In May, NASA Southeast visited the fun and curvy Carolina Motorsports Park. With cool and dry conditions, the Miatas headed out Saturday morning for qualifying where Keith Williamson set the pole with a lap time of 1:50.349.
The weather was a bit warmer for the afternoon Lightning race, making the track a little slicker than in qualifying. At the front of the Miata field was Williamson on pole and Jeremy Barnes on his outside. Williamson got a good start when the green flag waved with Barnes tucking behind him by Turn 3. However, Williamson took Turn 4 a little too hot, lost traction, and spun to the inside of the carousel. This put Barnes in the lead, Scott Carlisle in P2, Eric Gerchak in P3, Yan Dia in P4 and John Palazzolo in P5.
As they approached Turn 11, Gerchak pulled to the inside of Carlisle and made a successful pass. As the group was racing through Turn 12, Carlisle got a little too wide, and put four wheels off on the outside of the abusive Turn 14 curbing. This allowed Dia and Palazzolo to drive past him on the front straight. Meanwhile, Williamson wasn’t done after his off-road excursion and was making his way back up to the front. He gained positions on Palazzolo and Carlisle, then started hunting down Dia.
On lap three, the Miata group was now catching the back of the Spec E30 field. Traffic management played its usual role with the NASA Southeast Lightning group. On lap nine, Williamson got a good run on Dia entering Turn 8, pulled to his inside and took the position. The race ended with Barnes in P1, Gerchak in P2, Williamson in P3, Dia in P4 and Don Elvington in P5.
Sunday’s first race started bright and early at 9 a.m. Grid positions were based on best lap times from Saturday’s race. This put Barnes on pole and Gerchak to his outside on the front row. At the start, Carlisle was able to get a slightly better run out of Turn 3 and take the position from Williamson. However, Carlisle broke his transmission on lap three, retiring him from the race.
On lap seven, Williamson and Gerchak battled from turns 11 to 14. Williamson eventually passed Gerchak after getting a good run to the inside of Turn 14. Farther back on the same lap, Elvington and Pallazolo were racing for position when an out-of-class car made an aggressive passing move in the kink, collecting Elvington and Palazzolo in the process. Nobody was hurt, but unfortunately both cars were damaged. The race ended with Barnes winning, Williamson in P2, Gerchak in P3, Dia in P4 and Thomas Genosa in P5.
Sunday’s second race started in the same order as race two. This time, the Miatas fell in line relatively quickly and pretty much remained that way through the race. Barnes didn’t get away so easily this time, though, with the top four cars staying rather close and pressing each other every lap. So while the order was unchanged, each was just waiting for the other to make a mistake.
On the last lap, Gerchak was passing an out-of-class car approaching Turn 12, but the two made contact and spun. With Dia chasing, he also made contact with Gerchak, hitting nose to nose in the middle of Turn 12. Both cars were able to recover and drive away, but this allowed Elvington to pass by before they could get going again. The finishing result was Barnes in P1 yet again, Williamson in P2, Elvington in P3, Dia in P4, and Genosa in P5.