With one DQ for being under weight and two missed races this season due to engine troubles, NASA SoCal Teen Mazda Challenge driver Mark Polunin bounced back and notched two big wins at Buttonwillow in October.
In the weeks following the 2022 NASA Championships, where he finished 11th overall and fifth in Teen Mazda Challenge, Polunin arrived at Buttonwillow with a fresh engine and a return to his winning ways.
Polunin started from pole position, and was battling with Uthman Alaoui until Alaoui bobbled at Phil Hill and dropped back.
“I was running right with Mark the first lap and a half, and then I made my own mistake at Phil Hill and ran off. KC and Cooper passed me and so I re-passed them the next lap, and by then Mark was just gone,” said Alaoui, who went on to finish second. “We were running pretty much the exact same lap times, and the gap was pretty much the same between lap three and four between me and him. Overall, I’m happy with second place. It’s still a really good points day overall. I just want to thank my partners at OpenFender.com and Sim City Racing and everyone from Mazda who is helping me out with contingencies this year, so it was a good day overall.”
Uthman Alaoui captured second place in Spec Miata and Teen Mazda Challenge on Saturday. He dropped out of Sunday’s race after three laps due to a mechanical issue.
Cooper Hicks maintained his position in third place for a portion of the race, but KC Cook was able move up from his fifth-place starting position and get around Hicks to take third place, where he finished.
“I had a good start. I was able to clear Daniel Verity on the outside and Sophia (Storey), so we were sitting in fourth going into Off Ramp, and it was kind of lead-follow for the first half of the race. Then Uthman and Cooper started dicing and eventually I got past Cooper,” Cook said. “I was trying catch Uthman and it was kind of a yo-yo effect for the rest of the race, where I’d be faster in one part of the track and he’d be faster in other parts while Mark was just walking away, so we settled for third, but I’m pretty happy with where the car is at now considering we’ve been having some issues the last couple of races, so hopefully we’re turning over a new leaf.”
Once Polunin cleared Alaoui and Cook, he was able to maintain his lead to take the win on Saturday.
“It was just maintenance. I had to keep a certain gap to be comfortable,” Polunin said. “The track was getting hotter, so I was pushing my braking points back, but other than that, the traffic wasn’t that bad, and the race happened, and I won. It was a little lonely, but that’s OK.”
In Teen Mazda Challenge, Polunin was first, with Alaoui in second and Hicks in third.
Sunday’s race again turned up Polunin as the winner, with Cook in second and TMC driver Sophia Storey finishing third. In Teen Mazda Challenge, Polunin was first, with Storey in second and Hicks in third.
In the SoCal points standings, Cook is currently leading, with Alaoui in second and Hicks in third, with four races left in the 2022 season.