Blue Marble Radical Cup North America starred in front of the NTT IndyCar Series crowd at Barber Motorsports Park for the opening Round of its season.
Twenty-nine cars took to the track, with strong competition in each of the series three classes.
Radical’s new 425bhp, 380lb-ft turbocharged SR10 scored victories in its global racing debut thanks to Mel Johnson and Indy Al Miller, while young-guns Palmer Miller and Noah Ping shared the spoils in the PRO 1500 class.
Vince Switzer took a hat-trick in the 1340 class, beating former Sebring 12 Hour winner Chris McMurry.
Louis Schriber (Shorewood Development Group/Team Stradale) was fastest in practice, but it was Johnson (Blue Marble/ONE Motorsports) who gave the new SR10 its maiden pole position.
Johnson was on track for a win in Race 1, but with less than ten minutes remaining he ran wide through Turn 14, allowing reigning class champion Terry Olson (Team Fury) to draw first blood, and prove the SR8s would remain highly competitive during the 2021 season.
Behind Johnson in second, Jon Field (Scott Wagner Racing) finished third and was awarded the Sunoco Hard Charger award for his efforts from the rear of the grid, while Al Miller (Blue Marble/ONE Motorsports) clawed his way up to fourth after a minor technical infraction saw him start at the back.
Jim Booth (McDonald’s/WISKO Racing) finished fifth after being sent into a spin by Palmer Miller.
With a lap of 1:22.980, Terry Olson started Race 2 from pole, but was relegated to third by the SR10s of Johnson and Miller.
Pushing hard, Olson found himself rolling backwards in the pit lane entry after a spin. Field, who again had to start fro the rear of field, also had trouble in Turn 14, but worked his way back through to again claim the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
On the last lap he found himself fighting for third, and when Schriber left the smallest of gaps, the former ALMS champion pounced, pushing his way through to take the final step of the Platinum podium to join Johnson and Miller.
Johnson’s win was redemption for Race 1 and the first for the new SR10 globally.
Al Miller’s fastest lap saw him start Race 3 on the pole, and after One Motorsports timed his pit stop to perfection, he gave the SR10 its second win of the weekend.
Schriber again impressed after a year away from Radical Cup competition, taking second, while Johnson finished made it three podium finishes with third. Olson was solid in fourth, while a post race penalty for Field for shorting the mandatory pitstop time relegated him to fifth in class.
Gregg Gorski (smokebuddy/One Motorsports), Steve Jenks (Audien Hearing/Group-A) and Gustavo Rafols (WISKO Racing) all had pace in practice, but in qualifying newcomers Comprent Motor Sports helped rookie Ping (Revogenex) record pole with a 1:26.286.
Palmer Miller (Radical Texas/Esses Racing) got ahead of Ping early on, and aside from his indiscretion with Jim Booth, drove a tremendous race to take his first Blue Marble Radical Cup victory.
Steve Jenks worked his way through to second place, while Gorski fended off Rafols, Alex Morton (Team Stradale) and Jesse Menczer (DiscTech/ONE Motorsports) for third.
Miller started Race 2 from pole, but Jenks and Ping both worked their way by, while Rafols and Gorski also remained in the hunt.
Jenks built up a commanding lead until a yellow flag for a stricken Mike Anzaldi bunched the pack and allowed Ping to get a run into Turn 1 as the race resumed. The pair touched twice with the second impact breaking Jenks’s upright, ending his race and bringing out another full course caution.
The live stream vision made the move look quite controversial, but Ping’s onboard was more ambiguous. Nevertheless he was reprimanded and received an additional 5 point penalty for his role in the incident.
A one-lap dash to the checkered flag saw Palmer Miller fall back while Gorski, Morton and Menczer capitalize in the Turn 6 hairpin, before Miller tried to make amends with a rimshot around the outside through Turn 14. However he got onto the marbles, which sent him into a dramatic spin.
There were no such dramas for Ping, who added his name to the Radical Cup race winners list, with Rafols finishing second and Gorski in third.
Jenks’s impressive pace of 1:25.436 gave him the pole for Race 3, and he led from Morton and Miller before the round of mandatory stops. Ron Fletcher went for a wild ride over the crest of Turn 13, glanced the wall, took out an advertising board, but lived to fight another day.
Rafols churned out a sequence of outstanding laps, including a 1:24.834, to rocket up the order, as did Palmer Miller, who found himself in the lead as the leaderboard cycled through.
With just minutes to go, the battle between Menczer, Morton and Gorski heated up in the with Gorski elevated to third behind second placed Rafols, while Palmer Miller had another massive moment late in the race. This time it was exiting the final corner, but he survived the wild ride to take his second win of the weekend.
It was perhaps no surprise that Chris McMurry (prisma/Crown Concepts) set the pace early on in the weekend, but in qualifying his car was found to be too low, meaning Autobahn Country Club racer Mike Anzaldi (Emmett’s Energy) would sit on the class pole for Race 1.
McMurry stormed through Bob Greczyn (Mellow Mushroom/WISKO Racing), Jason Greenwood (AMI Information Systems) and Jeff Ping (Star Pharmaceuticals/Comprent Motor Sports), but the going got tougher as he dispatched Jason Plotke (Apex Motor Club/Crown Concepts) and Anzaldi.
However he could never catch his fellow Apex Motor Club member Vince Switzer, who impressed with an instant win in his Radical Cup debut.
Race 2 was a similar story with Switzer again fending off McMurry for the win, but this time it was Plotke in third, giving Crown Concepts all three steps of the podium. Jeff Ping finished in fourth place followed by Greenwood and Grecyzn.
The pit stops in Race 3 altered the order and Plotke was the first PRO 1340 to receive the checkered flag, however he had shorted his pitstop by a considerable amount and was relegated to fourth.
This elevated Anzaldi to third, McMurry to second and Switzer to the win, giving him a clean sweep for the weekend.
Blue Marble Radical Cup heads to Road America next, to again feature alongside IndyCar for the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR on June 17-20.
All races will again be live streamed via the official Radical Sportscars youtube channel.
RESULTS: Barber Motorsports Park