Victory Lane Magazine, February 2015: Volume 30, No. 2.
Story and photographs by Terry Johnsen
Summit Point Motorsports Park, November 28-30, 2014.
On Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, the weather conditions while driving the 50 miles to Summit Point Motorsports Park offered up swirling winds, snow squalls, and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. While witnessing this virtual winter wonderland, I asked myself, “Why do vintage racers choose to race in these conditions?”
This then was one of the first questions I asked VRG event coordinator, Michael Oritt, when we sat down for a chat. Without hesitation Michael said VRG is like a family. He explained that the VRG Turkey Bowl is the last hurrah of the season. It’s one more opportunity for the group to get together as one. He then thought for a moment and added that VRG is a “clubby club.” They’re a very close-knit group. 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of VRG’s involvement with the Turkey Bowl. Overall this is the 18th annual Thanksgiving event.
Despite the early morning conditions, once I made it to Summit Point, the track itself was dry and the cars were already making their first laps of the day. Slowly they were getting up to speed. The track workers were at their stations, bundled for the conditions, and armed with hot coffee and cocoa. As fortune would have it, the weather steadily improved throughout the weekend, and the “last hurrah” enjoyed a full weekend of activity.
Michael noted that Summit Point is his favorite track. He stated that it’s very challenging, safe, and very fun to drive. He also praised the track for being so well run and providing good facilities for the competitors.
The format for the Turkey Bowl is unique, in that there are no timers, scorers, lap-sheets, or final tallies. This one is for fun. The event is focused on the enjoyment of driving, safety, and getting that last little bit of track time. The schedule makers made the best use of limited daylight hours by neatly fitting in three solid days of racing for five groups into the shortened days of wintertime.
The five groups consisted of three vintage categories. Group 1 featured the Small Bore (< 2 liter) cars. Setting the pace in this group were the cars of Peter Carroll (1963 Austin-Healy Sprite), Tom Grudovich (1960 Elva 200FJ), Michael Oritt (1958 Elva MK IV SR), Hank Giffin (1959 Elva Courvier), and Mark Palmer (1957 MG MGA). The racing was clean, close, and fast, featuring many memorable moments that will be discussed well into the winter break.
Group 2 consisted of Open Wheelers and Sports 2000 racers. This was the smallest group of the five, but it didn’t lack in speed and competitiveness. The old saying, “it only takes two cars to have a race” was never more true. The pace setters in this class were the cars of Todd Reid (1967 Lotus Super Seven), Tom Grudovich (1966 Ginetta G4), Tivvy Shenton (1980 Crossle 32F), Andrew Stein (1970 Merlyn Mk. 11/17), and Michael Clifford (1966 Ginetta G4).
Group 3 brought some thunder and featured the Big Bore (> 2 liter) cars. The pace setters in this class were the cars of Jim Scott (1973 Porsche 911), Alan Friedman (1973 Porsche 911 RSR), Fred Pfeiffer (1974 Porsche 914-6), Mike Steplock (1969 Porsche 911), and Shawn Bullard (1974 Alfa Romeo GTV). Despite the cold conditions, these cars really stretched the bounds of track adhesion. It was fun to watch them hang it all out.
Adding depth to the weekend were two groups of non-vintage cars. Group 4 brought out the Modern Sports/GT cars, along with the Baby Grand’s. Group 5 featured the popular Legends racers. Their involvement rounded out the weekend agenda and offered something for everyone’s taste in cars.
Sunday’s setting sun signaled the end of the 2014 VRG season. Earlier, Michael Oritt had reflected on what he described a very good season. VRG was pleased that the New Jersey event rebounded and was a success. New to the schedule was the weekend at Thompson that was shared with VSCCA. It proved to be a big and very successful event. Michael noted that the Watkins Glen and Jefferson 500 events were also high points. Looking forward he expected 2015 to be even better. A new event at Dominion Raceway (south of Fredericksburg, VA) will be the kick-off event for their new road course. The facility already hosts drag racing and oval racing events.
So as the 2014 season comes to a close, one only needs to wait a month for the calendar to turn over to 2015. Before you know it the eventual snow covering will melt away and everyone will be itching to get back behind the wheel and on track. The upcoming season promises to be exciting, and in a blink it too will be winding down. It’ll be the perfect time for another Turkey Bowl.