Driving Schools – Summer 2017: A Great Day for Westlake and a Great Race at Summit Point


By Ross Karlin and Jeff White

In June and July the NJ Chapter holds two of its longest tenure events: the June driver school and club race to benefit Westlake School and the July driver school and club race (now the Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race). While both events were tremendous fun, the recurring theme of this season could be “Mastering the rain line”.

The June event is now in its 22nd year and the 20th anniversary of being a benefit event for Westlake School. The driver school portion of the event was down on registrations this year and so we ran only 2 student run groups. The students and instructors did an admirable job of managing the variable skill levels in each group but the event organizer was unable to manage the weather. As the schedule rolled into the late afternoon, lightning in the area forced cars off the track. No sooner than we had decided to stop for the day, the skies opened up and everyone made a dash for the Officer’s Club for the evening banquet.

Monday’s rain meant Tuesday’s schedule had to be modified to give the racers their time while still maintaining the school. Everyone was understanding and made the best of a difficult arrangement. Many thanks to the school volunteers who lined up at lunch to provide cars for the Westlake parade laps.

We chose a new method to raise donation funds for Westlake this year. Rather than relying on a single large sponsor we turned to our members and other small business to use a crowd-funding approach: The Kid’s Koalition. 16 members, friends and businesses stepped up to help and contributed over $4,300. We were also fortunate this year to have excellent support for our Monday evening banquet auction with a watch provided by Hamilton Jewelers, race-used body work from BimmerWorld, and a race car rental from new racer Tyler Pappas of Tyspeed Automotive. Silent auction items were provided by Turner Motorsports and Cora Kiceniuk. Door prize give-aways came from Circle BMW, VAC Motorsports, Turner, BimmerWorld, Bridgestone and the Chapter. Thanks to our hobbled but still enthusiastic auctioneer Mo Karamat, the auction donations combined with garage rentals from April upped our total raise to almost $7,000!

As for the races, the first race on Monday afternoon saw Todd Brown take an early lead in his C-Mod car, and he never looked back, taking the checkered flag with no one else in sight. Coming along next was Jeffrey Bruce (CM), Asher Hyman (CM), and Robert Solomon (BM). The rest of the field included seven IP cars, 4 IS cars, and a variety of other classes. The end of day race on Monday afternoon had to be postponed as the rain clouds moved in, and reports of lightning nearby required bringing in the corner workers. So, lightning at Lightning Raceway shut down the track!

Photo by Brian Morgan

Tuesday morning’s practice then became the first of three races for the day. A blown engine gave up all its fluids under the bridge, causing several cars to spin off, and ultimately bringing out the red flag and ending the race. The second race of the day was able to be run to completion, with the three CM cars of Jeffrey Bruce, Asher Hyman, and Robert Mager taking the checker for the top three. The students and staff from Westlake arrived, enjoyed lunch and then took their pace laps courtesy of our students and instructors. Their smiles lit up the day. The feature race lived up to expectations, seeing several close battles among different classes, right up to the checkered flag. The overall winner was Jeffery Bruce (CM), followed by Asher Hyman (CM) and Robert Solomon (BM), and rookie Vinh Chau (GTS2).

The Westlake students participated in the trophy ceremony, enthusiastically thanking all the club members for a truly exciting and memorable day and went home with their own event shirts and gift bags from VAC.

In July we celebrated the 19th anniversary of racing at Summit Point and the 4th Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race. Geoff must have been smiling on us as we had a full driver school with 3 student run groups and 47 club racers! Everyone agreed that this was the largest turnout of racers we have ever had at Summit Point.

The one thing Geoff could not help us with was the weather; once again rain played havoc with the schedule. Saturday was forecast to have only a chance of rain but at lunch the skies darkened, the wind got fierce and the rain came down in buckets. By the time it stopped, we were behind schedule. A little gerrymandering and we managed to complete both the third set of school run groups and get in racer qualifying and the race. The race grid was a welcome sight with 45 cars taking the green flag.

