SOUTH BELOIT, Ill. – The Northern Conference U.S. Majors Tour wrapped its first weekend at Blackhawk Farms Raceway Sunday, with 25 drivers taking wins.
Sunday featured six groups of 24-lap races, all which ran without a single safety car deployment on the seven turn, 1.950-mile circuit.
Group 1: For the second consecutive day, Voytek Burdzy moved his No. 41 Advanced Autosport Mazda Miata to the front of the field and drove away, collecting a 11.257-second victory and a new track record of 1:21.999 in the process.
Michael Novak held that record in the No. 9 Roush Caldwell Race Prep Miata for almost a full minute, setting the mark on lap 12 before Burdzy rattled off three in a row that were quicker. Novak, comfortably in second, had to back off and hold on at the finish with a failing left front hub. He got to the finish, however, and took home the runner-up trophy.
Keith Mellen’s biggest issue on his way to a third-place finish in the No. 87 Dreaming Tree Racing Miata was avoiding the No. 27 Advance Autosports Miata running wide at turn one on lap 17 in the midst of that podium battle. Mellen was safe and alone for the final seven laps, while Brown would fall all the way to 13th at the finish.
Group 2: Scott Rettich led flag to flag in the No. 17 Alliance Autosport/Springboro Car Wash Spec Racer Ford on Saturday, and on the opening lap Sunday had opened up more than a second lead in front of the Spec Racer Ford field.
That was short-lived, however. With gravel on the racing line through turn one and a crowd behind him, Rettich hit the disturbed surface and ran off track. Jeff Beck’s No. 31 Lindell/Ryan Spec Racer nearly followed him, running two wheels wide, and Adam Gottlieb’s No. 7 No. 7 Flat Black Racing Spec Racer Ford sat in front for 15 laps.
Rettich fell back to seventh, then worked his way to the front of the field lap by lap. By lap 12, he was back in second, and even Gottlieb knew he was on borrowed time out front. Coming up the front straight to start lap 19, Rettich moved back in front in the same corner that sent him off track early in the race, and moved on to the checkered flag. Gottlieb held off Beck to the finish, for the same podium order as Saturday.
Group 3: Super Touring Lite and Touring 4 highlighted Group 3 on Sunday with two tight battles to the finish.
Rich Walke kept his No. 61 Creative Technology Mazda RX-7 in front of the Super Touring Lite battle, but it took his full effort for the entire distance. Breton Williams’ No. 00 First Wealth Financial Group Mazda RX-7 was charging hard, looking for a way around.
Williams best opportunity may have been in Turn One at the end of the front straight, one of the prime passing spots on the track. That corner was covered for the last seven laps by a local yellow flag, however, for Steve Sargis’ GT-Lite No. 1 SBS Batteries/Hoosier Tire Triumph Spitfire. Sargis’ left rear wheel had locked up following an issue with his brake caliper and suspension, and left him stranded on track. Walke used that to his advantage for the STL win.
Jim Ebben was Sunday’s Touring 4 winner following a tough battle with Ralph Porter. Porter led early in the No. 32 Hoosier Racing/Tire Barn BMW Z4, but coming through the sweeping left hander was moved wide by an F Production car on the inside coming through. Ebben, just behind, used that opportunity to move his No. 8 Mazda/Hoosier/Lamers Racing Mazda RX-8 side by side of Porter, and then out braked him into the following turn to move in front. Once there, Ebben kept his Mazda on the point and took the checkered flag.
Greg Gauper, in the No. 15 Rana Mort Racing/King Motorsports Honda Civic, and Brian Kelm, in the No. 12 Ford Fiesta, swept H Production and B-Spec, respectively, with wins on Sunday.
Group 4: Like Saturday, the Formula 500, Formula F and Formula Vee races featured runaway wins, including weekend sweeps by Michael Mueller (No. 24 MJ Mfg/Fibeco/Hoosier Red Devil/Rotax) in Formula 500 and Michael Varacins (No. 65 Speed Sport/Veetech/Hoosier Speed Sport AM-5/Volkswagen) in Formula Vee, respectively.
