No. 28 Teen Mazda Challenge driver Aiden Baker Crouse leads the field on his way to a win at Carolina Motorsports Park in February.

Late winter in North Carolina meant qualifying took place on a damp track at Carolina Motorsports Park in February, and Aiden Crouse claimed Pole with a 2:04.383, followed by Pat Smith, Grant West, Brad Miller and Keith Williamson.

At the start, the front of the field got through Turn 1 clean, but at the back one of the racers had a big lock-up, thumped the car ahead, and the resulting chain reaction culminated with Yan Dia having his differential housing broken and limping off the track. Crouse got out to about a two- to three-car lead by the Kink followed by Smith, West, Miller and Williamson. West tried an outside pass on Smith at Turn 13, but scrubbed off too much speed and ended losing his position to Miller. Crouse, in P1, was trying to deal with a transmission that was difficult to get in third gear and by the end of lap three, Smith got around him to take the lead.

Crouse continued to dog Smith, and Williamson tried to get close enough to Miller to make a pass attempt. Finally, on lap eight, Williamson saw a chance and got inside Miller in the brake zone of Turn 1. The two then went side by side through turns 1, 2 and 3. Williamson finally gave up at Turn 4, and dropped back in behind Miller. Crouse was unable to mount an attack and the race ended with Pat Smith in first, Aiden Crouse second and Brad Miller third.

For Sunday’s qualifying, teen phenom Aiden Crouse popped a 1:51.401 lap, .2 seconds below track record to get pole, followed by Smith, Dia, Williamson and Miller. On the start, Miller and West got around Williamson in Turn 1 and then at Turn 11 Williamson got inside West and took back the position while Crouse started gapping the field. On lap two, approaching Turn 3, Smith and Dia tried to share the same track space, and Smith got loose in the bumping, allowing Miller, Williamson and West to move up. West then got inside Williamson at Turn 11 but got caught on the outside of Turn 12 and couldn’t complete the pass and lost his position to Smith who was trying to move back up.

Smith got a good run out of Turn 8 on the next lap and passed Williamson at the Kink for P4. Now Smith got inside Miller on the next lap at Turn 2 and they go through Turn 2 side by side bumping as they get to Turn 3. Exiting Turn 3, the two were still trying to share the same space as they headed to Turn 4. As they entered Turn 4, Miller washed out and they bumped again, getting Miller loose.

As he gathered it up, Williamson and West get passed. A full-course caution came out for an E30 in the tire wall at the exit Turn 3, and it gave racers a three-lap break. On the restart, West and Griffith Hawk got a good jump and moved up past Williamson. Then in the carousel, Williamson went off, and as West is tracking out of the Carousel, he also went off. Hawk then got loose in the Kink and Miller passed to take P4 as Hawk was saving it. The race ended with Aiden Crouse winning, Yan Dia P2, Pat Smith P3 and Brad Miller P4 and Grant West P5.


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