Spec Racing in the 1980s

Renault Cup 1 Reanult Cup 2 Renault Cup 3Lately it seems spec racing is all the rage. On the amateur level there is the ever popular Spec Miata. PCA Club Racing has Spec 911, Spec 996, Spec Boxster, and new for 2016, Spec Cayman. Both NASA and BMWCCA have their versions of Spec E30, E36 and Spec E46. And all these are just some of the Spec classes a grassroots racer can play in. On the professional level there is the GP2 Series, which is a stepping stone to Formula One. In sports car racing you have the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge where racers compete in “equally” prepared Porsche 991 and 997 Cup cars. Over the past few years there has also been the Prototype Challenge class in the Tudor United Sportscar Series and formerly in the America LeMans Series. I know there are a lot more spec series I haven’t mentioned, but I want to get to the point of this story before people start falling asleep.

While going through boxes of my belongings that spent the last 20+ years in my parents’ basement, I came across some of my old Car & Driver magazines. In the back of the October 1982 issues, I came across and interesting story about a spec series I had never heard of, the Renault/Koni Cup. A Google search turned up zero, zip, nada. So the only details I have are what I read in the article.

As some may remember, Renault brought the R5 to the U.S. market in 1976 as the “Le Car” to compete with other compact cars like the VW Rabbit and Honda Civic and they were sold through AMC (American Motor Company) dealerships. The Le Car was successful in SCCA racing is the SSC class. That led a racer named Steve Coleman to propose a low cost, one marque racing series to Renault USA Competition Director Baltasar Clar. The cars would be closely policed and few modifications outside of a bolt in roll cage, and racing harnesses would be allowed in order to keep costs down. At the time, Renault USA was asking Clar to come up with a way to promote the brand in the U.S. so the timing was right. Clar presented the idea for the Le Car Cup to management and Renault USA and Koni came on as sponsors. Clar’s plan promoted the dealers sponsoring and providing the cars, and supplying parts at cost. The dealers also paid the entry fees.

IMSA added the Le Car Cup to its calendar with races being run on the undercard for its Camel GT Series, which meant spectators in the seats. The series was highly successful since racers could race on the same weekends as the likes of John Fitzpatrick, Danny Ongais, Hurley Haywood, and Derek Bell. Fifty one Le Cars were on the grid for the inaugural race at Road Atlanta.

All allowable modifications to the car came in a single package. You got bigger torsion bars, sway bars, Koni dampers of course, a MOMO steering wheel and wheels, shaved Goodyear tires, harnesses, window net, a bolt in roll cage, and a fire extinguisher. There is no mention of a race seat, because drivers raced in the stock seat! And of course you got the requisite decals and driver’s patches as part of the package.

There was even prize money involved. The purse for each race was $8,000 and paid out for 1st through 20th place. An additional $1500 in contingency prizes was also part of the deal. The top six finishers in each race received points and at the end of the season, the top three finishers won and all expenses paid trip to France to compete in the European Renault Cup Finals.

So what happened to the series? Not sure since I couldn’t find anything online about it. The series probably closed down after 1983 when the Le Car was replaced in the U.S. market by the R11 (Renault Alliance). After reading the article, it sounds like it was a well attended and fun series, in a quirky French car. So if anyone bothering to read this post knows more about the Renault/Koni Cup, please share it with the rest of us. See you at the track.

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Helmets Off to Heroes on Veterans Day

Flag and Caterham HOTH 2 HOTH 3 BMWs HOTH Mustang HOTH V8 QuattroOn Veteran’s Day last week I was invited to instruct at a very special track event held on the Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. Helmets Off to Heroes is an event for retired and current members of our Military organized by Miriam Schottland and her company Drive Lab. Miriam has been organizing and putting on this event for several years as a way to get our troops out to the track to have some fun and learn a few things about high performance driving. She pulls in instructors from many different car clubs, like PCA, NASA, BMWCCA, Audi Club, BSR etc.

