Sheet metal lost a few battles with physics and concrete, a few airbags deployed, “code browns” made more than a few appearances, and smiles were plentiful the weekend of June 10 and 11, 2023, in Braselton, Ga., which can only mean one thing: NASA Southeast Time Trial returned to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the first of two weekends on the 2023 schedule.
With 12 turns spanning 2.54 miles, Road Atlanta is well-known for its multiple blind turns, a couple of blind hills, and areas of sudden elevation change, which always make for great competition.
Saturday’s competition got hotter as the temperature increased throughout the day as all 35 Time Trial drivers hit the track, and with 15 competitors, the TTU class was the largest in the overall field as well as the fastest. Overcoming an intermittent mechanical issue, the P1 spot went to former NASCAR “road course ringer,” Johnny Miller, in the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette with a fast lap of 1:27.638. Right behind Miller in the P2 spot was Alexander Gallardo in the No. 927 Nissan 350Z with a fast lap time of 1:29.112 and rounding out the podium finishers was the No. 531 Mustang Sampling Corvette of NASA-SE Time Trial veteran, Mark Nunnally, with a best time of 1:30.756.
Sunday’s competition saw intermittent heavy rain showers throughout the day, which sidelined some drivers who either did not bring rain tires, or else heeded a healthy self-preservation instinct as the TTU field for Sunday dropped to just seven competitors. Overall, the wet track resulted in the TT field shrinking from Saturday’s 35 drivers, to just 19 cars turning a fast lap on Sunday.
In TTU, those who stayed and waited out the rain saw a mostly dry track for the day’s final session, where P1 again went to the No. 64 of Johnny Miller with a fast lap of 1:29.606. The No. 531 Mustang Sampling Corvette of Mark Nunnally jumped a spot to the P2 position with a quick lap of 1:32.797 and in P3, jumping 10 spots over Saturday’s P13 finish, was the No. 40 Honda CR-X of Curtis Bowman with a fast lap of 1:54.152.
Fielding eight competitors, the TT6 class was again the largest of the power-to-weight-restricted classes for the weekend, which for Saturday’s competition saw the P1 spot go to the No. 10 Mazda Miata of Tim Wilson with a fast lap of 1:44.436. The P2 spot went to the No. 9 Mazda Miata of Nishant Patel with a fast lap of 1:47.698 and rounding out the podium in P3 was the No. 24 Nissan Sentra of David Escobar, with a fast lap of 1:47.951. During Sunday’s competition under wet track conditions, all of Saturday’s podium finishers managed to carry over their finishing spots with P1-P3 going to Wilson, Patel, and Escobar respectively.
The TT3 class started Saturday’s competition with six drivers and at the end of the day’s competition, the P1 spot went to the No. 90 BMW M3 of Blake Pomykal with a quick lap of 1:32.745. Finishing in the P2 position was the No. 849 Corvette formerly owned by NASA Southeast Series Director, Jim Pantas, which now benefits from the driving talent of Tim Spittle, who turned a 1:39.047 on Saturday. Rounding out the podium spots was the No. 733 Ford Mustang of Michael Tomany, with a fast lap of 1:39.755 that proved fast enough for the P3 spot.
As with the TTU class during Sunday’s competition, the drivers who waited out the rain until the final session of the day benefited, with the P1 spot going to the No. 95 Ford Mustang of Neill Bustle with a fast lap of 1:42.403, P2 going to the No. 507 Corvette of Wes Harper with a 1:43.281 fastest lap, and the No. 90 BMW M3 of Blake Pomykal finishing in the P3 spot at 1:54.135.
The four drivers in the TT2 class saw surprisingly close competition on Saturday with the P1 spot going to the No. 57 Porsche GT3 of 2023 TT rookie, Frank Pinion, with a lap time of 1:37.376. The P2 spot went to the No. 440 Ford Mustang of Mark Hill with a lap time of 1:38.693, and the P3 position going to the No. 32x of multiple TT championship winner, Jerry Digges, with a lap time of 1:39.670.
Only the No. 32X of Digges turned a lap at all during Sunday’s wet conditions to take the P1 position.
The TT1 and TT4 classes had one driver entered, with the No. 418 ProChallenge Mustang of Ron Richey taking the P1 points in TT1 for both days, and the No. 170 Mitsubishi Evo X of Kevin Batten taking P1 points for both days of competition for the weekend.
With NASA Southeast opting to take its “winter break” during the summer months, the next stop for the 2023 season will be Labor Day weekend, September 2-3, 2023, for the third and final round for the season at Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomington, Ga. With three months following a weekend at Road Atlanta, everyone should have their damage repaired, their fire suits laundered, and their bodies refreshed for another weekend of speed and fun.