Future History – IMSA @ VIR 2016 (article)

Better late than never. Finally got this one into the magazine. Enjoy….

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It was a clean sweep of pole position and the race win for the #3 Corvette C7.R driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia for Corvette Racing.

Victory Lane Magazine, May 2017, Vol. 32, No. 5 – Story and Photos by Terry Johnsen

Virginia International Raceway, August 26-28, 2016

The weekend of August 26-28 (2016) proved to be a sports car lovers dream, with a total of five top-notch series battling it out on the rolling hills of Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Along with the headlining IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, the weekend agenda featured the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series, and The Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup series. This was a showcase of the best sports car racing in North America.

Connie Nyholm (CEO/Owner of VIR) and the VIR staff provided the perfect venue, set in the beautiful and picturesque landscape of southern Virginia. This was the first event held at VIR on the newly laid track surface. The track and driving conditions met with rave reviews by the drivers and the teams.

IMSA Radio provided their unique blend of race reporting and commentary. Their coverage provides a running soundtrack for the fans that is unmatched in any form of motorsports. Their knowledge, expertise, and story-telling talents add so much to the fans race viewing experience. The weekend would seem incomplete without them.

In the main event, the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class was going for the overall win. Corvette Racing came into the weekend with a two-race winning streak, and with the #4 car of Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner holding a small points lead in the championship. The GT Daytona (GTD) field was strong as well, but was down two Porsche entries due to a balance-of-performance (BOP) dispute. Regardless, the Michelin GT Challenge saw a field of 21 cars take the green flag on a beautiful, hot and sunny day.

Since the GT cars were going for the overall win, they were free to run unencumbered without concern of prototype traffic. It was very reminiscent of the early IMSA Camel GT days. This was setting up to be a classic showdown between Corvette and the Ford GTs… and oh by the way, Porsche, Ferrari, and BMW too.

Jan Magnussen in the #3 Corvette C7.R secured pole position. He and his teammate Antonio Garcia were vying for a third win in a row for Corvette Racing. The #4 sister car of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner locked out the front row. The #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller started in third spot, while the #62 Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella rounded out the second row.

Magnussen and Garcia set a blistering pace throughout the race while the #66 Ford GT kept them within striking distance. Due to an unexpected heavy rain on Saturday, the grass was particularly slick and loose. Going offline meant heavy pickup of mud and grass, leading to an unscheduled visit to the pits to clear out the debris. Up and down the order, cars experienced this fate throughout the day. What made this trip to the pits more costly was that there were no full-course caution periods throughout the race. That is until there were five minutes to go in the two hour and forty minute endurance race, when Oliver Gavin went off track in his #4 Corvette. This caution period bunched up the field for one last dash to the checkered flag.

Antonio Garcia led the field back to the line for one last lap and was never headed. He and Jan Magussen took the win for Corvette Racing, securing a three-race winning streak in the process. The #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller took second spot on the podium for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. A final lap trading of paint helped the #912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Frederick Makowiecki secure third spot for Porsche North America. The incident with the #62 Ferrari took it off course momentarily, but enough to drop it down the order to finish in seventh spot. Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow finished ninth overall and first in the GTD class in their #48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for Paul Miller Racing.

The weekend slate of support series brought tons of non-stop action and entertainment for the fans. Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett won the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race in their #33 Porsche Cayman. It was the first win for CJ Wilson Racing in the GS (Grand Sport) class. Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger secured first position in the ST (Street Tuner) class in the #93 Honda Civic Si for the HART racing team. Shinya Michimi won both of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo series races for Prestige Performance. Jesse Lazare won both of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series races overall for the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team. He raced in the Platinum class. Sebastian Landy won both races in the Gold class, driving for the TPC Racing team. Finally, Dean Copeland piloted his Copeland Motorsports Mazda to win The Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup series race on Saturday. Nathanial Sparks won the Sunday morning race for Sick Sideways Racing in a very close finish.

Did I mention the weekend was hot? It was very hot, humid, and sticky, and it even included a cloudburst of unexpected proportions on Saturday. Still, it was a sports car lovers dream. With the five series on display, there was something for everyone. The weather was hot and track action sizzled. This was indeed a showcase of the best sports car racing in North America.

…………TJ 2016

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VRG Jefferson 500 @ Summit Point

The Jefferson 500 at Summit Point Motorsports Park presented by Vintage Racer Group (VRG) took place on May 17-21, 2017. It was wonderful to get back to Summit Point and be with the fantastic people of VRG. The story has been written and submitted (with photos), and should in Victory Lane magazine in a few months. Until then, here are a few shots from the weekend. Enjoy….TJ.