We got things going early with tech opening at 7:15am. The drivers then had chalk talk in the classroom while final preparations were made for each of the exercises the drivers would be doing in the morning sessions before being turned loose on the track with their instructors after lunch. After their classroom session, the participants went through three stations, braking, skid pad, and a slalom exercise. There were a wide variety of cars on hand. Some notable ones were a hot rod Lotus Exige and Elise, a Dodge Challenger Hell Cat, a Hemi Charger, several BMW M3s, a Jaguar XF, XKF, an Audi Quattro Coupe that had a 4.2 V8 stuffed in it, and even a Volvo XC90 SUV.

After lunch, it was time to hit the track. After the instructors got to play while the troops got another briefing from Miriam, they turn some laps with their instructors in the right seat. Smiles were everywhere. My student Ryan was driving his daily driver Jaguar XF sedan. While the car was big and fast, its brakes were not too happy. That didn’t temper Ryan’s enthusiasm and he seems to be hooked since he was talking about getting a car more suited for track days. And his father, who came along to watch, was more than encouraging him! I think it is safe to say Ryan will be doing this again.

Once again Miriam put on a top notch event. Everyone there had a great time. The weather was perfect, smiles were abundant, and it was nice to give something back to the men and women of our armed forces. I love working this event, and was honored that Miriam invited me to instruct and show some of our soldiers a good time.

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Packers Win, and NASA Mid Atlantic Fall Finale at Summit Point

Trophy 2 Packers 2 Packers 1 Blue Mustang BMW and Acura Corvette and Pantera E36 M3 NASA GT3 GTO leads Jack BMW NSX NASA Pack in 5 P71 PD Autowerks Scion Viper NASAPackers Win! I have to open this post with this since my 9 year old son’s football team won the won their championship game and finished the 2015 season at 8-0. The Louisa County Boys Football Packers defeated the Cowboys in the championship game on Sunday playing under the lights in the Jungle, the field of the Louisa County High School Lions. The Cowboys finished the regular season in second place at 4-2, while the Packers were the number one seed for the playoffs because of their 6-0 record. The Packers defeated the Steelers a week earlier, while the Cowboys put away the Redskins, setting up what was sure to be a great game.

The Packers scored first and took an 8-0 lead into halftime. The second half was tough but after scoring again to go up 16-0 the Packers kept the Cowboys in check and added one more TD in the 4th quarter to go up 22-0 after the Cowboys held them on the two-point conversion. We were heading for a shutout but the Cowboys managed to score TD with under 2 minutes to go and got the two-point conversion, but it was too little too late and the Packers took the win 22-8 to wrap up a storybook season. So now you won’t have to listen to me talk about kids’ football.

For those of us in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast areas of the country, the 2015 track season is winding down. Last weekend, NASA Mid Atlantic finished up their season at Summit Point, with an HPDE and Time Trials event. No racing since the region champions were crowned last month at VIR.

The event started off cold and with a little rain and the first time trials session was black flagged early for a few offs. The HPDE students got to experience a damp Summit Point for their first run session, but conditions improved throughout the day. Pro racer Tristan Herbert showed up with his recently acquired Pirelli World Challenge Camaro to spend the day getting familiar with the car. He did comment that the power delivery is pretty much instantaneous and lots of it thanks to the car’s V8 power. NASA Mid Atlantic director Chris Cobetto took the weekend off leaving the event in the capable hands of Jon Felton who was actually not in Florida this weekend. Chris was there though, supporting his 14 year old son Jack, who was participating in his second HPDE is dad’s Spec E30. Jack showed good form and I think it is safe to say we could be seeing him racing against his dad in a near future.

When the track went cold, it was time for dinner, awards, and adult beverages provided by Natty Green’s. Those who stuck around got to enjoy some really good BBQ and maybe the best Mac and Cheese on the east coast. Time Trials awards were handed out and season champions recognized. NASA Mid Atlantic had another great season. Hopefully I can get my act together and do a race or two next year! We shall see.

Stay tuned for my report on Helmets off to Heroes coming soon.

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3 Tracks in Two Weeks, and Some Football

Dp car KJ 996 Porsche test drive Scott GT3 Sloan GT3 Mustang VIR GT4 VIR Subie and Targa Air and Water VIR Packers 2 Packers score Packers Win!The 2015 track season may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of track events to get your last couple runs in before you put the car back in the garage and get ready for the holiday season.

