Justin Crickenberger and Ryan Pond Split Wins at Chuckwalla

Justin Crickenberger had pole position on Saturday in February at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway and took the win. On Sunday, Ryan Pond got around Crickenberger for the win.

We had 30 Spec Miatas take the green flag for the race on Sunday and only one less on Saturday. Eleven NASA Arizona drivers, 18 NASA SoCal drivers and one very fast NorCal driver showed up in the middle of the desert in February to a track that could be considered one of the top 15 in America. Maybe that’s the draw. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s only three hours from Phoenix and most of L.A.

In Saturday’s clockwise racing action, Justin Crickenberger was the immediate frontrunner, with blistering times in the mid 1:06s during warmup and qualifying, but Keith Dees, Ryan Pond and Justin Hall were in the mix too. When the flag dropped for the race, 29 Spec Miatas safely made it through Turn 1 with just the slightest of friendly fender rubbing. For a bunch of SM drivers who don’t normally race together it was one of the more “polite” Spec Miata race starts.

True to form, Justin Crickenberger won it with Ryan Pond, Justin Hall, Jeremy Barnes and Keith Dees rounding out the top five.

For Sunday’s qualification race, the top 15 drivers were inverted, not by Saturday’s race finish, but by best lap time. The start was clean and by the time the field came back around to Start/Finish, Paul Perkins was in the lead. Perkins built a pretty good gap on the field due to some serious jockeying for the next few spots behind him. As the race wound down, Crickenberger and Pond caught him, but Perkins held them off until the last half of the last lap when Crickenberger went for the inside on the back straight and Pond followed through the very next corner.

For Sunday’s main race, the field lined up in order of the finish from the earlier qualifying race. Gridded in third right behind Crickenberger, Perkins had a pretty good view of the flagger and managed to get a good start right on his bumper. Teen Mazda Challenge Champ Hannah Grisham got an even better start and was on Perkins’ door handle at the inside of Turn 1, but had to give way because there was no room.

Coming out of Turn 2, Perkins was once again in third place behind Justin and Pond with Grisham, Barnes and Dees hot on their tails. The front three stayed together for most of the rest of lap one when Pond bobbled, allowing Perkins to take the inside line in the last corner and second place. Pond retook second place two laps later in the same corner.

Two laps later, Grisham got a better run off the hill in Turn 8 and was door to door with Perkins going into Turn 7 on his inside. Perkins ended up with four wheels in the dirt to Grisham’s two wheels off. Advantage, Grisham. Perkins lost three spots. Team 8 Ball and Team Jordan caught up to him and had a great battle going until the last lap when lapped traffic strung them out.

Pond won, with Justin Crickenberger second followed by Grisham, Mike Babcock in fourth, Team 8 Ball with a hard fought fifth coming all the way from 13th on the starting grid.



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