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Story by Jack Baruth – Race Photography by Dave Everest

Rain. Today’s race day was defined by the rain – starting miserably and getting steadily worse. The previous day’s race had shown the occasional bit of dry pavement to my co-driver, Brian M., but for my race it’s forty-two degrees outside and almost Katrina-esque in the fury of the storm above. In the 8am practice, I spin the Green Baron Motorsports #187 PTE Neon and run off track at the bottom of the Esses, but have no problem getting back on. Not everybody else is as lucky; the wrecked cars are coming in two and three at a time. Trailers are fleeing Mid-O like the proverbial rats from the proverbial sinking ship. Race Group A, over seventy cars strong yesterday, fields thirty-three entries today…

These guys are the hardest of the hardcore, and all seven of the Performance Touring E drivers show up for qualifying. My team’s co-owner, Mark Mitias, has an HPDE session directly before my qualifying so we have to make a quick driver change in the paddock while everybody else goes out and starts the qualifying session. The car’s soaked, making it tough to get in, and I have trouble with the belts, but I make it out for two laps.

Two laps, sliding like crazy, throttling back to 95mph on the back straight because anything above that causes the car to simply breeze sideways towards the concrete wall as if possessed of an utter death wish.

It’s enough; I qualify sixth out of 16 total Performance Touring entries and third out of seven in class, with Steve Jones in the #59 Neon and the best-in-PTE Sentra SE-R directly ahead of me.

Time for the race. It’s raining even harder. I can’t see the green flag, so I listen for the engines. The spray makes the car in front of me invisible. I can’t see a damn thing… until I see Steve’s Neon coming back at me with the hood blown over the windshield. Next to me, a PTD-class RX-8 is wiggling and waggling. I brush the brakes and the car locks all four wheels. They won’t unlock, even as I back the pressure off. I’m on the downhill side of the entrance to the Esses, and there’s no traction left. Finally, I release the brakes all the way and go skating off the track.

It takes Mid-O’s fantastic crew only about ten minutes to tow me off to safety… with the tow truck throwing my car around and banging my fender on the Armco on the way in. I never realized you could damage your car while you were being pulled out of trouble!

I ask the marshal if I can go out and finish the race, and he agrees. The suspension’s acting up a bit, but I can still make a pass or two. Unfortunately, I’m a lap short of officially “finishing” the race.

Still, I’m pleased. I had a great qualifying session, and without a particularly unfortunate combo of events, I would have placed pretty well. Can’t complain about that.

We also had a chance to run some of the S:S:L fleet around the track for amusement, as you’ll see in the below photos. What’s fastest? The Phaeton – with its Blizzak snow tires on, it had no trouble on the back straight.

Our next race is Putnam Park, May 17… and we’ll have an awesome new tow vehicle to tell you all about, as well. You see, this isn’t just for the gratification of my ego. It’s for the environment. And the children. And, well, the ladies.

Had to bring the ‘Lac out for a little fun. Quick verdict: needs three fewer seasons stamped on the side of the tires.

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Porsche would like you to believe that this is the only SUV out there fit for the racetrack. I don’t know. There was a guy in a Subaru Outback there as well. Had to show him the nose.

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It’s “Sturm”, the more heavily optioned half of my Phaeton pair. What a sweetheart, and capable of ripping around Mid-O’s very tight “Keyhole” hairpin at a steady 55mph with the seat massagers running and the sweet sounds of Leslie Feist coming from all 17 speakers.

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Jack Baruth

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