The points race in the SoCal Spec Miata was heating up along with the summer temperatures when the field converged at Buttonwillow Raceway in June. Coming off a DQ for avoidable contact at Auto Club Speedway, Hannah Grisham trailed Ryan Pond and Justin Crickenberger upon arrival at Buttonwillow.
Notching the top time in qualifying on Saturday, Grisham started from pole and jumped into the lead, but lost it to Pond on the first lap. She trailed him for several laps, then passed him into the Sunset turn to retake the lead. However, a couple of out-of-class cars had run off track, bringing out a full-course caution, which created a green-white-checkers finish. Grisham held on to take the win.
“This one was a fun a race,” Grisham said. “We got the yellow, so I was a little bit scared for that, because I figured we’d only have a lap or two after that. So, we lined up and I just got the best jump I could coming out of that last straightaway for the single-file restart, and that was about it. Ryan was fighting with people behind him.”
Pond admitted to being careful during the race, waiting for the heat to force a mistake from Grisham. That mistake never came, and Pond finished second.
“I should have just raced hard, and I think I could have made a run for it,” Pond said. “I thought I might try to take advantage of the restart, but again, I was kind of being careful, and that’s kind of why I ended up second. Maybe I deserved that.”
When the caution came out, Eric Slivkoff put his car out in clean air to cool it down a bit. He had been dicing back and forth with Blake Minasian and nipping at the heels of Pond and Grisham, and the heat was hurting his car.
“As soon as that caution came out, I got a chance to drive off line, get some open air, cool down the car,” Slivkoff said. “And then unfortunately we only had two more laps after that, but the caution gave me the extra oomph to run away from fourth and fifth.”
Sunday’s qualifying race featured a new inversion method in which every three cars were inverted from Saturday’s finish. That put Slivkoff on pole for the qualifying race and Grisham in third. Pond remained in second place. The “three by three” inversions continued that way throughout the field. When the checkers flew, Grisham had the win and pole position for Sunday’s main race.
With fresh brake pads and a more aggressive approach to the race, Pond jumped ahead of Grisham early on and maintained his position. Shortly after taking the lead, his car developed a misfire or a fuel starvation issue in right-hand turns. Pond kept the lead the whole time, defending his position, but lost it on the white flag lap to Grisham who went on to win. Pond finished second.
“I was just kind of limping and trying to survive, and it ended up being a fun battle,” Pond said. “It was all clean, but it wasn’t a good way to hold someone back for so long, and eventually she did get me. She earned it and it was a good result. My car was struggling.”
Grisham said Pond was defending really well, but eventually she found a way around him.
“I think that was one of our best races yet,” she said. “On the white-flag lap, I got a good run on him coming onto the front straightaway. I went down to the inside and he just braked a little bit too late, got a little loose on the exit and I went right under him going into Turn 2 and that was that.”
For the last step on the podium, Slivkoff and Minasian again were going back and forth the entire race, swapping positions almost as many times as there were laps. This time, Minasian pulled off a pass in the last corner on the last lap and beat Slivkoff in a photo finish at the line.
“It was an awesome race,” Minasian said. “We were going back and forth the whole time, leaving it all out there, and I ended up getting him in a drag race at the end. It was a lot of fun.”