Driving Schools – Fall 2019: 2019 Driver Schools


By Jamie Kavalieros

We concluded our 2019 season at Shenandoah Race Track in Summit Point West Virginia. This track is my personal favorite. It is a very technical track where a nimble momentum car can rival a higher horsepower and heavier car.

One of the other reasons I enjoy Shenandoah and going to the track is camping and hanging out with my track buddies. About a decade ago I started camping in my trailer at the track. There are a large number of drivers who do so. It ranges from guys in a tent to people who have a dedicated RV. I, like most of the guys, fall in the middle. I tow my enclosed car trailer that has a few comforts added: A/C, heat and electrical hookup with a bed strapped to the wall over the wheel well. It is home for the weekend. Along the way I have picked up a few strays. Greg was a tent guy but when the weather turned to heavy rain, I invited him to throw his sleeping bag on the floor of my trailer. Now he is a permanent fixture. Kevin is a friend who started coming back to the track about 5 years ago. He had 2 (now 3) children and to save a bit of money he stays in my trailer as well. There are many others that do the same: Dave, Bill, Mirril, Jim, Greg, Mark, Scott, Vin, Ron and more. As you can see the list has grown over the years and I am sure I forgot a few.

We started an email chain to see who was bringing what food as well as some post track refreshments a few years back. It started simple with who will bring breakfast, yogurt and pop-tarts, dinner burgers and dogs. Shenandoah was the place we started to cook a real meal. Buffalo wings, soup, penne pasta, ice cream, cake and much more. Over the years other groups formed and enjoyed camping. We cross over and share food, drink and stories. Many of the camping participants remark half the fun of going to the track is camping.

Photo by Jamie Kavalieros

This year we decided to expand part of the experience to everyone at Shenandoah and had our first ever Pot Luck Dinner. The amount of food was incredible. There were 50+ participants. Stories were shared food was eaten and drinks were had. It was great to see new students listening to veteran drivers swapping their experiences and knowledge. The Pot Luck was a huge success and I hope to see you next Season at the track!

Photo by Jamie Kavalieros

2020 Track Season Schedule:

  • April 17-18-19 Thunderbolt: Friday A-Solo open track and Instructor Training; Sat-Sun Driver School and Sunday New to the track Intro School
  • June 8-9 Thunderbolt: Club Race and Driver School Mon-Tues
  • July 18-19 Summit Point: Club race and School Sat-Sun
  • Oct 3-4 Shenandoah: Driver School Sat-Sun

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 – Summer 2016: Driver School and Club Races at NJMP and Summit Point


By Jeff White

In June, the chapter held its annual Driver School and Club Race to benefit the Westlake School. This year we welcomed Flemington BMW as our primary event sponsor. This year’s event was held on Lightning Raceway and was well supported by both driver school and club racer participants. Sixty-eight driver school students and 42 instructors were spread among three student run groups so that everyone had plenty of open track. Thirty-three club racers took the track on Monday for the first race with the second qualifying race on Tuesday morning followed by the feature race on Tuesday afternoon. Thanks to Flemington BMW for providing the i8 pace car for both days as well as plenty of water to keep everyone hydrated.

On Monday evening we held our banquet and charity auction in the Officer’s Club at Thunderbolt. Close to $3,000 was raised through silent auctions with prizes including an i8 RC car (Bridgewater BMW), Watkins Glen race tickets (DelVal chapter) and team shirts (Turner Motorsport) and regular auctions, led by master auctioneer Mo Karamat, of items including “slightly used” race car body work (from Jerry Kaufman’s Daytona car and from Turner Motorsports), an entry to a future Jeffapalooza event including coaching from James Clay, a child’s bike (Morristown BMW) and an adult bicycle (Flemington BMW). Door prizes for participants included watches, shirts, umbrellas, hats, car care products and gift certificates. We want to thank all our sponsors: Flemington BMW, Bridgewater BMW, Morristown BMW, Circle BMW, VAC Motorsports, Turner Motorsport, Bimmer- World and TireRack.

On Tuesday, we marked the highlight of the event when the students and staff of Westlake School visited. On their arrival, everyone was presented with a shirt and gift bag from Flemington BMW. Students and staff were treated to parade laps on the track in a colorful and multi-marque set of participant cars and then the students enjoyed watching the spirited feature race. See Brian Morgan’s article in the Roundel for a full race report. The students then helped out with the trophy presentations before heading back home.

Thanks to everyone who came out to make this a great event and thanks also to our race stewards (Barry Kaplan, Bruce Smith and Larry Fletcher), Tech workers and pit out workers. Without our volunteers none of this would be possible.

In July, we held the 3rd Annual Geoff Atkinson Memorial Driver School and Club Race at Summit Point Motorsports Park on the Main Circuit. For those of you who may not have known Geoff, he was an instructor, ITS mentor, club racer and all-around great guy who contributed much to the NJ chapter and we take this event as a way to celebrate all he brought to us. This was a sold-out event with 69 driver school students, 40 instructors and 32 club racers. All participants and volunteers were challenged by the heat and humidity of the weekend. In fact, driver school students were asked to run their A/C during their track time to help keep both students and instructors cooled down! Despite the challenges, all the school sessions and all 3 races were incident-free. Our race stewards (Bruce Lummis, Todd Massagee and Larry Fletcher) made sure the racers were well looked after. Once again, look for a full race report from Brian Morgan in the Roundel.

On Saturday evening we held our traditional track-side BBQ buffet including a very nice Kolsch beer from a local brewery (Escutcheon in Winchester, VA). Thanks to on-site payments from a number of BBQ guests we were able to raise an additional $300 for Westlake. Special thanks also go to VAC Motorsports for their sponsorship of the event.

As this issue of the Bulletin hits your mailbox we will be very close to our special event at NJMP Thunderbolt. On Friday and Saturday Sep. 16-17, the NJ Chapter will be the host of a special advanced driver school and Club Race in support of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. This is the first time NASCR has come to NJMP and they asked us to participate! The driver school is open to solo advanced driver school students and instructors only. There will be 3 hours of track time on Friday and an additional hour on Saturday. The registration price also includes a VIP ticket that provides a special viewing area and BBQ buffet during the day on Saturday. The club racing portion will feature a warm-up, qualifying and a single sprint race on Friday afternoon and then warm-up, a qualifying race on Saturday morning and then the feature race in the afternoon just before the NASCAR race. This is a tremendous opportunity for Club Racing: two days of racing at a professional race series event. This is the chance to showcase Club Racing to an audience that may not be familiar with what we do: sports car racing that has cars in different classes on the track. For other fans, this is a chance to see where current racers such as Will Turner, Bill Auberlen, James Clay, Jeff Segal and our own Jerry Kaufman started. For our participants, we get to see the up and coming NASCAR racers of the future, and maybe teach them a thing or two about road course racing. We are also planning a special car corral for club member spectators – be sure to watch for announcements on the website and in chapter email blasts. This will be a unique event.

We wrap-up the season on Oct. 8-9 on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point. Shenandoah is a small and fun event. A great time of year to be in West Virginia, small run groups, a paddock where everyone is close, skid pad for two days, a track walk and, most importantly, a chance to practice virtually every type of turn you will ever encounter on a race track. Driving Shenandoah will make you a better driver on every other track you visit. Come on down.

Registration for both the Thunderbolt event and Shenandoah is open on Motorsportreg.com, just click on the logo on the chapter website home page.

We’ll see you at the track.

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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