Spec E30 Produces Three Winners at SoCal Willow Springs Opener

Andrew Clark picked up his first Spec E30 win of 2019 on the second to the last lap in the last race at the Willow Springs opener in March. Steve Stepanian took the win on Saturday.

In qualifying, Clark turned in the fastest lap with a 1:36.732 and tight on his heels, JoJo McKenzie was just off the fastest qualifying lap time with a 1:36.830 to claim the outside pole position.

At the start of the race, in a rare display of accurate shifting, everyone not only got off the line, but all also found the elusive second gear as the field rolled into Turn 1 together sounding like a 12-engine aircraft. Unlike previous years at this track, the field did not string out with a few private battles all over the track. Instead, the field stayed close and positions were traded all over the field, from first to last. No position was secure, lap after lap. For most of the race the top six cars were within striking distance of one another.

At the race end, Steve Stepanian claimed the checkered flag, with Andrew Clark in second. Three seconds back the battle for third was a photo finish with Team Ed Sukchai sneaking his way onto the last podium spot over Mickey Miller in fourth. And to top it all off, Allen Hauser’s track record fell to Stepanian’s new track record of 1:37.348, with Clark posting a 1:37.390. An amazing note to this race is that the delta from the fastest driver in the field to the slowest was 1.704 seconds!

Sunday’s qualifying race gridded with the entire field inverted from Saturday’s race finish. Edward Wagner had a mechanical issue on Saturday, which put his misfortunes on the pole for this short race. Could Wagner hold off the field long enough to win his first race? Was his car up to the task? Would Stepanian and Clark charge to the front and resume their Saturday battle?

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In a repeat of Saturday’s start, the entire field took the green flag and sailed off into Turn 1 like a pack of hounds. The field sorted out into a single line and the pecking order changed, turn after turn, and every position swapped for the first few laps while the field was still nose to tail from first to last. As the race continued, a rare mistake by Stepanian put him off track in Turn 1 with front end damage, a broken oil cooler and cracked oil pan, which ended his race. Clark, who finished second Saturday and started next to last, worked his way up to fifth place. Meanwhile, starting 10th on the grid, Team Ed Sukchai masterfully worked his way up to the front passing nine cars and on lap six, took over the lead and maintained a comfortable gap to the finish to claim his first win of the 2019 season.

McKenzie started eighth on the field and raced his way up to second place behind Team Ed Sukchai. While he wasn’t able to hold on for the win from pole, Wagner retained third place at the checkered flag. The final grid for the last race of the weekend was set.

Team Ed Sukchai maintained the lead through Turn 1 and developed a sizable lead in clean air while the field sorted itself out behind him. For 14 laps Team Ed Sukchai maintained a gap and at times Clark was able to close in, but not make a pass. A five-car train battled and swapped positions all race long. On lap 15, Clark was able to get by Team Ed Sukchai for the lead. McKenzie pressured Team Ed Sukchai to the finish and at the line, 1.4 seconds covered the first five cars! Clark took his first win of the season, Team Ed Sukchai finished second and McKenzie closed out the podium.

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