Coming into the last race of the NASA SoCal season, the points race had come down to Ryan Pond, Hannah Grisham and Blake Minasian. Pond had the points lead, and he did take both wins at Buttonwillow, but after the points drops, Grisham emerged with a slim 10-point margin and the NASA SoCal Spec Miata championship.
The grid filled in with 20 competitors for the last race on the SoCal calendar. Pond had the fastest lap in qualifying, which netted him pole position, followed by Eric Slivkoff, Blake Minasian and Rob Burgoon. Grisham had some mechanical issues right before qualifying began, and she started from seventh.
Pond had a good start and was leading Slivkoff and Minasian, but four laps in Jerry Baxter had contact with tire wall on the front straight, which brought out the full-course caution for a couple of laps. At the restart, Burgoon used it to get around Minasian, and Slivkoff resumed chasing Pond, but he chucked it off at the entrance to Cotton Corners, which put Burgoon in second and Minasian in third, which was the order at the finish.
“Driving at the front is not as fun, but it’s a skill I need to learn,” Pond said. “I was pressured the whole time. I felt like the second half the race my tires were falling off a bit and I was like a target. No. 2 went off near the end, but the guy behind him, Rob Burgoon was right on me after that.”
With a new engine, Burgoon was keeping an eye on his gauges the whole time.
“I’ve been seeing some horrifying things as far as fuel pressure and AFR all weekend. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but clearly the car seems to be competitive,” Burgoon said. “I managed to get the front marginally, mostly because other folks making mistakes. No real awesome passes here, just outlasted everyone else except for one guy, who was quicker.”
Minasian, who ran in fourth awhile, advanced to third and kept Grisham behind him to the end.
“I didn’t have the best restart, but it wasn’t too bad,” Minasian said. “There were a few points where I got a little close, mistakes were made but I still ended up third.”
For Sunday’s racing, the track configuration had changed slightly. Pond again had pole for the main, followed by Burgoon, Minasian, Grisham and Steve Champlin.
When the green flag flew, Pond took off and set a gap of about 4 seconds over Burgoon in second. On lap three while running second, Burgoon tossed it off in Cotton Corners and lost four spots. Grisham took over second, with Minasian in third.
Burgoon battled hard with Slivkoff, Champlin and Minasian to reclaim third spot, where he finished.
“The car was strong enough that I was able to pass most of them all back except for Hannah,” Burgoon said. “Considering I threw it off the racetrack, getting back on the podium is pretty all right.”
Pond’s lead in the second half of the race had evaporated and Grisham was hounding him relentlessly into Cotton Corners the last four laps of the race, but that’s a difficult section of track to stick a move, and Grisham finished second.
“On the back straightaway I would get him,” Grisham said. “But he was down there, so I’d kind of go next him and kind of pinch him down, so he wouldn’t get as good of a run out, but it just didn’t work.”
Pond was happy to come away from the last event of the season with two wins.
“Well, it went according to plan. I put on stickers to try to get away and get my best chance to win,” Pond said. “We had a battle at the end. I had to drive defensively, which isn’t always fun, but I was able to hold her off till the end.”
Twenty Spec Miatas took the green flag at Buttonwillow in October.