13 Hour Tailgate Party was a Huge Success…and the Race Wasn’t Bad Either!

ALTON, VA – (NCRSCCA) –Wow! The Region’s Thirteen-hour Tailgate Party and Cooking Contest was an unqualified success!  There were participants from all over – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Texas, and even the Netherlands!  Yes, our party at VIR was a must-attend stopover on the international scene. And the food was fabulous!  I was on Station 17 all day with RE Rex Deffenbaugh and various volunteers from the racing teams. Racing Teams?  Oh yeah, I need to mention the “Charge of the Headlight Brigade” enduro we had as entertainment.  That made this the best tailgate party ever!

But back to the food!  John Uftring joined Rex and me in the afternoon.  He’d have been there sooner but he wound up in the ER for about 6 hours waiting for his thumb to be stitched up (OK, they actually super-glued it) after he sliced it open preparing food for our dinner the night before.  But that didn’t stop John.  He unloaded a complete camp kitchen from out of the back of his 3-series BMW (no kidding!) and brewed us gourmet coffee for starters.  Then it was on to the incredible Chicken Cacciatore he prepared, right out of the pages of Joy of Cooking. But I’ll bet Irma Rombauer never prepared it by the glow of a camp lantern and passing headlights.  John, or “Chef Gaston” as we have come to think of him, served his chicken in wine sauce over rope pasta, with fresh green beans and new potatoes.  For dessert, he provided bread pudding in a whiskey-flavored sauce. All the alcohol was long gone by the time dinner was served, of course, but the flavors alone were intoxicating!  For this feast, the food judges awarded John the “Most Excellent Chef” trophy.

Other accomplished chefs also won awards. Brian Huff was awarded “Extraordinary Chef” for his extraordinary grilled pork, mac & cheese, and homemade salsa for chips. I heard that his pineapple upside down cake, an apple fritter type, was to die for.  But he wasn’t alone.  Justin Deffenbaugh’s smorgasbord of ribs, chicken, potatoes and onions, and pizza earned him the title of “Awesome Chef.”  It was well-deserved!

In addition there was a costume contest Saturday morning.  This event was a costume party after all. Most people came dressed as SCCA flag marshals in a variety of white outwear, but there were a few notable exceptions, and not just international course marshal Arjen Bleeker in his signal orange jumpsuit, who came from the Netherlands to work both the Petit Le Mans before, and the ARRC after, our event.  I rather liked Brian Huff’s roast Thanksgiving turkey hat; but the most amusing costume was probably Flag Chief Eric Danielson’s “flasher in a trench coat”, though the only thing he flashed was his orange jumpsuit from the 24 Heures du Mans. Assistant Flag Chief Heather Clark was also in costume, dressed from head-to-toes as a large (but cute) bumble bee, which seemed quite appropriate given her propensity to flit about all day solving problems.

Kudos to them both for a well-run party! But they didn’t win the awards. “Most Excellent Costume” went to Bria Gardner for her skeleton outfit; Jamie Gardner won “Coolest Costume” for her interpretation of Cleopatra; and Anna Crissman, Chief of Timing and Scoring, stole the show as a giant yellow banana.  She earned “Funniest Costume”, and probably a new nickname, for that one!

Did I mention the race?  I said we had a race for entertainment. When you report on a Superbowl party, you have to mention the game at some point, so I guess I should report on the race a bit as well.  Some 51 cars signed up to see who could cover the most laps of VIR after thirteen hours.  If you needed practice being a blue flagger, this was the race to attend.  The early lead was taken by the Superlite Coupe sports racer of Ryan Ellis’ team, which drove around the rest of the field like they were tied to a post.  The Porsche Cayman driven by Jack Baldwin and Buz McCall was almost as fast, and between the two of them and a plethora of BMWs, the blue flag was waving at nearly every corner for the first three hours.

But, eventually the Sports Racer developed mechanical problems and the Cayman slowed, and by the 5th hour it was the Johnstone Supply Racing M3 of Harold Petit in the lead, which was no surprise to followers of this race from previous years.  He was followed closely by another BMW, the 328 of James Clay’s team, and the yellow Lotus Exige of local favorite Jim Taggart of Cary, North Carolina. But after nine hours the leader had hit the tires at station 14.  Then the 328 had mechanical issues, and finally the Lotus got into an altercation with another car.  By the 11th hour, the remaining BMW 1 series of Mitchum Motorsports was in the lead, followed closely by the MX-5 fielded by the Grand-Am team Freedom Motorsports.

These were 2 powerhouse teams! The Freedom Autosports MX-5 was closely allied with Long Road Racing, which had 2 other Mazda Miatas entered and supplied crew assistance for Taggart’s Lotus. The number 25 MX-5 in second place was piloted by brothers Tom and Chris Long. Tom is a regular Grand-Am driver for the Freedom team, but Chris is an engineer for another outfit and his first time in the seat was when he took over for Tom after the first 40 minutes of the race!  What a drive!  It should be noted too, that Mitchum Motorsports also had 4 cars in the race, 2 BMWs and two Mazda Miatas.  One of the Bimmers and one of the Miata’s DNF’d, but the number 60 BMW was in the lead with 2 hours to go.

That’s when things got really interesting.  In the darkness, by the 12th hour, the MX-5 got by the BMW by dint of superior driving and pit work, and with some more very exacting driving and perseverance, they manage to stay there, finishing a bare half a lap ahead.  How else could an underpowered MX-5 beat a BMW 1-series after 324 laps from daylight into dark? Congratulations to local boys Tom and Chris Long, and to all the class winners as well. What a race!  And what a tailgate party!  You shoulda been there! (13 Hour results here)

Photo courtesy of Sput Dodge

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