NASA Midwest region’s 944 Spec season opened to frigid temperatures and the occasional snow flurry at Autobahn Country Club April 19-21. As always, the racing was exceptional, including the first round of the Midwest Endurance Challenge.
Several 944 Spec drivers ran in the enduro in slippery conditions Friday afternoon. Ray Freundt, Sam Grant, and Angel Blazquez each ran the event as a 90-minute test and tune, while Neal Agran and Eric Kuhns teamed up again in Kuhns’ No. 80 car to make a run at a repeat E3 series championship.
The race opened to standing water and occasional flurries, switching to wet conditions and sleet at the midpoint. Agran and Kuhns kept a steady pace and stayed out of trouble in the treacherous conditions, earning a surprise overall win. The Kaplan Racing E3 Miata gave chase throughout the event, but came up second overall, followed in third by the E0 Team Sarsfield Mustang. Sam Grant deserves special mention for capturing the fastest E3 lap of the race.
For Saturday’s sprint race, Kuhns took his first pole of the season in his vintage Sunoco liveried car. Agran earned the outside front row, followed by Sam Grant, Angel Blazquez, Sid Chhikara and Dan Pina. At the start, Kuhns held the lead over Agran as Pina began a rapid surge to third. However, Pina ran wide at the exit of Turn 5 in lap three while on Agran’s bumper, and after a long journey across the wet grass, he found himself stuck in mud.
As the race progressed, Grant and Blazquez engaged in a tight battle for third amid occasional snow flurries. Kuhns took the win at the flag with a new lap record of 1:39.0, followed closely by Agran, Grant and Blazquez — separated by 0.4 seconds! Chhikara retired midway through with a leaking oil cooler.
On Sunday Agran earned the pole for race two in a wild, two-lap qualifying session, followed by Kuhns, Grant, Blazquez and Pina. Kuhns assumed the lead at the start from the outside in the Turn 1-2 complex, followed by Agran, Grant, Blazquez and Pina through Turn 3. While Agran and Kuhns stretched out a gap, an outstanding three-way battle for third raged throughout the race. When the dust cleared, Grant, Blazquez and Pina had each held the position.
Kuhns took the win, followed by Agran, Grant, Blazquez and Pina, who was nipped for fourth by 0.2 seconds. Pina was subsequently DQ’d for being underweight.
A special thanks is due to Jim and Kelby Hartman of Pine Tree Motorsports, who provided technical support to all competitors during the event.