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Infineon Race Report: June 28-29, 2008

The legendary and beautiful Infineon Raceway (forever Sears Point to many) was the venue for Round 5 of the FFR West Coast Challenge Series. Seven spec series Challenge Cars (and 5 more running in the HPDE/TT groups) arrived to weather in the 80's, but smoke/haze from the more the 700 fires burning in the region (including Big Sur/Monterey fires) intermittently blocked the sun throughout the weekend.

Challenge Series racers included Dave Standridge #83, Tom Andrews #30, Rich Norgrove #5, Robert Walter #3, Mike Beeler #10, TC McNett #33 and Karen Salvaggio #28.
HPDE/Time Trialers included John Marsey #13, Tim Konklin #84, Sern (car number?), Lowell's tricked out
Challenge Car running in TTU, and AC Mikee and his monster Green/Orange Challenge Car (ya, it's just a small block Ford!...640 HP, 600 ft. lbs. tq., IRS and full Watts system)....What a ride!...12 Challenge Cars in all! Yea!

It was good to see Rich Norgrove and the Bear Republic #5 back in action with a new engine getting ready for Nationals. Also returning to Infineon was TC McNett, in his first trip back to Infineon since racing here in June last year. It was also Mike Beeler’s first trip to Infineon in a
Challenge Car (having driven a Russell school car some four years earlier). Robert Walter is the Sears "seasoned warrior" (having driven this track since the day it was carved out of the vineyards), and of course, Infineon is home track for National Champion Dave Standridge...So the stage was set for great racing!

Saturday’s Racing:
Race Group B included the Factory Five racers, as well as the Camaro~Mustang Challenge (CMC/2) and American Iron (AI/X) racers. 35 cars total in the group. Dave was fastest in qualifying with a 1:56.998. Karen had a close call on lap three, as she accelerated down the front straight, one of the AI racers decided it would be a good idea to take the inside at the high speed apex going up the hill. As his car slid off line he collected Karen’s #28
Challenge Car that sent them both spinning up the hill. Both cars were able to fire up and return to the pits under their own power, but needless to say, Karen looked a bit like Danica Patrick at the Indy race when she got out of the car. With helmet still on, she was ready to give her competitor a piece of her mind, but her quick thinking crew members, and cooler heads way-layed her trip….

The group took a rolling start green flag, and Dave quickly pulled into the lead, with Karen, Tom, Robert and TC close behind. Rich and Mike had their own close battle as well. Dave secured a solid lead by lap 3, but there was certainly close racing for 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots. Karen held a comfortable 2nd position throughout the race, but the car’s suspension had been tweaked in the morning AI incident, and prevented her from getting the power to the ground to keep up with Dave. She did have a front seat to the great battle waged between Tom and TC for lap after lap. In the end, the FFR’s came across the line with: 1st Dave Standridge, 2nd Karen Salvaggio, 3rd Tom Andrews, 4th Robert Walter, 5th TC McNett, 6th Rich Norgrove, 7th Mike Beeler.

Sunday Racing:

AM Qualifying Race: With grid set from Saturday’s race, the starting order was: Dave Standridge, Karen Salvaggio, Tom Andrews, Robert Walter, TC McNett, and Rich Norgrove. The racing was again clean and fast, with the group having close battles through the race. Karen got the jump on Dave at the green as they raced up the hill and into Turn 2, but Dave was able to re-take the lead as the two battled into the Carousel. Karen settled into 2nd, but was dogged throughout the race by a relentless pursuit from Tom Andrews. TC and Robert waged a great battle for several laps. Meanwhile, Mike and Rich honed their skills (with Rich also breaking in a new engine) and each made great advances in laps times. With a pegged-out temp gauge (which later proved to be a bad radiator cap creating pressurizing problems), Karen chose to back out of it on the last lap to save her engine. Tom easily took the spot (although he had been close on her heels the whole way), and the finish order was: Dave, Tom, Karen, TC, Rich, Robert, and Mike.

Sunday PM Race:
Grid was set by AM qualifying times, and the order at the green was: Dave (1:56.295), Karen (1:56.620), Tom (1:56.798), Rich (1:58.214), TC (158.464), Robert (1:58.806), and Mike (2:02.898).

The race was set as a standing start, and as the Green flag fell, seven
Challenge Cars dropped the clutches and launched up the hill. Karen got the hole-shot on Dave, and let the drag race up the hill and into turn 2. Robert pulled a quick evasive move left and shot around Rich Norgrove at the start. As the group strung out between turns 2 and 3, it was Karen, Dave, Tom, TC, Robert, Mike and Rich all running in a tight pack vying for position. Very close racing prevailed throughout the remainder of the first lap, with lead changes and battles taking the spot back until the group reached safety crews working a serious accident in turn 11. Two CMC/2 cars had collected each other and met the wall resulting in a large debris field and fluid on the track. Despite the full course yellow, Dave led the group on a race-speed pace car lap (with us still turning 1:57’s at “pace” speed until we caught up to the pace car). Dave pulled a great move passing Karen at seven at the top of the hill before the incident, and with the full course caution flying for at least half of the race, there was no time for any of the racers to make an assault on their competitors. Once the green flag came out, Dave gave it all he had, and again put a safe distance between Karen and himself. In the meantime, Karen, Tom and TC put on a great show in their battle for 2nd – 4th. In the end, Dave took the checkered 1st, with Karen coming in a close 2nd (+2/sec), TC taking 3rd, Tom 4th, Robert 4th, Rich 6th, and Mike 7th.

Fast times and close racing were the hallmarks of the group, with everyone stepping it up yet again as we prepare for the all-out assault on Nationals. Everyone returned home safely and with all body parts attached to their cars.

PS: Had a chance to take AC Mikee’s 640 hp, 600+ f/lbs. of torque out on track Saturday afternoon…What a ride! Suspension and handling are awesome, and what can I say about all that raw power! Levy rocks, that’s for sure! Yikes, that power and handling would sure be fun in a spec car! Thanks Mikee!!! I hope to take it out again when there not so much traffic and “newbies” on track. HPDE 4 must have had close to 65 cars pf varying skill….Yikes!

Dr. Karen Salvaggio
Thunder Valley Racing
FFR #28 Challenge Series

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