Martin Luther King, Jr. Double National at Phoenix International Raceway January 14-16, 1995 copyright (c) 1995 John Dillon How many stewards does it take to....? The stewards corps couldn't figure it out...
Martin Luther King, Jr. Double National at Phoenix International Raceway January 14-16, 1995
copyright (c) 1995 John Dillon
How many stewards does it take to....? The stewards corps couldn't figure it out either! 23 of the usually unmentioned volunteers showed up for the Double National at Phoenix International Raceway over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The group took advantage of their presence to hold a dinner meeting at Arturo's and discuss stewardly stuff.
Regional Executive Joanne Jensen remarked "I'm tickled pink with the number of entries [almost 200]." The key to the large turnout, she said, was "from ads in SportsCar and The Wheel and fliers posted at the Runoffs."
Monday's racing conditions were perfect; according to results, 24 lap records were broken that day! Not a one fell on Sunday, a murkier sort of afternoon that left competitors scrambling for their "chilly weather" setups.
Racing started off with a bang when the Formula Vees and 440s took the field. Hot action for the lead between Donald Glar and Galen Puccini set the early tone, but Puccini ended up listed as a "Not Running at Finish." Meanwhile, the Vees were hammer-and-tonging it, with Skip Streets holding off Jaques Lazier by a tenth of a second at the shortened 18 lap mark.
Shortened? Chico Breschini tested the strength of his F440 by driving into the Turn 9 wall, breaking his legs and ankles. The jaws of life were used to remove him from the car and get him to a hospital where he's now resting comfortably. In fact, at the Cal Club awards banquet the following week, he called in his acceptance speech via cellular phone.
Monday's race featured more close Vee action, so close that Scoring's computer recorded just one car almost every time Streets and Lazier crossed the stripe. In fact, zero seconds separated the two at the checker, with Streets once again eking out a victory with his Mysterian. This time Puccini beat Glar in the 440 portion of the event.
Next on the agenda thundered the big GT cars along with the new-as-a- national-class American Sedans. A few competitors expressed concerns about mixing street tires and slicks. Bob Coffin in particular was upset after a wayward AS Camaro stripped off the right side of his GT3 Corvair. Some other competitors shared his concern, but the feeling was by no means universal.
Kumho tires scored their first National victories of the season, one at the hands of Johanne Van Oberbeck driving an AS Camaro, the other in GT4 with Steve Hershberger--running street tires! Said Van Oberbeck, "The Kumhos are more durable than the Goodyears. They're working great and we haven't even got them dialed in yet!" He's happy that AS is now a National class. "We need more American cars in the field." Monday's AS winner, William Pichardo, hails from Boulder, Colorado, while the day's GT4 winner was local boy Steve "Patent It!" Lisa. Bob Kirby claimed EP victories on both days.
Jim Guthrie led the GT1 field (of eight cars) overall despite spinning and breaking his axle on the last lap on Sunday. This was Guthrie's first big bore ride; he's normally an FC driver. The win came after Jim Maguire, Keith Lowande, and Bob Kelly all suffered GT1 woes leading to their DNFs. Even Cal Club R.E. Andy Porterfield led for a while, but shriveled down to fifth place at the checker. Guthrie duplicated his overall victory on Monday, beating Porterfield by almost 30 seconds.
Bob Glass conquered "Checkbook Chuck" McKinney in GT2. Said McKinney, "we didn't gear the car right and that Z-car is awful fast, so all I can do is turn off the rev limiter and hope for the best." McKinney needs to drag out his checkbook again--he blew the engine in Monday's race.
Mike Lewis, who "wrote the book" on this track a year ago in SportsCar, said "I need to go back and read my own article." His competitor Wolgang Maike debuted a beautifully prepared tube-frame Toyota to "up the ante" in GT3. "We hung on and won," he added, "but I'm just glad it's over." Maike noted "I'd like to have reversed it but the Mazdas are hard to beat. My car didn't turn a wheel on a track until last Thursday. We've been building the car for the last eight months."