This time the pre-race activities focused on the radar maps. More rain was coming…. but when? When the cars came to grid, you could tell who was careful and who was hopeful: dry tires or rain tires??

Once the race started, the pace was fast, although those on rain tires had to dial it back a notch so as not to heat up or chunk away their tread. But, at about two-thirds through the race, the rain came, a few drops at first, then steady. Several drivers on dry tires had the sense to call it a day and exited the track. Of course, some others on dry tires (this author included) stayed out and skated around until the checker flew for Todd Brown, followed by Vernon McClure, Bob Perritt, and Jerry Kaufman.

No sooner than school cars were back on track after the race, the skies really opened up again. It became clear that we were not going to resume and so we had to cancel the final sessions for the students and instructors. Fortunately, our friends from Jordan Springs Market were ready with our BBQ and set up in one of the classrooms. This was a first for us but the food was great and everyone managed to find dry places to eat between the classrooms and the picnic tables. By the time the BBQ was finished, so was the rain. We had a larger than usual number of motorhomes and campers this year so Saturday night became Camp Summit in the wooded portion of the paddock. Pop-ups, camp chairs, beverages of all sorts and recounted stories – this is what track events are really all about.

Tuesday began much better – school sessions went off without a hitch and the early race had 42 cars take the grid with a fast pace starting to spread out the cars, when a fullcourse yellow brought out the pace car to assist towing a car off the track. Once the race leader took the green flag again, there was a mix of fast cars and slower lapped traffic, all jockeying for position and corners. This created some of the best, tightest racing of the weekend as the field sorted itself out. Once again Todd Brown took the checker, followed by Mark Lounsbury and Vernon McClure. The driver school continued to run smoothly and then after lunch, it was time for the feature race.

Thirty-seven cars took the green flag, with Todd Brown pulling out a comfortable lead, which he did not relinquish despite another stint behind the pace car for a full-course yellow and car cleanup. He took the checker with a 10 second lead, followed by a close battle for second and third position, where Mark Lounsbury edged out Vernon McClure at the start/finish line.

Photo by Brian Morgan
Photo by Brian Morgan
Photo by Brian Morgan

Class winners included Jerry Kaufman (IP), Charles Harding (HP), Peter Kerekgyarto (IS), Vinh Chau (GTS2), Vasil Vykhopen (GTS3), Steve Liadis (HP), Patrick Harris (Spec E46), Keith Primozic (DM), Tyler Pappas (JP), John Sanders (JS), Michael Saul (Spec E36), and Bob Gilberg (Spec E30). The third set of driver school run groups went well but the rain gods were not finished with us. After a 30 minute torrential downpour (there were white caps in the water in the paddock) we were left with a flooded track that was not safe to drive on. Our weekend was over.

We have two events remaining this season. On Sep 16-17 we have 2 days of club racing with the Sep 16 portion being run as a support series for the NASCAR K&N race at NJMP Thunderbolt. This is a terrific, fan-friendly spectator event so come one down, watch your favorite club racers, watch the big engine cars from NARRA and then see the future of NASCAR with the K&N drivers. On the 17th club racers will share track time with our Advanced Solo students and instructors. This is the second time we are running a Solo student day and we are looking for a good turnout. Six hours of track time at a price that cannot be beat. If you believe you qualify as a Solo student and want to attend, please contact us.

We finish the season on Oct. 7-8 on the Shenandoah circuit at Summit Point. We will say it again, if you drive Shenandoah it will make you a better driver on every track you visit. This is also the only event we run with skid pad for all students on both days. It is the perfect event to finish out the season.

We’ll see you at the track.

Club Happenings – Summer 2017: Westlake School Students visit BMW CCA Club Race at NJMP


During breaks in the the HPDE and Club Racing event held by the NJ Chapter at New Jersey Motorsports Park in June, students from the Westlake School were given parade lap rides in participants’ cars. This is a thrill for these students.

