A great turnout, a lot of help from our friends from Florida, and some new faces straight out of comp school made the Fall Fling event at Road Atlanta another memorable weekend for Spec E30. The 20-car field saw close, tough racing throughout the pack, with the temperate weather making for some good lap times. Saturday’s race saw the veteran Southeast racers joined by Friday comp school graduates, John Banai and Chris Harkins, with Hector Rainey joining the field in Sunday’s race. But the Southeast crew also was supplemented by a sizable contingent from the NASA Florida region, who made the long trek north to join the fun. In addition to familiar faces Scott McKay and Shawn Waggoner, NASA Southeast was happy to have Carlos Mendez, Jay Greene and Diego Gonzalez join us at Road Atlanta. A number of Southeast racers noted that they hope to return the favor next year at Daytona.
Ryan Whitinger put his copper and white Spec E30 on the pole on Saturday, but the battle for the lead began immediately, with Julio Palacio passing Whitinger by the end of lap one. Palacio and Whitinger set the pace for the field, with Robert Patton and Sandro Espinosa contending for the third spot on the podium. The rest of the field saw almost constant action throughout the race, with nearly every position contested and lots of position changes through the race. A lengthy midrace full-course caution closed all the gaps, and when the green flag dropped again, Whitinger got past Palacio for first. But Palacio was able to retake the lead on the next lap, manage troublesome out-of-class traffic, and hold on for the win. Steve Lako fought through the field from his sixth-place qualifying spot to get past hard-charging Mike Harness for third.
Sunday’s race saw Whitinger again snagging pole position. As in Saturday’s race, the front of the pack was busy throughout the race, as was the rest of the field. The race featured several lead changes and lots of close racing between Whitinger and Palacio, while the rest of the pack kept the pressure on. Cautions kept the pack bunched up and the subsequent restarts shuffled the order even further. Working through traffic was the order of the day but Whitinger wasn’t to be denied as he navigated traffic and an increasingly greasy racetrack to take the top step and his first Spec E30 win. Palacio and Espinosa rounded out the Sunday podium for the second and third places.