A weekend of milestones!

The marquee event on the Vintage Racer Group (VRG) racing calendar is the Jefferson 500. This special race meeting took place on the twists and turns of Summit Point Motorsports Park in beautiful West Virginia, May 15-19. The 2019 running of the event was particularly noteworthy because of two significant milestones being celebrated, for it represents the 25th anniversary of the Jefferson 500 and the 50th anniversary of Summit Point Motorsports Park. And best of all, the Grand Marshal was none other that racing legend Brain Redman, co-founder of the Jefferson 500.

The previous year was a complete washout due to a week of torrential rainfall that completely flooded the track, along with the surrounding community. The cancellation was a difficult, but unavoidable decision for VRG to make, and equally devastating for their competitors because this is such a favorite event for everyone. The heightened anticipation and excitement for the 2019 Jefferson 500, highlighted by the milestones being celebrated, was rewarded by warm and sunny weather throughout the weekend. Over 250 entries made their way to Summit Point to support this special event and make up for lost time.

Here are few photos from the event…enjoy!

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On the grid with Tomas R. LaCosta (#15) in his 1967 Titan Mk IV FF, and the rest of the Formula Ford Challenge Series competitors.

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Jim Hanna (#18) in his 1986 Swift DB-2, the “Philly Special”, Group 6 – Sports 2000.

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It’s always a pleasure to chat with racing legend, Brian Redman (from the VRG Banquet). I’d like to extend a special than you to Bill Stoler, Photographer Extraordinaire, for the photograph!

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I love the classic look of this 1968 Lotus 51-c belonging to William Barlett (#34), Group 7 – Formula Ford Challenge Series.

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Joe Liles (#206) 1970 BMW 2002, and Dave Edsinger (#18) 1966 Yenko Stinger Coupe, Group 1 – IMSA/SCCA2.5.

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My 100th Post!

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Allen Mitchell (#81) 1971 Nissan 240Z

Vintage Racer Group (VRG) may very well be the model for what vintage racing was always intended to be. The members of VRG are a collection of friends, colleagues, fellow racing and car enthusiasts, getting together for fun and camaraderie in pursuit of their combine passion of auto racing. They don’t do this for fame or fortune, but instead choose to spend their time, effort and money to “scratch that itch”, which is racing…even in the face of harsh weather conditions in late November in West Virginia.

2018 has been a challenging year for the racers of VRG. The weather, most notably “rain”, has been their fiercest rival this year. So, for the last event of the season, why not throw more rain into the picture to make the season complete. The traditional VRG Turkey Bowl event took place on the weekend of November 23-25, at Summit Point Motorsports Park. While everyone else was recovering from the Thanksgiving feast and battling Black Friday shopping sprees, these dedicated racers were getting one last weekend of fun behind the wheel.

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Ivan Samila (#164) 1970 Lotus Series 4

Friday temperatures only made it up into the low 30’s, while Saturday featured wall-to-wall freezing rain. Sunday delivered sunny skies and temps into the 50’s, a nice reward and a fitting end to the season. It’s a testament to the dedication of VRG and their members for coming out and putting on this wonderful event, faced with these extreme and variable conditions.

VRG President, Jim Karamanis, took the time to speak with me on Friday afternoon. When I arrived at his trailer, he had just encountered some serious issues with his 1972 Ford Pinto. But as is the case throughout the world of vintage racing, his fellow competitors responded and were selflessly pitching in to get his car back on the track. It was a wonderful sight to see.

I asked how the Turkey Bowl came to be, and the concept behind the event. Jim noted that it was Joe Blacker and Denny Austin (current member) who first created the Turkey Bowl, 25 years ago. Their idea was to create one final opportunity of the year for racers to come out and have a good time before winter set in. Traditionally there’s been no timing and scoring, and the race grids are set on a first come first served basis. Jim noted that it’s an opportunity to run your tires off, and use up whatever is left from the season. He said it’s different from the VRG Jefferson 500 event at Summit Point, which is more intense. Jim added that there’s no other event like it that he’s aware of, and that VRG took over the running of the event approximately 12 to 13 years ago. I asked him to describe the Turkey Bowl competitor. Jim chuckled and said it’s people that don’t want to do Black Friday shopping. He went on to say that VRG racers view the Turkey Bowl as a chance to see their buddies one last time and swap stories. He said it’s a very laid back atmosphere and that no one is here to win a race, they’re just out here for fun.

