Story and photographs by Kirk Myhre
Pacific Northwest Historics celebrated its 29th year at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington June 30th – July 2nd. This all-volunteer charity event, hosted by BMW Northwest, brings together some of the finest historic and vintage racing vehicles in the northwest while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Children’s Hospital in Seattle and several other organizations in the Puget Sound area.
This year, there was a lot to celebrate. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Trans Am series and Chevrolet Camaro Racing. Each day at lunch, a group of 20 plus large bore cars were joined on track by several examples of the early two-liter class for some parade laps. Peter Brock was the celebrity guest for the event and brought with him several vintage race cars from his own collection. The line at the hospitality tent was long each day, as he made himself available for autographs and pictures.
Friday morning greeted the racers with clear skies and bright sunshine. The 10-turn, 2.25 mile track was treated to one last pass by the sweepers to ready it for the near 150 car field. Track workers gathered inside turn 9 to go over last minute details as car covers came off and engines thundered to life in preparation for three days of racing.
The green flag flew over the Formula Fords just after 9am. They were followed by the practice and qualifying sessions for Group 7, an eclectic gathering of 1973-1982 purpose built racecars of all types and shapes. They were soon replaced on track by the Group 5 / 6 winged cars, Group 1 / 2 small and medium bores and Group 8 Pro 3 BMWs. The big-bore Trans Am cars of Group 3 finished off practice and qualifying with a heart-pounding roar.
Each day of racing was kicked off by a large group of very competitive Formula Fords in group 4. The cars of this class ranged in age from 1968 – 1984. For most of the weekend, they were led by Dan Cowdrey’s No.38 1970 Titan and John Ballantyne’s No.92 Titan from 1968. Later in the weekend, they were given a mighty challenge by the No.26 Crossle of Quinn Posner and the No.78 Caldwell D9b driven by Charlie Lyford. The competition in this group of cars was intense each day of the event. Lead changes were common and there were battles throughout the pack.
The relative peace of the group 4 was soon shattered by the cacophony offered up by group 7. Ranging in age from 1973-2000, the group included several Porsche 911 variants, a Chevrolet Greenwood Corvette, three NASCAR stock cars, a pair of Porsche 944s and a host of other varied makes and marques. Throughout the weekend, this class was dominated by the 2000 era No.99 Ford Taurus stock car of Mike Holmes. Chasing him were the 1979 GT1 Mustang driven by Doug Yip and the beautiful, No.55 Jagermeister liveried, 1973 BMW CSL of Jeff Gerken. Strong runs were also put in by Ian Battye in his No.05 Caterham 7 and Matt Parent in his 1988 Oldsmobile NASCAR stock car.
The winged cars were next. This fantastic field was fronted, for most of the weekend, by the bright-yellow No.11 1984 Argo driven by Matt Soden. That said, the fun of this group is seeing the advances in technology and aerodynamics over time as applied to open wheel racing. Starting with the traditional, unadorned, cigar shaped body of Kurt DelBene’s 1964 BRP F1 car compared to the huge wings and scoops of Eric Haga’s 1972 Lola T300. Then, in less than a decade, you start to see the wide, low frontal area of Allen Nicholas’ 1978 Formula Atlantic. That gave way, in another couple of years, to the smoothness of the 1987 Formula Mazda driven by Mel Kemper. In all of these eras, you can also see how the science was applied through the lens of the rule book in Can Am, Formula Atlantic, Formula 5000 and Super Vees. It was a fun group of cars to watch all weekend.
Nearly 30 Group 2 Historic medium-bore cars attended the event. Traditionally, this class is comprised of two-liter and under sedans and coupes with a few open-top cars filling out the field. This year, there were a couple of Datsuns that metered out just over the two-liter limit but it made for some great racing. The battle at the front was furious between the 1969 Irish green No.65 Porsche 911 driven by Eric Smith and the No.4 Gulf liveried version of the same car piloted by Steve Gilmore. Engine sizes and production dates of the cars in this class are much closer so, consequently, the racing is much tighter as well. Throughout the weekend, angry little packs of Porsche 911s and Alfa Romeo GTVs diced it up with Ginettas and Datsuns only to be joined by BMW 2002s and Triumph TR6s as the race progressed.
Twenty-seven Group 1b / 2a Historic select small and medium-bore cars took the green led by Tom Kinsman in his black and gold No.88 1962 Bobsy. He was in for a weekend-long scrap with a pair of beautifully prepared Porsche 356s driven by Jim Loveall and Arthur Conner. They were pursued by the super-quick No.99 Lotus 17 of Thor Johnson and Thor Thorson searching for every ounce of grip in his No.15 Elva MK 6. The field was rounded out by Triumphs, Alfas, Datsuns and MGs with a single 1957 Deven that ran towards the front of the pack all weekend.
There’s only one word to describe the Group 1 results from the weekend…Domination. Parker Johnstone, of IndyCar and IMSA acclaim took his No.149 MG “Airstream” Midget to the front during qualifying and ran away from the field for the rest of the event. Stephen Newby, in his No.1 Midget, put up a good fight but there was no catching Johnstone on this weekend. Great drives were also put in by Karlo Flores in the No.59 Bugeye Sprite and Gil Stewart in his gorgeous No.29 1967 P1800 Volvo.
Group 8 is comprised of Pro 3 BMWs. This is an exhibition class for this event but it’s a great opportunity for the teams to get out and stretch their cars’ legs. The other fun opportunity afforded by the drivers and teams was, for a $250 charitable donation, anyone could get in the right seat of one of these race cars and ride along for a 3-lap sprint race. Let me assure you, the fans that took advantage of this opportunity got their money’s worth and Children’s Hospital received the tangible benefit.
Rounding out the weekends’ entrants was the fiery bunch of Group 3 big-bore cars. The pack was fronted, for most of the weekend, by the No.3 Cobra continuation. He was harassed at every turn by the 427 powered No.72 Corvette of Dave Edelstein. Not to be outdone, Tom Cantrell kept his screaming orange No.23 Boss 302 in close contact with the lead all weekend. The No.96 open-top Corvette of Jim Smith and the No.68 Corvette coupe driven by Curt Kallberg were not far behind. It wasn’t just the usual Mustangs, Corvettes and Camaros though. Filling out the field were Jaguars, a Falcon, an AMC Javelin and a super-rare Studebaker Daytona piloted by Jeff Taylor.
The 2017 edition of the Pacific Northwest Historics at Pacific Raceways was a fantastic event. The crowds and car counts were up. The weather was beautiful and the racing was spectacular. If you’re in the Northwest, around the 4th of July in 2018, this is a must-attend event.
Kirk Myhre is a contributor to Sports Car Illustrated. To contact Kirk or to view more of his racing photography visit myhrecreative.com. Follow MyhreCreative on Facebook at: facebook.com/myhrecreative/
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