Heartland Park Topeka welcomed NASA members from the Central and Rocky Mountain regions for a combined event May 31 through June 1.
Drivers ran three different courses over the weekend, the 2.1-mile Club Course Saturday, the 1.8-mile Short Course for Saturday night’s Service Automotive Endurance Series race, and the 2.5-mile GP Course on Sunday. Once again this event was a racing fan’s dream, with drag racing Friday night, drifting in the south paddock and on the road course, and a full program on the three-eighths-mile banked dirt oval on Saturday night.
The first Thunder race of the weekend finished with Viper drivers, Mark Kirby and Matthew Miller taking first and second place, with Steve Myers finishing third in his Panoz. Jim Thomas won American Iron over a surprised second place Anthony Dial with Mark Adams and Ted Johnson finishing out the order, both having clutch/transmission trouble and not actually taking the checker. A battle between GTS2 BMW M3s had Rob Hickman pull the win over Christina Werley.
Lightning had 19 participants racing the first day of the weekend. Brett Westcott ran a great race in his Sentra, clinching the win in PTE over an eight-car field. Chris Kopitski in his Sentra took second after blowing his engine three corners from the checkers and limping across the line while Andrew Lanning in his Miata was right behind, taking third. The Dexter brothers shared the same quick blood, with Dillon taking first and Warren taking second in Spec Miata. Tom Lutker wasn’t far behind in third. Billy Pugh won the Legend’s class over Bobby Christiansen and Bryan Poage.
The Service Automotive Endurance Series race took place Saturday at 6:15 p.m. The E3 class was huge, with 10 cars in the class and five of them having a shot at the win. Competition was tight between Team Spec’s Miata and Team Car 54 Where Are You and their Porsche 944, with both completing 106 laps before the race ended. Team Spec edged out the win with a margin of victory of just five seconds! E2 was won by Team Rennsport KC over the Oklahoma Legends car that led the class and overall, till they ran out of fuel, then had a mechanical problem that took a few laps to repair.
Series sponsor Doug Low in his Team Service Automotive Miata and our retiring/moving-far-away race director Joel Karns won E1 in their open top Miata.
Time Trials had a full roster over the weekend, making for some great competition. On Saturday Phil Verhaeghe set the fastest lap in his TT1 Lotus Elise, with a blistering time of 1:22.335. Shawn Larson and Richard Weston took second and third in their Mitsubishi EVO and Porsche GT3 Cup cars, respectively. TT2 had hot competition between Greg Vannucci in his Lotus Exige Cup and Chris Mayfield driving his immaculate BMW M3, with the two swapping the top spot back and forth all day long. Vannucci squeaked out the win by .3 of second!
Bill Pemberton brought his Boss 302 Mustang out to play and won TT3 in the process. Jim Lipari won TTB by a two-second margin with a time of 1:33.051 over a strong six-car field. Jon Eye turned a lap good enough for second and then suffered engine trouble. Jon stuck around all weekend since he had an HPDE student and a friend was volunteering in Tech. Third was Michael Forsythe in his Honda S2000. Quincy Burk, Greg Hagopian and Team Cohn driver Crispin Deaver won TTC, TTD and TTE respectively, with all three setting lap records in the process.
Sunday saw TT1 winner Phil Verhaeghe set the fastest lap of the day again, the only driver breaking into the 30s, recording a time of 1:38.147. Weston came next followed by Larson. Vannucci dominated TT2 without Mayfield to compete against, setting a time of 1:41.502. Todd Wayman was second followed by Mark Melchior. Both were well behind Vannucci. Mayfield dropped a class and won TT3 by 7 seconds over Pemberton and Bob Wayman’s 911. Lipari won TTB on Sunday, nipping Michael Forsythe by less than a second. Bob Jones won TTC in his Mustang, Hagopian took TTD and Mark Milligan won TTE in his Lexus IS300. Oddly he was the lone TTE competitor Sunday, which is a rarity in Central Region.
Jim Thomas scored another victory in American Iron, with Demetri’s brake repair holding on long enough for second and Dail third. Adams and Johnson were DNFs with clutch and transmission problems. Hickman and Werley held a similar race to Saturday with Hickman nabbing his second win of the weekend. Kirby was the winner of the Super Touring class with Mangiameli, his cooling issues fixed from Saturday second. Miller took third.
The Legends class saw Bobby Pugh over Bobby Christensen. In PTE Westcott was flying, finishing a lap ahead of the rest! After a great battle, Wes McCullough and his 944 finished second with Low in third. Spec Miata was another Dexter brothers domination party, only this time brother Warren won over older brother Dillon, with Lutker third.