Wednesday, May 25, 2016

R100: Pacific Northwest Racing Teams - PacWest Racing's Other Endeavours



The ex-David Donohue NATCC championship winning Dodge Stratus in later guise when for sale. (Image source: racecarsdirect.com)
Even though the team was owned primarily by Bruce McCaw and others, its success over the year's is largely attributed to its wonderful Band Leader; Err Team Manager, the late John Anderson who was simply known as 'Ando...


Team info
Name: PacWest Racing Group
Owners: Bruce McCaw, Tom Armstrong, Dominic Dobson
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Years: 1995-2001

Whilst PacWest Racing Group is primarily known for its IndyCar exploits in the Championship Auto Racing Teams era, pinicaling with four wins during the 1997 season, they also branched out into two other Feeder Series categories until the team's ultimate demise at the beginning of 2002.

North American Touring Car Championship
Championships: 1 (1997)
Wins: 12

The North American Touring Car Championship (NATCC) was an extremely short-lived support series for the CART PPG IndyCar World series between 1996-97 which featured various automobile makes competing under the Super Touring format.

The series was co-founded by Gerald Forsythe, whom put his hired hand in charge of the series from its Tampa offices. And although it was a fun series to watch, having seen I-T both years at Portland International Raceway... The series struggled to attract competitors, with only 11-12 participants during its inaugural season, slipping to just 9-10 competitors in year two before being cancelled...

Drivers
(Years/Name/Country)
1996-97  Dominic Dobson; Germany
1996-97  David Donohue; USA

Although for obvious reasons, PacWest was my favourite team on the grid, yet it was more over as Randal, Thy Moniker King 'O No Fenders would say BITCHIN! I just really thought their Dodge Stratuses were Uber kOOL looking!

As PacWest was Dodge's Factory team for the series, which saw both drivers win an equal number of victories, taking six apiece, with Dominic Dobson finishing runner-up in 1996 and fourth in '97.

Meanwhile, David Donohue, the son of the late, GURR-REAT Mark Donohue vaulted from third overall in '96 to capturing the title in year two of the series before venturing off to Sports Car land where he had a very successful career. Culminating with winning the (2009) Rolex 24 most appropriately on the 40th anniversary of his father winning the 24 Hours of Daytona...

Indy Lights
Championships: 1 (2000)
Wins: 9

Although NO introduction's needed regarding what's typically been Thy Indy Cars top Feeder Series, nevertheless, this was the original variant 'O Indy Lights, i.e.; PPG Dayton Indy Lights series which ran from 1991-2001, which I've briefly chronicled previously, as the B-I-G BOYZ' as Thy late Awntie' Harriet enjoyed calling 'em! Nee IndyCar teams supported the series by running Junior teams to groom potential drivers...


Drivers
(Years/Name/Country)
1995  Diego Guzman; Columbia
1996-97  Robby Unser; USA
1998-99  Didier Andre; France
1998  Paul Morris; Australia
1999-2000  Tony Renna; USA
2000  Scott Dixon; New Zealand
2001  Dan Wheldon; UK
2001  Mario Dominguez; Mexico

Had never heard of Columbian Diego Guzman before starting this rant, whom apparently graduated to Lights as the defending Barber Dodge champion. Splitting Seat-time between Dick Simon and PacWest, whom he joined during the latter portion of the season - finishing tied for 13th overall with 'Oh KanaDuhs' Claude Bourbonnais.

Robby Unser, a nine times Pikes Peak winner - had a less than stellar outing the following year, finishing 15th overall. Next, the son of Uncle Bobby' improved one spot in the points chase to 14th overall in his sophomore season with the team.

Fortunes improved vastly for '98 when the team Morphed to a two car operation, with the addition of another two unknown drivers: Frenchman Didier Andre and 'Aussie Paul Morris, for whom presumably was under Andos' influence.

Andre finished an excellent runner-up to somebody known as "Shorty," aka Cristiano da Matta on the back of giving the team its first Clean-sweep weekend at Laguna Seca, capturing Pole, Most laps led and victory! Whilst Morris languished down in 21st before scampering back to Australia Mates! To take up a very successful Tintops career - including forming his own V8 Supercars team.

Andre was joined by the late Tony Renna for the '99 season, with Andre's sophomore campaign somewhat disappointing, finishing eighth overall. While Renna finished 16th.

For Y2k, nee 2000, Kiwi' Scott Dixon switched from Johansson Motorsports to rival PacWest, taking Andre's seat, where Dixon smothered Thy Competizione with six victories en route to the championship title ahead of series runner-up Townsend Bell! Whilst Renna moved quite nicely up thee ladder to finish fifth overall.

Was totally Unawheres' that Thy late Dannyboy SPIKE Wheldon had driven for my past Hometown Squad's Lights concern in the final Dayton Indy Lights season, circa 2001 where he finished runner-up to Townsend Bell with two wins. His team-mate was Mario BOOM-BOOM Dominguez who finished fourth overall.

As CART elected to drop Indy Lights in favour of focusing upon the Toyota Atlantics as their de facto Feeder Series the following year, (2002) PacWest decided to forgo joining them, as perhaps the die was already cast for the team's impending demise...

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