‘Miller time’ in Portland for Blue Marble Cocktail Radical Cup's First Visit

‘Miller time’ in Portland for Blue Marble Cocktail Radical Cup's First Visit

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It may be the Blue Marble Cocktail Radical Cup, but it was definitely ‘Miller time’ in Portland.

In the city which boasts over 60 breweries, it was fitting that a man who shares his name with a famous American beer made the most of the Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup visit to Portland International Raceway, Aug 9-11. Judd Miller and his Moorespeed / Miller Time Racing Radical SR8 was in a class of his own, winning all three races in the Masters class. Turn 3 Motorsports was another to do well in the craft beer capital of the world, with Antoine Comeau taking two victories in the 1500 class, while Eric Wagner took a clean sweep in the 1340 class.

While having never seen the track before, Judd Miller, seemed immediately at home on the 1.97mile 12 turn road course, which stands on the historic site of Vanport, a former city of 40,000 which was washed away by a tragic flood in 1948. Miller (1:12.364) was the only man to lap in the 12s during qualifying until Will Lin (1:12.828, Radical Northwest / Cameron Racing) stole a front row start away from Terry Olson (1:12.024, Right Turn Racing) with only moments to spare. In the hotly contested 1500 class, the top five cars were separated by less than a half a second, with Jordan Missig (1:13.695, Team Stradale) taking the honors from Gustavo Rafols (1.13.766 Wisko Racing) and Antoine Comeau (1.13.867 Eastern) while Eric Wagner (Eastern) easily took pole in the 1340 class from Bob Greczyn. (Mellow Mushroom / Wisko Racing).

With the competition so close in both the Masters and 1500 classes, Portland’s ‘Festival Chicane’ was expected to produce fireworks and it didn’t disappoint in Race 1. Antoine Comeau went to the inside in an attempt pass both Missig and Rafols, but went far too deep causing the drivers behind to react. In the chaos Rafols was sandwiched between Indy Al Miller (Blue Marble Cocktails / One Motorsports) and Louis Schriber (Shorewood Developments / Team Stradale). The heavy contact left both Rafols and Schriber out, while Miller somehow survived.

That left the battle for 1500 class honors to Comeau and Missig. Clearly running less wing, Comeau had more straight-line speed, while Missig had elected to run more downforce and was cornering faster as a result. Each lap Comeau looked threatening, closing in on Missig as they crossed the start finish line. On lap 18 Comeau eventually got past, only to make a mistake in turn 7 which allowed Missig back through. This time Missig absorbed the pressure and eventually pulled a small gap on his way to an outstanding win.

Indy Al Miller completed the 1500 class podium, while Gerhard Watzinger won his race long battle with One Motorsports teammate Greg Gorski to finish fourth. Like Missig, Eric Wagner converted his pole position into the 1340 class win, with Bob Greczyn home in second.

At the front of the field Jim Booth (McDonald’s / Wisko Racing) managed to find his way past during the opening lap to lead the opening laps, however it was clear Miller’s qualifying pace wasn’t a one off and on lap six the inevitable happened¬ with Miller resuming the lead. From then on Miller was in total control, while Booth held a comfortable second from third placed Terry Olson. Meanwhile Will Lin recovered from a first lap spin, which dropped him to 11th outright to finish fourth.
Off the track, drivers and crew were treated to the stunning cuisine of a local chef inside the Radical hospitality tent, exposed to Portland’s numerous restaurants, hip drinking holes, food truck scene, and on Sunday even got to taste Portland’s famed Voodoo Donuts.

Even more amazing than the donuts was the chaotic start of Race 2. While Lin found himself in the wrong gear, Booth made a brilliant start to leap into the lead. However, all of Booth’s hard work unraveled with a spin on the exit of Turn 1, yet somehow the entire field avoided his stricken SR8. Running deep into the corner, Olson diverted to the inside of the curbing, while Miller had decided to abort the chicane all together and stopped, as per the instructions in the drivers briefing, to wait until he could safely rejoin the track.

Initially this left Olson with a sizable lead, but Lin closed the gap and by Lap 8 was nose to tail with Olson. After first having a look into Turn 1 Lin attempted a dive down the inside of Turn 4, which intimidated Olson enough to cause him to run wide. Olson’s resulting spin left Lin in a commanding lead with the race one-third complete.

Meanwhile Judd Miller continued to press on. Quietly he worked his way through the field, and with ten laps remaining Miller made his intentions clear. Lap after lap he took chunks out of Lin’s lead, but with Lin also raising his game, it looked just as likely Miller would run out of time. As they started the final lap amazingly Miller was in striking distance. He had a look into Turn 1, but was too far back, and then ran wide in Turn 6 losing time, but somehow Miller continued to close during the remaining corners, and pressured Lin into his own minor mistake as the pair went through the final turn. It was enough for Miller to get a run, and at the flag flew it was Miller who was first across the line, while Lin was left shell-shocked in second, and Jim Booth redeemed himself with a podium finish.

Behind the Masters cars, raged an equally exciting race in the 1500 class. Antoine Comeau resisted multiple attacks by Gustavo Rafols, who at times had to worry more about Jordan Missig. Indy Al Miller was also in the mix and the top four lapped within tenths of each other the entire race. Missig’s chances at a podium finish was then dashed with a mid-race paddle shift issue, which he somehow fixed inside of the cockpit. Nevertheless, the glitch allowed Indy Al Miller to visit the podium again, this time alongside Comeau in first and Rafols in second. Finishing fifth was Louis Schriber, who impressed in Race 2 by setting the third fastest 1500 lap time.

Eric Wagner continued his winning ways in the 1340 class, and did so again in Race 3, resulting in a clean sweep for the weekend, made even more impressive by the fact he had missed much of Thursday’s promotor test day.

The third and final race of the weekend again commenced with chaos. This time Missig was the victim in Turn 1 with Gustavo Rafols the culprit, but the altercation was considered as a ‘racing incident’. Lap two resulted in further drama for the 1500 field when Schriber spun after reported contact from Indy Al Miller, and Greg Gorski survived a scare with smoke from bodywork rubbing on a tire on lap 5.

While his rivals pitted early, Comeau elected to wait until the very end of the pit window, and put in a series of stellar laps. Rafols and Indy Al Miller, meanwhile, lost precious seconds during the round of mandatory pitstops. As they cycled through the resulting order was Comeau from Missig, Rafols and Indy Al Miller, which is how they crossed the line, but a post race inspection found Missig’s car below the minimum ride height and he was disqualified following the podium ceremony. This promoted Rafols to second place and Indy Al Miller to third. In the amended results Schriber was classified finishing fourth in class and Gerhard Watzinger fifth.

The Race 3 pitstop also juggled the order of the Master class runners. Terry Olson lost out, going from second to fourth, while Will Lin went from fourth to third and Booth from third to second. Nothing however affected Judd Miller. The strategy and stop from his Moorespeed team was solid, and his third win of the weekend never looked in jeopardy. Miller’s only blemish on an otherwise perfect points haul was the fact Booth had recorded the fastest lap in race 3.

Miller’s three wins at Portland have taken him within striking distance of Booth for the Masters class championship, with two rounds and six races remaining. The Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup now heads to Sonoma Raceway and surrounding wine country where it will join SpeedVentures on Sept 27-29.

Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup