Canada Corner (Tony DiZinno)

Lee Alexander’s 1:59 lap leads SCCA Runoffs Day 1 Qualifying

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The first day of qualifying is in the books at the 50th running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Elkhart Lake’s Road America. Some news and notes regarding the day’s fastest qualifiers, which included track records set in 11 classes:

  • Lee Alexander set a 1:59.638 in the C Sports Racer class, fastest time on the day and the second driver into the sub-2-minute range at the SCCA Runoffs in Road America history. The CSR and DSR classes were the first session of the day on a cool, fast track. Scott Tucker, who is not racing at this year’s Runoffs, set the record lap of 1:58.997 in a West WX10/ST10 D Sports Racer entry a year ago.
  • The two heaviest populated classes, Spec Miata (70 cars entered) and Spec Racer Ford (54) ran solo qualifying sessions. The rest of the 28 classes ran in combined group sessions.
  • SM saw no less than 15 cars break the old track record, with Jim Drago fastest of them at a 2:41.862. Brian Schofield led the way in SRF at 2:37.974.
  • Two drivers, Andrew Aquilante and Lawrence Loshak, set the fastest time in more than one class. Aquilante accomplished the feat in T1 and GT2, with Loshak doing likewise in FB and HP.
  • Peter Portante, who races full-time in the USF2000 National Championship on IndyCar’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder, led the Formula Continental (FC) field at 2:11.394 driving for the local ArmsUp Motorsports team, based in nearby Sheboygan Falls.
  • Nearly one minute separates the fastest time of the day – Alexander’s sub-2-minute flier – and the slowest fast time coming from B-Spec, Joel Weinberger at 2:54.936.
  • Ironic fastest qualifier of the day award? That would be your American Sedan pace-setter, Tom Sloe. I’ll be here all night.
Classes, Fastest Tuesday qualifier and time
CSR/DSR:  CSR, Lee Alexander, 1:59.638.    DSR, Chris Farrell, 2:01.662.
SM:       SM, Jim Drago, 2:41.862. 
GT1/T1:   GT1, Cliff Ebben, 2:03.917.      T1, Andrew Aquilante, 2:14.673.
FA/FB:    FA, Sedat Yelkin, 2:03.089.      FB, Lawrence Loshak, 2:04.786.
FP/HP:    FP, Mark Carpenter, 2:33.193.    HP, Lawrence Loshak, 2:41.750.
GT2/GT3:  GT2, Andrew Aquilante, 2:14.320. GT3, Mike Henderson, 2:23.405.
F500/FV:  F500, James Weida, 2:21.517.     FV, Michael Varacins, 2:41.293.
STU/STL:  STU, Marc Hoover, 2:24.693.      STL, Rob Huffmaster, 2:32.995.
T2/AS:    T2, Kurt Rezzetano, 2:24.619.    AS, Tom Sloe, 2:26.570.
FC/FF:    FC, Peter Portante, 2:11.395.    FF, Tim Kautz, 2:21.221.
EP/GTL:   EP, Aaron Downey, 2:29.795.      GTL, Robert Lentz, 2:33.281.
FE/FM/S2: FE, Scott Rettich, 2:13.403.     FM, Doug Peterson, 2:16.042. 
          S2, Mark Mercer, 2:18.276.
SRF:      SRF, Brian Schofield, 2:37.974. 
T3/T4/    T3, Chad Gilsinger, 2:31.631.    T4, Michael Scornavacchi, 2:40.493.
B-SPEC:   B-SPEC, Joel Weinberger, 2:54.936.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.