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Michael Allen (#47) 1969 MG C-GT, Robert Lasater (#98) 1970 MG MGB GT.

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Doug Meis (#27) 1974 Lola T340.

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Harry Sroka (#25) 1967 Autodynamics Formula Vee, on the grid with Group 4.

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The 2017 racing season is here!

I arrived for the Rolex 24 @ Daytona weekend on Friday (27 Jan). Note to self: next year make sure to get there for Thursday practice, qualifying, and most importantly the Rolex 24 night practice. You can never get enough of seeing racing at night…it’s spectacular! Friday’s schedule featured the third practice session for the 24 hour competitors and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race (BMW Endurance Challenge)…and oh my, how the Continental Tire series has changed! The introduction of the McLarens has really renewed my interest in the series. Another notable change was that the length of the race increased to four hours. It was a win/win in my book. The race was ultra competitive from start to finish and very entertaining. Here are a few photos from Friday. Enjoy.

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The Daytona International Speedway is an amazing facility. I was totally overwhelmed by the track and the IMSA Rolex 24 @ Daytona weekend.

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Early morning pre-race preparations for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race. This was probably my favorite car of the weekend…the C360 Racing, #77 McLaren 570S GT4. Sweet!

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More pre-race prep, this time with the #69 MIA/Pfaff/GARAGA race team. Another sleek McLaren 570S GT4, with a driver line-up of Chris Green and Jesse Lazare.

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On the grid walk before the BMW Endurance Challenge race. Max Bladon standing with his #99 Automatic Racing, Aston Martin Vantage GT4.

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Opening laps of the  four hour BMW Endurance Challenge (IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge).

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My First 24…Amazing!

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After the final practice. Craziness in the paddock. #5 Mustang Sampling Racing, Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Tick one off the bucket list. The 2017 Rolex 24 @ Daytona was amazing! Going to a 24 hour endurance race has always been a goal, but for some reason it hadn’t happened until now. I went to the race strictly as a fan. There were no lingering pressures to cover the event and write about it afterwards. This was purely for the enjoyment of witnessing around-the-clock endurance racing…to take it all in. Not even chilly temps and some rain could dampen the thrill of being there.

I didn’t photograph as much as I anticipated. I found myself in the mindset of just scouting it out for the next time…and there will be a next time! Here are few photos that I’ve sorted through so far. Enjoy! TJ

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Final practice session. #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT.

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The starting grid just before the green flag for the 2017 Rolex 24 @ Daytona.

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Lap 1, turn 1, of the 2017 Rolex 24 @ Daytona.

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Dusk settles in. #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

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This is what endurance racing is all about! #90, Visit Florida Racing, Multimatic/Riley Mk30.

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Vintage Racer Group – VRG @ The Glen (article)

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Donald Denomme, (#101) 1980 Van Diemen, leads the formation lap of Group 2 cars towards Turn 10.

Victory Lane Magazine, January 2017, Vol.32, No.1

Story and photos by Terry Johnsen

Watkins Glen International, October 7-9, 2016

Driving through the Finger Lakes region of New York in autumn is always a feast for the senses. The beautiful countryside, the vibrant colors, and the crisp bite in the air all converge to create a unique and unforgettable experience. Memories of autumn days gone by also shape and identify this time of year in the Village of Watkins Glen, beginning with the original Grand Prix that raced through the streets in 1948. Years later, the current location of Watkins Glen International hosted the Formula One circuit from 1961 to 1980.

So, on the weekend of October 7-9, Vintage Racer Group visited again for their VRG @ The Glen event. Nostalgia runs high at Watkins Glen this time of year, with a bit of sadness too. October 7th, 1973 was the day that Jackie Stewart’s teammate Francois Cevert lost his life in qualifying. The young, dashing Frenchman was poised to take over for Ken Tyrell’s team once Stewart retired. Due to the fatal accident, the team withdrew, and Stewart retired as Champion one race shy of 100 grand prix starts.

Watkins Glen has it all. Known as being a driver’s track, the added variable of changing weather conditions in early October combined to make this not only a race meeting, but also an event. It was sunny, it was cloudy, it rained, and it was even very windy at times. But that didn’t matter. This was Watkins Glen. The drivers of VRG were taking to the same track, at the same time of year, that saw the likes of Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, and Emerson Fittipaldi take the checkered flag at the United States Grand Prix.

