Sometimes victory is fleeting. Sometimes it comes in waves, and that was the case for NASA SoCal racer Blake Minasian in October, who took home his first and second career wins in one weekend.
Qualifying was a little different. The drivers’ top times determined place on grid for Saturday. The second fastest time determined your grid spot for Sunday’s qualifying race. The system worked just fine, even if Saturday’s main and Sunday’s qualifying races were marred by some argy-bargy at the entrance to Buttonwillow’s oh-so-narrow Esses, but we’re getting ahead here.
Minasian started from third, and Turn 1 was what the French might refer to as a “spectacle de merde.” Cars P4, P5, P6 and P7 got a bit tangled up. Two went off. The two that stayed on got tangled up again and bumped into one of the cars that was trying get back on track, but had not yet put a wheel back on pavement. Three of the four cars crashed out. One of those four continued, the new SoCal Regional Director Mike Collins.
Minasian, Ryan Pond, Rob Burgoon and Steve Champlin were ahead of the meleé, but two stranded cars brought out double-yellows and the pace car for a few laps. When the race resumed, Pond had the lead, followed by Minasian and Burgoon in third, but that’s not how it ended.
“I was just on Ryan’s bumper and trying to be smooth and coming into the Bus Stop on the last lap, I had a good exit speed through there and I ended up passing him right before the entrance to Cotton Corners,” Minasian said. “It was a little sketchy, but it was clean. It was a lot of fun and that was my first win, so I’m super happy about that.”
Pond had been trying to be conservative so as not to screw up the Bus Stop — a turn where bad things can happen — and his exit speed suffered a result.
“I was kind of getting more timid every lap to not screw it up, and lost first place. It’s not always fun to be in first,” Pond said after the race. “I went into the corner decent, but I think too timid, and I was full throttle exiting and he just drove around me, and I just watched it happen.”
Pond finished second with Burgoon in third.
Sunday’s qualifying race saw some more argy-bargy, which resulted in a talking-to, Pond and Champlin missing Sunday’s main and a DQ for Burgoon. Minasian starting second behind Hannah Grisham, who dropped out with a fuel leak on the first lap. That left Minasian up front, all alone turning laps as fast as he could. By the last lap, however, Burgoon had worked his way to the front.
“I did something really stupid in the heat race and deservedly got a DQ for that, so I started from the rear and after a few miscues trying to get through some of the cars in the back half of the field, things quickly opened up and I was able to run some laps the way I wanted to run them, and then the game was trying to run down Blake,” Burgoon said. “So, I don’t know, even though I got roughly to his bumper at the end, I think he probably had something for me at the end, but anytime you’re on the podium, it’s a good time.”
When the checkers flew, Minasian had pulled off his second career win in one weekend.
“I got a great start. I managed to stay out front,” he said. “I just tried to be as smooth as I can, as fast I can and get a big enough gap so there’s no threats, but Rob, who started last, was on my tail almost within and a handful of car lengths by the end, so amazing driving by Rob, but thankfully, I held him off.”
Daniel Verity, whose car was one of the three in the Turn 1 incident the day before, and his team had managed to repair the car and hold on for third place, the first podium for Team BTCR Racing.
“The car ran really well even though we had some damage from yesterday, but the balance was still good,” Verity said. “The grip started to fall off at the end so I had to sacrifice a little bit of my speed just to bring home the podium. This is our first podium ever, so it means a lot to me because we’ve been developing and building this car for multiple years now. So, for us to finally be able to bring home a podium, it really makes us feel like our hard work has is really paying off.”