The final round of NASA’s 944 Spec Midwest and Great Lakes region championship took place October 5 at Putnam Park Raceway in Meridian, Indiana. A combination of wet and dry conditions made for outstanding racing.
Dan Piña earned pole for race one after laying down a sub-lap-record flier, followed by Neal Agran and Ray Freundt. A hard rain between qualifying and the green flag left the racetrack soaked, but drying. Add in being gridded behind PTE and Spec E30 in a single-start wave, and you have the recipe for an epic first lap.
Agran and Piña rose to the challenge, dueling each other through the entire Spec E30 field within a half lap, in what can only be described as a high-speed chess match (see video link https://vimeo.com/76768738). Agran and Piña traded the lead several times through Turn 4, at which point Piña gained the advantage while Agran was pinned on the dry line by traffic and a spinning car. Piña’s lead was short lived, as he was caught out by the tricky conditions at the entrance to Turn 8 and took an excursion through the grass, reentering in second. Freundt and Barton engaged close behind in a similar nose-to-tail battle, each gaining seven positions through the pack in the first lap.
Piña spent the next 30 minutes on a mission, attempting to close on Agran, but came up five seconds short of a Cinderella story at the flag, as Agran held on for the win. Freundt ultimately took third by a six-second gap due to superior pace in the closing laps.
For Race two, Piña again started from the pole, followed by Agran, Freundt, Barton, Chhikara, Blazquez, Brewster, and Briggs. Piña emerged with the lead from the Turn 1-2 complex, followed closely by Agran, with Barton and Freundt in a fight for third.
Agran remained glued to Piña’s bumper throughout the 30-minute race, making occasional pass attempts on the outside of Turn 1 and Turn 8. Piña’s pace and defensive line kept Agran at bay. The race for third was no less exciting, with Barton eventually getting a run on Freundt in Turn 10 and slipping past on the front straight.
As the race wound down to the final two laps, Piña was tagged by a spinning back marker Miata in a true heartbreaker. After defending against Agran so successfully, a rubbing rear tire forced him to the pits as the white flag waved. Agran navigated past the spinning car successfully, taking a bittersweet white and then checkered flag. The retiring Piña handed Barton second, followed closely by Freundt in third.
Agran was crowned champion in the Midwest, followed by Eric Kuhns and Angel Blazquez.