Sometimes a sharp knife can win a gun fight.
Picture this, you own a race track and one of your renters cancels an event due to low turn-out just 3 days prior to the a major holiday weekend – what do you do? You hold your own races. Just to sweeten the pot you put together a “Run what you Brung” race and offer $10,000 to the winner. That should get some attention, right?
That is just what Jed Copham recently. Heading into the July 4th weekend he already had the Show and Go scheduled for BIR’s Drag Strip but the local SCCA region was having trouble getting enough drivers and volunteers to make the weekend viable for them and decided to withdraw their event.
The internets were rampant with speculation. A Road Race with prize money? How cool! Will Jed actually race? If so, what will he drive? You have to understand Jed Copham has an arsenal of race-ready track cars. In his garage at the track he has an SCCA Formula Enterprise car, A Radical Sports Racer and his latest toy – a 2007 Panoz DP01. What is a DP01 you ask? It is the last chassis run in the Champ Car series. It is a Turbocharged, Cosworth powered, Methanol fueled Carbon Fiber beauty. Don’t forget, he owns the track so he gets to do laps at the track at will. It’s good to be the king!
So why would anybody think they could beat an Indy Car? As they say to finish first, first you have to finish. Gary Curtis (BIR’s Road Race Program Director) said it best “People shouldn’t be intimidated. Jed’s car may break. You never can predict the outcome of races like this”.
Granted the word was out for only a few days and it being a Holiday weekend the entry list was filled by only 7 cars, although a very eclectic mix of 7 cars.
After a short qualifying session the grid was set. Jed in the Indy car was on the pole with a 1:20 lap. That is nearly 10 seconds faster than last year’s Trans Am racers. John Boos in his Ex-World Challenge Corvette was second. Following them were Dave Copham (Jed’s father) in the Radical, local SCCA Hot Shoe Doug Sherwood in a GT2 RX7 and a couple of current World Challenge Hondas that happened to be at BIR for a test session. Shannon Ivey in his Hawk Performance historic Trans Am Camaro filled the final spot on the grid.
The big race was held at the end of the racing schedule on Saturday. As the 6:05 start time neared, spectators started to gather at vantage points around the 13 turn BIR Competition Race Course. The best vantage point to view a race at BIR is from the bridge overlooking West Bend, Turn 12. By the time the cars found their place on the false grid the bridge was packed with people.
The group of cars followed the pace car for one pace lap. It was clear that the drivers were serious about the race as they kept a tight group behind the Blue and White rocket ship on pole, each driver ready to accelerate at the sight of the green flag. In fact the drivers were maybe a little too serious; the initial start was waived off. The starter must have seen somebody being a little anxious prior to the starting line.
Jed, as the lead car, brought the field around for one more pace lap and then the race was on!
Green, Green, Green!
The group of 7 took the green flag and quickly fanned out to take advantage of BIR generous track width going into turn one. Jed’s car failed to accelerate cleanly after taking the green and was passed by the Boos Corvette and several others before the field entered Turn 3.
The Start from inside Shannon Ivey’s Camaro
By the end of the first race lap The Boos Corvette flew by the finish line ahead of everybody. Ivey’s Camaro wasn’t far behind having passed 4 cars on the first lap. The crowd waited and waited for the entire field to come by to see where the favored car was. Jed was in seventh place, dead last and definitely not up to speed! Maybe Curtis was right? Jed’s car was too fragile to race today.
Boos, Lap 1
Panoz. Lap 1
The next few laps saw the field get into a good pace. Jed appeared to get a handle on whatever was ailing his car. He started clawing his way through the field. After only a few laps he was within sight of the Boos Corvette.
Shannon Ivey’s 302
Sherwood’s Weed Wacker
Jed was clearly having trouble accelerating out of the corners though. Later it was revealed that he only had 3rd, 6th and 7th gears functioning. At one point he was able to pass the Corvette only to be repassed a couple of corners later. Even with less than a working gear box Jed was able to go from last to first, but only briefly.
Jed regains the lead
Within a couple of laps the smell of gear lube was detected near the track, followed by the sight of light smoke trailing Jed’s Panoz. About 2 laps from the end, Jed pulled into the pits. His race was over!
Jed’s got no more gears
We aren’t sure if John Boos had radio communication at this point or understand everything that was transpiring on-track. He continued to fly around the track, not appearing to give any competitor a chance to gain on him. Shannon Ivey was running in 2nd place, but well out of sight of the Corvette’s mirrors. Doug Sherwood’s Nuclear Weed Wacker rotary was also slowing with a suspension-related ailment.
The checkered flag finally waived and all the cars filed into the paddock area. A crowd quickly gathered around John’s Corvette. When the elated driver emerged it was apparent from his wringing wet clothing that he worked hard for this win. A car full of screaming Boos supporters parked nearby and soon he was surrounded by friends and family congratulating him on his impressive performance.
After a few moments Jed and his wonderful wife Christy Copham arrived at the Boos paddock area. There was the usual animated exchange of driver to driver talk about the race, much like fighter pilots talking about a recent Dog Fight. Both drivers clearly enjoyed the competition. Even when the checkbook came out, Jed’s smile didn’t fade.
After the official presentation of the $10,000 check everybody continued to hang out and talk about how exciting the race turned out. Gary Curtis was right. You never can predict the outcome of a race like this.
The big question now is what about next year? If BIR wants a signature event this could certainly be it. With a few months of notice the 2015 BIR Thirteen Turn King of the Hill competition could be spectacular!