In the last three weekends I have visited three different tracks at events hosted by four different clubs. Two weeks ago it was a trip to New Jersey Motorsports Park to visit with NASA Northeast. Visited with Diane and her staff at the General’s Store Pro Shop, got to see the Elan NP01 in action as the new prototype car was there to do some laps and help generate interest in this new car that will have its own class in NASA Racing. Got a day in there then hopped back in the car to get back down to Summit Point to run our track store with the Reisentoter Region of PCA was running an event on the main track.

The following weekend it was back to Summit Point for PCA Potomac Region’s final Drivers Ed of the season. There were a lot of neat cars turning laps as usual, including four 996 Cup Cars, several 991 GT3s, an Audi RS4 and even a Crawford DP Car. As usual, Potomac Region put on a great event. Lots of track time, and a social hour on Friday and Saturday after the track went cold. I even got to take a few laps around the Shenandoah Circuit in a few of the current Porsche product offerings as part of the Porsche of Tyson’s Corner customer appreciation demo they were putting on in conjunction with several instructors from the Porsche Driving Experience. Participants were greeted with a catered lunch and fresh deserts. I was lucky enough to be invited to tag along. I got to drive the Macan Turbo, The Cayenne Hybrid and the Panamera 4. Would have gotten to drive a few 991 981 variants but had work to do over at the main track so I had to depart after the first rotation.

Last weekend, I headed down to VIR for Northern New Jersey Regions annual fall event on the VIR Full Course. It was another good turnout with drivers and instructors from other regions getting in on the fun that is the VIR Full Course. A few of our friends from Potomac Region also made the trip south to get in one more event on this historic track before the 2015 season for those of us who live in the Mid Atlantic and northeastern states. There were no DP cars at this one, but in addition to the ample number of Porsches, there were Corvettes, BMWs, a few Mustangs, a Gen 2 RX-7 and even a Subaru BRZ.

It’s been a while since I posted an update on my son’s football team. I am happy to say that they finished the season 6-0 after a hard fought close game against the Redskins with a 14-12 win that went down to the wire. The win meant they were the number one seed for the playoffs, and last night the winning streak continued with a 30-0 win against the Steelers. Meanwhile in the first game, the Cowboys pulled off a 36-30 upset win over the Redskins. So the Packers will face the Cowboys next weekend for the championship. Go Packers!

This week I will be off to Summit Point for the NASA Mid Atlantic Fall Finale. This is an HPDE and Time Trials weekend only, since the champions were crowned last month at VIR. So if you are heading to Summit Point, I will see you there!

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One of the Many Great Cars I have Seen in my Travels

JW1 JW2 JW3 JW4 JW6 JW7 JW5As some of you know, I spend almost every weekend at the track in my official capacity as a field representative for OG Racing. Over the last five plus years, I have been lucky to meet a lot of you out there who share a passion for road racing. I have also made many great friends along the way. I have also gotten to see some really cool cars on tracks up and down the east coast and as far west as Texas. I’ve even gotten to drive a few of them in races with PCA and NASA, and in HPDEs. Last weekend while at New Jersey Motorsports Park visiting our friends in NASA Northeast, I got to see another really cool car and spend time speaking with its owner.

This particular car was a Nissan 300ZX. The car started life as your typical 80s 300ZX, but over the years, its owner (we’ll call him JW) has transformed it into a really neat road racer. From afar, it looks like one of many 300ZX’s Nissan produced from 1984-89. But even you see it up close; you realize it is much more than that. One of the first things that you will notice when you look closely is that the name “Paul Newman” is on the roof above the doors. Speaking with JW, you will find that this isn’t entirely a tribute car to the 300ZXs that Paul Newman raced in the 1980s in the familiar red, white, and blue livery many old school racers will remember. The body panels on JW’s car are actually off of one of the cars Mr. Newman raced. JW said he was offered the bodywork some years ago after being told about it by a friend. He grabbed it up pretty quickly and set about grafting it onto his 300ZX.

It’s a neat car up close and he races it with NASA, SCCA and in vintage racing. If you have been to a race at NJMP, chances are you have seen this car running through the Octopus, the Light bulb, or just sitting next to JW’s trailer while he takes a break between sessions. Enjoy the photos.

