Rainmeister Ronson leads Las Vegas to win in wet Sears Point race, Ferguson takes S2 class victory. Sonoma, California, May 19, 2002 - The story of Sunday's "Spirit of America" race, presented by Central Valley Builder's Supply actually started...
Rainmeister Ronson leads Las Vegas to win in wet Sears Point race, Ferguson takes S2 class victory.
Sonoma, California, May 19, 2002 - The story of Sunday's "Spirit of America" race, presented by Central Valley Builder's Supply actually started with Saturday afternoon's qualifying, and ended with racing in diabolical conditions on Sunday morning. Going into qualifying Saturday afternoon, Team Fresno drivers John Ostlund and Brad Krause felt their provisional front row positions were secure and elected not to go out. Other drivers, notably Hollywood's Fiorenzo Tirinnanzi and Denver's Marvin Jones, felt there was something to be gained, and they were right. When the checker flew on qualifying, Tirinnanzi had the pole and Jones had taken third spot, bumping the Fresno drivers to the outside of rows one and two. Fresno's David Ferguson dug deep as well, coming up with a quick lap that captured the Sports 2000 class pole for Sunday's race.
However, qualifying times became moot on Sunday morning, when a steady rain began falling about 8 a.m., three hours before the scheduled race start. The rain never let up, and the ACRL cars took to the track on Hoosier rain tires. The soft treaded rubber notwithstanding, cars began spinning on the pace lap, most notably polesitter Tirinnanzi, who fell to the back of the first wave, then pitted after one lap when he found he couldn't see the course due to rain and a fogged face shield. Ostlund, now controlling the pace, took of at the green flag and made it all the way to turn three before spinning, rejoining in sixth place. Behind him, Margie Smith-Haas spun in turn two, and remembering the previous day's events dirt-tracked across the infield to rejoin at the tail end of the field. Jones took the point and led for three laps, until Las Vegas driver Chris Ronson reeled him in and passed him in the esses on lap four. "The team gave me a great wet setup, and I've got experience racing in the rain here," said Ronson. "You have to get off the dry racing line to go fast. I knew that, but Marvin didn't." Team Hollywood driver John Lombardo Jr. followed Ronson past Jones and settled into second spot. A lap later, Ostlund got by Jones for third. Rookie SS2 driver Paet Hidalgo ran fourth for a couple of laps, but also fell prey to Lombardo and Ostlund as they came through the pack. Meantime, Smith-Haas was working her way through the field to an eventual eighth overall and sixth in class. The race ended abruptly after seven laps, as communications with the corners was lost, and a relieved Ronson took the checker. "I had two inches of water sloshing around in the cockpit," said Ronson, a statement echoed by several other drivers. San Diego driver John Cavanaugh took seventh in SS2, followed by Denver's Marvin Jones and Fresno's Brad Pierce who dropped to the back on lap two and couldn't advance.
Sports 2000 polesitter David Ferguson dropped to third at the start, as both Michael Scully and John Fujii (both of Team Las Vegas) blew by him. "I decided I had to turn it up a little at that point," said Ferguson, and by the end of lap one he was back in front. Fujii got by Scully on lap four and began stalking Ferguson, but ran out of race on lap seven. Scully hung on for third. Fred Michael of Fresno and Las Vegas driver Paul Schroeder got together at turn one on the first lap. Schroeder coasted down the hill into pit lane, and Michael completed five laps without the rear bodywork on his car.
Las Vegas narrowly edged Fresno for the team victory, 243 points to 231, thanks to Ronson's win and strong performances by S2 drivers Fujii and Scully.
The ACRL series, using a unique team racing concept, races Cosworth-powered Super Sports 2000 and Ford-engined Sports 2000 cars, with drivers required to run Hoosier ACRL-stamped R-45 compound tires and Union 76 110 Octane Leaded Racing Fuel.