Two of the newest drivers in the Red Sox Racing League, Brian Irby and Justin Kirby, drive for Black Magic Motorsports. Combining for four wins in the first five events of the 2011 Season Two schedule, the BM teammates have shaken up the status quo by knocking perennial league champion Les Turner out of his normal position as a regular race winner and consistent leader in the championship point race.
The “magic” began when Kirby won the first race of the season at Spa. His victory put RSR veterans on notice the BM team was a force to be reckoned with. Irby continued the BM attack on RSR history when he won the second race at Watkins Glen.
Turner managed a home court victory at Mosport in week three, but the effects of the BM spell returned with Irby’s win at Brands Hatch in week four. It continued into week five as Kirby once again survived multiple incidents en route to his second victory of the season.
The RSR league drivers traveled to Florida for the “Gator-Baiter 36” event held at Homestead Miami Speedway’s Road Course B. The eleven corner 2.3 mile layout is relatively flat in the infield, a feature which lulls many drivers into a false sense of security.
Despite a race full of incidents, the Homestead event produced an exciting race the fans had been hoping for. Pre-race and qualifying speeds were impressive as Justin Kirby’s qualifying lap time of 1:00.488 led the way to an impressive top-five starting lineup. Canadian Les Turner’s string of poles ended, but his qualifying lap time of 1:00.605 let everyone know he was not to be taken lightly in South Florida. Positions three through five were occupied by Brian Irby, Jim Albertson, and Clifton Cockrell.
The remaining grid positions were filled by Terry McCuin, John Koscielniak, Terry Daul, Andrew Feldman, Jeff Thomas, Kevin Kyle, Jeff Sharp, Divina Galica, Mark Plank, William Kabela, Ed Sutcliff, and Bill Pawluckie.
Seventeen drivers began the event, but three (Kyle, McCuin, and Koscielniak) dropped out due to damaged cars, and only nine managed to stay on the lead lap as many drivers were foiled by the track’s tricky corners. Only Ed Sutcliff was able to complete the event without an incident.
The race began cleanly enough, but it didn’t take long for things to get dicey. Jim Albertson found himself in several close calls, but somehow managed to keep his car in once piece. Albertson and Turner almost made contact in Turn Three on Lap Seven. Jim’s lost momentum allowed Irby to get a run on him into Turn Six. The RSR elder statesman gave Brian enough room to make a clean pass, however Terry McCuin smelling blood tried to follow Irby through and stuck his car in a hole that was not there. The Dunkin Donuts Williams spun and Clifton Cockrell had nowhere to go.
Albertson’s rough evening was not over yet! Jim had another spin exiting the Turn Eight hairpin on Lap Fifteen, and then he tagged the wall exiting Turn Three on the final lap after reacting to Kabela’s car coming back on track after an excursion in the gravel pit. His up and down ride through the field saw the veteran driver lose two positions coming to the checkers on the final lap as he battled hard to finish in the top five.
“After having to miss a race and two poor finishes, the Redhead Racing’s POW/MIA car finally made it to the checkers. It was a fun but tough battle. We got caught up in some early race mayhem, but managed to keep the car intact after the Lap Seven melee. Soldiering on it looked like a top-5 might be within reach. As the field settled in after pit stops, we made our way up to 3rd place and were looking good until the final lap.”
“As we rounded Turn Two for the final time, a car was re-entering the track from the gravel pit. Just when I thought we were clear the back end came around and we brushed the tire wall damaging the front wing. The damage was not enough to end the race, but top speed was severely limited and 2 cars made it by before we could get to the finish line. Disappointment was tempered by a nice top-5 finish, so the post race party was still on.”
Despite the heavy incident count and the countless bent wings and nose cones, the front pack somehow managed to survive the Homestead event and keep alive their chances at remaining in the hunt for the series championship.
Kirby moved up to eleventh place in the standings with his three second victory over Turner. “That was the best launch I had ever done in the Williams. I was able to pin the gas almost right away and it didn’t spin the tires, so I was far enough ahead of Les that the draft wasn’t an issue on the oval. All that I wanted to do from there was be smooth and focus on keeping the wheel straight under power.”
“I was doing that during the first run, but I started getting inconsistent on the second run and looped it under power twice. Thankfully I did it in fairly harmless spots on the track and I could keep my lead position. I have to thank my teammate Brian for the info and help he’s given me over the course of the year and especially tonight. I’m just as happy with him leading the points as I am winning this race, a great night for Black Magic Motorsports.”