Arizonan Steve Imhoff secured a Formula Atlantic ride for the weekend and trounced the field despite never having driven an open wheeled car before, especially one with ground effects. After getting into the car for the first time on Saturday, he commented "I thought it'd be nice to start on the pole, but I didn't realize just how much fun it was!" He added though, that "the car beats you up a lot more than Spec Racers." Imhoff thanked Frank Simone, Premiere Limousine, and Skip Whalen from Kenwood for making the FA ride possible. San Franciscan Thane Sellers split FC wins with Boulder resident David Crawford.
72-year-old SSB competitor Les Gaylord and his "special friend" Joyce drove his race car to Phoenix from the Denver area, towing a trailer with his tools and tires inside. En route, they stopped in Sedona to get married, honeymooning at the track.
Wiley Timbrook, who finished second in SSB behind William Harrison on both days, said "it's like kissing your sister--it may be okay, but not something I want to make a habit of." Richard Crites finished third in SSB, another Kumho tire racer. "They're good to work with, very responsive," he enthused, adding "They follow up with you and even sent out a technician [Larry Krause] this weekend to work with us." Krause explained "We're trying to expand in all areas; this is the first time we've raced here."
Joe Huffaker took home four victories to Campbell, California. He won both GT5 races in a Fortech Mini and dominated the FP group all weekend, winning that group overall. In fact, Sunday's FP/etc race showed the top five winners each coming from a different class.
Tom Brecht's twin SSA victories were the first for the newly- classified BMW M3 machines. Ironically, at the Valvoline Runoffs last October at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, SCCA's Competition Board chairman Frank Eubel recommended against racing M3s. Brecht's BMW overcame the Honda of Bob Endicott, who summarized the weekend with "We simply got beat." Endicott's cause wasn't helped any when an on- track altercation on Sunday forced him into the pits for a tire change.
Eric Morehouse rode his "Neon Splash" Miata to twin SSC victories, while Rob Walker (HP) and John Snow (GP) also took home twin class wins. Kim Baker returned the Wolfsburg crest to SSC competition after an absence of several years, racing a VW Golf III to a podium finish behind the Miatas of Morehouse and Richard Hille.
Bruce Sunser and David Kaiser split DSR wins, while the two Ricks (Ferguson and Lee) split CSR honors. Not so, however, for Bennett Dorrance (ShelCan) and Ted Guenther (Sports 2000), who each vanquished the competition on both days. As with an earlier race group, the top four finishers were each in a different class on Monday.
Craig Reeder (Spec Racer Ford) and Travis Ward (Spec Racer) won on both days, but their session was by no means easy. Though Reeder took an early lead, Ward initially languished well down in the order, struggling with a tired engine. Tom Van Camp, in his first race at PIR, led most of the SR laps--battling to hold off Cameron Earnshaw. On the last lap on Sunday, Van Camp's Renault inexplicably lost power (almost 300 RPM's worth on the front straight) and he plummeted to third. Meanwhile, Earnshaw got hung up in SRF traffic, giving Ward the opportunity to overtake for the win. Van Camp admitted "I'm just here to have fun, but I'd like to take two wins." His crew chief for the weekend, by the way, was Kathy Malleck, National Administrator for F&C.
Alex Cross, injured in a Spec Racer Ford early last year at Holtville, made his triumphant return to the Renault ranks, racing one of John Rockwell's rental cars from Competition Express. "It's a triumph just to be back in the car, so I'm especially glad to be here," he said.
Formula Fords provided close dicing both days with a 3-way battle in the early laps between Peter Mastrup, John Fujii and Jason Byal. Peter Mastrup took the lead away from the daring duo of Fujii and Byal after they became so embroiled in their own struggle they couldn't keep Mastrup in sight. Mastrup beat the other two by about 17 seconds both days, with the latter splitting the victories, running side by side at the finish line on both occasions.
The Arizona Region hosts another National in early February at Firebird Raceway. Stay tuned for further results!
This race report was uploaded by the author. It will be published in the April 1995 issue of MotoRacing which is currently on sale at selected newstands in the west. Call 1-800-58-KELLY to subscribe ($18 per year). Regional SCCA magazines may publish this article without fee.