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.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”