Twenty-six cars provided plenty of close racing, and at times too much action in front of thousands of Finger Lakes Wine Festival goers, who also enjoyed the sights of Masters Historic F1, open-wheel and sportscar machinery.
With at least six drivers capable of race wins, the pressure in the Platinum class boiled over at Watkins Glen. In qualifying Louis Schriber (Shorewood Dev / RYNO Racing) missed out on clinching consecutive Motul Pole Awards by a single tenth thanks to a 1:46.291 lap from rookie Robert Rossi (Carpet Giant / WISKO Racing).
Steve Jenks (Audien Hearing / GROUP-A Racing) was another in the 46s, and as Race 7 of the season started the three vied for the lead into Turn 1. On the inside Rossi held the corner while Schriber stayed alongside, entering the paved runoff along with Indy Al Miller (Blue Marble / ONE Motorsports) who found himself even further beyond the track limits. As the barriers converged with the edge of the track Schriber and Rossi made contact, with the former ricocheting into Miller, who was eventually collected by the PRO 1500 car of Nate Smith (Largersmith / RYNO Racing).
After a lengthy clean-up and safety car period the race resumed with Scott Wagner (Scott Wanger Racing) fended off Claus Nielsen (ESSES Racing) for fourth, while Robert Rossi built a nine second lead to take his first win of the season from Steve Jenks and Judd Miller (Radical Texas / ESSES Racing).
Setting the fastest lap, Jenks started the second race from the pole, but after a strong start was too tentative into Turn 1, which allowed Rossi to take the lead.
Louis Scriber initially slotted into third, before former ALMS champ John Field (Bricker Design / Scott Wagner Racing) passed him in Turn 6 and Miller got through in Turn 9, before also dispatching Field. Traffic then allowed Schriber to get a run on Field into the Bus Stop, but contact sent Schriber into a spin.
Claus Nielsen had a strong run early on, passing Jim Booth and Scott Wagner to run as high as fifth, before all his hard work unraveled. Meanwhile the traffic never seemed to go Jenks’s way, leaving Rossi to take his second win of the weekend. Judd Miller finished third, while Scott Wagner was promoted to fourth after teammate Field was given a post-race drive through.
With the fastest lap, Jenks again started from the pole in the final race, but again it was Rossi who prevailed. Not even stalling the car leaving pitlane could stop Robert Rossi from clinching another win over Steve Jenks and Scott Wagner. Claus Nielsen finished a strong fourth, ahead of ESSES Racing teammate Judd Miller. Including the bonus point for fastest lap of race, Rossi has catapulted 37 points clear of Jenks, with Miller another 32 points back in fight for the Platinum title.
A practice crash for championship hopeful Reece Everard, and his teammate Jack Yang meant both Group-A Racing drivers would sit out qualifying, along with Palmer Miller (Radical Texas / ESSES Racing) who was recovering from illness.
After an 8-month hiatus from Radical racing, Ryan Bjerke (MEJI Enterprises / BJERKE Racing) started his 2022 season in the best way possible, taking pole position with a 1:50.905, six tenths over fellow debutant Aurora Straus (Richard Mille / Arch Capital / GROUP-A)– the first female driver to compete in the Blue Marble Radical Cup series. Following the opening lap mayhem, Palmer Miller and Reece Everard (Wicked Sweet / GROUP-A) stormed up through the field, with the latter setting the fastest lap of the race and receiving the Sunoco Hard Charger award on his way to third place, behind Aurora Straus in second and a victorious Ryan Bjerke. Alain Derzie (ONE Motorsports) finished fourth.
Everard completed his recovery in style during Race 8, leading from start to finish. Behind him Palmer Miller held second but was under pressure from a long line of cars including Bjerke, Derzie and Straus. Bjerke was the first to get past, securing second place in the process, before Straus patiently picked off Derzie on lap 8, before immediately catching and passing Miller to continue her impressive opening weekend with a third-place finish. Palmer Miller had to settle for fourth, with Alain Derzie and David Flynt (OPMT Racing) completing the top six.
A fastest lap for Bjerke meant he’d lead the 1500 field to the green, but it was Everard who would lead the first phase of the race. As the pit window opened, Bjerke was called into the pits denying him a dogfight with Everard. Soon after disaster struck Everard, with his car stopping at the entry to pit lane, forcing him into retirement. Alain Derzie shorted his stop, with a resulting stop-go tumbling him down to fourth, while ONE Motorsports teammate Mark Allan (ONE Motorsport) was forced into retirement with a bent rear wing frame. Through the pitstops Aurora Straus stayed in second, ahead of Palmer Miller who took third. Kent Myers (ESSES Racing) received the Sunoco Hard Charger, after starting ninth and finishing fifth.
Everard now leads Miller by 29 points in the PRO 1500 championship, while Myers as moved up to third in the standings.
Commencing the weekend Mike Anzaldi (Emmett’s Energy / RYNO Racing) held a twenty-point advantage over Austin Riley (Spark Power / Lincoln Electric / Racing with Autism) and a twenty-five-point advantage over Reid Stewart (Fasano Textiles / GROUP-A). But from the get-go it was clear reigning Canadian champ Riley felt more than at home around the fast and unforgiving Watkins Glen circuit.
Turning a 1:53.904, Riley took pole by a staggering seven-tenths over Anzaldi and Stewart. Riley then converted the pole into a win, from Anzaldi and Stewart, with the top three finishing ahead of a number of PRO 1500 drivers. David Alban (RingPower.com/WISKO Racing) and Jason Greenwood (AMI Info Systems / RYNO Racing) rounded out the top six.
Fastest lap in Race 7 of the year, meant another class pole for Riley in Race 8, but early on the presence of PRO 1500 class cars allowed Anzaldi to stay close. Reid Stewart was running in third before a lapse in concentration late in the race sent him into wall, bringing out a full course caution, and allowing David Alban to take third, behind second placed Anzaldi and the unstoppable Riley, who took his third win of the season.
Another fastest lap for Riley again meant he would start the final race from the pole, and while he cruised to his third win of the weekend, Anzaldi and Stewart battled for second place. During the pitstop Anzaldi was released ahead of Stewart and momentarily gained track position, but he was caught four-tenths short of the mandatory 60 second time, forcing him to pit again, and tumbling him down to fourth. That allowed Alban to take another podium, and left Stewart to clinch second behind winner Austin Riley. Yet another fastest lap, meant Riley captured every possible point he could from the Watkins Glen weekend, to put him 9 points clear of Anzaldi in the championship, while Stewart remains in third.
The Blue Marble Radical Cup now heads west, commencing with Utah Motorsports Campus, August 12-14, before Circuit of the Americas, Sept 16-18 and finishing the season at Sonoma Raceway Oct 28-30. It’s expected a large West Coast contingent of drivers from Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California will join the series for the final three rounds.2022 Standings