Story and photo by Vickie Miller

What a weekend at Road America! Between the series news, Indy Car coming back to the track, exciting racing action…and oh, yea, it was my birthday weekend too. About the only thing that didn’t happen was an animal sighting on the track. At least I did not hear of a squirrel or deer running across the track this year, which has happened in past races. Where do I begin?

Let’s start with why we all go to Road America…the racing! Road America weekend is always packed with constant track activities with four racing series on the track: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge (GT3 Cup), Cooper Tires Prototype Lites (Lites), Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSC) with two classes Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST), and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in full swing with all four classes P/PC/GTLM/GTD. Needless to say the paddock area was a busy place!

With each series having track time for practice or qualifying, lunch was the only quiet moment on the track. The CTSC qualifying was canceled Friday due to heavy rain. The qualifying time was turned into an “open” practice session for either class of CTSC. I saw only one car venture out on the track for one lap…and I was not surprised to learn it was Spencer Pumpelly in the #17 Porsche Cayman, ST class. Who in my opinion, is probably the best driver to handle the rain and wet pavement and provide track condition feedback.

While the rain on Friday found me soaked, I didn’t mind because I knew rain means race cars with “rooster tails”. I am sure you are like me and follow many professional photographers on some form of social media. I wait with anticipation to see the amazing shots demonstrating the movement of the water as the race cars rip through the collecting rain drops and sending spray into the air! I took a few photos too.

Whenever it rains at the track, sure I think of the photos to come, but I am bummed for the race car crew. The teams are constantly trying to “dry” out wet fire suits and wet equipment, and a wet garage area, especially if the rain is blowing and changing direction. While a few TUDOR teams have the big “zip up the flaps” type tents, many of the CTSC teams which struggle to find a budget just to race, try to manage with a “pop-up” type tent which is not much protection.

Okay, now for my version of a race recap! Well, what a difference a year makes. Last year at Road America, I interviewed Enzo Potolicchio with 8Star Motorsports who was racing in the Lites series along with his son, Christian. I very much enjoyed watching father and son challenge and push each other out on the track to be the best driver and have fun.

This year in the Lites series, where all drivers in the same class drive Élan DP02 cars, I was very impressed with the performances of Kenton Koch, Clark Toppe and Matt McMurry, who is a Michael Shank Racing alum. Round nine of Lites saw JDC Motorsports taking all three spots on the podium with Kenton Koch 1st, Matt McMurry 2nd and Clark Toppe 3rd in the L1 class.

This year I enjoyed watching GT3 cup driver Lucas Catania race in the GT3P class and was so proud of his racing to a podium spot in Round 10 at Road America. Lucas drives for team NGT Motorsport car #26 and this weekend Lucas was on track with his father Joe, in the GT3G class car # 24 with NGT Motorsport and Joe won Round 10.

I had the pleasure to interview Lucas at Watkins Glen International after meeting both father and son at Sebring International Raceway earlier this year. It was great to see father and son share a special podium family memory.

One of the highlights of CTSC is the excellent racing by rookie to the series and first time in the ST class, Josh Bilicki in the # 21 Burton Racing BMW 128i . Josh led laps 34 to 42 and over 40 minutes of racing before having to pit. Burton Racing Tweeted, “With 1 hour to go @jbilicki51 leads in his first @IMSA race!”

Unless you live under a rock, anyone reading my articles realizes my number one team is the Michael Shank Racing with the drivers John Pew and Oswaldo “Ozz” Negri. This weekend the team was fastest in the first (rain) and third practice in the Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 car. John Pew flew around the track and qualified the car fifth.

The #60 car did not make it on track for the race morning warm-up and started at the end of the field, which didn’t matter. John Pew started the race, passing many cars in the first few laps, and received a much deserved shout out from Tony DiZinno on Twitter:

Tony DiZinno ‏@tonydizinno Aug 9
Monster first stint from @johnpew1 to get up as far as he did, did times within 0.3-0.5 of overall leaders. @MichaelShankRac #CTRRS

With Ozz at the wheel, the #60 car continued to pick off race spots and the car only got better as the 76 lap event moved on, recording lap 68 as the fastest for the car of the race.

Last year, the MSR team was on the podium for my birthday and I was screaming and hoping for a repeat. I know the whole team tried their hardest and I am so proud with a 4th place finish given the adversity the team overcame to put on an impressive performance.

This weekend I caught up with two people I have seen around the track for several years. While I have chatted with them each casually, I finally was fortunate to sit down with them alone and talk racing…among other things, which I can’t mention!

