Seven drivers battled at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in Desert Center, Calif., to kick off the 2014 NASA racing season.
Steven Stepanian, the SoCal Spec E30 Regional Champion, began the season with a rough start, having a mechanical problem that could not be fixed at the track. However, he was able to borrow the 00 car for the weekend, leaving six cars in the field.
As the green flag dropped, Ken Pearson managed to get in front of Allan Hauser and hold the lead for the first two laps. Hauser eventually passed Pearson to take the lead. Pearson stayed close to Hauser the best he could, but at the checkered flag, Hauser won by a comfortable three-second margin.
Driving the 00 car for the first time, Stepanian started last and moved up to third place in the first lap. However, during the first two laps he had to contend with the door release cable, which was in a position where his arm would make contact with it and unlatch the driver’s door, flinging it open on right turns. The meatball flag brought him in long enough for him to fall back from the pack. Piloting a car he had never driven before, he somehow managed to catch back up. On lap 10, Stepanian passed Mike Mihld and shortly thereafter, passed Sean Aron to regain the fourth-place position. Mihld would follow Stepanian to take the fifth spot away from Aron.
After the race, Mitch Pepper had to forfeit his best career finish of third place for being underweight. Unbeknownst to him, Pepper also had set the Spec E30 track record, which he also had to forfeit. Allan Hauser’s new “Double-mint” green paint job would prove lucky as he claimed the new track record with a 2:08.897!
Sunday’s race start was hectic, but clean as the racers dove into turns 1 and 2 about an inch apart on all sides. Hauser took the lead and then dropped the field, resetting his own track record with a 2:08.405. Pearson and Pepper battled for second, with Pepper holding the spot until lap five, when Pearson found the opening he was waiting for. Pearson then drove with one eye on his mirrors for the rest of the race. Pepper finished just 1.2 seconds behind. Pepper made weight this time and passed the post-race inspection to finally claim his first Spec E30 podium finish!
The weekend provided some great racing and tons of fun with NASA drivers of all types, as well as with those from the Arizona region!