No other way to put it: The racing in Spec Miata at Willow Springs International Raceway in May was as good as it gets, with lots of lead changes, tight racing and nary a scratch on any of them when the racing had ended.

On Saturday, Teen Mazda Challenge driver Christian Hoagland started from pole, with Sophia Storey in second in her first race of the season due to stints elsewhere in Spec MX-5. Storey had been fighting an ill-handling car all morning, but her crew got it repaired in time for Saturday’s race.

It must have been fixed to her liking because Storey took off from the start, battled hard for the first four or five laps, and then set about putting a bit of distance on the second- through fifth-place cars. She went on to take the win.

“I got a good run off the outside of Turn 1 and just held it there. I think Christian and Sam went side by side through Turn 2 and I just started to pull away from there,” Storey said. “I had a little bit of a push off  Turn 4 I think on one of the first laps I ended up off the edge of the track. But besides that, I mean I just tried to run consistent times, consistent laps and drive away with it. It still pushed a little bit. The vibration’s definitely gone, so it handled a lot better in that session.”

Behind her, TMC drivers Sam Spencer, Christian Hoagland, William Rasmussen and season points leader Joey Andrews were all battling back and forth.

Rasmussen dropped back after dropping wheels at the tricky exit of Turn 1 then battled back to finish fourth in Spec Miata and TMC. Battling for second and third were Sam Spencer and Christian Hoagland. In the end it was Spencer on the second step of the podium.

“It started well, and Christian and I were on the same side trying to push to catch up to Sophia, but it quickly turned into a battle between us and Joey got in there in the mix at the end,” Spencer said. “It was just a blast the whole time. It was great racing. I think it was aggressive, but it was safe and it was fun.”

The May event was the first hot and sunny race of the NASA SoCal season. All the races that came before had been cold and wet. As the race wore on, Hoagland’s old tires began to get a bit greasy and he dropped back to finish third.

“I lost so much pace and I just had to keep trying to push, and I kept getting passed, and I kept passing, and it was so back and forth,” Hoagland said. “Used tires might not have been the best call, but they fell off. But it was super fun. It was the most fun I’ve ever had, for sure.”

The Spec Miata podium was all TMC drivers.

Teen Mazda Challenge driver Sophia Storey notched a first- and second-place finish in Spec Miata at Willow Springs in May.

Sunday’s qualifying race determined grid for Sunday’s main. Spencer had earned pole position, followed by Andrews Hoagland and Storey. Rasmussen started fifth, with Spencer Douglass in sixth. That meant TMC drivers comprised the entire front of the field for the main.

From the green flag, Spencer put on a clinic. He used pole position to take the lead, which he held the entire race, though Storey was challenging him for the position. The race went without incident until there was an incident. A 944 Spec car went four off at the exit of Turn 1 and then got high-centered on the embankment where he tried to re-enter the track near Turn 2, and set the grass on fire, which brought out red flags, then black.

That set the stage for the classic green-white checkers finish, but Spencer was able to use traffic to his advantage and take the win, his first of the season in Spec Miata and TMC.

“Sophia was up the outside every once in a while, especially into Turn 2, but yeah, I just kind of kept it in and then toward the end of the race I just had Cooper (on the radio) saying to look forward, don’t worry about her. Just push. You’re faster,” Spencer said. “And I was able to work my way up past some Porsches and have them basically slow Christian and Sophia down and was able just to kind of drive away.”

When the fire was out and all the flags had flown, Storey finished the race in second.

“It was super chaotic. We got off to a pretty good start. I think I was in second after the start, second or third, and I just hooked up with Sam Spencer and tried to break away from the group,” she said “The 944s made it super challenging. I ended up making a pass into 5, and if Christian wasn’t there to push me over the top of 6, I would not have pulled that off, but I almost had it. Just not enough time to get it done.”

With Storey getting around him, Hoagland now found himself battling with Andrews, who pushed hard, but went wide and then four off in Turn 9, leaving Hoagland to scamper toward checkers.

“Sam kind of had a nice lead on us overall and I couldn’t get past, so his pace was very good. Sophia was doing great as well. I couldn’t quite keep up the absolute speed that she was doing,” he said. “I couldn’t get a run on her, couldn’t do any of that, but just got past her barely on the straight before a car caught fire and caused a full red. Sam was in his own space unfortunately, so he got away from us, but it was a challenge.”

Once again, the TMC podium and the Spec Miata podium were one and the same.

Teen Mazda Challenge driver Sam Spencer scored a second-place finish on Saturday in Spec Miata, and his first win on Sunday.



Images courtesy of and John Bilbao

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