NASA Central Region returned to Mid-America Motorplex April 26-28 for the second event of 2014. The weekend kicked off with round one of the Service Automotive Endurance Series on Friday evening, and the regular format of HPDE, Time Trials and Racing Saturday and Sunday.
For the second year in a row, the Team Cohn Mazda Miata took the win in E3 and the overall win, this time driven solo by returning NASA driver Crispin Beaver, who started with NASA in 2007 at age 13. Second in E3 was the Team UBR Miata of Tom Lutker and Mark Adams, followed by Team Spec, the newly acquired Miata of Steve Wilson, co-driven by NASA Central Race Director Joel Karns. First in E1 was the newly built Boxster of Team Rennsport KC, driven by Mike Armentrout and Karl Wilen. Armentrout made his NASA debut in this race and drove a great race to second overall.
For the first race Saturday, four American Iron drivers took the green in the Thunder race, which included ST1 and SU racers. The No. 75 Team UBR Mustang driven by Mark Adams started from pole with teammate Jim Thomas, AI newcomer Jeff Demetri and Ted Johnson close behind. Thomas made an early pass for the lead, with Demetri challenging on numerous occasions. In the end, Thomas won and Demetri settled for second after suffering late-race fuel-pickup problems. After a late spin, Adams pulled off a new track record and recovered to nab third. The AI drivers raced close the entire time, only getting separated due to lapped cars. Sam Mangiameli won ST1 in his rotary-powered Diasio by a large margin after great three-car battle between Mark Kirby and Steve Myers. Kirby led most of the way till an off dropped him to third behind Myers. It was an epic battle of power vs. handling!
Spec Miata saw Dillon Dexter on pole with Warren Dexter in second, followed by Tom Lutker and Darren Hofmann, making up an unusually small Spec Miata grid. Warren made a pass on the opening lap in Turn 5 to take the lead and went on to win. Dillon Dexter was second, followed by an ever speedier Lutker and an improving Hofmann.
The Sunday forecast was 100 percent chance of thunderstorms, lightning and tornadoes as part of a wide band of storms that rumbled through the Midwest. As it started to rain about 7:45 a.m., drivers started to abandon ship because it was going to rain all day.
The Lightning and Thunder race groups were combined into one since time was at a premium, with the organizers eager to ensure they got the race in before the weather got worse. As it was, track activities were eventually canceled for the day at 11 a.m. due to track and paddock flooding, nonstop rain and lightning.
Cars were gridded by fast lap from Saturday’s race and 15 brave souls headed out to race. Leaving pit lane, proving just how slick it was, Adams spun away his AI class pole, recovering on the pace lap in the midst of the PTE class. The race was supposed to last 30 minutes, but due to lightning it was stopped after seven laps. There were no complaints about stopping early.
At the green, Mangiameli took off into the distance and won ST1 followed by Steve Myers who was in survival mode. Thomas took advantage and won AI over a recovered Adams and Demetri. Johnson had a master switch failure while getting ready to head to grid and missed the call.
In PTE, Westcott got away at the green while Cohn, Lanning and Whitney duked it out for second through fourth. And what a fight it was. All three held all three spots at one time or another in those seven laps! In the end, it was Westcott followed by Cohn and Lanning. Team Ecurie Gregory tore through the field in their PTF VW Golf and dogged Westcott for most of the race. It was a riot to watch a well-driven PTF car tear through the PTE field and look for a way by the PTE leader.
The Sunday rain race was great because some Spec Miata racers quickly passed many of the higher horsepower cars, climbing farther up the grid than they had a normal right to be. Kind of gives you an idea of how much rain there was. Warren made a pass on Dillon for the Spec Miata lead in Turn 3 when Dillon got loose and made some mud pies. Later Warren had his chance at an off-track mud-making excursion at Turn 6, dropping to last in class. He raced hard and made up a bunch of ground, eventually finishing third. Lutker was the only Spec Miata with rain tires and he put them to good use, ran quick times and made it close at the checkers, where the order was Dillon Dexter, Lutker, Warren Dexter and Hofmann.