April marked NASA Southeast’s Spring Brake event at Roebling Road Raceway. April Fools was the perfect day for old tires to be grippy and new tires to be slippery. New tires usually add confidence and quicker lap times, but the newer surface at Roebling favored old tires. So, using 12-heat-cycle Toyo RR tires, Yan Dia set the pole with a time of 1:22.766.
With rain looming in the sky, race one didn’t disappoint in terms of action throughout the field. At the front, Dia and Keith Williamson led the field to the green flag. The inside row got a great start, allowing Dia to remain in the lead through Turn 1, while Capers Zentmeyer and Jeremy Barnes pressed the inside lane, shuffling Williamson back to P4. On lap two, the NA duo of Zentmeyer and Barnes worked together and drafted past Dia along the front stretch. The three ran together for several laps, with Dia eventually pushing Barnes to the lead on lap eight. That lead would prove to be short lived as Barnes lost traction and slid four wheels off in Turn 5.
Dia regained second place and Williamson closed in on the bumper of Barnes, who was recovering back onto the track. Now it was Zentmeyer in the lead followed by Dia, Barnes and Williamson. Clear track was nowhere to be found as all three lightning classes were now dancing together, and Mother Nature sprinkled in a little rain just to keep things interesting. With two laps to go, Dia moved into P2 after Barnes got hung on the outside of Turn 4 by slower traffic. When this happened, Williamson challenged for P3, but Barnes closed the door at corner exit.
Just behind them, an epic battle was taking place for P5. Don Elvington, John Palazzolo, Peter Rigg, and Steven Champlin were mixing it up for several laps in a push/pull fashion. With one lap to go, Champlin gave Palazzolo a world-class “shove,” moving him from P7 to P5 along the front stretch. But now taking Turn 1 with more speed, Palazzolo lost traction doing a 360-degree spin between turns 1 and 2. Elvington, Rigg, and Champlin all passed by without further incident except for the hurt pride of Palazzolo. In the end, Zentmeyer won, with Dia in P2, Barnes in P3, Williamson in P4, and Elvington in P5.
The rain cleared out, and Sunday’s Spec Miata race started with a clean and dry track. Barnes sat on the pole after clocking the fastest time from Saturday’s race. Zentmeyer sat alongside him on the front row. The race started clean with Zentmeyer pushing hard to maintain P2. As they came around Turn 9, Zentmeyer was right up on the bumper of Barnes as they exited. Wiggling ever so slightly, Zentmeyer dropped tires off the track and lost control of his car. A quite scary tankslapper whipped him back and forth eventually spinning him around. Somehow this happened without hitting anything.
Charles Lankford also went off track, landing outside of Turn 2 and bringing out a full-course caution. This was a lucky break for Zentmeyer, even though he had lost 12 positions. The caution allowed him to gain his composure and group up tightly with a single-file restart.
At the restart, it would be Barnes in P1, Dia in P2, Champlin in P3, Williamson in P4, and Rigg in P5. When racing resumed, the Spec Miata leaders now found themselves maneuvering through the Spec E30 field. Barnes navigated the obstacles with skilled precision, never losing the lead as he pressed on. Dia moved right along with him, but was never able to gain a position.
Farther back on lap eight, Elvington and Williamson were drafting through Spec E30 traffic, but Williamson lost grip in Turn 1, spinning all the way around in midcorner. Thanks to quick reactions, and probably a little luck, nobody made contact with him — although several spun or took off road treks to avoid.
Meanwhile, Zentmeyer wasn’t giving up. He was in a zone and taking no prisoners as he marched through the field. After almost crashing in lap one, he moved all the way back up to a podium position in the end. Scott Carlisle was another big mover, starting in P20 and finishing in P7, just .015 seconds ahead of eighth place Bill Kring. The race ended with Barnes winning, Dia in P2, Zentmeyer in P3, Champlin in P4 and Rigg in P5.
In race three, the inside row once again got a great start. Barnes remained out front, with Dia tucking in behind him. As they completed lap one, Zentmeyer gave Dia a nice drafting push past Barnes, moving them into P1 and P2 respectively. Not to be bested, Barnes returned the favor next lap, pushing Zentmeryer to the lead and past Dia. Just behind them, Champlin, Williamson, Elvington, and Rigg were battling for P4-P7. Elvington drafted with Williamson past Champlin on the front stretch, but then spun in Turn 1. Bobby Gossett, running close behind and having nowhere to go, tagged Elvington causing damage to both cars.
A few laps later, Williamson suffered engine issues and had to pull off in Turn 5, where he sat for the remainder of the race. While all this was happening, Scott Carlisle was picking off positions and moving toward the front after starting dead last again. He managed to move up 12 positions in all, earning the “Hard Charger Award” for the weekend.
Up front, Barnes pressed Zentmeyer for the entire race. It was close racing at its finest, with two experienced drivers pushing hard, waiting for each other to make a mistake, yet showing mutual respect and never touching or causing an incident. It wasn’t only up front, but close racing happened all throughout the field. Palazzolo and Carlisle, racing for P6/P7, were separated by just .144 seconds. Lankford and Scott Brown crossed the line with just .040 separating them, finishing in P10 and P11 respectively. As for the top five, Zentmeyer picked up another win with Barnes in P2, Dia in P3, Rigg in P4, and Champlin in P5.