Back to School #6: Ask not for whom the school bell tolls…

Despite extortionist tactics by local oil companies, the chance to return to Corning Community College for the sixth Labor Day weekend in a row was just too good for this autoXer to miss and apparently 28 other drivers agreed. That’s not a bad number given the situation. After all, 29 is about our normal Corning Community College site number and when one realizes that many of our regulars didn’t show 29 is a great number, especially if one wants plenty of runs. The weather didn’t hurt, either, as the temperatures were pleasant, scattered clouds kept the sunlight controllable, and gentle breezes made it all the more worthwhile. Add a great post-game discussion to the mix and, well it just couldn’t get much better. All in all, a great day for autocrossing with the Glen Region.

This particular location has always been challenging due to its slope, limited adhesion along the top, and more off-camber turns than most of our venues, but basically, it’s fast where it should be slow and slow where it should be fast no matter which layout the course design committee creates. The selected track layout repeated last year’s Corning event, starting half way up one side jumping into a sharp uphill turn to the right, followed by, what else, a sharp left hand turn downhill through a slalom which ended with a left kink to strip off excess speed. After the kink a sharp right, a left-turn across the bottom of the lot, another left turn up the hill through a very tight left gate and then repeating everything a second time to complete the drive. The configuration chosen may have been a repeat of last year, but it still required a lot of thought and air pressure adjustments to get a car (and driver) to perform well and was definitely worth the effort.

In a shock of shocks, the largest class of the day was the F125 Shifter Kart class, the “We keep the other cars from running” class. Even more surprising than the large turnout was that an honest-to-god shifter kart actually showed up to run, which I believe is a Glen Region first, but I’ll leave that to those who really care. All this class does for me is remind me that I need to start readying the woodpile for winter. Just kidding, Casey. Anyway, George Petry (’03 First Kart) showed everyone how to drive a cart and took first place over Casey Creamer (’05 Interkart), who ran second, and Pat “Where’s my rear axle” Scopelliti (’05 Interkart), who ran third. Although they didn’t make it to the top three positions, it was great seeing “old timers” Brian and Matt Metcalf back in their “$129 China Special” (Brian, did that engine come with egg rolls?). Brian and Matt deserve special mention for creative towing, as they managed to “tow” their cart the same way that NASA tows the space shuttle across country, piggyback. NASA, however, doesn’t do it with a sheet of plywood, leftover foam, and a small Ford sedan. Maybe they should.

Other notable classes at the event included A-Stock with its usual contingency of drivers. When the smoke cleared (literally in this class), it was “Mr. Donut,” aka Nick Brewster (’01 Honda S2000), who easily took the trophy from yours truly and Eric Navestad (both of us driving Eric’s ’00 Honda S2000). By the way, no one else may be noticing but I detect that Eric continues to narrow the time differences. At the rate he’s going it should make for an interesting 2006 season, assuming that we three keep our same cars.

In G-Stock, Barry Butterfield (’05 BMW Mini Cooper S) had no difficulty continuing his winning ways. This may be Barry’s last season in G-Stock, though, as there’s rumors of SCCA sending the Mini Coopers to D-Stock next year. Anyway and back to the topic, running behind Barry were Nile Heermans (’90 Nissan 240sx) and newcomer, Kyle McCoy (’02 Saab 9-3 SE). Kyle deserves special mention as the most improved driver as his times steadily and dramatically improved during the event with the able assistance of his instructor, Pat Scopelliti.

The Pierces managed another great day in D-Street Prepared (’87 BMW 325is), but in the end it was Ken who managed to edge out Greg by a split second, with John not too far behind. By the way folks, Ken just bought a nice Ford Focus with a manual transmission. Is a 2006 season change enfolding?!

Talk about close, B-Stock, home of the Gray Panthers, was decided by 14/1000 of a second. For the first time this season, Jeff Tyburski got the 2005 RX-8 dialed in and just shaved Phil Cornell (’95 BMW M3) for class honors. While in D-Stock, Mark Lockhart finally got his revenge and got by his brother, Matt. Matt deserves special mention for his “hide the pylon” trick, which answered the age-old question “how many course workers does it take to find a cone?” Anyway, both Lockharts were driving Mark’s car, a ’01 BMW 330ci, and both drove very well (Must be getting ready for Barry Butterfield in 2006).

In the red Miata class (C-Street Prepared), Ryan Jones (’99 Mazda Miata) managed to out drive Brian Bell (’95 Mazda Miata) for class bragging rights, while in Street Touring (Tire) Tom Deneka (’98 Honda Prelude) kept his VTEC running well enough this time to sneak by Todd Acker (’99 Honda Civic). Tom’s winning time, however, was only 1/10 of a second faster than Todd, making this writer ponder how much better Todd would have run with a set of shocks?!

Finally, Brian Ciarlei (’88 Red Devil F440) put on an incredible display in F-Modified taking fastest time of the day (FTD) along with the PAX index championship in the process. I only hope that his car is as fun to drive, as it was to watch.

Speaking of incredible displays, apparently someone forgot to tell Aaron Boltman, Greg Pierce, James Shervick, and Phil Cornell that we no longer have an award for “Kone Killer.” Whatever the reason, it was a rough day for the pylons as Aaron and the guys amassed 33 kills among themselves. As they say on television, “Closed course, professional driver” or in this case, “closed driver, professional course.”

As I typically do, I omitted some fine driving in the single driver classes. This doesn’t mean these drivers should be ignored. If you’d like to see what they did as well as scope out the official event results check them online at

Thanks for this event go out to Aaron Boltman for his successful chairing, to Becky Tinker and Aaron Boltman for serving as safety stewards, to Eric Navestad, Jeff Weaver, and the Lockhart brothers, Mark and Matt, for helping to transport the van, and to the Pierces for running timing and scoring. A special vote of appreciation goes to Eric Navestad, Aaron Boltman, the Weavers, Jeff and Andy, and although we haven’t seen him since the Awards Ceremony last December, to Dan Keen (in absentia at: for helping to lay out a great course. Dan, your website helped in setting up an old favorite. I would be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to Corning Community College for renting us their beautiful lot and helping to police it. The site is indeed one of our favorites.

The very next and season final event is to be held at the Valhalla of Upstate NY autocross sites, the Seneca Army Depot, on September 17. If you’re reading this column in The Spark Plug, well, you’re too late. You missed a great event. For those of you seeing this on-line, as always, we’ll keep the timing lights on for you.