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.

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