Honda Challenge Southeast Takes on the High Banks of Daytona

The Saturday H2 podium at Daytona International Speedway in October saw (from left) Rob Oxford in third place, Brent Bauer in first and Daniel Madamba in third. Trophy girl Jessica ably filled in for the cardboard cutout of Taylor Swift.

Garages, RV camping and open paddocks spots were full of racers from many NASA regions, and as it turns out, this was great preparation for the 2021 Championships. To those who didn’t make it to this event, please put the 2021 NASA Championships on your bucket list! We had the pleasure of NASA Mid-Atlantic Honda Challenge racers joining NASA Southeast for some steep-bank, high-speed fun this weekend. Their philosophy of #trackthats&*t instead of street racing has taken hold with the Mid-Atlantic Honda/Acura owners and has created a great following at their events. I think they may even sell those T-shirts. Check it out.

H1 class was led by the pole setter Jeffrey Bankston, followed by Daniel Madamba, Brent Bauer, Justin Culbert and Rob Oxford. Bauer had raced H2 for many years but recently changed to a faster motor, then could not add enough ballast and extra fuel to make minimum weight to remain in H2. So — with a little encouragement — he decided to race without any extra weight, keep the faster motor and just race in H1.

H2 was led by the pole sitter Christopher Michaels, followed by Karl Kondor, Ryan Bradfield, Micheal Young, John Reamer, Skip Woody and Michael Kramer. Mysteriously Kramer’s transponder was not recording qualifying laps, so he had to start at the back. John Reamer is just now returning to racing from his back surgery a few years ago, but the high speed of Daytona blew off the cobwebs quickly.

All 12 Honda Challenge cars started in the third wave behind Spec E46. They are a self-paced wave, so it is up to the lead cars to set the gap and the pace before the green flag. As we all sat on grid waiting for the race to start, moisture in the air got heavy and decided to wet the track. As we left grid, Bankston’s car went into limp mode, and as he sat on pit lane with the field going by, he was trying to clear the code by restarting the car. With everyone on slicks and the uncertainty of grip, we began the warm-up lap trying to get heat in the tires and find what level of grip to expect once we went green.

Like traffic on the highway, when you follow a pace car, the group tends to bunch up, then spread out, then bunch up and stop. We were on the steepest part of the banking and came to a complete stop. As we sat there, it literally felt like the car was about to lose grip and slide sideways all the way to the apron. Once we began moving again we tried to bunch up nose to tail, side by side. It didn’t turn out that great, but we made it work. The green flag started waving, Daniel Madamba glanced away, allowing Brent Bauer to take off with an easy lead going into Turn 1.

As we entered Turn 1, and 2 there were cars spun out from the first and second waves, we had to work through before the real racing started. Christopher Michaels and Karl Kondor wasted no time working their way through the back of the H1 class putting a gap on the rest of the H2 cars. Brent Bauer and Daniel Madamba began their battle for the lead in H1 now that Jeffrey Bankston was out after the first lap. Justin Culbert and Rob Oxford were not far behind the leaders followed close by the rest of the H2 field.

As soon as they all exited the infield and onto the banking, they were a little hesitant about going flat out on the damp banking. The back straight seemed to have the most rain with a little overspray coming off the tires, so you began to second-guess the grip in the brake zone of the “Bus Stop.” A little twitch is all that was there, so it turned out there was not as much water on the track as we thought. On lap two, Justin Culbert went four-off in the Bus Stop and got stuck in the mud, ending his race. A few more laps into the race, John Reamer, now known as The Dude, pulled off a great move on Ryan Bradfield in The Kink, passing him on the inside then sliding over midtrack just in time to pass a slower-class ST Miata.

Toward the end of the race, Skip Woody and Ryan Bradfield passed an ST5 car right before The Bus Stop. Several cars ahead of them checked up, and the chain reaction forced them to check up, resulting in Ryan Bradfield getting tapped in the rear, spinning them both into the grass. Once Ryan Bradfield stopped sliding, the other car slid into his front corner, ending the race for both of them.

John Reamer narrowly escaped, avoiding their spin, and then Micheal Young threaded a needle between John Reamer and two other cars to move ahead. Now Skip Woody picked up the pace and caught the H1 tail end with Micheal Young, John Reamer and Michael Kramer on his heels. With an early checkered flag, Brent Bauer took the win in H1 followed by Daniel Madamba in second and Rob Oxford in third. In H2, Christopher Michaels took the win with Karl Kondor in second and Skip Woody in third.

On Sunday, we started behind Spec E46 again, but in wave two with a dry track. H1 pole setter Jeffery Bankston and Brent Bauer ran side by side through Turn 1, but Bankston pinched Bauer on the exit sending him through the dirt. But that did not stop Bauer. A few laps into the race, Bankston went into Turn 3 too hot and went off track and all the way to the back of the field. Brent Bauer was then in the lead and running away from the rest of the field. Rob Oxford and Justin Culbert were rounding out the top three while Jeffrey Bankston was playing catch-up.

Rob Oxford could not even see Brent Bauer, got stuck behind a slower car then out of nowhere Justin Culbert mad the pass on the front straight. A lap later, Jeffrey Bankston also passed Rob Oxford and hunted down Justin Culbert with the white flag out. At the checkered flag, Brent Bauer took the win followed by Jeffrey Bankston in second and Justin Culbert in third.

In H2, Christopher Michaels and Karl Kondor jumped out to lead the pack, followed close by John Reamer, Ryan Bradfield, Skip Woody, Michael Kramer and Micheal Young. Kramer tapped Young at apex Turn 3, Young got sideways, put four wheels off but came right back on track and they continued their race. Going into the Bus Stop, Michael Kramer spun and tapped the tire wall — not hard but contact was made. He got going quickly, but the entire field was so far ahead and he was unsure how bad the damage was, so he drove to the paddock.

On Sunday, it was Christopher Michaels(center) on top in H2, with Karl Kondor in second. Justin Culbert finished third, though he is not shown in this photo.

On lap four, it was Micheal Young’s turn as he spun at the Bus Stop — no contact, but as he watched the field go by, he decided to come in early, too. Christopher Michaels and Karl Kondor had checked out, but at some point Karl Kondor mowed some grass, allowing Christopher Michaels to slip away. Skip Woody, John Reamer and Ryan Bradfield continued to swap places all determined to claim the last podium spot. At the checkered flag Christopher Michaels took the win followed by Karl Kondor in second and Ryan Bradfield in third.


Image courtesy of Bill Land

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