Rain Can’t Slow SCCA Road Racers

Craig Berry leads the Spec Miata field through the “esses” at COTA. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)
Craig Berry leads the Spec Miata field through the “esses” at COTA. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas – Despite the constant threat of rain, the biggest SCCA SafeRacer National Series race weekends in recent memory hosted 481 cars over three days at Circuit of the Americas during the BFGoodrich Tires Texas Super Tour.

Sunday marked the second of 10 rounds on the Mid-States Majors Tour schedule.

Following an adjustment to the Saturday schedule, Group Seven opened the day with their first race of the weekend. Still wet from overnight rains, the power of the GT-1 machine was almost a disadvantage in the opening group. That proved itself right away, as the No. 41 Cirocco & Ozzimo Inc/DFL Interiors Inc BMW M3 of Wayside, N.J.’s Trent Hindman, running in GT-2, launched to a big lead on the opening lap and never looked back.

The field got one last shot at Hindman when a full course yellow came out for a single car incident, then released the field to green with time for only one last lap in the 30-minute race.

It didn’t matter – Hindman cruised to the win, with the GT-2 cars of John Kachadurian (No. 80 Grey Fox Racing/Fall Line Porsche Cup and Eric Galerne (No. 37 IUC Group Dodge Viper ACRX) in tow.

The first GT-1 car crossed the line in fourth, with the win going to three-time defending GT-1 National Champion Michael Lewis’ No. 12 Goodyear/Red Line Oil Jaguar XKR.

The group was also the last race of the day, giving Michael Pettiford a sweep in the Touring 1 class behind the wheel of the No. 4 Go4It.com Chevrolet Corvette. But the battle in the dry afternoon race came in Touring 2, where Kyle Kelley’s No 79 Upracing.com/Pauline’s Antiques Chevrolet Corvette chased Pratt Cole’s No. 81 Western Metals Transport/BFGoodrich Tires Ford Mustang for nine of the race’s 10 laps.

Kelley moved around Cole in the latter portion of the 20-turn, 3.4-mile course to take the win.

For a while, it looked like the Sunday races would be presented by the yellow flag, even with the sunshine that came out mid-morning. Like Saturday’s Formula F race, Tim Kautz’s No. 88 Braeburn/2Dogg/Hoosier Piper 2F2D/Honda fell behind the No. 07 Bamford Produce Mygale SJ11 of Steve Bamford early, but once back in the lead Kautz – and Formula 500 leader C.J. McAbee’s No. 15 AJ’s Import Garage AJ’s/Rotax – had a comfortable lead.

That all went away with a full-course caution late in the race, bunching the field again. Lapped traffic separated Kautz and Bamford on the restart, but put the No. 39 Milltronics/Hoosier/Red Devil Red Devil JS08/Rotax of Steve Jondal right on McAbee’s tail.

Both of the class leaders held the lead through the first lap following the restart, and when a second double yellow was displayed, the race ended under caution.

The production car group became the first group to run their 30-minute timed race caution free, and it allowed a battle to rage in Super Touring Lite. Bob Schader’s No. 19 Hoosier Tires/Miatacage.com Mazda Miata led away from the pole, but on lap seven the No. ISC Racing Services Mazda Miata of Mike Van Steenburg made his way into the lead.

Two laps later, Schader got a run out of the final turn and up the front straight to regain the lead. Schader held off both a charging Van Steenburg and a fast-moving Yiannis Tsiounis’ No. 09 Yushino Mazda MX-5 for a 0.682-second win.

Like Saturday, Franklin Futrelle’s No. 17 Comprent Motorsports/Skip Barber Racing machine Spec Racer Ford was involved in a race-long battle for the lead, this time with the No. 4 Lightspeed Motorsports machine of Denny Stripling. Unlike Saturday’s battle, however, Futrelle made the last-lap pass for the lead down the backstretch and held on for the victory. Futrelle fell about three feet shy of a victory on Saturday, making Sunday’s victory that much sweeter.

Because of the schedule adjustment, grids for Sunday’s races were set based on each driver’s fast lap in the first race of the weekend. That adjustment caught the No. 07 Ayres Racing Spec Racer Ford of Trey Ayres out following a DNF on Saturday. Despite starting at the rear of the 82-car grid, Ayres raced his way to 17th at the finish. Passing 65 cars earned Ayres the GoPro Hero Move of the Weekend and a GoPro Hero3 camera from the official camera of SCCA.

Sunday’s Spec Miata race featured the same trio of drivers that battled for Saturday’s win – National Champion Jim Drago’s No. 2 East Street Racing Miata, Andrew Charbonneau’s No. 40 Jeffy Boy Racing Miata, and Craig Berry’s No. 29 Granite Remnant Store/East Street Racing machine – joined by the No. 5 Autotechnik/Momo/Apex Alignment Miata of Alex Bolanos.

All but Bolanos took a turn at the point, swapping the lead throughout the 30-minute race. With one to go, Berry had his car in the front by three car lengths, and barring a mistake, left the trailing three to battle for the final two podium positions.

Entering the final corner, Berry had extended his lead by an additional car length for the victory, with Drago, Bolanos and Charbonneau the running order behind. Bolanos took the inside line through Turn 20, forcing Drago wide and onto the artificial grass on the outside of the corner. Charbonneau also took advantage of the move by Bolanos, sending Drago from second to fourth at the stripe.

Like a handful of races earlier in the day, the Group Five race came down to a one-lap shootout for the finish after a full course caution. Unfortunately for some in the Formula 1000 battle, traffic became the deciding factor.

Because of the 60-car field, when the green flag came out for the overall leaders, the front of the Formula 1000 field was still in Turn 17. With help from his crew on the radio, Jose Gerardo drove the No. 14 General Labels from fourth to first, and with the traffic bogged down, around the then top-three of J.R. Osborne’s No. 83 Hoosier/Moon’s Supercycle/C3 Construction Citation F1000, Lawrence Loshak’s No. 2 ETE Reman/JDR Race Cars/Moon Super Cycle JDR F1000, and Steve Ott’s No. 67 Hoosier/Astra-Cars Astra Summerhawk.

When Gerardo went, Ott followed, and when Osborne was collected in Turn 20 by a Formula Atlantic class car, Gerardo and Ott were in the lead. Osborne’s stalled machine in the track brought out one last caution, and the field was frozen in that order.

Daryl Wills finally got a victory this weekend in Formula Mazda, after a podium on Sunday in Spec Racer Ford and another third-place on Saturday in FM. The No. 23 Hillenberg Motorsports Formula Mazda got away from the field to take the victory in his home state.

The Group Six race containing Formula Mazda, Formula Continental, Formula Enterprises and Sports 2000 was stopped for a black flag session on the opening lap after two S2000 machines came together.

The resulting 20 minute race let Wills get his win, but also left the No. 92 RobinsonMotorsports.com Formula Enterprises of Mark Eaton and the No. 73 Performance Motorcars of Charlotte FE machine of Paul Schneider in a heated battle. On Saturday, Schneider held off Eaton at the stripe by just his front splitter. On Sunday, it was even closer, but this time Eaton was declared the winner in what was a virtual dead heat and the closest race of the weekend.