SCCA – A day at the track with your friends

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Ominous skies loom over the start of Group 1's Race #2 on Sunday morning.

Sometimes we go to a Formula 1 grand prix, a MotoGP race weekend, World Endurance Championship event, or a World Rally Championship rally to see the best drivers/riders and machines in the world compete at levels that appear to us mere mortals as superhuman. We witness remarkable feats of vehicle control and intestinal fortitude that make us think that surely these are aliens piloting alien technology, and we’re supremely entertained and inspired by this. Sometimes, however, you just want to hang out with your friends at the track, and what you witness is that, on occasion, you see glimpses of that alien-level greatness in the guys and gals you share beers and burgers with at the monthly club meetings.

The #30 Formula Mazda of James  Wright and the #5 Formula Continental of Brandon Dixon crossing the Start/Finish line at the Kansas Speedway.
The #30 Formula Mazda of James Wright and the #5 Formula Continental of Brandon Dixon crossing the Start/Finish line at the Kansas Speedway.

This past weekend, the Kaw Valley Race Group and the Kansas City Region SCCA hosted the eighth round of the SCCA U.S. Majors Tour at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. Long-time readers of Formula1Blog.com will remember that the crew attended the ill-fated Indy Lights and IndyCar Series race at the Speedway back in 2009, but since then, the facility as expanded and now includes an infield road course. Yes, I know, rovals aren’t always ideal courses, especially from a photographer’s point of view, and this is no exception. This was the only Majors event to be held on a high-banked track. As such, it is a good opportunity to prepare for this year’s National Runoffs which will be held at the Daytona International Speedway on their roval.

David Vincent preparing his  #73 Formula 500 machine on Sunday morning.
David Vincent preparing his #73 Formula 500 machine on Sunday morning.
It was strange showing up to the Kansas Speedway and not seeing crowds of fans milling around, looking for autographs, and a media center packed with reporters and photogs trying to get their work out to their editors. It was almost like the 2010 IndyCar race. (oh, too soon?) It was pleasant in a way, too. Stepping into the media center to register and seeing not only the Speedway staff, but many of my friends from the club organizing and coordinating all the logistics was pretty neat. Once I received my marching orders from our Regional Executive, Chris Kern, off I went to do my photog thing.

Dane Smith in his #21 GT-1 Corvette trying his best to find traction with slicks on a very wet race track.
Dane Smith in his #21 GT-1 Corvette trying his best to find traction with slicks on a very wet race track.
Working the paddock, there’s one thing that was immediately clear. There are a LOT more cars at hand than during a typical IndyCar or Rally America event! There were 104 competitors racing in 31 classes in seven separate race groups. Yes, 31 classes seems a bit excessive to me as well. It could be worse. It could be Solo. It meant that my tagging work became a lot more complex and time consuming. I’m still tagging photos! It also meant that there was a great diversity of cars on track from the small, non-aero open-wheel cars like the Formula Vee, Formula Ford, and Formula 500 (I want one of those cars!), winged open-wheel cars like Formula Mazda and Formula Atlantic, prototype-style racers like the Spec Racer Ford (wouldn’t mind one of those either), to GT sports cars like the Corvettes and Vipers.

The Kansas Speedway crew were amazing. Normally during a race weekend, the security staff are so stressed out from dealing with the beered up masses that they are usually gruff at best and rude and forceful at worst. Frankly, I don’t blame them for their attitude. They have to put up with a lot of crap. In the lower stress, more relaxed atmosphere of the Majors event, the security crew were extremely friendly and helpful. The Guest Services Coordinator, Cole Cochran, even help arrange things for me to allow me to drive my car onto the outer rim road so I could do work from the outside of the oval and flag stand. On a day where temperatures were in the triple digits, the ability to sit in my air conditioned car in between sessions, and to drive between the outside and infield made my work a LOT easier.

Dave Vincent gets his #73 Formula 500 a nose ahead of John Walbran's #67.
Dave Vincent gets his #73 Formula 500 a nose ahead of John Walbran’s #67.

When it came to the actual on-track racing action, there was no disappointment. There were fantastic racing battles throughout in all race groups, and not a single Maldonado in sight. It was all good clean racing. Perhaps the two best battles of the weekend were in Formula 500 where David Vincent in the #73 and John Walbran in the #67 battled back and forth all through the early laps. Formula 500 cars are small non-aero open-wheel racers using a 2-cycle 500cc motor. They sound like chainsaws on steroids and look like a ton of fun. Did I mention that I want one? The two racers fought side-by-side through several of the infield corners and swapped positions several times as they exploited each other’s weaknesses. A mechanical issue causing David to lose power put a premature end to the fight, but it was good while it lasted.

Richard Wiese  brings his #35 Spec Racer Ford into Turn 1 ahead of  Grayson Strathman int he #19.
Richard Wiese brings his #35 Spec Racer Ford into Turn 1 ahead of Grayson Strathman int he #19.
The other great battle to watch was in Spec Racer Ford. Richard Wiese in the #35 and Grayson Strathman in the #19 fought for supremacy every single lap of Sunday’s Race #2. The two swapped the lead several times, often multiple times during a single lap! With the wide open entry to Turn 1, the turn onto the infield section from the oval, there were multiple lines available for racers to take. I really enjoyed seeing the two think tactically about the Turn 1, 2, and 3 sequence as they set up for their entry to Turn 1. A number of times, you saw the trailing car give up a little in Turn 1 in order to have a better line into Turn 2 and secure the position. It was as good of a racing battle as you’re likely to see regardless of the series. The final pass for the lead wasn’t secured until Turn 4 of the final lap. It was an amazing fight.

