When the Spec Miata field converged on Willow Springs International Raceway in March, the question was what effects the recent refurbishing of the racing surface would have.
The answer was: not much. Justin Crickenberger qualified on pole, followed by Hannah Grisham and Rob Burgoon.
At the start, Turn 1 was a little chaotic with 16 cars jostling for position, but they all came through cleanly, and the race was on. Burgoon, Grisham and Crickenberger established a gap on the rest of the field and battled among themselves. Grisham and Crickenberger began drafting to get away from Burgoon.
“About halfway through the race, I realized I really goofed with my tire pressures when my tires just checked out on me,” said Burgoon, who finished third. “But it’s really nice to be back on the podium. Third is pretty all right given how poorly last year went.”
With five laps left, Grisham got around Crickenberger and played defense to keep him behind her.
“We were drafting, trying to pull away from Rob, and then on the last lap I was careful, protected a little bit on the inside,” Grisham said. “On the last turn, he tried to make a move, but I didn’t let it happen.”
After the race, Crickenberger was eager for more.
“It got a little chaotic in Turn 1 with everyone trying to get their positions … because the draft is really, really important here,” he said. “Luckily enough I came through pretty well, and teamed up with Hannah and we just kind of walked away, and it was a good fight between me and her, so it was a lot of fun. I look forward to doing it again.”
For Sunday, the main race was gridded according to the finish of a qualifying race Sunday morning. Crickenberger got the lead off the start and Grisham set about drafting to get ahead. Burgoon again was looking to strike from third.
As the race continued, due to a lack of space between the classes at the start, out-of-class 944 Spec traffic came into play. Crickenberger and Grisham essentially checked out from the rest of the field. As they separated from the rest of the pack, they focused on battling each other.
“We kind of caught traffic so that kind of helped us divide me and Hannah from the rest of the group, which helped out a lot because I only had one car to worry about,” said Crickenberger, who finished second again. “She ran a really great race. It was really right. At some points, I don’t know if you could have put a piece of paper between us.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Pond had worked his way forward from midpack, through 944 Spec traffic to take third place away from Burgoon.
“I started seventh, and I feel like I just picked off one by one,” Pond said. “It was a blast, a lot of good racing. I passed Rob in 1 and he was side by side with me through 2 and through 3, he got me back because he had the inside. Up through the Omega there’s only room for one and the inside line won, which was me, and I just kept him behind me for the last lap and got third.”
Grisham also initiated her late-race pass on Crickenberger in Turn 1, ran side by side with him on the outside in Turn 2 and had the inside line for Turn 3, where she made the pass stick.
“That’s how I got around him,” she said, “and by that time we only had like a lap or two left, and I protected my line and that was pretty much it.”