Reflecting back on the 2018 season, Jim said they experienced rain at every event, with the Turkey Bowl being no exception. The marquee event of the year, the Jefferson 500, was a total loss due to a severe tropical storm that came up the east coast. Jim explained that the track was flooded, and the carousel section was completely under water. Driving conditions coming in and out of the Summit Point circuit area were also very dangerous, and the only choice was to cancel the event. He went on to say that VRG lost a day in Pittsburgh due to rain, they endured a heavy storm in New Jersey, and experienced significant rain at the Thompson circuit. Jim noted that all these events impacted the bottom-line, but that the hard-core members showed up regardless. He added that VRG is a non-profit, and that they are financially sound. Their rainy-day fund helped to withstand the disappointments.

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Frank Del Vecchio (#13) 1981 Van Dieman RF-81

Looking forward to next season, Jim stated that the 2019 calendar of events would look a lot like 2018, but hopefully with better weather (he said with a smile). He noted that Summit Point and VRG agreed that the Turkey Bowl will move one week earlier, and that the Watkins Glen event would move back one week on the calendar. Jim stressed that the 50’s and 60’s small-bore sports cars are still the life-blood of the series. He stated their Formula Ford program is poised to have another good year, which consistently fields 30 to 40 cars. He noted that there were 50 cars signed up for this year’s Jefferson 500 event, prior to the cancellation. Jim added he’s very excited for the Formula Vee program that VRG has started, and that they’re hoping to see a consistent field of 15 to 20 cars next year.

The biggest news for 2019 focuses on the Jefferson 500. At that mid-May event, VRG and Summit Point Motorsports Park will celebrate the 25thanniversary of the Jefferson 500, along with the 50thanniversary of the Summit Point track. Brian Redman will be on hand to serve as the Grand Marshal. Jim added by saying that VRG and the track are poised to make it a big celebration. I agree that this has all the makings of a grand event!

In finishing, Jim stated that the overall health and reputation of VRG is very good, and that they are committed members in the vintage racing community. He noted that whenever they survey the (approximate 620) VRG membership, the consistent response is “just keep doing what you’re doing”. I couldn’t agree more. VRG is a wonderful vintage racing series, which goes about their business the right way. They stress safe, fair, and competitive racing…with plenty of fun and camaraderie mixed in, and it can all be summed up in the spirit that surrounds the Turkey Bowl. There should be more events such as this for racers to get their last fill, and “scratch that itch”!

TJ 2018

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2018 SVRA Heacock Classic Gold Cup @ VIR

The Heacock Classic Gold Cup event (September 21-23) marked the final race of SVRA’s east coast season, and penultimate event leading into the season ending National Championships at COTA in November. Earlier in the week it was suspected that Virginia would be in the path of hurricane Florence. Eventually, after making landfall in North Carolina, it’s path proceeded south, then off to the west. Having avoided that potential disaster, the show went on as planned. And oh what a show it was!

The event boasted a roster of race activities that would be hard to beat anywhere. Top billing went to the American Racing Legends Charity Pro-Am Feature Race. It listed a star-studded cast of racing greats: Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle, Al Unser Jr., Ward Burton, Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, Wally Dallenbach, Boris Said, Willy T. Ribbs, Ron Fellows, Dorsey Schroeder, Max Papis, Jeb Burton, Todd Bodine, Johnny Benson, Jack Sprague, Steve Park, and Ray Evernham. Chevrolet Corvair served as the featured marque for the Heacock Classic Gold Cup. The weekend delivered the largest collection of racing Corvairs ever assembled. The schedule also included races for the Trans-Am Series, International GT, Mazda Miata Heritage Cup, Vintage Motorcycles, along with the full array of racing groups in the SVRA paddock. And to top it off, the Hagerty Show & Shine at The Gallery was a delightful display of beautifully presented automobiles of all kinds.

It was great fun, and one of the best vintage/historic events I’ve ever attended. Enjoy the photos… TJ

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My first time seeing racing motorcycles…they were amazing!

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NASCAR legend Bill Elliott meeting with fans at the American Racing Legends Charity Pro-Am autograph session.

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Trans-Am – Lawrence Loshak made a bold statement by leading from start to finish, tightening his chase for the TA championship with leader Ernie Francis Jr. heading into the final races of the season.

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International GT – Mark Sandridge, sitting on the grid in his Porsche GT3 Cup 3.8.

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Chevrolet Corvair served as the featured marque for the 2018 Heacock Classic Gold Cup.

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VIR and SVRA…a combination that’s hard to beat!

Time to take a break and reflect a bit…it has been two weeks since the SVRA Heacock Classic Gold Cup at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). In my opinion, one of the best vintage events I’ve ever attended…one of the hottest too. Since then I’ve been sorting my photographs and working on the race review. But first, here are some of the moments I captured, as I would walk through the paddock, one of my favorite things to do. The SVRA paddock is filled with a wonderful group of characters. They come to race, have fun, and pursue their passion. There will be more photos from the event coming up soon. But for now, enjoy these selections! TJ

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Dick Leehr (#35) in his beautiful Gold Leaf liveried 1969 Lotus 61.

