If you had your fill of Tom Turkey on Thanksgiving and/or never felt the penchant to rise at 4 AM and attack the monolithic giants of Kohl’s, Sears, or Best Buy on Black Friday, then at Summit Point Motorsports Park, West Virginia, Joe Blacker (Mid–Atlantic Motorsports), and Mark Palmer and Cal Trumbo (Vintage Racer Group (VRG), served up an exciting option celebrating its 11 year. It was the Turkey Bowl XI this past November 23–25, which has not only become an oasis from the shopping lunacy, but represents for most, their last vintage race before winter’s hibernation. And more importantly, with a paddock population also populated with many spouses and offspring, it has grown to an event that delightfully echos the warmth of a large family gathering.
Still, the cars are the stars, as the unique blend and wide variety of modern sports and GT, and scaled–down Legend and Baby Grand racecars shared the blacktop with VRG’s herd of vintage beauties for what has become just one of the venue's grand attributes, plenty of seat time. Three days of practice and warm up sessions, “a 10–lap sprint on Saturday, a 15–lap race and a 45–minute “Mini–Enduro” on Sunday, amounted to almost three hours of track time per group,” noted Palmer.
Additionally, a car/driver from each group was the recipient of a very casual presentation of the “Corner Choice Award,” while many participants, workers and friends migrated to the Piccadilly’s Brew Pub & Restaurant (downtown Winchester) for an evening of food, drink, and plenty of camaraderie.
So while consumers battled each other for the last “Wii,” or “Hannah Montana Doll” on the shelf, I enjoyed Greg Galdi’s Porsche 908/3, Dan Leonard’s Speedwell GT, Paul Wilson’s 1965 ex–Buck Fulp’s Can-Am Lola T70 Spyder, MGs, Loti, and nearly 50 others battling each other at Summit’s challenging labyrinth, knowing plenty of turkey leftovers in my frig awaited my return.....Walter Pietrowicz
The vintage racing season in the Northeast doesn’t end in October! For the 11th year, a group of slightly crazy drivers brought their cars to Summit Point for one last run before winter sets in. They were rewarded with plentiful track time, abundant sunshine, and a unique brand of camaraderie that only comes from a sense of adventure. You have to have a sense of humor, and optimism, to race a 50–year-old car on Thanksgiving weekend in the panhandle of West Virginia.
Turkey Bowl has always been an off–beat event. Yes, there are races (and plenty of them), but it’s really about having fun with old cars. With just about 60 vintage entries, the race groups are extremely diverse: no point in separating the classes into 5 or 6 race groups with 10 cars in each. So the race groups are set up by car & driver potential, mostly. It makes for close racing, and there are always some very surprising dices between very dissimilar cars.
It also requires consideration and respect from the drivers. This year, for instance, we had a few open–wheel cars in every race group – mixed in with their fendered friends in production cars. At the drivers’ meetings, participants are cheerfully reminded to watch out for the little ’un’s, don’t dive under the big ’un’s, and generally take care of your fellow enthusiasts out there. It seems to work: in eleven years, we haven’t had a single metal–to–metal incident (knock wood!) To reinforce the low–key atmosphere of the weekend, we eschew all Timing & Scoring for the vintage groups.
Since inquiring minds want to know, yes, there were front–runners in each group. In Group 1, the Formula Fords tended to be at the front, lead by Chris Shoemaker in his Royale RP39. Cal Trumbo and Frank DelVecchio were also running well in Fords. Gridded just behind the Fords were a trio of MGB’s, lead by Marcus Jones (until he retired Saturday with mechanical problems), plus Michael Kusch and John Targett in near–twin works replicas. The organizers (well, that would be yrs trly) erred in gridding Cindy Shaffer a bit too far back, but she wasted little time working her way to the front of the production cars in most of the Group 1 races.
