As Saturday’s race time neared, Spec Miata racers all stood outside their garages looking up at cloud formations to the west and down at their smart phones’ radar and weather apps. The apps said there would be no more rain, but the skies didn’t look cooperative. On the grid sheet, less than two seconds separated the entire field, so the wet-track start was sure to be interesting. And it was.
“When they threw the green, the guy on pole started to go, but then he lifted,” said John Mueller, who finished third Saturday. “But there was a gap right through the middle, and I made a joke right before the race that I was coming through, and I went right through the middle. It was great till I got to Turn 4, where I had no grip.”
The track was wet but began drying, so no matter which tires drivers chose, they would be on the wrong tire for half the race. Three laps into the race, the track had indeed dried past the point of rain tires’ usefulness. Everyone had gone out on wets, so they all had the same issue, but then the skies opened up and rain started coming down — wipers-on-high — hard.
Ken Saward got a good start and took the lead early. As the rain fell, his lead evaporated, due in part to out-of-class traffic and some mistakes that come with a wet track. Brett Becker, who started fourth, had edged past Ramon Niebla and Kyle Kelley to get up to second, inched up on Saward, and the two changed positions a couple of times in the pouring rain.
“I had a big lead, and then suddenly I had him on my back bumper,” Saward said afterward. “He made a good pass underneath coming off the oval and then kept it through the infield section. Then on the last lap, I got lucky going into the last complex. We came up on some 944s, and I was able to get on the inside and make the pass for the lead, but it wasn’t over yet because coming onto the main straight he had the inside line and we basically came neck and neck to the flag. I think I beat him by probably no more than a foot, and that was the difference in the race. It was that close.”
At the finish, it was Saward in first by .077 seconds, Becker in second and Mueller in third.
Sunday morning was still wet, but drying and the field picked up where it left off in 2013, with a standard practice session and a qualifying race. In the points race, Kelley wasted no time getting the lead and keeping it for the bulk of the contest. Late in the race, Saward tried to make a move, but found the last of the standing water on the track.
“Going into the last lap, I saw the white flag, I made a move on him in the infield complex, and got a little too far to the outside where it was a little slippery and I lost grip,” Saward said. “We had a great race, with good battles, everybody was good and clean.”
Jeff Jeppesen came in third, scoring his first podium finish in Spec Miata.
“The start was a little gnarly, as it’s been all weekend, but everybody fanned out and it was a great race,” said an elated Jeppesen after the event. “I was left out there all by myself to run my own qualifying laps every lap, but it was great. It was my first third, first podium. Spec Miata rocks!”