Much has been written about Lauren Elkins. I always do research on the person I am going to interview with the goal is to find out about this person in a way no one else has covered. In researching Lauren, I found several articles where she had been interviewed however, I enjoyed KBru Communications round table the most insightful into Lauren.

I don’t normally include others’ articles in my recap, but the “round table” publication is very much worth a full read, not just Lauren’s section.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren when she was with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in the ALMS series. At Road America, Lauren and I ended up talking about over an hour, and here is just some of my conversation which I hope you will enjoy. According to her Linkedin account, Lauren is a “Professional Motor Racing data engineer focused on team development and growth, specializing in driver and vehicle analysis.”

But to me that seems very limiting. Lauren not only knows all about motorsports (any series), the business of racing, but she loves it. Lauren is one of those people who just “glows” when you see them at the track. I can’t say that about everyone (crew, officials, drivers included) I see over a race weekend.

Q: Lauren graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in International Relations so I wondered; do you speak any foreign languages?
A: Lauren can speak Spanish
Q: Did you pursue an International Relations degree with the goal of working abroad?
A: Lauren has always enjoyed travel, and started her working career with Cosworth which had a United Kingdom location but Lauren end up working in the United States location
Q: What is your favorite country to visit? Costa Rica
Q: What country do you most want to visit? Ireland
Q: When you are on the “war wagon” during the race, who do you listen to the most on your headset?
A: First, race control and second, the driver. Who do you talk to the most? Driver
Q: If you could watch a race anywhere in the world as a fan, what race track, what series, and what car or team would you cheer for?
A: The race track would be Monaco for the Formula One Grand Prix race and cheer for Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo
Q: If you could be a part of a team which won a bucket list race anywhere in the world, what race track, series, and team would you be on?
A: The race track would be Circuit de la Sarthe, for the 24 Hours of LeMans, and part of the Porsche LMP1 team
Q: If you could spend the afternoon with anyone, who would it be and what would you do?
A: Lauren would spend the afternoon playing tennis with her grandfather (on her Dad’s side) whom she has never met.
Q: What’s one secret about yourself that no one would find on Facebook, website?
A: Lauren and her father have exactly the same size and shape birthmark in exactly the same place under their respective same arm pit! …and no, I didn’t ask to see it.
I invite you to follow Lauren on Twitter @laurenelkins and her team @NGTnotes @MomoMotorsport

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Valiante years ago with the Grand Am series and have enjoyed his racing and involvement with Canadian racers in karting. Michael currently races with the Spirit of Daytona (Visit Florida) Racing team driving Corvette DP.

Also I took this time chat with Michael about his recent adventure being on the HGTV show “Love It or List It”. I watch this show regularly and saw his episode on July 10. Check the link below for upcoming airings of the show. Maybe you agree with his decision to “Love It or List It”…I’m not telling which way

Michael and his wife picked but I agreed with his decision even before announced!

Q: If you could watch a race anywhere in the world as a fan, what race track, what series, and what car or team would you cheer for?
A: The race track would be Monza due to the historic background of the track. Michael would hang out with the Italian fans (he is half Italian) cheering for Ferrari.
Q: If you could be a part of a team which won a bucket list race anywhere in the world, what race track, series, and team would you be on?
A: Pretty much the same answer… at Monza, driving a Ferrari in any series!
Q: If you could spend the afternoon with anyone, who would it be and what would you do?
A: Ayrton Senna driving go-karts and just sitting around chatting.
Q: What’s one secret about yourself that no one would find on Facebook, website?
A: Michael is really a homebody. When he isn’t racing, Michael also runs a successful karting business which he considers his “regular job” so anytime he is not working, Michael enjoys just being at home spending time with his son and just hanging out.

I invite you to follow Michael on Twitter @ValianteM and check out Michael’s person website

Michael would like to thank his personal sponsors:
Team Chevy @TeamChevy
Spirit of Daytona @sdrmotorsports
Bell Racing @BellRacingUSA

Other than racing this weekend, there was a “State of the Series” event Saturday evening. I was invited to attend but decided to pass. Let’s me make this brief, glad to see WeatherTech on board, but I’m pretty good with any company bringing money to the series and increase to the prize winnings. I was encouraged to see more classes added to the race weekends and one of those weekends being Mosport in July.

Fans, I encourage you to start saving now for this trip to Canada. If this track would turn Moss Corner into condominiums, I would call it my 2nd home. I am sorry Mid-Ohio is not back on the schedule for MSR team, and I could have done without Detroit, but I will probably go. Please read all the announcement details from many of the sports car reporting websites. This is just my opinion.

Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with IMSA, TUDOR, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is “just the way I see it”. Got a response? Follow and tweet me @viclovesracing