March marked NASA Southeast’s first trip to Atlanta Motorsports Park. Since this was a new track to the region’s drivers, Regional Director Jim Pantas scheduled four points races for the weekend instead of the normal two. And to make things even more interesting, Mother Nature decided to bring the “East Coast Bomb Cyclone” on Friday night. Rain and heavy wind rocked the paddock Friday evening, then brought a flurry of snow falling Saturday morning.
With near freezing cold temps, a dozen Miatas took to the track for race one. Keith Williamson and Jose Garcia sat on the front row to start this inaugural race. Williamson and Garcia battled hard lap after lap, but Garcia got the deal done with two laps to go, taking the lead. Williamson pushed until the end, but Garcia held on for the win. He was followed by Williamson in P2, Don Elvington in P3, Capers Zentmeyer in P4, and Bill Miller in P5.
Race two started with only 11 Miatas after John Palazzolo lost his engine in race one. Garcia and Williamson again started on the front row. As the green flag waved, Williamson was split, with Elvington pushing behind Garcia on the inside, and Zentmeyer pushing ahead on the outside. Elvington completed the pass for P2, but Zentmeyer fell back into P4. Just a few turns later, Williamson passed Elvington and had Garcia in his sights. On lap three, Garcia missed a shift in Turn 6, causing Williamson to check up and allowing Elvington to get by. Over the next two laps, Williamson would make passes in Turn 1 for position, first passing Elvington, then Garcia. Now in front, Williamson was able to hold off the competition until the end for the win. Garcia finished in P2, Elvington in P3, Zentmeyer in P4 and Miller in P5.
Race three was on Sunday morning. The wintry mix was gone and the track was prime for great racing. Garcia qualified on pole and again had a great battle with Williamson throughout the race. But rookie Capers Zentmeyer wasn’t going to let these two dominate the show again. Zentmeyer passed Williamson on lap nine and had his sights on Garcia. Zentmeyer made several attempts to pass, but each time was shut down or quickly overtaken. However, Zentmeyer got a great run in Turn 1, finally taking the lead from Garcia on the last lap and scoring his first win ever in Spec Miata! Farther back on the last lap, rookie Danny Dyszelki and David Ardoin were battling for P8. Dyszelk won that fight, finishing in P8 and Ardoin in P9. Rounding out the top five were Garcia in P2, Williamson in P3, Elvington in P4, and Ernie Cole in P5. The hard charger went to Burak Ozgunay, who started P11 and worked his way up to finish in P7.
Race four started in the same lineup as race three. This time, Williamson made an early charge on Garcia, taking the lead on lap two. With a clean track ahead, Williamson put on a clinic for the field, adding more and more of a gap every lap. At the checkered flag, Williamson won by more than 9 seconds ahead of second-place Garcia. Zentmeyer finished in P3, Elvington in P4 and Cole in P5.
AMP proved to be a fun and challenging track. More races meant more opportunities for contact. However, even with poor weather conditions, the Miatas enjoyed good clean racing with no wrecked cars.