Next up is PCA Potomac Region’s last Drivers Ed of the year at Summit Point which I hope to report that I actually was able to squeeze in a few laps on track. The season is winding down on the east coast, but there are still several events left for me to visit before everyone puts their race cars away for the winter. See you at the track!

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NASA OctoberFast at VIR

Spitfire spec e30s McClure and Wonger Cobetto Harris JC in pack Beau's Mustang Jake and Kristina Product for blog Corner Worker Grace DJ M3Marshall 997 FordsLast weekend it was back to VIR for me for NASA Mid Atlantic’s OctoberFast. The NASA East and West Championships have come and gone, and the National Champions crowned for 2015, but for Mid Atlantic there was some unfinished business. Region champions needed to be crowned in the racing groups.  For those of you interested in Time Trials, season champions will be crowned at Summit Point at the final event of the season on November 7-8.   This year NASA Mid Atlantic invited the NASA Southeast Region to join them in the fun that is driving VIR Full Course.

The drivers were greeted with cool temperatures Saturday morning when the All Hands Meeting began at 7:30am. The weather forecast was not looking good but other than a few periods of very light drizzle, the rain stayed away. The race, time trial, and HPDE groups were all well stocked with participants and an interesting mix of cars. OG Racing’s Johnny C. brought his LS1 powered Miata up from Georgia to compete in time trials in TTU class. Johnny took second on Saturday and first on Sunday in TTU. NASA Mid Atlantic regular DJ Fitzpatrick showed up with his new to him E46 M3 to compete in GTS3 after racing a year in Spec E46. There were several retired stock cars configured for road course work, the usual large contingent of BMWs, Corvettes, Mustangs, an Aston Martin, and a few Porsches, plus an early 70s Camaro and a 1967 Mustang running time trials.

There was some great racing in American Iron, and in GTS3 in the Thunder race group. Beau Dunnivant was back in his Mustang after taking a little break from racing and he put his car on the podium. The first GTS race saw Brian Ward lead the field in his GTS4 Porsche 997. DJ Fitzpatrick took the race 1 win in GTS3 over 12 other cars in class, which was a great result since it was his first race in this particular car. No surprise though since he frequented the top step of the podium when he ran in GTS2. Spectators got to see the largest field this year of Spec E46 cars which is great news for this growing class.

In the Lightning race group, there was some very close racing throughout the field in Spec E30 which had twenty cars show up to race this weekend. The lead changed hands several times through each race between, Sandro Espinosa, Robert Grace, and Ryan Whitinger, with Espinosa taking the win. In Showroom Stock Miata, Harris Levitas head his right front fender pealed back which created a lot of drag for him on the straights.

That night at the OG Racing/Convenience Car Care Awards Party, the day’s winners received their trophies and got their photos taken with the NASA trophy girls. NASA Mid Atlantic Director Chris Cobetto then presented the season championship awards, along recognizing several staff and racers for special honors for 2015. Complete race results can be found at www.nasaracing.net.

This week I am off to NJMP to visit with NASA NE and NJMP’s General’s Store Pro Shop. I will also visit the PCA crowd who will be holding a Drivers Education event on the Lightning Circuit. See you at the track.

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A Wet Weekend at Summit Point with SCCA

911 Turbo Alfa Civic Corvette chasing Miata Formula car 2 Formula car Front straight ITA Miata Kopp front straight SSM Start Workers Worker 2 scirocco Neon 2 Miatas NeonIt was a rainy Saturday last weekend at Summit Point. WDC Region of SCCA’s MARRS 10 got off to a wet start. Friday practice was canceled due to heavy rains so the racers went straight to qualifying on a very wet track Saturday morning. Attendance was down due to the weather conditions. With a lot of racers deciding to stay home the race groups were much smaller than a typical MARRS race weekend. The drivers handled the slippery track well and there was still some good close racing, especially in Spec Miata and Showroom Stock Miata, as well as in the IT classes. The challenging conditions made it difficult for racers to put the power down, especially for the higher horsepower Corvettes and the one Porsche 911 Turbo that took the green flag. There really isn’t much more to say so enjoy the photos.  In case anyone is wondering what happened with the Louisa Packers football game, they were rained out and will make it up later in the season.  So for now, they remain 3-0 for the season.