Mack McCormack (VRG President) noted that in a previous survey of their members, Watkins Glen was the clear favorite of all the racetracks. This year they partnered with the racing group from the New York SCCA Glen Region. VRG’s weekend schedule featured practice, qualifying, and full slate of races for four groups: Group 1/Vintage (all pre-1960) plus small-bore (under 1300 cc), Group 2/Formula Cars, Group 3/Historic Production under 2.5L and Sports Racers, and Group 4/Historic big-bore (over 2.5L). The new Royale Formula Ford Series was also featured.

The Royale Formula Ford Series began this year and has already held races at Summit Point Motorsports Park, Thompson Motorsports Park, and New Jersey Motorsports Park. Watkins Glen serves as the fourth race in the series, which will then wrap up with the fifth and final race at Dominion Raceway in late October. McCormack stated the Formula Fords are a popular and growing category for VRG. Mack was a flagger at the recent SCCA Run-Offs at Mid-Ohio, for which there were 14 Formula Fords entered. In contrast there were 35 entries on hand for the VRG @ The Glen.

Looking towards next year, Mack stated VRG’s 2017 schedule should look very similar to 2016. The scheduled board meeting in November should solidify those plans. Based on the feedback in the paddock from many of the competitors I spoke with, you can bet Watkins Glen is high on the list for a return engagement.

Group 1 hit the track with over 25 entries. Peter Carroll (#55) driving his 1963 Austin Healey Sprite could be seen at the front of the field throughout the weekend. Peter stated this was his first time racing at The Glen since the resurfacing project was completed. He described the track as fast and smooth as glass. Peter scored two wins during the weekend. John Faulkner (#28) claimed victory during the Saturday morning session, while Randy Williams (#127) took home top honors on Sunday.

Group 2 fielded a healthy grid of 35 cars. Kevin Young (#160) traveled down from Toronto to race his 1971 Crossle 20F. Kevin noted this was his first time racing with VRG, adding it is a good group and a well-run event. Group 2 ran a split grid for their races. Competitors from the Right Coast Formula Ford Series (RCFFS) joined VRG this weekend. They run with treaded tires, where as VRG uses slicks. This weekend’s variable conditions were a definite advantage for the guys from RCFFS. Charles Foster (#27) was the class of the field in his 2009 Piper DF5 taking three wins on the weekend. Daniel Pyanowski (#18) claimed victory in the Sunday Group 2 race.

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David Zavetsky, (#159) 1959 Devin-Healey-Chevy 283

Group 3 sported a field of over 30 cars. David Zavetsky (#159) drove the sleek and ever-impressive 1959 Devin-Healey-Chevy 283, and could be seen consistently mixing it up at the front of the field in every session. David stated that he’s been coming to The Glen since attending an early 1990’s IMSA endurance race. He said sports car racing is in his blood. He even has the same poster of a 1966 white-winged Chaparral in his trailer that used to be on his bedroom wall as a kid. Group 3 offered equal opportunity glory for their races. Bob Tkacik (#30), Randy Williams (#127), and Henry Frye (#29) each won a race. The fourth race of the weekend for Group 3 was a combined race with Group 4. The highest finisher for Group 3 in that event was David Zavetsky (#159), who claimed 8th position.

Group 4 rolled out 23 cars to the grid. One of my favorite cars of the weekend was the 1982 Porsche SC (Super Carrera) driven by Gary Allen (#32), from Brooklin, Ontario. Gary was one of the Canadian competitors that came down with the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) to compete with VRG. I asked Gary about the wet conditions that Saturday morning, and he said with a smile, “We Canadians don’t mind the rain…we’ll go out and splash around.” He also noted The Glen was his favorite track in the States, and that it is very similar to Mosport. Gary said VARAC and VRG would often work together as organizations, each supporting the other’s series. He described VRG as a happy and friendly club, with good clean racing. Group 4 also exhibited wide-open racing at the front of the field, with three drivers each taking a win. Randy Williams (#29) won the first race on Friday, while Neil Young (#48) and Paul Netterstrom (#88) won the Saturday events. Chris Horner (#49) won a tight battle over Jim Glass (#3) in the combined Group 3/Group 4 Sunday race.

The Royale Formula Ford Series race was held on Sunday after an adjustment to the schedule. This allowed for the weather to improve, and the race was run under sunny skies. Bernard Bradpiece (#16) stormed away from the field in his 1972 Crossle 20F. His margin of victory in the 10 lap event was 19.549 seconds. Nigel Cass (#41) earned second spot on the podium driving his 1975 Merlyn Mk 29., while Donald Denomme (#101) challenged from behind and secured third place in his 1980 Van Diemen RF80.

