“Another weekend in the books as championship battles tighten”
It was the first return trip to the Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC) in four years for the Blue Marble Radical Cup program and once again, the racing did not disappoint. With a three-day weekend on the schedule that featured four practice sessions on Friday before wheel-to-wheel action commenced, tight championship point battles and close racing on track set the tone for the weekend with two event weekends remaining.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session followed Friday’s Blue Marble Party, and drivers sampling iRacing’s virtual Radical SR10 thanks to Advanced Racing Sims. Drivers were forced to turn the clock back to 2018 to find qualifying times to shoot for. Back then the Platinum class pace was set by Jim Booth (SR8) with a 1:52.407, while Al Miller turned a 1:53.681 in Pro 1500 and Louis Schriber took the Pro 1340 pole with a 1:56.449. This time, when the dust had finally settled, it was Robert Rossi (WISKO Racing / Carpet Giant) in an SR10 who shattered the Platinum qualifying lap record with a 1:49.934 to earn a Motul Pole Award. Similarly, Mike Anzaldi (RYNO Racing / Emmett’s Energy) ended with a 1:55.828 to beat the 2018 benchmark by more than half a second and get one point closer to reclaiming the lead in the PRO 1340 championship. Palmer Miller (ESSES Racing / Radical Texas / Miller Time Racing) took top honors in Pro 1500.
The first race of the weekend started in dramatic fashion as Steve Jenks (Group-A Racing / Audien Hearing) got a stellar start and looked to go around the outside of Robert Rossi into turn one. However, Rossi was able to hold off Jenks and open a substantial gap by mid-race distance, but the gap then began to shrink as Rossi began to struggle with an electrical issue.
Meanwhile, Reid Stewart (Group-A Racing / Fasano Textiles) jumped to the lead of the Pro 1340 class, but it was short-lived as Anzaldi retook the position a few laps later bringing Austin Riley (Racing With Autism / ParkPower / Lincoln Electric) with him. Anzaldi and Riley began to pull away after disposing of Stewart.
An off-track excursion for Palmer Miller – who had opened a three-second gap after two laps in the Pro 1500 class– forced a pitstop to clean the radiator and allowed Jack Yang (Group-A Racing / Radical New York) to inherit the lead.
A lap later, Platinum leader Rossi pitted with smoke in his cockpit as a result of a lithium battery failure. This handed the win to Steve Jenks and promoted Jon Field and Judd Miller to second and third respectively.
Austin Riley set his fastest lap of the race on lap eleven to close the gap on Anzaldi in the 1340 class. However, Anzaldi withstood the pressure to take the win from Riley and Reid Stewart.
Back in the 1500 class, Kent Myers (ESSES Racing / Radical Texas) took the 1500 class lead just before a full course caution for a car off on the exit of turn one. This proved key, with Myers taking the win from Jack Yang and series debutant Dan Decker (Cameron Racing). Myers also received the Sunoco Hard Charger Award.
Lap times from race one set the grid for race two, which followed a gourmet lunch in the Radical hospitality suite. The Platinum class went four wide at the green, with Jenks gaining the initial jump, however, again it was Robert Rossi who converted pole into an early race lead of two seconds over Field who forced his way past Jenks during the first tour.
Anzaldi also maintained his position at the front of the 1340 class, with Austin Riley getting back past a strong starting Reid Stewart on the opening lap. Palmer Miller maintained his position at the front of the Pro 1500 class after nabbing the fastest lap in Race #10 to lead his class to the green in race two.
Lap two saw contact between Pro 1500 leader Palmer Miller and Pro 1340 driver Stewart, sending the latter into a spin, while Jack Yang held second in 1500, from Dan Decker and Kent Myers.
Austin Riley would mount his charge to the lead towards the end of lap three as he and Anzaldi went side by side with Riley moving into the lead through the final corner. Pushing Anzaldi back behind 1500 class leader Miller, Riley built a small buffer ten minutes into the race.
Up front, Rossi controlled the Platinum class with a 3.5-second lead after five laps as the top four were equally spaced. Jon Field continued to run in the second position ahead of Steve Jenks, Judd Miller, and Jim Booth.
On lap eleven Rossi ran into traffic, allowing Jon Field (ONE Motorsport / Bricker Home Design) to close the gap to just over two seconds. On the next lap, Field was 1.3 seconds faster than Rossi and the battle for the win was on. A lap later, Field closed the gap even further to get within .599 and only ten minutes to go.
