This next post features the VRG Turkey Bowl at Summit Point. The article appeared in the January 2013 issue. Volume 28, No. 1
VRG Turkey Bowl – Summit Point Motorsports Park – November 23-25, 2012
Story and photographs by Terry Johnsen
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend generates images of family gatherings, turkey dinners with stuffing, the Macy’s parade in NYC, Pro Football, and Black Friday bargain shopping. But for those dedicated sports car enthusiasts, the holiday weekend brought one last opportunity to stretch their road racing legs at the 16th Annual Turkey Bowl at Summit Point Motorsports Park, presented by the Vintage Racer Group (VRG).
The weekend proved to be a tale of two climates. The weather was perfect on Friday. It featured a high of 64 degrees, partly sunny skies, and calm winds. It was fantastic. Saturday brought a temperature drop of 23 degrees, with the high only reaching 41. The day featured overcast skies, high winds, and a hint of moisture in the air. It was frigid. Sunday improved slightly with a high of 44 degrees and again partly cloudy skies. This drastic swing presented quite a challenge for the end the racing season.
Despite the weather fluctuations the event was a huge success. VRG Event Chairman, Cal Trumbo, hailed the steady growth of the Turkey Bowl since VRG started hosting the event. Cal noted that in 2008 the event featured approximately 68 entrees, and since then has strengthened in numbers to over 120 competitors in attendance this year.
The schedule for the event featured five basic racing groups: Group 1 – Vintage Small Bore (< 2 liter), Group 2 – Vintage Big Bore (> 2 liter), Group 3 – Open Wheel & Sports racer, Group 4 – Modern Sports/GT/Baby Grand, and Group 5 – Legend. Each day offered plenty of practice/qualifying track time for all competitors culminating with a steady diet of 15 lap races for each group. Speaking of diets (or lack there of), just as everyone may have indulged and had an extra helping during their Thanksgiving dinner, there was no measurement of performance to be concerned with for the weekend. In other words, there was no timing or scoring. The goal was to compete, have fun, and gorge on the last bits of racing for the year.
The schedule for Saturday also featured a very unique and fun event, the Vintage Team Relay Race. Each team consisted of a car/driver from all five groups. Each car would do four laps and then enter the pits. The driver would exit the car and tap the fender of the next team car allowing them to continue. The race began with the Group 5 Legend cars, and continued on through groups 4, 3, 2 and 1. Events such as this, put on by the Vintage Racer Group, demonstrates the wonderful sportsmanship and camaraderie that can be found in vintage motorsports.
As I walked the track taking photographs I was reminded again of the character and flowing nature of the Summit Point circuit. By studying the layout, it’s easy to split the track into five distinctive portions. This fits in nicely with describing some of the front runners in each of the five groups racing during the weekend. The first and most logical place to start was down the front straight leading into Turns 1 and 2. The Legends racers of Group 5 seemed to find there groove there. Every lap saw side by side hard charging racing down the straight with challenges for position as they negotiated the first two turns. Greg Rittenhouse (Easton, PA), driving his (#60) 1934 INEX Legend Ford Coupe appeared to approach this portion of the track with just the right amount of finest and aggression, giving him a leg up on his fellow Legends racers in this highly competitive class.
Proceeding around the track led me to Turn 3 “The Wagon Bend” and Turn 4 “The Chute”. In my mind, Scott Bresnahan (Purcellville, VA), of Group 4 driving his (#09) 2002 Porsche 911 negotiated this series of turns with the proper mixture of speed and a steady build of momentum. It appeared that he could separate himself lap after lap from his on-track competitors, taking advantage of just the right set-up and approach.
“The Carousel”, better known as Turns 5 and 6 belonged to Group 1 driver, Michael Clifford, Jr. (Hopewell Junction, NY), driving his beautiful (#95) 1965 Lotus Cortina. Vintage racing community take notice, 23 year old Michael “gets it”. His car handling technique through this portion of the track was a joy to behold. Truly impressive. He’ll be one to watch next year.
Moving on through Turns 7, 8, and 9, otherwise known as “The Esses”. This was my favorite spot to watch the Group 2 cars. Lap after lap in each of their practices/qualifying/races, saw some serious and daring challenges for position. Here is where they set themselves up for the climb up the hill towards Turn 10. The (#73) 1976 BMW 2002, driven by Ian Wisbon (Pittsburgh, PA), seemed to be on rails as it negotiated this series of bends. It was a pleasure to watch.
The final corner, Turn 10, belonged to the cars of Group 3. Coming out of The Esses and up the hill, passing under the bridge, the cars would negotiate this final corner and blend onto the front straight to begin another lap. No one negotiated this corner better that Ralph Manaker (Marshall, VA), in his sleek (#23) 1969 Chevron B-16. There was a real rhythm to his approach to the corner, as he set himself up for another hot lap. I could have sat there all day.
When the weather turned cold on Saturday I couldn’t help but admire the efforts put forth by the event track staff and corner workers. The fluctuating weather offered a wide variety of clothing decisions. On Friday the dress called for a beautiful spring-like day, and then next two was as if one were planning to attend a January football game at old Three Rivers Stadium. Thank goodness for thermals, hot chocolate and coffee.
As the Vintage Racer Group ends another great season of racing, they can look forward to an exciting 2013. Taking a peak on their website, the 2013 season features a very balanced series of events, which includes: the Wild Hare Run (with VDCA) at VIR in April; The Jefferson 500 at Summit Point in May; the Canadian Historic Grand Prix (with VARAC) at Mosport in June; the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in July; the 23rd Annual Vintage Racing Celebration & VRG 10th Anniversary Reunion at Loudon (NH) in August; the New Jersey Historic Races at the New Jersey Motorsports Park in September; the VRG at the Glen in October; and the 17th Annual Turkey Bowl at Summit Point in November. Now that’s impressive…well done!