The first points race of the season always brings a heightened sense of anticipation. What improvements did your competitors make during the winter off-season? Who has a new engine? Who refreshed their head? And which drivers are rusty?
You can ask, but you probably won’t learn much until you see how they run — then check the time sheets.
Oregon’s David Dodge hadn’t lost his edge over the winter. He qualified on pole with a 2:04.434 for Saturday’s race, just .001 seconds quicker than SoCal’s David Varco, and Ken Saward in third with a 2:05.750.
Varco blew up a differential on the last lap of qualifying, so he spent the next two hours thrashing to get his car ready for the race, but the only spare he had was a viscous differential, which was not as effective as a Torsen on the tight infield turns at Auto Club Speedway.
At the green flag, Varco drafted Dodge and took the lead as the field plunged headlong into the infield. Varco led the pack throughout the infield and up onto the high-banked oval toward lap two.
“I got a good jump and I took the lead dropping down into the infield and led the first lap,” Varco said. “David (Dodge) sucked in behind me and we drafted around and dropped into the infield.”
Then, at the tight hairpin Turn 9, Varco bobbled and Dodge whizzed by him. Varco was able to hold onto second ahead of Saward, but at the checkered flag, Dodge emerged with the win.
“On the second lap he screwed up a little bit into the hairpin,” Dodge said “And from then on, it was me leading and him pushing till his tires dropped off.”
The Spec Miata field agreed to a format change for Sunday. Rather than qualifying by time, they staged a qualifying race, with an inverted grid from the Saturday’s race results.
Arizona’s Scott Phillips scored pole, followed by Dodge and Saward. Dodge and Phillips diced for the lead but in the end, Phillips took the win followed by Dodge and Saward. However, tech inspections that day included dyno testing, which resulted in a DQ for Phillips, and bumped Joey Jordan into third place for the day. Varco came in fourth, still grappling with an underperforming car.
“I just couldn’t keep the car handling well on the infield because of the new diff,” he said. “It handled differently than I expected.”