By the way, each group had three races for the weekend: a 10–lap sprint and 15–lap race on Saturday, and a 45–minute “Mini–Enduro” on Sunday. Of course, this was on top of a full day of practice on Friday, and more practice sessions in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday. It amounted to almost 3 hours of track time per group! And we shoud mention that this event is a partnership with Mid–Atlantic Motorsports, who organize a race group for modern sports & GT cars, and another group for Legends and Baby Grand cars.
Group 2 consisted of the big–bore vintage cars, with a mix of production and sports–-racing models – and a few others of compatible performance. Three Sports 2000 drivers joined us this year, which seemed to work surprisingly well in this group. Larry Rossi was the consistent front–runner, only challenged when Event Co–Chairman Joe Blacker took to the track in his Brabham FB on Saturday afternoon. Paul Wilson had his gorgeous Lola T70 going really well all weekend, usually finishing second. Tony Conover was the quickest of the Mustang drivers on Saturday, but didn’t appear on Sunday due to a mechanical problem we assume.
In Group 3, the quick production cars were the Bug–eye of Brian MacEachern, the Elva Courier of Michael Oritt, and the MGA’s of John Faulkner and this writer. But the story of the weekend in this group was Jens Scott: he’s the son of Bill Scott, a well–known racer who now owns the Summit Point facility. One of Bill’s former race cars, a Zink Formula Vee, was entered in the event by the current owner, Bob Houston. Bob graciously asked Jens to drive the car this weekend, as a little surprise for his father, Bill. In a fitting tribute, Jens drove his dad’s old Zink to three overall race wins during the weekend – with Dad watching from the sidelines!
It is stories like this that define the tradition of the Turkey Bowl: it’s more about fun, and family, and camaraderie, than just racing. It’s guys like Sam Smith, who toiled till the wee hours to get a new engine in his Alfa, just to make this last event of the season (how many people would have said to heck with it, and waited till next year?). Or Ian Hill, who barely got his Volvo 544 finished in time to make it. Or Robert Andersson, who was awarded the delightfully tacky Singing Turkey Trophy for a hard–luck weekend in his Ford GT40. Like any vintage event, it’s about the cars, and we had some fabulous ones like Greg Galdi’s Porsche 908/3, James Steerman’s Lancia Degrada Formula Junior (which may be louder than the GT40!), Pete McManus’ “Ardent Alligator” Riley Special, and Hank Giffin’s rare Lotus 17. Equally noteworthy at the Turkey Bowl, however, are Jay Sevier’s bone–stock MGTD, driven to the track, raced all weekend and then driven home. Or Tom Cetola’s Busch Monte Carlo stock car, impeccably driven in the big–bore class. Peter Patterson had his new E–type Jaguar out for, we think, the first time. Whit Ball’s Healey 100–6 finally ran well for an entire weekend, too. Big bore, small bore, Pre–war, 1970’s, open–wheel – this event accommodates a wide range of cars, because the drivers come with the right attitude!
And its not just the drivers. Falling on a holiday weekend, lots of entrants bring family members. Valerie Trumbo did an awesome job organizing the kids’ activities for the weekend, and it was great to see a big group of under–twelve’s having a great time while Daddy (or in some cases Mommy) raced. The Andersson’s brought their Aunt Brita, a lovely Swede visiting from Chicago, to see her first road race. One couldn’t walk through the paddock at noontime without being offered a hot lunch from somebody’s motor home kitchen. And with the fair weather, the track even managed to sell almost 200 tickets to spectators! Of course, none of this would happen without our dedicated group of workers, this year lead by Sara Brookfield (with able assistance by outgoing Chief Steward Howard Weiss). Roger Bacon did an awesome job with Race Control, and it’s always such a pleasure seeing Bruce & Martha Baker’s smiling faces on the grid. We had more flaggers than ever, so the event seems to be catching on with the workers, too.
In the ten days following the Turkey Bowl, it has snowed twice here in the Northeast. Winter seems to be closing in early, but it makes the memory of our season–ending event all the sweeter. Turkey Bowl Twelve is already scheduled for 2008!......Mark Palmer (VRG)