Being at Watkins Glen at this time of year is always an amazing experience. Though each visit may vary, they’re filled with similar memories of beautiful fall colors, and the exhilarating sound of racecars. My first October at The Glen was in 1978 for the United States Grand Prix. Mario Andretti had just clinched the Formula One World Championship at the previous race in Monza, Italy. We were all thrilled to see him secure pole position for the race in his elegant John Player Special Lotus 79. Ultimately, Carlos Reutemann and Ferrari took the win on the cold and windy day.

So many competitors shared with me their Watkins Glen memories. Coming here and racing, especially at this time of year means something very special. They’re driving in the tracks of history. Memories of the past live on with each turn of the wheel.

——————————TJ 2016

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U.S. Vintage Grand Prix @ Watkins Glen (article)

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Ken Epsman, #2, 1971 AMC Javelin.

Victory Lane Magazine, December 2016, Vol.31, No.12

Story and photos by Terry Johnsen

Watkins Glen International, September 7-11, 2016

The 2016 U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by Jaguar was an amazing celebration of American road racing, held at the most iconic road racing venue in North America. The vision of Tony Parella (SVRA President and CEO) was to create a festival atmosphere for the fans, celebrating sports cars, vintage racing, and the Watkins Glen racing legacy. The weekend brought crystal clarity to that vision. The program schedule was carefully designed to include something for everyone.

Over 450 cars were on hand for the event. The paddock was spread far and wide, and seemed to be endless. A person could literally spend a whole day enjoying the vast array of beautifully presented vintage machinery without ever seeing action on the track. A multitude of vendors were also on hand offering souvenirs, memorabilia, and fine artwork. It had to be one of the best collections of vendors I’ve seen at any event in a very long time. My wallet can attest to that!

American racing veteran and winner of the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans, Davy Jones, was the Grand Marshal for the USVGP. Jones was also on hand as the Head Driving Instructor for the Jaguar Driving Experience. This extremely popular activity included the Jaguar Driving Experience autocross in the North Paddock, and the Land Rover motorcross in the “boot” section of the track. The annual downtown Watkins Glen Festival re-enactment took place on Friday, capped off by a fireworks display in the State Park gorge. Roberto Guerrero served as the celebration’s Grand Marshal. He and fellow Jaguar Driving Experience ambassador, Davy Jones, were honored for their driving achievements and given their own markers on the downtown Walk of Fame.

Motostalgia Auctions D’Elegance continued their successful partnership with SVRA and held their auction Saturday evening. There was an impressive array of road cars, racecars, motorcycles, and automobilia sculpture available to the highest bidders. Representatives from the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) were also on hand to provide information about their splendid research facility located in the town of Watkins Glen. Sitting next to their display booth was a brand-sparkling new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata that is being offered up for their annual fund-raising raffle. Only 2,500 tickets will be sold, so act now. The drawing for the winning ticket will be held on December 10, 2016. For more information go to their website, www.racingarchives.org.

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Tony Parella and Lyn St. James.

Fan favorite and racing veteran Lyn St. James was at the track, and was honored by Tony Parella and SVRA for her achievement at Watkins Glen in 1985. During the IMSA GT Championship event that year, she became the first female driver to win a North American professional endurance road race driving solo. James competed in the GTO class for Roush Racing. Throughout the USVGP weekend she was available at The Pyramid, the Watkins Glen gift shop, and signed copies of her book “An Incredible Journey”. I asked her what the draw of vintage and historic racing was for her. She really likes the relaxed atmosphere, which is similar she said to her earlier SCCA days. She also enjoys the unique experience of getting to drive various cars from past generations. Lyn also spoke about her role as Ambassador for the RPM Foundation. Their stated mission is to preserve and promote America’s automotive treasures, and to educate a new generation of restoration craftsmen. You can find more information by visiting the RPM website: www.rpm.foundation.

Providing race commentary throughout the weekend were track announcers, Frank Delvecchio and Mike Pazdyk. Their unique blend of witty conversation and automotive know-how was an added bonus for the spectators. Saturday’s racing activity featured the two Hawk Performance Endurance Series races. Each endurance event fielded healthy grids of over 30 cars. The morning Classic/Vintage Endurance Race was won by Greg Frey/Ron Zitza in a 1970 Porsche 914/6. The afternoon running of the Hawk Performance Historic Endurance Race was won by David Porter in his 2007 Pescarolo 01 Judd.

