Buttonwillow report 97-04-27

Jeff Nadler Memorial National Buttonwillow Raceway Park April 27, 1997 Copyright (c) 1997 John P. M. Dillon Cal Club honored Jeff Nadler at it's April National in a variety of ways. Workers sported armbands in his memory, and in the memory...

Jeff Nadler Memorial National Buttonwillow Raceway Park April 27, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997 John P. M. Dillon

Cal Club honored Jeff Nadler at it's April National in a variety of ways. Workers sported armbands in his memory, and in the memory of others who'd fallen before, including Cal Club legend Bob Snow. Just prior to the first race, a trackside ceremony was held to salute Jeff, with our nation's banner dropped to half staff. Then Paul Wittrock circled the track twice in Jeff's Swift while the corner workers waved every flag they had. On the first lap, at a subdued pace, he carried a black flag, but as he approached the finish line he pitched out the gloomy rag and held high a checkered flag instead. Jeff's wife and children stood in the starter's stand, waving goodbye with their own checkers, while all along the pit wall a riot of color fluttered in the breeze in tribute. Wittrock punched the throttle, the Swift's engine sang in the joy of having known such a fine man as Jeff, and the tires squealed their praise as well. We celebrated Nadler's life in the Buttonwillow heat, and were thankful to have been his friend.

Nadler, selected as SCCA's 1996 Worker of the Year for his Race Chairman duties, died in a freak accident the month before. Willie Patterson and Gary Bingaman assumed Jeff's responsibilities for the weekend and made damned sure every worker had plenty of ice, water, and beverages all weekend. When the last race concluded at 7 PM on Sunday, and for a long time thereafter, they continued to work to make sure the coolers would be clean and ready for the next event. If you believed in an afterlife, you could imagine Jeff smiling down in approval of their efforts.

The Formula Ford race was a fitting tribute to Nadler, as Stan Townes, Adam Dupre, and Tom Hunter hounded one another for the win. Townes siezed an early lead, but at the two thirds mark they began encountering the Vee battle between Brian Harding, Mark Edwards, and Michael Fazio. The latter three had their hands full with their own race, and when the six contenders screamed into the new Star Mazda Corner (Turn 3B), there was bound to be trouble, and so there was. As flagger Barbara Knox reported, "They were a six pack of cars trying to fit in a three car slot." When the black dust settled, Edwards and Harding were out of contention. At the checker, The order was Dupre, Hunter, and Townes, with Fred Poli way behind for fourth.

The "Crossle" winner was David Stillwell, who finished fifth, ahead of Sandra Popescu's Van Dieman. Next followed Kurt Jechel in F500. Jechel's trip to victory circle was remarkable because of his long hiatus from Cal Club's ranks. He finished on the lead lap, well ahead of Sharon Lopardo and Jeff Jorgenson.

The first Vee winner to cross the stripe was that of Fazio, ahead of Marc Danziger and Brian Harding. Edwards still managed fourth-place points despite being a spectator at the Star Mazda Corner.

In Spec Racer Ford, Lee Fleming demonstrated his many Renault-powered wins were no flukes as he motored away from the rest of the pack, finishing almost 30 seconds ahead of Cameron Earnshaw, who in turn held a lazy 20 second lead over podium finisher Craig Reeder. Changing engines didn't change the driving styles for most of the drivers, and plenty of bumping and banging was evident throughout the session. It started almost immediately when Ed Raby, Mike McCarthy, and Rick Mortimer all met in Turn 8, with Mortimer getting serious air before parking on the drag strip behind Magic Mountain. Tom Miserendino marked his return to the track after an "Olympic effort" for a couple of years at other venues, finishing a respectable 9th in the pack of 19.

Up until now, every winner mentioned also set a new track record, but this was not the case in Formula Atlantic. Dan Vosloo set the high mark, but a sick engine late in the race left him to struggle into the pits with five laps remaining, which nonetheless placed him on the podium. Frank Scott won the event overall, just ahead of four FC cars, the first being Mike Williams.

Odd things happened in DSR too. Dave Kaiser's "Little Black Box" blistered its way around the track, but with just a few minutes left in the race, intermittent gremlins parked him briefly on the sidelines at Turn 11, dropping him to third. Marc Hoover's Mazda-powered racer took home the class win, well ahead of Bill Lomenick and S2000 winner Ted Guenther. Hoover, however, lost a cylinder near the end, so his victory was a limping one. Kaiser crossed the finish line in pit lane. Williams, Hoover, and Guenther all set track records, by the way.

Nothing new to note in the GT/Production race.... Andy Porterfield won handily, finishing over a minute ahead of Mike Lewis. There's a catch, however; Lewis raced his Mazda (normally a GT2 car) in GT1 trim, leaving John Stott to claim the GT2 victory. Mark Brannon won in EP just ahead of GT3 winner Wolfgang Maike, GT5 winner Bill Gilcrease, and GT4 victor Rick Bernocco. Robert Dennard won in FP over Dan Snow. Snow, who's FP-prepared car broke in qualifying, raced his brother's ITC-prepared Fiat in the FP class for some hard-earned second place points.

Ross Thompson led the pack of four AS cars across the line; two Mustangs shared the podium with the Camaro. Next came a string of four T1 cars, in the following order: Doug Gamble (BMW), Bob Endicott (Honda), Dave Fisher (BMW), and Tom Brecht (BMW). It was the first race for Brecht's new BMW Z3. Brian Linn and Gary Wittman raced to HP and GP victories, respectively, both uncontested in class. Tim Brecht won in SSA, ahead of SSB victor Eric Morehouse. Gail Baker led the SSB Miata contingent for much of the race, but Morehouse had a second over Baker at the checker. Both pilots were commended by the workers for their superior drives. Bill Hagerty dialed in his Nissan to claim SSC honors ahead of Paul Bonaccorsi's Neon. Track records? Chris Pennington's Mustang (AS), Gamble, Linn, Tim Brecht, Morehouse, Wittman, and Hagerty.

A Star Formula Mazda race filled the schedule with an exciting 20 laps, but you'll have to read about it elsewhere; I don't have results.

Also filling the schedule was an IT race with 35 starters. Rich Molony won overall with an ITS Datsun, six seconds ahead of Brian Winch's Mazda. Scott Dragoun claimed ITA honors, while Kevin McDonald won in ITB and Frank Cervetto won in ITC. Alex Long made his "long" trek from Seattle worthwhile, winning the ITSS class easily over Sam Contino and perennial enthusiast Otto Kaufenberg.

It appears that Cal Club has an interesting set of Supplemental Regulations--there's a hidden phrase saying "Racing will consume all available daylight." As a result, many of the flaggers from San Diego and Palm Springs didn't get home till nearly midnight, while the racers to northern California may have seen even later clocks. Nonetheless, everyone was rewarded--with good racing, the best fields Cal Club has seen in some time, and especially, the memories and celebrations of Jeff Nadler's life.


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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Jeff Jorgenson , Paul Bonaccorsi , Bill Hagerty , Marc Hoover , Bill Gilcrease , Lee Fleming , Stan Townes , Mark Brannon , Bob Endicott , Gary Wittman , Ross Thompson , Andy Porterfield , Tom Brecht
Teams Williams