Members of the Red Sox Racing League paid tribute to their friend and fellow driver, “Gentleman Jim” Albertson when they traveled to Florida for the “Gentleman Jim’s 24 Laps of Daytona” at the Daytona International Speedway road course. One of the founding members of iRacing and an original RSR league member, Albertson has been unable to race since early 2012. Always a calming presence on the track, his absence from online racing has been felt by the entire online racing community.
As one RSR driver put it before the race “All of us have a favorite memory about Jim. He is the consummate gentleman; always willing to lend advice to new drivers, always quick to share setup tips, and eager to help others learn the fastest way around the tracks. Jim gave everything he had to helping others improve their skills. It’s not just his helpfulness. It’s also his approach to helping his fellow drivers; he did so with genuine thought and care about how his words and actions would be received by others. Jim’s approach to life reinforced to everyone, the idea that we should always be civil. Whether it was in the heat of an on track battle, or just in everyday conversation, Jim was the same… a gentleman. I wish we had more like him.”
In further tribute to Jim, Corvette driver Corey Wolf arrived in Florida with a newly painted # 13 car designed to resemble the POW/MIA car Albertson last drove in competition. “I want the fans to know how much Jim has meant to us all”, said Wolf before the race. “I hope he gets a big smile on his face when he sees the car in action tonight.”
As usual, Brad Vincent arrived to the track as the heavy favorite to win the Class A HPD event. He didn’t disappoint in qualifying, earning his sixth pole of the season with a lap time of 1:33.586. Les Turner started in the second position with a lap time of 1:34.173. Rows two through five were occupied by; John Koscielniak, Terry Daul, Ed Sutcliff, Andrew Feldman, David Weiss, Divina Galica, William Kabela, and Bill Pawluckie.
Paul Hesla earned his third pole of the season in the Class B Corvette event, barely edging out Jason Brown for the top spot. Both drivers were almost a full second ahead of the remaining Corvette drivers when they posted 1:38.9+ lap times. Scott Husted, Corey A. Wolf, Jeff Thomas, Dennis Griffen, and James Prostell, Jr. completed the Corvette grid. Brown’s car experienced electrical problems after qualifying, so he was forced to begin the race from pit road.
Daytona’s 12 corner, 3.56 mile road course offers drivers a combination of tightly angled infield corners and wide open racing on the steeply banked superspeedway. The relatively flat design of the infield section means drivers have to pay special attention to the corner exits that lead onto the long straights, something that would come into play throughout the race as drivers pushed to gain speed.
Perhaps in tribute to the calm, cool driving style of their good friend Albertson, the RSR field got off to an incredibly clean race when the green flag dropped. Weiss, Wolf, and Griffen all gained positions early on, and Wolf and Husted traded spots several times in the opening laps.
On lap 5 Thomas was the first of three drivers to succumb to the hazards exiting turn five when he lost traction and spun harmlessly into the infield grass. Hesla and Prostell would lose valuable time in the same corner later in the race.
Vincent had gained such a huge lead on the HPD field that despite a spin exiting T3 on lap thirteen he didn’t lose the lead. Turner’s spotter barely had enough time to mention the incident before Vincent had corrected his vehicle and accelerated back to race pace.
Sutcliff did a good job of keeping pace with Daul in the first half of the race, but gave up 5th place when he flubbed his exit from pit road on lap fifteen. “I’m not sure what happened”, said Sutcliff after the race. “I was exiting pit road with plenty of time to maintain my position, when I suddenly realized my car was skidding into the infield grass!” Husted’s hopes for a podium finish were dashed on lap eighteen when his car spun sideways in T9 and skidded hard into the outside wall.
Overall, the race was run in the way “Gentleman Jim” Albertson would have liked it, with 7 of 17 drivers completing the event without incident, and no major dustups affecting the outcome.