Hannah Grisham continued to show the NASA SoCal Spec Miata field that she can lay down some fast laps in qualifying, which put her on pole position for the start of Saturday’s race at Buttonwillow Raceway in April.
At the green flag, Justin Crickenberger got a healthy jump from P2 and took the lead as the field exited Turn 3. Grisham said she didn’t get the push at the start from Ryan Pond behind her. Crickenberger led from that point on, but the race was anything but a gimme.
Grisham bided her time and when she attempted to put a pass on Crickenberger, she lost pace, and that’s when Pond pounced and passed her to take second place.
“It’s a tough track to pass on half the track in a 1.6 car,” Pond said. “I kind of had to be strategic. I knew I could be a little quicker through some corners, and it was all about timing that.”
Pond then set his sights on Crickenberger and on the last corner on the last lap, he was close enough to make a move. Pond dived to the inside as Crickenberger took advantage of the outside line and the two drag-raced to the finish line. The finish was too close to call with your eyes. The timing system showed that Crickenberger was the winner, with Pond in second and Grisham third.
For Sunday’s qualifying race, the field was inverted at the front, with cars within 2.1 seconds of the fastest car inverted. The second half of the field was inverted by Saturday’s finish from 2.2 seconds on back.
Grisham scored pole position and scampered to Turn 1 in the lead. From that point on, she put on a clinic on extending her lead. While the field sorted out behind her, Grisham jumped out to a big lead, which was 5 seconds over second place by lap four. Just a few laps more and she had put a 10-second gap on the rest of the field.
“I started on pole and I got out of the first turn in first, and after that they were fighting, so I took advantage of it and tried to get the biggest gap I could,” Grisham said afterward. “It worked out in my favor and after that it was pretty much just me the whole time. Not the most exciting race as we’ve had, but. …”
Eventually, Pond reeled in Crickenberger and passed him to take second place, but by then, Grisham was long gone. Crickenberger had never raced on the No. 1 CCW configuration in use that day, which makes his third-place finish all the more notable.
“I have never been (on this track configuration) and had some electrical issues, so I missed practice, which is pretty valuable to me, and so qualifying was my first session out to try to learn the track, so I started a little farther back,” he said. “In the beginning it was all about getting forward, and then trying to settle down. I didn’t get as far forward as I’d like, but it worked out well.”