Teen Mazda Challenge driver Raiden Nicol leads at Road Atlanta with Skyler Cottrell close behind on his way to victory.

For the last race weekend of the year, NASA Southeast returned to the fun and challenging Road Atlanta, home of the Petit LeMans. You never know what the weather will be like in December, so to make things interesting, cold temperatures and rain helped provide an unpredictable track surface. Adding to the excitement, there was a points battle to be decided between Capers Zentmeyer and Yan Dia because just 5 points separated the two for second and third place in the season championship.

In Saturday’s qualifying, the track started to dry, but was still a little damp. Teen Mazda Challenge driver Raiden Nicol earned the pole with a time of 1:46.853. Skyler Cottrell had the second fastest time, thus earning the other front row starting position for the Spec Miata group.

As Nicol and Cottrell led the Miata field to the green flag, the rain had mostly stopped, but the track was anything but dry. Some approached this with caution while others saw it as an opportunity. As they approached Turn 1, Devin Anderson and Brandon Sloan shot past Yan Dia taking over P3 and P4 respectively. Ahead of them, Cottrell moved past Nicol to take an early lead as they exited Turn 3. Spray from the tires made visibility difficult and just added to the already challenging wet surface.

Now past Turn 7 and on the backstretch, Nicol challenged Cottrell, taking back the lead on the long backstretch. By lap four, the Miata leaders caught a large group of Spec E30s where Nicol was able to trap Cottrell behind some out-of-class cars and put some distance between them. A little further back on lap five, Laurin Brallier was flying through the pack. She jumped to the inside of Dia in Turn 1, passing him and then eventually passing Sloan and Anderson by the entry of Turn 6. This put Brallier in the third position and hunting for the leaders.

On the next lap, Sloan got wide and loose on the slippery exit of Turn 5, where Dia seized the opportunity to take over fifth place. This whole time, Capers Zentmeyer, who started dead last, was systematically picking off positions and showing no fear in dealing with the slippery surface.

Zentmeyer had then caught Sloan and Dia. On the last lap, Dia caught an out-of-class car through Turns 6 and 7, where he lost some momentum. At the same time, Zentmeyer got a good run out of Turn 7 where he was able to draft with Sloan and challenge Dia in Turn 10a. Zentmeyer took the inside, then Dia went for the crossover in Turn 10b without success. The two had a drag race down Turn 12 and across the finish line, where Zentmeyer finished .149 seconds ahead of Dia for P4 and seizing the second place standing in the 2022 season points race — a great accomplishment for his rookie season!

At the front, Nicol had run away from the pack and finished over 18 seconds ahead of second-place Cottrell. Brallier finished in P3, Anderson in P4, and Zentmeyer in P5. Dia ultimately finished in P6 for the day and third in season points. Further back, Keith Williamson finished P9 for the day, but clinched more than enough points to win the 2022 Southeast points championship for Spec Miata. Congratulations to him for a great year and winning his second regional championship.

MX-5 Shootout driver Laurin Brallier works her way up through the pack, finishing on the podium at Road Atlanta in December.

This was the 15th running of Santa’s Toy Run, an annual event that includes an all-class fun race on Sunday while also providing funds/toys for children in group foster homes and domestic violence shelters. As 2022 comes to an end, racers are already preparing for the 2023 season which begins January 13 at Roebling Road Raceway.


James VossNo. 64 Keith Williamson locked up his second NASA Southeast Spec Miata Championship at Road Atlanta.

Image courtesy of James Voss

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