After a long hiatus, NASA Arizona returned to Inde Motorsports Ranch, a private membership track nestled outside Willcox, Ariz., with a 2.75-mile, 21-turn road course. The track offers nearly a mile of cumulative straightaways as well as 200 feet of natural elevation changes combining uphill and downhill corners and straights, blind apexes, hairpins, sweepers, negative and positive-camber turns.
It’s a challenging circuit that offers several configurations, which change the racing dynamics and opportunities. NASA Arizona ran configuration No. 5, the main track configuration featuring all but one turn on Saturday, and configuration No. 4 on Sunday, the “fast” configuration, creating a fortitude-testing second straight along with a quick chute that changes the attitude of the lap. A fresh repave of the track in late 2020 also set the stage for great racing.
Saturday’s big bore race featured many NASA Arizona regulars and some added guests in the form of the Spec Corvette group. NASA Arizona regional director Tage Evanson found himself on the ST2 and overall race pole position after qualifying his supercharged No. 17 Honda Civic, with NASA Vice President Jeremy Croiset right next to him in his SU No. 10 NP01 EVO. The second row was filled out by returning NASA Arizona racers Team Dangerous Enterprises, with Wes Hanson driving the No. 458 Nissan GTR and Drew Wadolny in his No. 41 Ford Mustang taking second and third in ST2. Ken Orgeron found his way to the lead position in ST3. His BMW M3 dipped into the 1:48s followed by Alex Petitdemange in his Spec Racer Ford, and Jeremy Renshaw in his BMW M3 ST4 was led by returning Arizona racer Dennis Tucker’s BMW, followed by Andrew Titus’s Porsche Cayman and Kevin Kirkwood in his Subaru BRZ. Long time Arizona racer Tom Johnson brought out his Datsun 240Z in Super Unlimited, and Spec Corvette set up a standing start grid with Craig Dale in the No. 79 car on pole, with No. 17 Josh Carroll in second and No. 228 JC Meynet in third.
When the race kicked off, Evanson found an early lead, but ultimately a failed rubber valve stem slowly drained his tire and speed, eventually yielding the lead to Team Dangerous Enterprises, who cruised to an overall victory, but not before Evanson reset the track record with a 1:48.332. Wadolny found himself in second place after a close battle with Evanson’s Civic, putting on an entertaining show for spectators as the cars demonstrated ever-narrowing measurements between bumpers. Wynne cruised unscathed to third in ST2.
In his NP01 EVO, Croiset took the SU top honors and ST3 was closed out by Alex Petitdemange, who was given some errant flagging, which caused him to let up early, but competitor Ken Orgeron yielded the win in a great show of sportsmanship after the race, taking second position himself. Elliot Freireich rounded out the podium in ST3. Andrew Titus had mechanical issues that ended his race early, along with NASA Arizona veteran Jeremy Renshaw a lap later. Rookie Kevin Kirkwood took the win in ST4, as he and his BRZ continued to develop speed and consistency. Ted Standen found second place and Dennis Tucker’s BMW was third in ST4. The Spec Corvette race was won by JC Meynet, followed by Team Thordarson and Josh Carroll.
Competitors were given a chance to reset for Sunday’s race. Temperatures climbing in the thinner air combined with Inde’s faster track configuration meant new challenges for racers and cars alike. In practice, returning racer Brandon Welsh’s No. 913 Honda CRX gave everyone a scare when he found the limits of the track and high-sided the car adjacent to a tire wall in Turn 7. Surprisingly, some mild hammering later he was ready to qualify. Team Dangerous Enterprises, with Marissa Hanson driving this time, found pole position overall for the race, followed by Ken Orgeron starting second overall and first in ST3.
Alex Petitdemange was right behind him, third overall and second in ST3 followed by Chris Wynne in the No. 50 Mustang, fourth overall and second in ST2. Tom Johnson led the SU group, and Elliot Freireich started third in ST3. In ST4, Ted Standen led over the previously fortunate Brandon Welsh followed by Kevin Kirkwood. Spec Corvette was led by Josh Carroll in the No. 17 car, followed by Oli/Team Thordarson in the No. 22, and then Craig Dale in the No. 79, all having run in the 1:43s.
In the race, Team Dangerous Enterprises found a quick lead of over 5 seconds just a couple corners in, and the rest of the field sorted quickly. Alex Petitdemange again battled with Ken Orgeron, trading places quickly while stuck behind Wynne’s yellow mustang.
Eventually pulled past the ST2 car, Ken Orgeron’s BMW found his way to victory with an 11-second gap over the Spec Ford Racer. In ST2, Wynne’s slow but steady approach paid off as the field had attrition in the higher temperatures, sealing the win and putting Team Dangerous Enterprises second. Elliot Freireich took the third spot in the podium in ST3. Dennis Tucker flipped the script in ST4 and found the top spot on the podium, followed by Brandon Welsh, who also set a track record after near disaster, and Ted Standen in third. Spec Corvette was closed out by Craig Dale in the No. 79 car, followed by Josh Carroll’s No. 17 and Team Thordarson closing out the podium in the No. 22.
Also, here are the track records set over the weekend:
Inde Configuration No. 4
ST2 Team Dangerous Enterprises Nissan GTR 1:39.947
ST3 Ken Orgeron BMW M3 1:39.026
ST4 Brandon Welsh Honda CRX 1:44.267
Inde Configuration No. 5
SU Jeremy Croiset NASA NP01 EVO 1:47.226
ST2 Tage Evanson Honda Civic 1:48.332
ST3 AlexPetitdemange Spec Racer Ford 1:49.197
ST4 Dennis Tucker BMW M3 1:58.908