At the same time, 1500 race leader Miller slid wide, opening the door for Riley and Anzaldi to move to sixth and seventh overall.
With the checkered flag on the horizon, Field was under Rossi’s rear wing as they opened lap sixteen. The former American Le Mans Series Champion Jon Field made a late move into turn one, surprising Rossi and breaking his rhythm. A moment in turn four for Rossi allowed Field to open a 2.853-second lead and clinch his first win of the weekend– and his first with One Motorsports– ahead of Robert Rossi and Steve Jenks.
Anzaldi also closed in on Riley with just over two laps to go, however, Austin Riley held off Anzaldi’s late race charge to take the win and extend his point lead, with Reid Stewart joining the two on the podium.
Palmer Miller earned the top step of the podium in Pro 1500 ahead of Kent Myers and Jack Yang.
Jon Field (Platinum) started the final race of the weekend from pole, as did Palmer Miller (Pro 1500) and Austin Riley (Pro 1340), thanks to fastest laps in Race #11.
Robert Rossi got the jump from the outside of the front row to snatch the lead from Field at the exit of the first corner, with Jenks slotting into third. Miller led the 1500 class maintaining his position at the front of the field as Riley did the same in 1340.
In a key moment in the 1340 championship, Riley lost the class lead to Anzaldi on lap two as the two drivers entered the braking zone of turn four.
The driver to watch over the opening three laps was Scott Wagner (Scott Wagner Racing / Scott Wagner Integrated Medicine) as he began his charge through the field. He went wheel-to-wheel with Jim Booth through the final complex of corners but was unable to get by, and the intense battle soon brought Judd Miller into the mix making it a three-horse race for the fourth position, as Rossi extended his gap to 4.034 by the end of lap four.
Booth, Wagner, and Miller went three wide in the final corner, with Wagner kicking up dirt on the exit, before Miller out dragged Wagner and made a bid to jump Booth in turn one but outbroke himself giving the spot back to Booth. A few corners later, Miller would complete the pass and set his sights on Jenks and the final step of the podium.
Palmer Miller continued to lead 1500 from Jack Yang, meanwhile, Anzaldi and Riley ran in lockstep as the pair ran similar lap times lap-after-lap.
Disaster struck Steve Jenks with twenty minutes remaining as his car came to a stop on track and promoted Judd Miller to a potential podium. The field was neutralized behind the safety car, which delayed the mandatory pit stop window.
Back to green flag racing with 14 minutes to go, the race was on for the win. While half the competitors, including Rossi, made their mandatory pit stop immediately after the green, Field went the opposite strategy. When Anzaldi, Yang, Riley, Stewart, and others pitted it was Anzaldi who remained in command of 1340, while Riley lost out to Stewart who took over second place. Jack Yang used a fast lap, a smooth pit stop, and a little luck to jump Palmer Miller to take the lead in the 1500 class as Miller slotted into second ahead of Kent Myers.
Jon Field’s attempt at the overcut didn’t work with Rossi returning to outright lead before the yellow flags flew again for a stricken Scott Wagner. A short caution would yield to a ‘green, white, checker’, with Field pushing Rossi down the front straight and into turn one during the final lap shoot-out. A brake lock-up ended Field’s hopes, however, and he had to settle for second behind a victorious Robert Rossi. Judd Miller completed the top-three in Platinum. Finishing an impressive fifth overall, Jack Yang won the Pro 1500 class, with Palmer Miller and Kent Myers joining him on the podium. However, a post-race penalty for speeding in pitlane relegated Yang to fourth in the final results, promoting Palmer Miller to the win, Kent Myers to second and Dan Decker to another podium in his series debut.
Mike Anzaldi returned to the top of Pro 1340 points tally with the win ahead of Reid Stewart and main championship rival Austin Riley. Anzaldi also picked up the Sunoco Hard Charger Award in Race #12.
The fight for the outright title also tightened with Anzaldi now on 493 points, just three ahead of Riley and Rossi, who both sit on 490, and Palmer Miller with 485 points. All are vying for the chance to win a one-off drive with the Radical factory team in England next year.
The next stop of the Blue Marble Radical Cup North America program will be at the famed Circuit of the Americas (COTA) over the September 16-18 weekend in Austin, Texas.