas
4. #91 Dave Royce
5. #73 Gary Umphenour
6. #54 Ryan Walton
7. #117 Patrick Lindsey
8. #99 Andy Bowman
9. #4 Brian McMillan
10. #46 Hal Massey
11. #04 Jonathan Witherow
12. #29 Christine Knight
13. #94 Paul McKee
14. J.R. Smith - out with mechanical

The Sunday race started with Mike Patterson in the #3 car powering away with Dave Royce in the Maximum Motorsports car pressing to not lose Mike. Vageli Karas in the #7 Mustang GT was forced to have a poor start with transmission problems and #54 Ryan Walton mis-shifted on the green flag mid-pack. #73 Gary Umphenour and rookie #117 Patrick Lindsey diced through turn 2 heading to turn 3. But as the pack headed for the sharp and hard braking turn-3, trouble was about to begin. The #04 car of Jonathan Witherow powered low on the track with #99 Andy Bowman, #54 Ryan Walton and #4 Brian McMillan door to door, and all four cars challenging for the apex of turn 3. #54 Ryan Walton and #99 Bowman barely escape collision as #04 Witherow locks up the brakes and impacts the rear bumper of #4 McMillan with both cars spinning out. #46 Hal Massey, #29 Christine Knight and #94 Paul McKee bring up the rear of the pack missing the spinning cars in turn 3.

Up front again, #91 Dave Royce hard charges the #3 Chevy of Patterson, but the Chevy is too strong and continues to lead lap after lap. 2005 Champ Gary Umphenour in the #73 Saleen Mustang keeps pace but is unable to catch up to Royce and Patterson but holding steadily onto 3rd place.

Mid pack, Walton and rookie Patrick Lindsey battle bumper to bumper with Patrick over-taking the veteran #54 Walton, but Walton keeps re-taking his 4th position back from the rookie. #99 Andy Bowman keeps pace just behind Lindsey and Walton, but is unable to gain ground until lap traffic with the CMC cars begins. Walton gets through the CMC cars smoothly and finally opens up breathing room from the #117 car of Lindsey. #46 Massey, #29 of Knight and the #94 SN95 Mustang of McKee dice to the end and fight over lap CMC traffic.

In the closing few laps, up front again, #91 Royce begins to reel in Patterson. Both cars cut fast through turns 19 and 20, then suddenly #3 Mike Patterson going over 90 MPH impacts the front straight wall and severely damages his car with car parts flying over the track. Mike's front right suspension fails as the track transitions from flat to the NASCAR banking oval exiting the last corner. Mike said "there was nothing I could do, I was along for the ride". When the front suspension broke, the front right tire rolled under the car making the car bounce up sending Patterson out of control into the wall. Mike Patterson was not injured and walked away after he successfully got the car to come to a stop in the lower grass area near the start-finish line, almost 200 yards from his impact point.

With Patterson out, #91 Dave Royce gains 1st place for the last few closing laps and a comfortable lead. #54 Walton is not finished in the last laps and chases down #73 Umphenour and nearly over takes him. Gary has a bit more power and holds Walton off for a near photo finish. Patrick Lindsey takes an excellent drive to 4th place and Andy Bowman in the #99 Mustang Cobra rounds out the top five.

Sunday Race Results
1. #91 Dave Royce, Maximum Motorsports
2. #73 Gary Umphenour
3. #54 Ryan Walton
4. #117 Patrick Lindsey
5. #99 Andy Bowman
6. #04 Jonathan Witherow
7. #4 Brian McMillan
8. #29 Christine Knight
9. #46 Hal Massey
10. #94 Paul McKee
11. #3 Mike Patterson - crash
12. #7 Vageli Karas-Team Armstrong - out with tranny/mechanical
13. #27 Bill Daffron - out with mechanical
14.J.R. Smith - out with mechanical

The next race will be held April 29-30 at Infineon Raceway.


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About this article
Series Road racing
Drivers Dave Royce , Patrick Lindsey