With cool mornings and warm afternoons, the 2016 Turkey Trot at Carolina Motorsports Park felt more like a race weekend in the spring.
On Saturday, Jason Ball led the six-car Spec Miata field with a 1:54.635 lap to qualify P1, with Griffith Hawk, fresh out of Friday’s competition school, in P2, and James Harrell in third.
There seemed to be more drama before the race than during it. James Harrell, who put in a strong qualifying performance, missed the race due to family matters. Bayani Dia lost a transmission in morning practice and had to start at the back of the pack after failing to qualify. With his car repaired, Dia made it to grid just before the five-minute call. At the drop of the green flag, Jason Ball and John “The Hammer” Palazzolo set out to distance themselves from Dia, who was charging to the front after a great start. However, by lap two, Dia took over second place from Palazzolo. Then in lap three, Ball lost grip and brakes in Turn 11, leaving the racing circuit and allowing Dia to take over the lead. With three laps down, it was now Dia in front, Pallazzolo in second, and newcomer Griffith Hawk in third. Midway through the race, positions did not change with exception to Ball, who dug in and continued to track down the leaders. With a few laps remaining, Ball took his strong 1.6 car past Hawk to capture third. During post-race impound, Palazzolo was DQ’d for a technical infraction, changing the finishing order to Dia in first, Ball in second and Griffith Hawk in third.
When Sunday rolled around, qualifying times were lower due to the early time slot and brisk cool South Carolina air. Dia secured P1 with a 1:54.134, followed closely by Ball with a 1:54.450 and Hawk with a 1:54.660.
At the drop of the green, Dia set off and never looked back for the entire race. Ball had a fantastic start and jumped to second while Hawk and Harrell pursued. At the beginning of race, the top four cars worked together to try to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Ball continued to apply pressure to Dia, wanting to change the outcome from the day before. However, that didn’t last.
Midway through the race, Ball briefly passed Dia in Turn 14, but then missed a shift on the front stretch allowing Dia and Hawk to get around him. After 18 laps of clean racing, Dia secured the win by two car lengths, with Griffith Hawk finishing P2 in only his second ever race, and Ball finishing a tight third.