With now vacant and foreclosed Heartland Park Topeka in dire risk of being lost permanently, the Kansas Speedway offers the Kaw Valley Racing Group and the Kansas City Region SCCA a place to play with professional-level services and infrastructure. While not everyone was pleased with the nature of the course, for now it’s the best game in town. With the Legends shopping district right across the street, literally right across the street, from the Speedway with a variety of eateries and shopping as well as several hotels and of course the Hollywood Casino on the outside of Turn 2, you’d be hard pressed to find a better, more traveler-friendly venue. I’m really hoping they return to the Kansas Speedway next year.

For the full gallery of photos from the event, head over to Patterson Prints, LLP where we have nearly 500 images from the weekend.

http://pattersonprints.smugmug.com/Motorsports/Kansas-City-Region-SCCA/2015-KVRG-MidStates-Majors/

Official Results

Saturday Race #1
American Sedan: Jim Wheeler, Lenexa, Kan., Pontiac Trans-Am
B-Spec: John Phillips, Sealy, Texas, Toyota Yaris
E Production: Matt Reynolds, Fair Oaks, Texas, Mazda Miata
F Production: Eric Prill, Topeka, Kan., Mazda Miata
H Production: Chris Albin, Maryland Heights, Mo., Volkswagen GTI
Formula 500: David Vincent, Leavenworth, Kan., KBS Mk VII/Rotax
Formula 1000: James Michael, Fort Worth, Texas, Stohr F1000
Formula Atlantic: Michael Mallinen, Liberty Lake, Wash., Swift 016a/Mazda
Formula Continental: Brandon Dixon, Tuscaloosa, Ala., Citation F2000/Ford
Formula Enterprises: Henry Donohoo, Arvada, Colo., Formula Enterprises/Ford
Formula F: Max Mallinen, Liberty Lake, Wash., Spectrum 014H/Honda
Formula Mazda: Joseph Burton-Harris, Syndey, Australia, Formula Mazda
Formula Vee: Robert Neumeister, Pueblo, Colo., Vortech/Volkswagen
GT-1: Tom Smith, Springdale, Ark., Chevy Camaro
GT-2: Mark Kirby, Shawnee Mission, Kan., Dodge Viper
GT-3: Brian Haupt, Spring Hill, Kan., Mazda RX-7
GT-Lite: Jesse Prather, Topeka, Kan., Toyota Tercel
Prototype 1: Kirk Kindsfater, Eaton, Colo., Speads RS11
Prototype 2: Bruce Gurney, Honolulu, Hawaii, Carbir CS-2
Spec Miata: Christopher Haldeman, Frisco, Texas, Mazda Miata
Spec Racer Ford Gen 3: David Pheteplace, Monument, Colo., Spec Racer Ford
Spec Racer Ford: Grayson Strathman, Jennings, Okla., Spec Racer Ford
Super Touring Lite: Ciff Ira, Kansas City, Mo., Acura Integra
Super Touring Under: Anthony Simmers, Bouler, Colo., Volkswagen GTI
Touring 1: Chris Edens, Sherwood, Ark., Mazda MX-5
Touring 2: Tim Kezman, Fraksville, Wis., Porsche GT3 Cup
Touring 3: Bob Schader, Lafayette, Colo., Nissan 350Z
Touring 4: Steven Christopher, Olathe, Kan., Honda Civic

Sunday Race #2
American Sedan: Jim Wheeler, Lenexa, Kan., Pontiac Trans-Am
B-Spec: John Phillips, Sealy, Texas, Toyota Yaris
E Production: Matt Reynolds, Fair Oaks, Texas, Mazda Miata
F Production: Eric Prill, Topeka, Kan., Mazda Miata
H Production: Chris Albin, Maryland Heights, Mo., Volkswagen GTI
Formula 500: Jack Walbran, Saint Louis, Mo., Novakar J10/Rotax
Formula 1000: James Michael, Fort Worth, Texas, Stohr F1000
Formula Atlantic: Dwight Rider, Aurora, Colo., RT-41/Toyota
Formula Continental: Brandon Dixon, Tuscaloosa, Ala., Citation F2000/Ford
Formula Enterprises: Henry Donohoo, Arvada, Colo., Formula Enterprises/Ford
Formula Mazda: Alan McCallum, Houston, Tex., Formula Mazda
Formula F: Max Mallinen, Liberty Lake, Wash., Spectrum 014H/Honda
Formula Vee: Charles Hearn, Houston, Tex., Vortech/Volkswagen
GT-1: Dane Smith, Springdale, Ark., Chevrolet Corvette
GT-2: Mike McGinley, Overland Park, Kan., Chevrolet Corvette
GT-3: Brian Haupt, Spring Hill, Kan., Mazda RX-7
GT-Lite: Jesse Prather, Topeka, Kan., Toyota Tercel
Prototype 1: Kirk Kindsfater, Eaton, Colo., Speads RS11
Prototype 2: Bruce Gurney, Honolulu, Hawaii, Carbir CS-2
Spec Miata: Matt Reynolds, Fair Oaks, Tex., Mazda Miata
Spec Racer Ford Gen 3: David Pheteplace, Monument, Colo., Spec Racer Ford
Spec Racer Ford: Grayson Strathman, Jennings, Okla., Spec Racer Ford
Super Touring Lite: Richard Schader, Longmont, Colo., Mazda Miata
Super Touring Under: Anthony Simmers, Bouler, Colo., Volkswagen GTI
Touring 1: Chris Edens, Sherwood, Ark., Mazda MX-5
Touring 2: Tim Kezman, Fraksville, Wis., Porsche GT3 Cup
Touring 3: Jason Ott, Littleton, Colo., BMW Z4 Coupe
Touring 4: James Place, San Antonio, Tex., Acura GRS

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