This week it’s off to VIR for NASA Mid Atlantic’s OctoberFast event. It will be your typical NASA weekend with racing, HPDE, and time trials. Look for my report on that event next week. See you at the track.

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Porsche at the Point and Runoffs in Daytona, and Some Football

944s Amico Bryant Chris and Stuart Scott B Close evans WilsonsLast weekend the Porsche Club of America took to the track for their annual race at Summit Point. It’s the 24th anniversary of the first PCA race held at this historic track. Potomac Region puts on a great event every year. The hard work of all the volunteers, corner workers, and generous sponsors combined makes for a great event.

The cool and cloudy conditions made for perfect conditions for turning fast laps and as a result several track records were broken. Those who were watching got to see a certain E class Carrera turn G class car times and break the class record. Nice job Evan! There was some great racing among some of the 997 Cup drivers at the front of the pack in their race group. Chris Musante, Stuart Fain and Mike Levitas put on a driving clinic at the front of the pack swapping positions and fast laps multiple times over the course of the weekend.

The 944 Cup also held their season championship race in conjunction with this event. Over 30 944s spread across SP1, SP2 and SP3 had their own race group and put on a good show. When the dust settled, Damon DeCastro was crowned 944 Super Cup Champion for 2015, finally breaking the streak held by Canadian drivers from the North Chapter. In 944 Cup, rookie racer Robbie Wilson took the checkered in first to claim his first title. Robbie has been hanging around the track for years crewing for his dad who runs in Super Cup in his 944T. Now that he’s finally 18 years old, Robbie got to play in the PCA sandbox and put on quite a show to take the win and he showed us old guys that he’s a more than capable racer.

While I was at Summit Point, Johnny was down in Daytona for the SCCA Runoffs. It’s the Super Bowl for SCCA and takes place over nine days. Racers in each class compete in two qualifying races, and then their championship race. The schedule is arranged so that a racer in a given class generally has to be there three days. They get there races in, and then can pack up and make room for the drivers coming in who race later in the week. Over the course of the event, nearly 500 competitors hit the track in the various classes to compete for national honors. Safe to say this is the largest road racing event in the country and the racers put on a great show for the spectators.

And from the gridiron, the Louisa Packers moved to 3-0 with a hard fought close win over the Redskins 14-6. The Redskins took the lead early but the Packers fought hard and ended the game with a 4th down stop at their 10 yard line as time expired. They face the Cowboys again this weekend, weather permitting.

This week I am back at Summit Point for the Washington DC Region of SCCA, MARRS 10 race weekend. Hopefully Hurricane Joaquin won’t wash out the track and the event. We will see. I’ll let you all know how it turns out next week.

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American Endurance Racing at Summit Point 9/18-9/20/15

Audis 635CSI E30 and Audi Jetta and MB Mercedes and Saab Jetta Nice e36 M3 and Acura Benny TE Packers DereekLast weekend it was back to Summit Point for me to see what the American Endurance Racing series is all about. So what is AER? It’s an endurance racing series with simple rules, whose goal is to provide a place for experienced racers who want to run endurance races in almost any production based race car. They have five races on the calendar for 2015, with the last round coming up in October at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The previous rounds were held at NJMP, Palmer Motorsports Park, and VIR.

The rules are simple. Cars run a qualifying session and then are grouped into three groups based on posted qualifying times. There are formulas in place to prevent sandbagging, and to account for any pro level drivers who may be part of any of the teams. These guys clearly take the racing seriously, while also having fun doing it. There were racers from PCA, NASA BMWCCA, SCCA etc, racing in a variety of cars. There was a three car contingent of Audi 90 sedans, several teams running E30 and E36 BMWs, a VW Jetta, a Mercury Cougar, a few Miatas and even a SAAB. The format for this event was an open qualifying session on Friday to set the grid for the first of two 9 hour races on Saturday and Sunday. During each race, teams were required to make five 3 minute pit stops. One of the teams I spoke with said they can complete a driver change, fuel and service in less than 3 minutes. I can tell you from talking with the drivers that these guys take the racing seriously and they are there to win. The organizers do not want car to car contact so keep your racing clean. Everyone I spoke with likes the simple rules package and the action on track is worth the price of admission. It allows all us club racers to experience running a long distance race that requires a team effort much like we see at the professional level.

