Jay Stoops took the pole Saturday, March 15, with the third fastest time ever run at Road Atlanta. There was a small gap between him and No. 2 Scott McKay, but the entire field was nose to tail behind McKay. It was going to be a tight race. One back marker grumbled, “I qualified one second off my personal record, a time that used to make me a podium contender. Today I’m 18th of 22. Sheeze.”
A family affair, the pack of Spec E30 included two Pattons, Robert and Laura (Parkhurst), two Harnesses, Michael and Matt, two Palacios Julio and son Eric, and two Whitingers, Ryan and son Aaron, fresh from competition school.
Saturday’s race turned into two fighting packs of eight to 10 cars. The race was shortened by half due to a mishap not involving Spec E30, but the tight groups made for very exciting racing. Sandro Espinosa took the checkers followed by Scott McKay, with Eric Palacio on his bumper.
There were unsubstantiated rumors that Spec E30 continued their Saturday night celebrations at a local Mexican restaurant, where they first helped in the kitchen, then helped at the bar, and then helped run the register.
Those camping in the paddock were awakened Sunday morning by rain hammering on trailers. The older racers had swapped to rain tires and disconnected rear sway bars under the setting sun of the evening prior. The older racers enjoyed their morning coffee while the younger racers learned wisdom, soaking wet and shivering, as they swapped to rain tires, and crawled under cars to disconnect sways.
Sunday’s qualifying was a difficult affair with standing water on the straights, rivers running across several high speed turns, and walls ready to collect for an error. The spray from nearby cars reduced visibility to brake lights surrounded by gray. A Spec E30 hydroplaned into a wall before the first turn. Control threw the checker after only one green lap. Ryan Whitinger got pole, followed by Sandro Espinosa and David Walsh.
Mother Nature is a Spec E30 fan too. Hours of rain through the morning sapped the enthusiasm of the paddock and some left for home. The more optimistic souls were rewarded, though, by a break in the rain an hour before the race. With no standing water or rivers, 15 Spec E30s took the green. The walls of Road Atlanta make it very unforgiving in the wet, yet the Spec E30 field conducted a fine workshop of hard, close racing while adjusting brake points and sliding through turns on the wet surface. Ryan Whitinger and Sandro Espinosa held their first and second positions from green to checker, while Jay Stoops moved up several positions to take third.