The Skip Barber Formula Race Series kicked off its 2023 season this past weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. A mix of experienced and new drivers, plus changing weather conditions, made for an intense weekend of great racing action.
Experience showed to pay off as series veteran Jeshua Alianell swept the practice sessions in wet to drying conditions. Alianell topped the charts with a 1m41.433s in the first session and a 1m41.664s in the second session. Finishing behind Alianell in second place in both practice sessions was Jaxon Bell. Bell came into the race weekend with only one race under his belt, having competed at the season finale last year at Circuit of The Americas. Recent kart-to-car racers Caleb Gafrarar and Sebastian Wheldon traded third-place results between the two practice sessions.
As the track continued to dry, the drivers went out to qualify on their wet tires, as by the time the session finished, the optimal dry line began to dry out. The top spot was traded around, but at the drop of the checkered flag, Bell had claimed the pole position for Race 1 with a time of 1m34.775s. Wheldon solidified a front-row starting position with his time of 1m35.300s, with Alianell narrowly missing out on that spot, only 0.078s behind Wheldon.
Bell led the 16-car field to the green flag for Race 1, but Alianell who made a pass for the lead at Turn 10 early in the race. Unfortunately, mechanical issues for Alianell forced him to retire from the race, handing the lead over to Bell. As he chased Bell, Wheldon ran the race’s fastest lap with a blistering 1m31.712s. Before Wheldon could battle Bell for the lead, the yellow flag came out to recover a car stuck in the gravel trap, which ended the race. Bell took his first career victory over Wheldon in the runner-up position. Nicholas Maloy was able to drive his way from the fifth-place position to the final step on the podium. Rounding out the top 5 was Thomas Tarlton in fourth and Gabe Tesch in fifth.
The starting grid for Race 2 was determined by the best lap times from Race 1, which put Wheldon and Tom Tarlton on the front row. Wheldon held the lead for the early laps as Bell made his way up to second, followed closely by Alianell. An incident on lap 2 brought out the yellow flag and bunched the field back up. After the restart, the top 3 drivers of Bell, Wheldon and Alianell began trading the top spot. When the second yellow flag dropped on the field, Bell was the leader at the time of caution, followed by Wheldon in second and Alianell in third. With not enough time left in the session to go back to green, the race ended under yellow.
After the first round of the Skip Barber Formula Race Series, Bell leads the overall points standings by 6 points over Wheldon. Maloy, Tom Tarlton, and Tesch round out the top 5. In the Masters class, Tom Tarlton leads Rob Tarlton by 8 points.
Check out the rest of the points standings by clicking here, and learn more about the Skip Barber Formula Race Series by clicking here.