Willow Springs report

Round 3, NASPORT-WEST Lewis Criss-Crosses Country For Cache SUNDAY, MAY 26, 1997, WILLOW SPRINGS INT'L RACEWAY - Robby Gordon did it. John Andretti has done it. Two races in one weekend at two different venues. Impressive, right? A lot of...

Round 3, NASPORT-WEST Lewis Criss-Crosses Country For Cache

SUNDAY, MAY 26, 1997, WILLOW SPRINGS INT'L RACEWAY - Robby Gordon did it. John Andretti has done it. Two races in one weekend at two different venues. Impressive, right? A lot of planning and dedication is required to pull off such a feat. Just ask NASPORT driver, SCCA Trans-Am rookie-of-the-year contender and defending SCCA Club Racing GT3 champion Mike Lewis, who not only out-did Gordon and Andretti by driving in three races over the Memorial Day weekend, but as an added obstacle, had to travel to venues that were in two completely different time zones. The third round of the NASPORT-West series was held at Willow Springs International Raceway--the fast, 2.5-mile road course in Southern California--in conjunction with Cal Club's traditional Memorial Day weekend National/Regional road racing slate. Lewis' Autocon Motorsports team ambitiously entered not only the Trans-Am at Lime Rock Park, but also decided they could compete in the NASPORT event and National club race at Willow Springs. "It actually was pretty simple once we sat down and planned it all out," San Diego resident Lewis said. The "simple" plan merely involved two round-trip flights for Lewis and crew chief David Steele from Hartford, Conn., to Los Angeles and back to Hartford. Luckily, the SCCA National and NASPORT races were held Sunday at Willow Springs, with the Trans-Am on tap for Monday at Lime Rock Park. With the team's main transportation vehicle back East with the Ford Mustang Cobra Trans-Am car, other racing friends helped tow the Mazda from San Diego to Willow Springs. Lewis, who drives the #12 Red Line Oil/Cyclo Products Mazda RX-7, managed to qualify on the pole not soon after his red-eye flight landed at LAX. Sal Versaggi, the Sonoma, Calif., driver of the #17 Napa Nissan/Mezzetta Peppers Nissan 240SX, posted second fast time with Chuck McKinney, of Pleasant Hill, Calif., third in his #28 Inn of Lancaster-sponsored Nissan 240SX. McKinney, by the way, was sporting a new, eye-catching paint scheme on his race car, which reminded many of their "wonder years." In the GT4 category, Monterey, Calif.'s, John Olsen was the quick qualifier in his #3 Classic Coachworks/Neely Motorsports Nissan. Second fast was Steve Cook, of Santa Clara, in his #48 Foreign Affair Honda, with John Teaby, of Monterey, third, driving the #88 IEM Racing Nissan. Although the sun was shining bright at Willow Springs, the wind was gusting up to 40mph, and drivers were complaining bitterly of unstable race cars, especially through Willow's famous Turns Eight and Nine. Lewis, though, brought the field onto the front straight slow and steady, charging into Turn One when the green was shown with Versaggi and McKinney in hot pursuit. Versaggi was definitely on a charge, applying relentless pressure on Lewis while also keeping McKinney at bay. "He was strong," Lewis admitted about Versaggi. "I'm not used to someone chasing me that hard around Willow. I usually just try to check out and let them battle behind me, but he wasn't going to let me go." Unfortunately, the close race for the top position lasted just past the halfway point--lap 12, to be exact--when Versaggi coasted silent down the front straight and pulled to driver's right to enter the pits backward. His crew rushed to his aid, but Versaggi managed to restart his stalled Nissan and blasted back out onto the race track. "The engine actually quit in the middle of Turn Nine," Versaggi explained during post-race impound. Although lap charts show Lewis in front for all 19 laps and 47.5 miles, Versaggi did manage to get by the Mazda once before the electronic gremlin surfaced. In fact, the Turn Nine stall occured while Versaggi was leading Lewis through the fast right-hander. "I tried not to touch him," Lewis said. "But, I was going to make a run on him down the front straight so I was glued to his bumper. He just slowed a lot and, unfortunately, I center-punched him hard." With Versaggi heading into the pits, McKinney took over second and pursuit of Lewis' Mazda. Laps were running down, however, and McKinney just plain ran out of time. Larry Hansen, of Eureka, Calif., drove his #99 Six River Bank/EHS Auto Club Nissan to the final podium position after an impressive drive from his seventh-place starting position. In the GT4 race, Steve Cook took the category honors after an early-race battle with polesitter Olsen and Teaby. Olsen headed for the pits on lap four with engine woes, leaving Cook to defend the position over Kit Simmon's (Carmel, Calif.) #13 Kitronic Racing Nissan, and Derek Israel's (Oakland, Calif.) #1 IEL Racing/Conell Auto Center Nissan. This was the third round in the eight-race NASPORT-West schedule. Versaggi was the winner of the season opener at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in March with Cook the GT4 victor. Hansen won the second round at Thunderhill with Cook, again, the GT4 leader. The next stop on the NASPORT calendar is June 13-15 at Portland. For more information about the NASPORT-West championship, including current point standings, please call (541) 765-2249.

