September. Kids begin school, leaves change color and eight engines turn over for a weekend of 944 Spec racing at Sonoma Raceway.
In qualifying Saturday, Ken Myers set a blistering 1:55.688, just a half second from the 944 Spec lap record. Steve Lewis ran over a second behind. The next four drivers, Jim Foxx, Auburn Schmidt, Tom Atteberry and Ron Dale had just more than a second between them.
Myers started Saturday’s race on the outside of Turn 1, not uncommon for this track. The green flag flew and a choreographed group of eight all hammered the fun pedal. Lewis got the jump on Myers, taking the lead, while Schmidt stayed side by side with Foxx. Intense moments as the pack entered Turn 2. Foxx took an outside line while Schmidt had a look up the inside of Myers. Myers held second and Foxx kept his momentum up to slip in front of Schmidt in Turn 3.
We made it through Turn 4 in a line, with Foxx marking his territory by kicking up some dirt at everyone behind him at the apex of 5. Foxx got a good run up Myers to put their cars side by side into Turn 7. Myers held. Atteberry drew even with Schmidt but he maintained position at midcorner and into the esses.
Atteberry got a slight tow out of Turn 10 and everyone was in a line into the braking zone, which gave Atteberry what he needed to take Schmidt’s position away and nearly draw up on Foxx at the end of the lap.
Meanwhile Lewis was in the distance, driving his butt off to build a gap and thanking us all for battling each other instead of him. We streamed downhill and Schmidt got door to door with Atteberry in the middle of Turn 11 but couldn’t make a good exit to retake position. The move cost Schmidt momentum and he had to float off the racing line to keep Dale behind him.
Next lap, Schmidt nearly got a run on Atteberry into Turn 7, while Foxx chowed at Myers’ tail. Later in the lap, Schmidt got a look at Atteberry into Turn 11, but it forced him into a tighter line. Atteberry late-apexed the corner for a good exit to hold position.
Midrace approached, and lapping 911s were coming through. Foxx made a move stick at Turn 4, finally getting around Myers. Lap after lap, Schmidt never fell more than a few feet from Atteberry’s bumper, looking all the while for a way to make a move stick. Foxx’s position gain was short lived as he dropped out with mechanical troubles.
Ken Myers lost his clutch and nursed the 2KenRacing car forward. Myers managed to keep us behind him from the Carousel all the way to Turn 11 where Atteberry got door to door. Everyone got around him in a pack on the main straight. White flag, last lap. Atteberry again got the top of Turn 2 wrong, but Schmidt couldn’t draw up for a pass into Turn 3. Schmidt dropped a wheel at the exit of Turn 4 and Myers had the cojones to hold overlap with Schmidt’s car on the outside of the Carousel. The door-to-door gave Dale all he needed to get by Myers in Turn 7. Schmidt closed up on Atteberry for the final braking zone, got a good run up the inside, but missed a shift. Atteberry did an over-under and checkers flew.
At the end, it was Lewis in first, Atteberry in second and Schmidt in third.
NorCal 944 Director Ken Huey joined the group Sunday. Unfortunately since he shares his car with Ken Myers, and it lost its clutch, Ken Huey spent most of the morning doing repairs instead of getting seat time.
I wish I could tell you Sunday was better than Saturday, that we had another half an hour of bumper hugging action. I wish I could tell you that, but sometimes club racing doesn’t give you those highs. Sometimes there’s a big crash by the group in front of you and the track gets red flagged for 20 minutes while you sit in your car and you hope the ambulance isn’t driving away with someone you know in it.
When the dust settled Sunday, Atteberry had finished first, followed by Lewis in second and Schmidt in third.