Photo by Brian Morgan

The NJ Chapter supports the Westlake School in Westfield. The Westlake School is a school for students with special needs that provides opportunities for them to create connections between school and everyday life through hands-on academics, vocational and transitional skills, social/emotional coping skills and behavioral intervention strategies.

Photo by Brian Morgan

Driving Schools – Fall 2016: NASCAR Comes to Town and We End the Year with a Great Shenandoah Event


By Jeff White

If you happened to read my submission in the last Bulletin or read the email blasts from the Chapter announcing September events, you know that the NJ Chapter participated in a unique driving event on Sep. 16-17. We were the support racing series for the NASCAR K&N race at NJMP Thunderbolt and we held a driver school for advanced solo drivers at the same event. The event was a huge success with every driver remarking how much fun and how relaxed the atmosphere was despite the large spectator turnout.

We started Friday morning with a 3 hour unstructured driver school for advanced solo students and instructors. With a lighter than expected turnout, everyone had plenty of open track to hone their skills and experiment with new driving lines. The unstructured format allowed participants time to discuss technique among other students and instructors in the paddock and then return to the track to put suggestions to the test. In the afternoon sessions, Club Racers had the track for warm-up, qualifying and then the first sprint race. In that race, Will Vanjonack sprinted to the lead and then ran away from everyone and eventually lapped the field! Lou D’Angelli and newcomer Eric Magnussen filled out the podium.

Photo by Klaus Schnitzer
Photo by Klaus Schnitzer

Interspersed between the club racing sessions, the K&N drivers took their practice sessions. The tremendous talent of these young racers (the drivers ranged in age from 16 – 23), none of whom had ever driven Thunderbolt before, was rapidly apparent. During the afternoon sessions each team would go out, run a series of laps and then return to their garage for further suspension tuning. The cars were clearly a handful to drive as the drivers worked to learn braking and turn in points while also managing how the cars turned in vs. oversteered. As a measure of how quickly they improved, their initial laps began about 1:35 per lap and by the end of the afternoon, the fastest drivers had shaved 10 seconds off that lap time and were turning laps at or better than Will Vanjonack’s fastest lap!

Photo by Klaus Schitzer
Photo by Klaus Schnitzer

Saturday morning started with the driver school participants taking to the track for an initial hour of time and then they gave way to racing for the remainder of the day. Once again club racers alternated time with K&N racers. In the morning sprint race Will Vanjonack again was the overall winner but he had some closer competition from Mark Lounsbury and Jeff Bruce finishing second and third. In the afternoon feature race, Will made it a clean sweep followed by Jeff Bruce and Eric Magnussen. This simple report of the race results does not provide an adequate description of the day’s activities. During the course of Saturday we had several club members join us in the car corral area as spectators. The general attendance throughout the day grew steadily. NJMP arranged for BMX cyclists to put on a stunt show, monster truck rides for kids and a BBQ buffet with the purchase of a VIP ticket. Spectators walked thoughout the paddock and club racers were happy to oblige and allow parents and kids to take photos and have the kids sit in their race cars. There is nothing better than the joy of a young race fan getting a chance to see a “real race car” up close. Race fans were also enthusiastic and careful observers of our races – proving once again that a true fan just likes good racing regardless of who is driving. Special thanks to Tony Salloum and VAC Motorsports for providing event shirts and track-side support and to Retail Performance Company for sponsorship.

Photo by Klaus Schnitzer
Photo by Klaus Schnitzer

The day finished with a fan walk in pit lane with the K&N cars and drivers and then an exciting near two-hour race. An interesting aspect of the K&N series is that there are no pit stops. At the half-way point, there is a full course double yellow flag and all cars come into the pits to refuel. Cars exit the pits in race order behind the pace car and then the race resumes to the checkered flag. This was true road course racing with plenty of close passing and clean driving. Keep your eye on these young racers, we will see them soon in NASCAR weekends.

What started as a leap of faith to try something new (think of Indiana Jones stepping out onto the stone bridge in the Last Crusade) ended as a rousing success with every participant hoping we can repeat the event in 2017. Stay tuned!!

