Monday, June 22, 2009

Pruett & Rojas Take Grand Am Show at Mid Ohio

Sports car racing at a beautiful natural terrain road course like Mid Ohio is quite a change from the oval track action I've been covering so far this year. The Rolex Series cars are simply gorgeous and the weekend schedule is almost non-stop action with a huge variety of cars on the track from early in the day until dinner time. For fans camping at the track, it must be great to have high octane racing fuel every morning with your eggs and bacon. Mid Ohio is a great family atmosphere and the racing is usually top notch, even though the course is notoriously difficult to pass on. But the great thing about multi-class sports car racing is the fast guys always figure out a way to carve through slower traffic and come out ahead. That's what Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were able to do after starting on the front row, enduring penalty time in the pits and going a lap down, to storm back through the field and win a hotly contested race among the top three.

My first race at Mid Ohio was as a fan in 1982 for a CART road race and I remember sitting in the "esses" and watching Tom Sneva shortcut the hill through the grass. I went regularly through the mid-90's before the CART-IRL split as a photographer, racing back to Indy to turn in our film afterwards. For the last four summers, I have had the pleasure of covering the Rolex sports cars, the ALMS and IRL on their Mid Ohio weekends for American Motor Journal and these weekends are always marked on my calendar. Even my 74 year old mother likes to come down from Akron to watch, usually sitting on the hillside in the keyhole and enjoying the scenery. At least this year, the weather cooperated and it was hot and muggy, rather than soaking wet like last year.

The weekend schedule still mystifies me somewhat, as the feature race with the Daytona Prototypes and GT cars is run late Saturday afternoon, obviously for the TV slot on Speed. The bad thing about that is the only races left to run on Sunday are for the under card Koni and VW series and most of the weekend crowd has already gone home. It's too bad they can't have the Grand Am on Sunday as I'm sure the weekend attendance would improve. Nonetheless, we stuck it out through the Koni ST race Sunday afternoon and had a ball shooting from angles all over the track. My assistant and I probably walked five miles on Saturday as it was her first road course (and first sports car) race and she also enjoyed the variety of photo ops Mid Ohio presents. As many times as I've been to Mid Ohio, I like it even more each time, with its park-like setting, the rolling hills and laid back atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that I did the Acura High Performance Driving School on the track three years ago this past week, so I see in my mind's eye every corner and hill as they race since I've been out there myself. The goosebumps rise even now as I type and I look forward to getting back on the track again.

I'm off the road for awhile now but will keep my eyes and ears open for other racing tidbits, or just plain old couch racing BS, and bring it to you here as the spirit moves me. If it's Monday, I must be back to reality after all, which just means I start thinking about what I'll do differently in August when I get back for the ALMS and IRL weekend. I just hope the ALMS car count improves!

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