John Putnam on Top in Honda Challenge 2 at Road Atlanta

These masked men are H2 podium finishers, from left, Jason Scarbrough in third, winner John Putnam and second-place Michael Kramer.

No sooner had the rain moved over Georgia, that a wicked cold front moved in, pushed the rain out and set up great conditions for round three at most everyone’s favorite track, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Saturday morning everyone scraped frost off their windshields and let their cars warm up an extra 15 minutes before they headed to grid for the all racers warmup.

After a long break, they finally went out for qualifying. By then the track had warmed up even though the sun was still behind the clouds, with a consistent cold breeze. Not everyone used a lap timer or radio, so gauging their best time to the rest of the field was a craps shoot even when they could see them ahead or behind. Three of the four H2 cars were all within .05 seconds of each other, and they came in a lap or so early except for one ,who stayed out for one more lap.

It paid off. John Putnam reduced his time by 2.5 seconds that lap, scoring pole for H2, followed by Michael Kramer, Jason Scarbrough, Team Moar Door with Shane Lovely at the wheel. H1 was a solo event for Andrew Hicks because the rest of the H1 crew all had excuses for not being there. We will not bore you with their excuses, but Hicks did set pole for H1!

Saturday’s race grid placed Honda Challenge in the back of the first wave, behind 20 cars in SU, ST2 and ST3 so they were hoping the higher horsepower classes would run away leaving a clear track for racing. On the warmup lap, they were weaving, warming up the tires and tapping the brakes to get them working until they moved in door to door and nose to tail for the start.

They came under the bridge and down the hill toward Turn 12 anticipating the green flag, but it was difficult to see from that far back. The green flag dropped, Hicks and Kramer got a good start, leading Putnam and the rest of the field into Turn 1 and up the hill. Moar Door passed Scarbrough before Turn 1 and they followed the leaders up the hill. Scarbrough got caught behind a slower ST car entering Turn 3, which allowed the Honda Challenge field to gap him through the downhill Esses, but he caught back up by Turn 7.

By this time the power of Hicks and his H1 S2000 pulled away from the H2 field. Putnam got a good drive out of Turn 7 and passed Kramer halfway down the back straight. Moar Door ran out of legs approaching the end of the back straight and Scarbrough closed in under braking, looked at the inside line at Turn 10a, but backed out and got back in line. After they complete lap one, Scarbrough took another look inside of Moar Door, pulled alone side at Turn 1 and slipped past taking back his position then they bump draft up the hill to Turn 3.

As soon as they approached the downhill Esses, the yellow flag was out for a car in the impact zone at Turn 5, which immediately translated to a full-course double-yellow. A Spec Iron backed into the tire wall at track out and cartwheeled once, landing on its feet. The driver was safe. The car did not have as much damage as you would think, and the cage did its job.

The pace car came out and Honda Challenge had 20 cars ahead of them and about 40 Spec Iron, Spec E46 and Thunder Roadsters directly behind them for a huge restart. The safety crew worked fast to get the Spec Iron car on the flatbed and off track. The racers were anticipating the pace car pulling into the pits any minute now and eager to get back to racing.

When the green flag dropped, Honda Challenge was in the middle of Turn 10a and 10b, totally out of sight of the Start/Finish line and relied on radios or the yellows being dropped to know when to go, go, go!

Putnam got a good jump on Kramer, who was in the wrong gear at the restart and fell back 3 seconds. Scarbrough and Moar Door stayed together until a pack of faster cars squeezed Moar Door into the dirt at Turn 3 forcing him to take the grass down the hill before he could safely re-enter the race course at Turn 5. By that, time Scarbrough was long gone.

For the remainder of the race there was lots of close racing, a few cars spinning and even a few more with contact. On the last lap, two cars connected under the bridge at Turn 11, leaving someone’s suspension components on the track, including the wheel and tire. Hicks went under the bridge at Turn 11, noticed a tire rolling down the hill directly in the race line of Turn 12, pulled along the inside and made the pass on the mystery wheel just before the checker and took the win in H1! Picture provided by Hicks onboard video. The H2 winner was John Putnam, with Michael Kramer in second and Jason Scarbrough in third.

Sunday’s weather was a little warmer and beautiful, with plenty of sunshine. In qualifying, all the H2 racers stayed out the full session and Putnam set the pole again followed by Kramer, Scarbrough and Team Moar Door with Melissa Lovely at the wheel. Hicks set the pole for H1. Today the race director shuffled the waves so they were in the back of the third wave for Sunday.

Andrew Hicks had no company at Road Atlanta and took the H1 win at Road Atlanta both days.

The green flag dropped and they all stay door to door and nose to tail through Turn 1 and up the hill to Turn 3 before they went single file. Hicks started in the back of the wave so he could watch all the excitement in H2 but he soon caught up and started picking them off one by one. Toward the end of the race, Hicks tracked down the H2 leader Putnam and made a pass. As soon as they got the end of the back straight and go through the 10a/10b combination, Hicks got sideways in the transition and slid four wheels off at track-out of 10b, but kept it out of the gravel trap, stayed off the wall of the bridge and merged back on track safely only losing a few positions.

Scarbrough was battling sketchy steering that kept getting worse, so he came in with only a few laps to go. At the checkered flag, Putnam took the win again in H2 followed by Kramer in second and Moar Door in third, with Melissa Lovely at the wheel. Hicks took the win in H1.

Melissa Lovely with Team Moar Door has now finished on the podium in her last two races and set her personal best at Road Atlanta this weekend. Jason Scarbrough also set his personal best at Road Atlanta this weekend. Congratulations to both of them.


Image courtesy of Rob Oxford, Jason Scarbrough, Andrew Hicks

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