The bump draft giveth and the bump draft taketh away, and that was true at Auto Club Speedway in May. Brett Becker took advantage of it and snared his first pole position for Saturday’s race. Ryan Pond was second and Steven Champlin qualified third.
Becker led the first three laps, but Pond pushed Champlin around him to take the lead as the trio headed into the infield. Pond also sneaked around Becker into Turn 13.
A lap later, Pond bobbled in Turn 6 and Becker slipped underneath to retake the lead, then had difficulties in Turn 13 when he had to cut the corner to keep the car under control. Pond and Champlin teamed up to draft past Becker in Turn 2 of the last lap. That put Pond in first, Champlin in second and Becker in third.
“Scoring my first pole was fantastic, but it wasn’t enough to get me the win,” Becker said. “My hat’s off to Ryan and Steve. They worked the draft, and that’s what it takes to win here at Auto Club Speedway.”
On Sunday, Pond had pole, with Becker in second, Champlin in third and Arizona Region driver Devin Dahn in fourth. When the green flag dropped, Champlin drafted Pond and both pushed into the infield first. Becker retook second on entry to Turn 5, which was key, because the next flag station was showing double yellow. A Spec E30 had crashed into the wall on the front straight during the start.
When the race resumed, a gaggle of Miatas, BMWs and Porsches funneled into the infield cleanly. Pond led the Spec Miata field into the infield, but Becker passed him in Turn 10. On the very next lap, Pond got around Becker in Turn 3. Becker hung on his tail, then passed Pond under braking on the outside going into turns 13 and 14. With good use of draft and traffic, Becker hung on for his first Spec Miata win, with Pond in second.
“The restart all together was a lot of fun,” Pond said. “It was all about decision making and I liked racing with the traffic. I slowed up to try to bump draft and pass Brett and it didn’t work out, so third place passed me and then I forced a pass to get second back.”
Champlin scored third, his second podium of the weekend.
“I was expecting a repeat of last year’s race where we wound up running the whole race under caution, but thankfully they got the track cleaned up and we were able to get restarted,” Champlin said. “I wound up turning my fastest lap at Cal Speedway ever, so I was pretty happy with that.”