Honda Challenge Presented by Honda Performance Development is exploding in the Northeast. Anticipation is big, car counts are up and a subtle rivalry is brewing over … car color? What started as a joke on Facebook has become common knowledge throughout the region, #redteam , #whiteteam. This year’s driver lineup features last year’s regulars, the return of two drivers from sabbatical, a convert from another spec series and four rookies. Northeast series leader Spencer Anderson couldn’t wait for the season to unfold.
“The larger car count this year and the Nationals race on the East Coast have amped up the usual preseason excitement,” said Anderson.
Recent convert Michael Maduske, who joined NASA in 2006 after a successful circle track career, spent time racing a 944 and Spec E30 before making the jump to Honda Challenge.
“Having a manufacturer like Honda supporting grassroots racing really allows the competitors to feel connected to the manufacturers they race for,” he said. “Not to mention their contingency program is unlike any other manufacturer-supported program out there.”
Michael Fries started in HPDE in 2005 and ran his first race in 2007. The last few years he has been running H1, but has switched cars and is running H2 for 2014.
The Casella brothers, Brian and Robert, are also returning to HC2 with Integra Type R’s. Robert, who was absent in 2013 while building a new Type R, is the youngest of the H2 crew, but is determined to make his mark this year.
NASA member since 2002, and 2006 HC5 Champ, Zephyr Belski returns to HC2 after an almost two-year absence.
“Despite having to take the past season off and run a very abbreviated season in 2012, I’m very excited to be racing with Northeast Honda Challenge in 2014 with what looks to be our most well subscribed season,” he said.
The April weekend was the first comp school of 2014 for the Northeast. Students Jeff Szymczyk, Jan Wang, Steve Smith and Taku Kudo all will be joining Honda Challenge, with Lenny Hong coming along in the next regional competition school.
At the 2014 season opener at New Jersey Motorsports Park, with the new Toyo RR series tire, the H2 class track record was quickly broken. At the start, nine HC2 cars took the green. Polesitter Anderson led from start to finish, breaking the track record with a 1:15.30. Olson (1:15.45) and Casella (1:15.40) followed with record-breaking times. Michael Fries took home a third after Casella’s mechanical failure halfway through the sprint.
Due to attrition, seven HC2 starters took the green Sunday. Anderson again held the pole, but after an off-track excursion at the halfway point, he headed to the paddock. After swapping positions for six laps, Olson took the podium followed by Brian Casella and Fries.