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A stable of Protoform FV’s…and Mickey Mouse too!

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Tom Atlas (#14), getting ready to climb in his 1960 Lola Formula Junior and test the morning wet conditions.

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On the grid with David Nicholas (#76A, 1960 MG A).

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Joe Blacker (#29, 1969 Brabham BT29) discussing pre-race strategy.

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Harry McPherson (#6, 1968 Ford GT40 MK1) and a crewman hoping the rain will stay away.

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Another memorable weekend at Watkins Glen is now in the books…

Having just retired from the “9-to-5 job”, after 28 years, it was indeed a pleasure to attend the 2018 U.S. Vintage Grand Prix, strictly as a spectator. My son (Eric) and I made the most of our weekend together at my favorite track, Watkins Glen International. It’s located just outside the Village of Watkins Glen, situated up on a hill with a spectacular view of Seneca Lake. The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is simply beautiful. Here are a few photographs from our trip. iPhone pics only…I left the camera at home. Enjoy!

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This one caught my eye…one of the highlights from the track infield car show. 1930 Ford Speedster (IndyStyle).

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Watkins Glen Grand Prix – Driver Walk of Fame – Village of Watkins Glen, New York. Peter Revson was one of my favorite drivers from childhood.

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Here are two very significant cars from the original races through the streets of Watkins Glen, on display at the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC). The floor signs say: William C. Spear took the last checkered flag on the original Watkins Glen 6.6 mile road course in the Queen Catherine Cup on September 20, 1952, behind the wheel of this 1952 O.S.C.A MT-4 #1121 (on the left). “Poison Lil”, Maserati V8RI, #4504 built in 1936. Driven by George Weaver, led the first ever competitive lap at Watkins Glen in the 1948 “Junior Prix” (on the right).

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Watkins Glen State Park. Spectacular!

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A trip to Watkins Glen would never be complete without a stop (or two) at the famous Tavern Room in Seneca Lodge. The atmosphere is amazing. Quite a few racing greats have tipped a few here after their exploits on the track. Cheers!

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Vintage Cars at Vintage Mid-Ohio

The SportsCar Vintage Racing Association made their yearly stop in the heartland of Ohio for the SVRA Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, held on the weekend of June 22-24, 2018. Preparing for a weekend photo-shoot with weather conditions expected to range from soaking rain to sunny conditions is always challenging, so the easy decision was bring everything…from umbrella and rain gear to sunscreen and sunglasses. Thank goodness I did, because I needed it all.

SVRA put on a wonderful show, as always. Since returning from the track I’ve sorted the photos and now it’s time to knock out the race coverage article for the SVRA Quarterly. I’ll post that piece at a later date, but for now enjoy these selected photos. TJ 2018

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Bill Schwacke (1955 Chevrolet Corvette #55) with his fellow Group 1, 3, and 4 competitors in the Carousel.

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Frank Marcum/Jeff Rocco (1966 Ford GT350 #314)

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David Hale/Rex Gunning (1985 Lola T598 #30) and Jeff Mitchell (1974 Porsche 911 #73)

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David Zavetsky (1959 Devin-Healey 3000 Spl. #159) and John Schrecker (1964 Porsche 356 #777)

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Steven Lisa (1964 Ford Galaxie #21)

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Back where they belong….

When I heard the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series added the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to its 2018 racing schedule (May 4-6, 2018), I knew I had to be there. For years there’s been a noticeable void in the Mid-Ohio schedule. The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) last raced at Mid-Ohio in 2012, and the Grand-Am Series last race there in 2013. When the two racing bodies merged for the 2014 season, Mid-Ohio was unfortunately the ‘odd-man-out’. Existing ALMS/Grand-Am contracts with various race tracks, the need to limit the first season schedule, and other considerations played a part in Mid-Ohio’s exclusion. But the fans made their views known, and it was only a matter of time. Finally, this was the year that top-level professional sports car racing made its return! The fans responded enthusiastically showing-up in huge numbers. It was the ultimate validation. “IMSA belongs at Mid-Ohio!”

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Joao Barbosa (helmet art), driver of the Mustang Sampling Racing – Cadillac DPi (#5).

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Pre-race conversation between Pipo Derani, driver of the Tequila Patron ESM – Nissan DPi (#22), and Fox Sports pit-reporter Justin Bell.

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Corvette Racing – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R (#3), driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonia Garcia.

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