TPG Champcar Round 1

Strand leading the field of Champcars to green

Round 1 of the TPG Fall Series saw Satellite teammates Mike Smulcheski and Matt Strand come home 1-2 in teams return to TPG. It had been almost a year since Satellite last competed at TPG and the whole team was eager to return back to their online racing roots with a big field of Champcars to contend with. The Satellite duo started off the weekend strong with Strand qualifying on pole with a track record of 1:38.726 and Smulcheski hot on his heels in 2nd just .078 seconds off of Strands time and the only 2 cars to reach the 38′s. Both knew however the race would be very tough with strong competition coming from the likes of Charles (Paco) Ramirez and Alex (Catfish) Jones who qualified 3rd and 4th respectivly. “We know Paco very well from years of racing against him and also with his time as a Satellite driver” said Strand. “Both Mike and I knew we had the times to be up front but it’d be really hard to fend him and the rest of the field off.”

This would prove out to be true as at the drop of the green flag the top 4 cars ran line astern with each trying to get a feel for what everybody was running like early on. Nobody wanted to bin a brand new Champcar so early into the season. Mark Jaeckle, who had qualified 5th, came very close as he got caught out on cold tyres exiting turn 4 and slammed the inside wall.

Ramirez and Smulcheski have a very small coming together in the hairpin

He was able to limp back to the pits though and continue on to finish 9th. The top 4 continued their fight until Mike Smulcheski made a small mistake coming out of 8 which allowed Ramirez to close right up on his gearbox. Paco had a much stronger run into the hairpin but had just clipped the back of Smulcheski causing him to slide off track and slipping back to 5th. Ramirez would immediately take the automatic drivethrough penalty for avoidable contact which promoted Smulcheski back up to 4th. After a brief battle with Chris Chaney and Alex Jones he had found his way back up to 2nd and was running down Strand for the lead again.

Smulcheski (left) challenges Strand (right) for P1 early in Saturdays race

It took Smulcheski just 5 laps from his slight incident to catch back up to Strand and continue their battle for the lead. The 2 went side by side down the back straight and into turn 14 with Smulcheski getting the better of Strand. The 2 continued to run in order no more then 1.5 seconds apart just clicking off laps while they pulled away from the rest of the field. Strand was the first of the 2 to dive in for tyres on lap 18, unfortunately missing the pit entrance. After bound over the turns 23 and 24 hill he was back on track now 9 seconds back of the lead. 2 attempts later he was finally in and completed his stop, letting Jim Perusse passed as he left pit road.

2nd place Matt Strand leads 3rd place Alex Jones late in Saturdays event

After Jim made a small slip Strand was back through and into 2nd trying to put down fast laps on the new tyres and lightend fuel load while Smulcheski remained on track. Matt unfortunately ran into technical difficulties which set him back even further and quickly into the clutches of Alex Jones again. The 2 swapped positions a couple times with Strand eventually able to pull out to a 7 second lead over the Catfish Motorsports car at the checkard. While Matt had his issues in the back, Mike Smulcheski ran a near flawless race to bring his #3 Satellite Racing car home in first by nearly 16.5 seconds.

“Major thanks to the team engineers on the amazing setup work!” Smulcheski said.

Mike Smulcheski taking the season opening checkard flag

“Great recovery for us after a few miscues to make a statement in the points. I think we only missed out on 1 for the weekend with Paco setting fast lap right at the end. Late race I was pushing to hard with the gap I had and almost had a few big moments so I backed it down a notch to bring it home safe.”

We’d also like to extend our well wishes to the 3rd driver on the Champcar team this season, Michael Edwards. Edwards was due to run in the event and was right on pace with his Satellite teammates in practice during the week but was unable to attend due to his grandmother falling ill. We’ve dedicated the 1-2 results from Saturday to him and his family and wish them a speedy recovery.