Race Three started on a very wet track, and the race was interrupted by a full-course caution due to contact early on. 

NASA Southeast returned to Road Atlanta for its June event. There’s always a little extra excitement for Spec Miata racers when racing at such a fun, challenging, and iconic track. Twenty-four Spec Miatas took to the track for qualifying Saturday morning. Raiden Nicol had the fastest lap time of 1:45.042, securing pole position for Saturday’s race.

In race one, the front row consisted of Nicol and Spencer Lofton, followed by Southeast points leader Capers Zentmeyer and Teen Mazda Challenge driver Dean Dybdahl in row two. The race start was clean as Nicol remained out front through Turn 1 while Lofton and Zentmeyer followed behind. Those top three stayed in a nice line and slowly pulled away from the pack, creating a gap behind them. They seemed to be settling in for the long haul when Nicol went four-wheels off to the inside of Turn 10 on lap three. He quickly recovered back onto the track, but Lofton and Zentmeyer passed him with more momentum up the hill out of Turn 10b.

Lofton was now out front, Zentmeyer in P2, and Nicol in P3. The front three continued to push ahead, keeping within a car length or closer of one another. On lap five, the group caught a much slower car in Turn 7. As they worked to get around, Nicol and Zentmeyer made contact, turning Zentmeyer around and hitting hard into the inside wall. Zentmeyer wasn’t injured, but his car was not driveable.

Spencer Lofton leads Raiden Nicol through the esses in race one on Saturday.This brought out a full-course caution, thus bunching up the field. Lofton was in front followed by Nicol, Yan Dia, Brandon Sloan and Dybdahl. Racing resumed with two laps to go. Nicol made a move to the inside of Turn 1 and took over the lead. Later in the same lap, Lofton made a move to the inside of Turn 10a, passing Nicol and regaining the lead. On the next lap, they would again get side by side in Turn 10 and race to the finish line.

Just behind them, Sloan, Dia, Keith Williamson and Dybdahl also were mixing it up. Dia and Sloan were side by side as they headed down Turn 12, as was Williamson and Dybdahl. It was a close and exciting finish for sure. After a review of the incident on lap five, Nicol was penalized and repositioned behind Zentmeyer in the final results. This left Lofton with the win, Sloan in P2, Dia in P3, Williamson in P4, and Dybdahl in P5.

Racers awakened Sunday morning to the fresh sound of rain falling from the sky. The rain slowed before the race started, but the track was definitely wet. Zentmeyer and his crew worked most of Saturday evening and into Sunday repairing his car from Saturday’s wreck. It wasn’t easy, but their hard work paid off as Zentmeyer sat on the pole for Sunday’s race. Nicol had the second fastest time from Saturday’s race and started on the outside of row one.

Nicol wasted no time making a move on the outside of Turn 1, taking an early lead ahead of Zentmeyer up the hill towards turns 2 and 3. The order was now Nicol, Zentmeyer, and Lofton. Those top three crossed the finish line in the same order through the entirety of the race. But they were not just doing laps. It didn’t take long for the Spec Miata field to catch the tail end of the Spec E30 group, just adding to the complexity of racing on a wet track.

Farther back, the man on the move was Peter Rigg, showing his rain skills by picking off positions one by one as he moved forward from the back. Rigg started 24th and moved up 19 positions during the race! Although Nicol crossed the finish line in first place, it was another tough day for him, receiving a disqualification due to contact with an out-of-class car during the race. The final results were Zentmeyer with the win, Lofton in P2, Sloan in P3, Williamson, P4, and Rigg in P5.

Thunderstorms moved in after the morning race and threatened cancellation due to lightning in the area. The track was “quiet” for much of the morning to ensure drivers and workers were safe. Eventually, if not ironically, the lightning subsided and gave way for the Lightning run group to race safely. Zentmeyer and Sloan started on the front row.

When the green flag dropped, spray from the tires made it difficult to see for most of the field. Dia gave Zentmeyer a push into Turn 1 and remained in the lead. Sloan and Williamson got a run on the outside and filed in behind the leader. As they entered the Esses, Sloan lost traction and began to spin. With nowhere to go, Williamson hit Sloan, sending them both off track to the left. Williamson managed to drive away with mostly cosmetic damage. However, Javiar Laurnaga also went off track, slid and collided with Sloan against the tire barrier.

This set a full-course caution in place as workers attended to both drivers. When racing resumed, Rigg and Lofton were ready to pounce. Both made rain racing look easy as they moved up through the field. The race ended after just two more green-flag laps. The final result was Zentmeyer in P1, Rigg in P2, Lofton in P3, Griffin in P4, and Dia in P5. Rigg was recognized with the hard charger award for starting last in both Sunday races, then finishing in the P5 and P2. Well done!



No. 123 Brandon Sloan and Dean Dybdahl both finished in the top five for Saturday’s race. It was Dean’s first time at Road Atlanta.
Image courtesy of James Voss

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