August 6, 2000 - Round Eight Pocono Nationals

Nichols qualifies under track record, first in class, Wins rain soaked race.

On a refreshing, sun filled Friday Test Day, 3 FM Series drivers, Jim Nichols and Bill Haney with the able support from Racers Edge Motorsports and Chris Schanzle practiced for the Pocono National & Formula Mazda Series race.  Schanzle and Haney were learning the track for the first time.  Schanzle, from Maryland, is driving a new FM this season in his first National and his first FM series race.  He was eagerly welcomed.  He comes with a championship winning IT sedan background in the Mid Atlantic series.  After lunch, Haney found out the terminal velocity into turn one as he slid wide and backed into the mud, stripping the right side pod from the car but other apparent damage.  

Saturday dawned another beautiful day for driving. Noticeably absent again was FM Series leader Bruce Crockett who was still home recuperating from an off road motorcycle accident.  All drivers hope he makes it to the final Summit Point races, where it was jokingly rumored the drivers would flip a coin to see who was going to tighten his belts.  Nichols, 2nd place in the series, was anxious to gain points and not have a repeat of the Glen weekend when he came away with no race points.

All drivers worked the traffic with the Sports Racers and a few slow Formula Atlantics!  With the temperatures cool, the lap times began to fall.  In the first of 2 qualifying sessions, Nichols who had been close to the track record on Friday and knew the track well from 2 prior race weekends, was tuning the car and finally got under the record according to his data system.  Unfortunately, Timing & Scoring is located half way into turn one, and they did not get the record lap time.  In the second session, Nichols made the new record setting time stick and qualified 1st in class at 1:33.579 for 10th on the grid, breaking Mylon Stocktonís record of 1:33.837 set in the same race last season.  Schanzle was the 2nd FM with 1:34.118 for 12th and Haney 3rd FM with 1:35.187 for 14th out of 30 cars.

Sunday Race day was overcast but with the FA, FM, Sports Racer 20 lap race second in the morning, the drivers were not thinking of rain. However, a long clean up from the first GT race allowed the weather to move in and the sprinkles started to fall as the cars took off on slicks for the pace lap.  Nichols, in an uncustomary start, got held up, leaving the door open for Schanzle and Haney to steam by on the inside. Nichols watched from behind as Haneyís left front wheel love-tapped a Sports Racerís side going into turn one and continued unaffected.

The race continued in that order with a double yellow showing on lap 14 when a FA slid off in turn one due to deteriorating conditions.  Nichols thought about pulling into the pits and finishing his race in 3rd to guarantee points but was wisely advised by Jon Mirachi to tuff it out.  At the restart with 3 laps remaining, Schanzle also lost it in turn one but was able to reenter in 3rd among the FMs.  Haney then slide off into the braking area off the fast back straight but reentered right in front of Nichols.  Nichols took the opportunity to pass Haney into the same back straight braking area on the next lap. Nichols was set to win placing 8th overall.  On the last lap Haney spun in the tight 1st gear turn onto the main straight allowing Schanzle to capture 2nd place at the finish leaving Haney 3rd.

After the race, the drivers all agreed that it was a lot of effort and stress due to racing on slicks in the rain to finish in the same starting order.  Haney had the fastest race time of 1:34.442 set early in the race before the track was rain soaked.  Nichols, unable to turn a record setting lap, gained enough series points to regain the lead from Crockett.  This sets up a close battle for the series last 2 race weekends at Summit Point in September.

Current points can be reviewed at:

Reported by Jim Nichols

North Eastern Division Official Results - Pocono Nationals
Pos Driver Fast Lap
1 Jim Nichols 1:35.903
2 Chris Schanzle 1:34.849
3 Bill Haney 1:34.442