Behind them was a battle of attrition. Robert Perona got into the clear in his No. 73 Goodyear Piper DF-3/Honda when, early in the race, Saturday winner Jeffrey Bartz ran off track in turn one and spun back across the curbing, leaving his No. 33 Hoosier/SBS/Two Doggs Van Diemen/Honda high-centered for two laps. From there, Perona had the room to cruise to the checkered flag.
Varacins fell behind the No. 9 Rocket Motors/Subway/Hoosier Protoform P2 of Andrew Whitston on the opening lap, trailing the first time by the stripe after getting boxed in at the start. Varacins moved around and into the lead on lap two, and didn’t look back. Whitston, however, lost his brakes on lap five, flying off track and into the weeds in turn seven, dramatically ending his day and pulling him off the podium.
Group 5: The Prototype classes stole the show in the wings and things group.
In Prototype 1, Jason Miller’s No. 8 Kohler/Millenium WynnFurst was in front for the duration, but it was far from an easy race. Dudley Fleck’s No. 74 Mazda/Hoosier/Coors Light Van Dieman/Mazda followed in Miller’s wake, tracing his steps and looking for a way around.
Fleck’s race came to an unfortunate end on lap 14, when he pulled off course and climbed out of the car as the Chicago Region safety team fought a fire in Fleck’s car. Fleck was physically unharmed, but his day was over, and Miller earned the win.
The Prototype 2 race was decided even later than that. After Jeff Miller led the first 22 laps in the No. 0 Kohler/Millenium/Goodyear Lola WynnFurst, Richard Colburn’s No. 9 Amari Metals NosTendo 2 moved around him down the front straight and into turn 1 with two to go.
Still pushing hard, Miller – the father of Prototype 1 winner Jason – ran wide and just off course, and Colburn came home with the win. And excited Colburn said after the race that it may be the first time that he’s beaten the elder Miller heads up in his 45 year racing career.
JR Smart (No. 09 Smart Motors/Hurricane Hanna Swift 014a/Toyota) swept the weekend in Formula Atlantic; Peter Lesueur (No. 05 OSQ/Hoosier Tire Van Diemen RF02) earned his second Formula Continental win of the weekend; Brian Lift (No. 29 Havoc Motorsport Formula Mazda) won twice in Formula Mazda, as did Charles Livingston (No. 33 JDR 012) in Formula 1000.
Group 6: For the second straight day, Bryan Long marched his No. 29 HRPWorld/Hawk/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette to an overall and GT-1 win, setting a track record of 1:07.128 in the process on Sunday.
Chris Pedersen’s No. 67 Ford Mustang and David Venhaus’ No. 11 Ford Mustang were nose to tail for most of the race. Pederson’s bright orange machine was without fourth gear, bogging him down at points – but his weakness matched up with Venhaus’ own, who had fading brakes and couldn’t take advantage of Pederson’s low speed at the end of the front straight.
The two ran side by side down the front straight on lap 17, but both went hard on the brakes into turn one and wobbled under braking. Pedersen emerged from the corner in the lead, and finished on top of the podium.
Mike Cyphert had the same battle in GT-3, fighting with George Cichon lap after lap. Cyphert kept his No. 76 Toyota Motorsports/TRD/Red Line Toyota Celica just in front, and though Cichon’s No. 39 Hoosier/MAZDASPEED/Cichon Racing Mazda RX-7 was ready to capitalize on any mistakes, Cyphert didn’t make one large enough to let him by. The pair finished one and two on the podium.
Matt Slaverns (No. 34 Fall-Line Ford Mustang GT-2) and John Kachadurian (No. 80 Chicago Motor Cars/Grey Fox Racing Porsche GT3) scored weekend sweeps in Touring 2 and GT-2, respectively.