We closed out the 2016 driving season at our now traditional event on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park. This was the 11th year for us at Shenandoah (how time flies!). With each year, the word spreads that Shenandoah is truly a terrific driver’s track and the number of people who say that it is their favorite track grows. Saturday was rainy and so speeds were low and everyone learned car control both on the track and on the skid pad. On Sunday, the sun came out, the track dried out and everyone got to see what driving Shenandoah was really all about. I have said it before and I will say it again to anyone who will listen, Shenandoah will make you a better driver on any track you visit. The patience and attention to good technique that it demands translates to any venue. We also want to give a special thanks to our skid pad instructors (Yani Avrahami, Rod Hahn and Mike Saul) and to classroom instructor Gerry Chan who, quite literally, went the extra mile and gave track walks on both Saturday and Sunday. If you really want to learn how to read a track, you must take one of Gerry’s walks.

Photos by Etech Photo
Photo by Etech Photo
Photo by Etech Photo
Photo by Etech Photo

Let me close out this year by once again thanking all of the people who make our driver schools and club races a success: Jamie Kavalieros as Registrar and keeper of the helmets, Barry Stevens as Chief Instructor and all our corps of instructors, Warren Brown as Chief of Tech and our Tech workers who come out in the dark of night and the dawn of early morning, rain or shine to keep everyone safe, Doug Feigel, Mark Mallory and Ron Gemeinhardt as pit out workers and Ross Karlin as our Club Racing Chair. None of our events would be possible without the hard work and dedication of all our volunteers. As I write this, we are in the final stages of setting our 2017 track dates with NJMP and Summit Point. Expect a full announcement in the Winter Bulletin and on the chapter website.

One final reminder, if you are looking for a holiday gift idea, remember that Snell 2005 helmets will no longer be accepted next season.

Have a great off-season and we’ll see you at the track next April.

Driving Schools – Spring 2016: New Jersey, Auto Racing, the NJ Chapter, and Club Racing — What’s the Connection?


By Jeff White and Ross Karlin

You are all familiar with the historical logo of the NJ Chapter – an “nj” within the outline of the trademark BMW kidney grill. This logo adorns this newsletter, the chapter website and the front of our driving event t-shirts, among other things. What you may not know is that several years ago we were mandated from National to have an “official” logo that contains the BMW corporate roundel and has very specific dimensions and typeface (very Germanic – dictated by BMW AG). Board member David Allaway developed the design that was adopted by the Board and it is shown here (the color version is red, blue and black checkers).

So, you may ask: what does a checkered flag have to do with NJ? Well, I’m glad you asked. In fact, that checkered flag reflects the history of both the NJ Chapter and the history of auto racing in the US, a history in which NJ played a significant role. Those of you with a longer memory may recall that the NJ Chapter was the first BMW CCA chapter to hold a driver school. The date was June 14, 1974, the venue was Lime Rock Park in CT and the registration fee was $15!

The founders of the driver school program were Scott and Fran Hughes – NJ Chapter members. As I’ve written before, a concern at the time was whether the screaming 100+hp 2002’s with their high cornering speeds would break the mounting bead on the tires so everyone had to run with tubes in their tires! Instructors were gathered from club members who held SCCA racing licenses. Instructors were not assigned but flag stations were. Yes, students had to man the flag stations but with only two flags, red and green. Now, fast-forward 21 years, Scott and Fran once again are innovators and start BMW CCA Club Racing. The NJ Chapter begins hosting a club race in 1996 at Lime Rock, then adds a second race at Summit Point in 1997. Now fast forward to June 2016 and the NJ Chapter has hosted 174 track events plus the 2015 Oktoberfest, comprising 279 total track days and 41 club races over 82 of those days. Clearly, the checkered flag is an appropriate logo for our chapter.