NASPORT-WEST/ROUND 3 SUNDAY, MAY 26, 1997/WILLOW SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY QUALIFYING: 1. Michael Lewis (#12, Red Line Oil/Cyclo Products Mazda RX-7) 1:24.989; 2. Sal Versaggi (#7, Napa Nissan/Mezzetta Peppers Nissan 240SX) 1:26.120; 3. Chuck McKinney (#28, Inn of Lancaster Nissan 240SX) 1:26.699; 4. Doug Barnhold (#9, Genesis Engineering Nissan 240SX) 1:27.912; 5. Gary Brockman (#09, Brockman & Sons/NW Demolition Mazda RX-7) 1:28.073; 6. John Olsen (#3, Classic Coachworks/Neely Motorsports Nissan 510) 1:29.154; 7. Larry Hansen (#99, Six River Bank/EHS Auto Club Nissan 240SX) 1:29.361; 8. Steve Cook (#48, Foreign Affair Honda CRX) 1:29.713; 9. John Teaby (#88, IEM Racing Nissan 510) 1:32.822; 10. Kit Simmons (#13, Kitronic Racing Nissan 510) 1:33.905; 11. Derek Israel (#1, IEM Racing/Conell Auto Center Nissan 510) 1:34.384; 12. Greg Clark (#41, Clark Racing Nissan 510) 1:34.416; 13. John Spencer (#82, Spencer Enterprises Nissan 510) 1:36.055; 14. Marco Sandoval (#75, Bravado Racing Nissan 510) 1:36..283; 15. Tom Neely (#46, Industrial Metal Supply Nissan) 1:36.761; 16. Eric Bernocco (#97, Drake Engineering/DEO Dynamic VW Golf) 1:37.619; 17. Richard Boyd (#49, Richard Boyd Enterprises Nissan 510) 1:42.213. RESULTS (19 laps, 47.5 miles): 1. Lewis, 19 laps; 2. McKinney; 3. Hansen; 4. Barnhold; 5. Brockman; 6. Versaggi, 18; 7/GT4-1 Cook; 8/GT4-2 Simmons; 9/GT4-3 Israel; 10/GT4-4 Bernocco, 17; 11/GT4-5 Sandoval; 12/GT4-5 Boyd, 16; 13/GT4-6 Neely, 15; 14/GT4-7 Teaby, 9, not running; 15/GT4-8 Spencer, not running; DNF Olsen (GT4), 3; Clark (GT4), 1. TIME OF RACE: 28m0.894s; RACE AVERAGE SPEED: 101.732mph; LAP LEADERS: Lewis 1-19; FASTEST RACE LAP: Lewis, 1:26.724 (103.778mph); MARGIN OF VICTORY: 11.367sec

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Series Road racing
Drivers John Andretti , Robby Gordon , Steve Cook , Michael Lewis , Larry Hansen