NASA Southeast made its second appearance at Atlanta Motorsports Park in March. For those unfamiliar, the circuit was designed by one of Formula One’s premier architects, Hermann Tilke. It’s a fun, yet challenging course with lots of twists, turns, and elevation changes. In qualifying, Capers Zentmeyer showed everyone how it’s done with a pole time of 1:35.468.
Race one started with Zentmeyer and Keith Williamson on the front row. As they took the green flag, Williamson didn’t get the start he wanted as the inside row charged by him through Turn 1. A mistake in Turn 4 allowed one more competitor past him on the inside. By Turn 6, it was now Zentmeyer in P1, Garcia in P2 Jeremy Barnes in P3, Don Elvington in P4 and Williamson falling back to P5. Getting his focus back, Willliamson took back P4 within the next lap.
Barnes, who had never raced this track before, was learning on the job. He tracked Garcia lap after lap until finally getting by him on lap six. A little bit farther back, Bill Kring and Bill Miller were duking it out for P6. They ran nose to tail almost the entire race, with Miller edging out Kring in the end. The final results were Zentmeyer in P1, Barnes in P2, Garcia in P3, Williamson in P4, and Elvington in P5.
A storm moved in overnight, pouring buckets of rain onto the track for race two Sunday morning. While the rain was eventually reduced to a drizzle, race two was wet and slippery. With everyone on rain tires, competitors proceeded somewhat carefully at the drop of the flag. Zentmeyer had the fastest time in Saturday’s Spec Miata race, so he sat on the pole with Barnes to his outside. Everyone made it through Turn 1 cleanly and the top five filed into place quickly.
By lap two, rookie Javier Laurnaga was on the tail of veteran Elvington and battling for P5. As they headed for Turn 1, Laurnaga took the inside and passed Elvington for fifth place. On lap five, Garcia and Williamson had a slow run out of Turn 13. Elvington, on the other hand, got a great run and passed both of them along the “straight,” taking over P3. At the same time, Williamson and Laurnaga went to the inside of Garcia in Turn 1, each moving up a position and shuffling Garcia back to P6. Laurnaga was able to knock off one more position next time round, going to the inside of Williamson in Turn 1. On the next lap, Laurnaga again went to the inside of Turn 1, passing Elvington for P3. Laurnaga proved to be quick in the rain, and a master at passing in Turn 1. This was only Laurnaga’s second race weekend and he already earned his first podium finish! The final results were Zentmeyer in P1, Barnes in P2, Laurnaga in P3, Elvington in P4, and Kring in P5.
For race three, the precipitation held off after the morning race, so the track was still damp in many places, but rain tires were no longer needed. Zentmeyer and Barnes again started from the front row. Water sprayed off the tires as they took the green flag. Yan Dia and Miller got a nice start, moving up several positions within the first few turns. Williamson was in hot pursuit of Garcia for the first couple of laps, staying on his bumper and looking for a place to make a pass. On lap three, Williamson made a bold move to the outside of Turn 10, passing Garcia and taking over P3. Garcia stayed close on Williamson’s tail, until eventually was plagued with engine cut-out issues and faded back some. Behind them, Dia, Jerry Griffin, and Elvington were all in pursuit of a top-five finish. These three were all within less than a second of each other as each lap progressed. On the last lap, this group caught up to Garcia, and a drag race ensued between Dia and Garcia. The two finished side by side at the finish line, where Dia finished ahead with a margin of just .003 seconds between them. Up front, Zentmeyer took his third win, sweeping the race weekend. To put a little icing on the cake, Zentmeyer also set a new track record with a fast lap of 1:35.711. The previous record was 1:35.726. Barnes finished in P2, making that a sweep of second place finishes for him. Williamson finished in P3, Dia in P4 and Garcia in P5.