Now let’s roll history back a bit. How does New Jersey figure into the history of auto racing in the US? As the late, great Phil Rizutto would say, holy cow you ask good questions. Auto racing in NJ began in 1900 at Trenton Speedway in Hamilton. The genesis was that NJ was home to a large number of horse racing tracks. Betting on horse races was made illegal in the 1890’s but when autos came on the scene, these tracks became the perfect place to hold a car race. Over the years NJ was home to 75 different race tracks including the aforementioned Trenton Speedway that hosted races until 1972 including NASCAR races won by Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and David Pearson, Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway where Chris Economaki learned to love racing, Union Speedway was a half-mile oval track on the edge of Farcher’s Grove (another NJ Chapter connection as we once held monthly meetings at Farcher’s Grove Restaurant), Morristown Speedway where Lee Petty won, Flemington Fair Speedway which was in operation from 1917-2000, Old Bridge Stadium was another NASCAR venue where Junior Johnson, Lee Petty and Fireball Roberts won races, Wall Township where Ray Evernham and Martin Truex, Jr. learned to race, Vineland Speedway, a 1.5 mile road course where Mark Donohue and Roger Penske raced (you might recognize the racer/actor in the photo from Vineland), the Meadowlands where Indy cars raced from 1984-1991 with Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal among the winners and, of course, NJMP where Grand Am/ALMS raced.

For anyone who wants to read more about the history of auto racing in NJ, the following websites have terrific information and old photos, including tracks with a racing surface constructed with boards set edgewise into dirt:

Let’s cycle back to Club Racing. This year we are holding our two traditional club races at NJMP and Summit Point. On June 6-7 we will hold our 20th anniversary Club Race and Driver School event. As we have done for the past 19 years, this event is to benefit The Westlake School – please see the photo elsewhere in this issue of our presentation to the Westlake Board of the chapter’s donation. This year we also welcome Flemington BMW as our event sponsor. This is a fantastic spectator event that is an easy drive for our members to take during the day, come down and watch some racing. On Monday you can stay for the banquet and auction or come on Tuesday and experience the joy of the visiting Westlake students; here’s a picture from a Lime Rock event as we take the kids out for a few parade laps. If you make the trip to the track we can even get you a ride with an instructor. This is how I was introduced to track driving; a few laps with Wade Wilson driving his E30 M3 at Lime Rock and I was hooked.

On July 23-24 we have our 18th annual race and school at Summit Point on the Main Track with this year being the 3rd Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial event. Geoff was the epitome of everything that is great about driving events and the members who participate; Geoff was always willing to lend a hand to a driver or racer in need, a tremendous instructor who could get an immediate feel for both you and your car and give you those nuggets of help to make you better and he was a terrific racer (that’s him leading in the photo). I realize that WV is a long drive as a spectator but for any of you who have never driven Summit Point, you really need to make the trip down. The track is fantastically fun to drive and we have a Sat. eve BBQ at the track.

Sharp-eyed readers, or at least those of you who have not dozed off by this point, may have noticed the several references to NASCAR racing in NJ and wondered what that had to do with Club Racing and its checkered flag logo. That brings us full circle (pun intended) because for the first time, we will be hosting a 3rd Club Race. This time we are running as the support series to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at NJMP on Thunderbolt on Sep. 16-17! We have the opportunity to be part of a true professional race event. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series, which includes the East and the West, is the top step in NASCAR’s developmental ladder before drivers progress to the three national series. NASCAR K&N Pro Series veterans include 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, 2015 Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano, and 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, along with Ryan Blaney, Austin and Ty Dillon, Kyle Larson, Ryan Truex, Darrell Wallace Jr., and others. We will have Club Racing on Friday afternoon and twice on Saturday. We are also planning a BMW CCA corral and coordinating with NJMP to make the VIP spectator package available to our spectators (includes special viewing area, designated parking, BBQ and beverages all day on Saturday, private racer autograph session, swag bag and commemorative lanyard and ticket). This will be a terrific event and should not be missed.

Well, there you have it. Auto racing history, New Jersey, NASCAR, Club Racing and checkered flag logos all tied together like a group of contacts on Linkedin. We look forward to seeing you at the track, we know you’ll have fun if you come.

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