Seventeen Spec E30s arrived at Carolina Motorsports Park on Friday the 13th of May, ready to do battle.
For Sunday’s race, the front two rows, as determined by their qualifying times, were Paul Patrick, Steve Lako, Craig Guthrie and David Walsh. Patrick is always fast, but rarely first. Lako came in first at the 2014 Eastern States Championships, the largest Spec E30 race in history, but then fell victim to a technicality. Air Force Tech Sgt. Craig Guthrie just returned from his seventh deployment overseas. Walsh, the other half of Lako-Walsh Group3 Racing, had some bad luck in Saturday’s race and was racing Sunday with no hood on the car.
Lako got the better start and moved past Patrick. This set the stage for a 40-minute battle for first place. Patrick dogged Lako lap after lap, looking for an opening caused by traffic, or for Lako to make a mistake under relentless pressure. While the pair slowly marched away from the chasers, Lako drove a perfect race, and beat Patrick to the checkered flag by a quarter of a second.
Ryan Whitinger, who had been on 2015 podiums at the Eastern and Western States Championships, moved up one position at the green, and then in the next lap passed Guthrie for fourth, when the latter got caught up in traffic. Walsh retired in lap four, which put Whitinger in third place.
Guthrie worked his way back up to Whitinger and another two-car battle developed. For eight laps, Guthrie, painted on to Whitinger’s rear bumper, tried to create a passing opportunity. All it would take is to fake Whitinger into a slightly slow defensive line that could then be exploited on the next stretch — but the wily veteran showed no weaknesses. In the very last turn of the race, Guthrie dove for the inside, and Whitinger gave his friend the room to make it work if he could. But it was not to be. The pair of them drag raced down the front stretch toward the checkers to claim the last podium position. Whitinger crossed the line first by a margin of only one hundredth of a second.
Over the course of the weekend, there were no full-course yellows, and no Spec E30s were killed in the making of this adventure.