On pole Saturday, leading the field of 17, was National Spec E30 Champion Sandro Espinosa. Ryan Whitinger was on the outside. Rookie of the Year Alex Barroso and Steve Lako qualified third and fourth.
Espinosa was asleep at the green, and Whitinger got a good start and led Lako into Turn 1. Lako went outside Whitinger and got alongside as they slid through turns 1 and 2 on cold tires. This daring move made it difficult for pole-sitter Espinosa to tuck in behind Whitinger. As a result, as Whitinger slowly moved away, Lako, who started fourth, led the tight chasing group of eight cars.
Barroso fought to stay near the front. Seconds after Whitinger moved to the front, Alex Barroso made a move on Espinosa as they enteredTurn 6. The off-camber nature of the outside of Turn 6, however, forced Barroso to feather the throttle to stay on track. Rob Eskew passed Barroso to move up to fourth behind Espinosa. Fifty yards later, however, Barroso got alongside Eskew in Turn 9 and came out with more exit speed — no small thing given the perilous nature of the outside of Turn 9.
The train caught the leader as lap two began, the battling chase group of eight cars, led by Lako, formed a 130mph truce-train down the front straight and caught Whitinger.
In lap three, Whitinger lost the lead down the front stretch. A Lako-Espinosa-Barroso train bump-drafted the first two past Whitinger. Barroso didn’t quite make it and so spent the next two laps fighting to pass Whitinger, now in third, as Whitinger fought to get alongside Espinosa. On lap four, Barroso pulled off a seemingly impossible pass using the outside of Turn 4 to get by Whitinger. This put Barroso into third only inches behind Espinosa.
Traffic came into play at the end of lap five. Race leader Lako got slowed by traffic and the Espinosa-Barroso train took the lead down the front stretch. All three drivers waved high fives and cheered each other. Lako and Whitinger went into Turn 1 side by side, and Lako came out first. The group had been door to door for five laps, but the slower traffic was allowing gaps to develop between them.
With Barroso fastened to his rear bumper, race leader Espinosa’s fuel pump failed. It was now Alex Barroso, Steve Lako, and Ryan Whitinger. As the last laps of the race unfolded amid increasing traffic, Barroso maintained a lead of several car lengths to the checkers while Lako fought to keep Whitinger back, but only by .04 seconds in a four-wide finish at the line. At the finish, it was Barroso, Whitinger and Lako.
Congratulations to Alex Barroso for his 1.22.68 lap on Sunday afternoon. This beat Sandro Espinosa’s track record by more than 1 second.