So if those of you reading my ramblings this week have considered doing some endurance racing, AER puts on a good event, with simple rules that allows you to get maximum track time at a reasonable price. And they even provide dinner. So for complete information on American Endurance Racing, please visit http://www.americanenduranceracing.com/

Now for my son’s football update. The Louisa Boys Football Packers moved to 2-0 after their 42-0 win over the Steelers. The boys played well on both sides of the ball and it showed. Great job guys! I missed my older son’s baseball game on Saturday but they were victorious as well with a 19-7 win. Hopefully I will be able to catch the next one.

This week I will be back at Summit Point for the PCA Race which also includes the 944 Cup Championship Race for both Cup and Super Cup. Weather is looking good so even if you are not racing and live nearby, come out and check out the action. See you at the track.

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SCCA, PCA, LS Fest, and Some Football

Camry HPDC Ferrari HPDC GT3 slide 930 HPDC GT40 VW in the rain LS-Sun-2015-163 LS-Sun-2015-174 Packers game 1 Packers game 2 Packers 4 Packers 5Last weekend was a busy one at Summit Point Motorsports Park. The D.C. Region of SCCA hosted a PDX (Performance Driving Xperience) on the main track. The PDX is an educational event similar to a PCA, BMWCCA, NASA, etc drivers’ education event. Drivers are paired with instructors and spend time on track and in classroom getting instructions on how to safely navigate the race track, while also learning vehicle dynamics, and car control. Drivers were greeted with moderate rains all morning and into the early part of the afternoon. Because of the weather, most drivers chose to find somewhere dry to congregate until the rains passed.

While the SCCA PDX was taking place, over on the Jefferson Circuit, PCA Potomac was hosting their annual Fall HPDC (high performance driving clinic). This event is tailored to first timers who have never driven a car on a race track. You can show up in any car truck or SUV as long as it passes grid tech. The morning begins with classroom instruction, followed by skid pad, slalom, and braking exercises. After a delicious lunch of homemade sandwiches made fresh by Potomac Region member Pat Kaunitz, the rains passed. Students had one more classroom session while the instructors took to the track to dry it out. Then it was lapping sessions with their instructors. Same format you would experience at a typical drivers’ education weekend. When the last car exited the track, students got to share their experience while partaking in some refreshments.

While I was running back and forth between the tracks at Summit Point, Johnny was at the National Corvette Museum for LS Fest. What is LS Fest? It’s a multi-event weekend extravaganza for not just Corvettes, but any other make of car that has had a heart transplant and now propels itself with Chevy LS V8 power. Johnny even brought his LS1 powered Miata along for some fun.

The Annual LS Fest is a fun event like HyperFest, but every car is eligible to participate. The only requirement is that the car has a Chevy LS engine. The activities include autocross, Track-Cross (point to point race like autocross but on the NCM track), drag racing, Dyno challenge (just as the name implies. highest hp wins), and 3s Challenge. The 3s Challenge is more commonly called pro style autocross. It’s when two cars run next to each other on mirrored tracks. The 3s Challenge is tough to drive but a lot of fun to watch.

“I ran this year but got smoked. The last two years (2013/2014) I won the Autocross Shoot Out event. This year I went cheap on tires and ran a set of Hankook RS3’s. They were no match for the BFG Rival S. I wound up finishing somewhere in 45th place,” said Johnny when I asked him how it went. His finishing position wasn’t too bad considering there were 160 cars in the event.

Also, I am happy to report that the Louisa County Virginia Youth Football “Packers” won their season opener 12-6 over the Cowboys. My 8 year old son plays for them, and though he is one of the smallest players on the team, it doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm. It was a close and hard fought game and the Packers scored on their last possession to take the win. The game was played under sunny skies at the Louisa County High School field affectionately known to us locals as “The Jungle” home of the Louisa Lions. Way to go Packers.

This week I will be at Summit Point for the AER (American Endurance Racing) event so I will let you know how that goes next week. See you at the track.

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