Turner’s second place finish moved him into third place in the point race. He was at a loss to explain how little draft was present during the early laps, but was encouraged by the solid finish. “We are scratching our heads over the lack of any draft tonight. Kirby got a great launch, but we were well within his slip stream for the first few laps. We should have been reeling him in, but instead he just continued to pull away. We need to look at the Telemetry and try to figure out what was going on there.”
I have to apologize to Jim for my bobble in Turn Two on Lap Seven that started his rough evening. He did a great job avoiding any contact into Turn Three, but lifting put the wolves at his door and it all went downhill for him after that. I guess we could have pushed a bit harder and tried to keep Kirby in sight, but this little voice in the back of my head kept warning me about overdriving the infield, so we just settled into a nice rhythm and brought it home clean for a podium finish.”
Kirby’s BM teammate Irby earned the final podium position when he made a last lap pass on Albertson’s damaged car. His third place finish was his 3rd top-five finish of the season and gave him enough points to overtake Thomas for the championship lead.
Cockrell recovered nicely from the Lap Seven incident with McCuin, which dropped him from 6th all the way down to 17th position. His charge back to the front was nothing less than astounding, and he was able to get past a battle scared Albertson in the final corner to secure a 4th place finish.
Albertson (5th), Sharp (6th), Daul (7th), Thomas (8th), and Galica (9th), all finished on the lead lap, while Kabela (10th), Sutcliff (11th), Feldman (12th), and Pawluckie (13th) were scored one lap down when the race ended. Plank (14th) was two laps down and the last car still running at the end of the event.
Just when the RSR gang was looking for a bit of relief from this season’s tough schedule, they now head to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama for what might be the most demanding event to date, the “Sweet Home Alabama 34”.
Rags to Riches Series News
June 14, 2011 – Story by Mark Plank
Week 5 saw the Rags to Riches Series drivers at USA International Speedway in their new Late Model rides. The Street Stocks have been parked for the season after an exciting first segment. The oval drivers had their shops working overtime on their Chevy Monte Carlo’s to make sure they were ready for the “Wil-Trans.com” event. Early practice results didn’t give much of hint to the fans who was going to have the advantage this week. As the drivers all hit the track they kept laying down quicker times beating each other’s previous fast lap. By the end of the practice session, Justin Kirby of Black Magic Motorsports and Terry McCuin of Hacked Domain Racing had both laid down 22.060 second laps.
Brian Irby captured the pole in qualifying with a surprisingly quick lap time of 22.050. Starting second on the outside of the front row was Terry McCuin with a 22.054 missing the pole by just 0.004 seconds. Justin Kirby who had the fastest lap in practice qualified third with a 22.105. Rounding out the top-5 starting positions were Wilbur Gildersleeve Jr. (22.120), and Mark Plank (22.218). The remaining grid positions were filled by Pawluckie, Turner, Feldman, Heaney, Galica and Tracy. After the qualifying session, Irby was seen walking down the pit lane confidently proclaiming, “Ya’ll forgot I was here didn’t ya!”
After the echoing cries of “Start your Engines”, the drivers pulled their Late Model cars out on the track for their first race of another 4 week mini-series. Hearts were racing and the crowd cheering when the pace car pulled off the track to start the race. As the green flag flew the drivers barreled down into Turn One. Justin Kirby took advantage of Brian Irby’s slow start and made an early pass into lead. Terry McCuin and Wilbur Gildersleeve seeing the opportunity followed closely behind Justin. By the time Irby was able to gather his car back up he found himself in 4th place on Lap Two. Chad Tracy starting from the back of the field as he does each week picked up 2 quick spots as well in the opening laps.
For the first seventeen laps positions pretty much stayed status quo until Irby felt that he was holding up the Sheepherder. Being the classy driver and stand up racer he is, Irby waved Mark by. Taking full advantage of the kind gesture, Plank quickly pulled away and set his sights on Gildersleeve Jr. who at this point had about a five second advantage. Justin Kirby and Terry McCuin ran a flawless race out front until lap 35 when they came upon slower traffic and had a slight scare, but both drivers managed to get through safely. Plank closed the gap on Gildersleeve down to under a second at the checkers but simply ran out of time. Wilbur put his arm around Mark’s shoulder as they walked down pit lane to congratulate the winner and said “Dang son, I’m glad that race was 40 laps and not 43 laps!”
This week’s winner of the “Wil-trans.com” race, Justin Kirby led all 40 laps and laid down the fastest lap of the race with a 22.068. Terry “Bridesmaid” McCuin of HDRL took 2nd place (just like in practice and qualifying). Wilbur “I’m Too Tired” Gildersleeve of TeamDraft finished in 3rd place. Mark Plank and Brian Irby rounded out the top-5. Next week the drivers take on the flat track at Martinsville Speedway in the 40 lap “Party at Marty” event.