Sunday brought with it another beautiful sunny day at The Glen. The fans were back in force and were ready for the main program of events. The Collier Cup race embodies the history and heritage of American sports car racing. No U.S. Vintage Grand Prix would be complete without it. 24 cars took the green flag. Fierce racing ensued with former SCCA G Production Runoff National Champion, Kent Prather, ultimately taking top honors with the overall win in his 1962 MG/A. The prestigious Collier Cup, as voted by the competitors themselves, was awarded to Steve Konsin, who drove his 1953 MG/TD to a 13th place finish.

The Historic Trans-Am Series were the rock stars of the weekend. The 50th anniversary celebration of the Trans-Am series served as the perfect headliner for the USVGP in 2016. Their special paddock was flooded with fans all weekend long. It was such a special treat to get up close and personal with these iconic and legendary American racecars. Anytime you have a grid lineup with former driver names on the cars such as: George Follmer, Peter Gregg, Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney, and Sam Posey (just to name a few) you know you are witnessing something special. NASCAR announcer/broadcaster Mike Joy was on-hand to give the pre-race commentary, then jumped in a 1966 Ford Mustang and drove in the race, finishing 19th. The pre-race ceremonies included an overflowing fan grid walk and a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, made all the more memorable being that it was the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. The race served as a showcase of the memorable Pony War years. The engines roared and the ground shook. Jim Hague set a blistering pace and led the field to the checkered flag in his ex-Peter Gregg, Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Following the Historic Trans-Am race out on the track was the Governor’s Cup All-Corvette Race. This event proved to be equally thunderous and just as competitive. The fans loved it. Jeffrey Bernatovich led from start to finish in his 1990 Chevrolet GT1 Corvette, taking the top spot on the podium. Rounding out the special feature races on Sunday was the Dick Mooney Memorial Race for Group 6 won by Peter Klutt, the Joel Finn Cup Race for Group5/7b won by Justin Frick, and the S2 Feature Race for Group 7a taken by Ben Sinnott.

The track action and intensity of competition never abated. From top to bottom the group winners displayed wonderful driving skill and sportsmanship. Harry Gentry led the way in Group 1 with his 1962 MG Midget, while Peter Giddings graced the track with his lovely 1954 Lancia D50 A/R Formula One car in the Pre-War race. It was a sight to behold, an amazing piece of automotive fine art. Dave Handy set the pace in Group 2 in his 1968 Brabham BT29, edging out Bobby Brown for the win. Bob Bramlage, driving a 1964 Ginetta G4, also won a tight battle by beating out Vic Skirmants in Group 3, while Randy Williams secured the Group 4 win in his 1966 Jaguar ERA XKE-R.

Rounding out the group race competition on Sunday was an impressive win by Jim Hamblin in Group 8 behind the wheel of his 1968 Porsche 911. Mark Brannon took the fastest lap and the win in Group 9. Jeffrey Bernatovich not only won the All-Corvette race in the afternoon, but also began his day by taking the Group 10 race win. Group 11 was a free-for-all, no-holds-barred battle, ultimately won by Randy Johnson in his 2007 Pescarolo 01. Finally, Jonathan Pfeffer won the Group 12 race in his 1990 Chevrolet Corvette. He topped off a great race by taking the fastest lap.

A special feature to the weekend racing program was the inclusion of the International GT Series. This contemporary series features Porsche Caymans and GT3 Cup cars, along with an assortment of Ferrari 430’s, 458’s, and 355’s. Their sprint and endurance races were ultra competitive and a joy to watch. International GT served as the perfect bookend for the vast racing heritage on display at The Glen.

The SVRA U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by Jaguar was indeed a festival celebration. Congratulations to SVRA, Watkins Glen International, and the downtown festival organizers. It was a huge success. The attendance throughout the weekend spoke volumes for the enthusiasm fans have for vintage and historic racing. History came alive and everyone enjoyed the festive ride. Once again, The Glen laid claim as being the spiritual home of American road racing.

TJ 2016

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Vintage Racer Group – VRG @ The Glen.

So it was back to Watkins Glen for the VRG @ The Glen event, 7-9 October 2016…and what a difference a few weeks make. Cool, windy, and drizzle characterized most of the weekend…at least while I was there. Still, any day at Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes region of New York is a good day. I’ve submitted the article for Victory Lane Magazine. When it’s published I’ll post it here. Meanwhile, here’s a few photos. Enjoy!

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Jason Di Cesar (#53) 1969 Volkswagen Beetle

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Kevin Young (#160) 1971 Crossle 20F

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Gary Allen (#32) 1982 Porsche SC

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