Whoever coined the old adage that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb — or vice-versa — obviously had never been to Willow Springs International Raceway in March, where it’s all lions all month long.

Cold and windy rain storms during morning practice for Spec Miata drivers gave way to a cold, windy and damp qualifying session where times were a few seconds off pace. Teen Mazda Challenge driver Joey Andrews snared pole position, which was carried over to Sunday morning’s qualifying race due to a fatality on Saturday in an earlier race group. Activities were cancelled for the remainder of the day.

Andrews led Sunday morning qualifying race for a bit, but was overtaken by the hard-charging Christian Hoagland. Andrews dropped to finish third behind TMC driver Samuel Spencer, with Team Winged Foot racing in fourth.

Sunday’s main race was certainly eventful, windy and sunny and cold with an occasional blast of rain just to make drivers wonder if they chose the right tires.

Hoagland took advantage of pole position and took the early lead with Spencer and Andrews in chase. Spencer managed to get the lead from Hoagland for a couple laps, but as the two battled through Turn 1 and into Turn 2, Spencer had an incident with a Honda Challenge 4 competitor, which spun the Honda, and held Spencer up enough for Andrews to take over the lead. Hoagland had to drive off track to avoid the incident, and rejoin the Spec Miata field in last place.

In post-race ruling, Spencer was DQ’d for the incident.

Andrews fought off Spencer to hold the lead, but Spencer had to keep an eye on his mirrors because Team Winged Foot Racing was in third place and looking to move up the podium. Meanwhile, Hoagland had put his head down, caught the rear of the field and then began picking off cars one at a time. By the time the checkers flew, Hoagland had passed Team Winged Foot and finished in second place right behind Andrews.

“I think Sam ended up spinning out a blue Honda, and when it was facing the wrong way, it started rolling back toward me and smacked my mirror and maybe more,” Hoagland said. “And then I went flying off track all four off in Turn 2. It was pretty wild. I was in the last place at that point, and I kind of just had to really focus on my lines and doing the best I could, trying to just perfect my lines, make myself as fast as I could to catch up. I was just chasing for seven or eight laps until I got into a draft of my boy Daniel. It was my first time starting P1, so it was fun.”

After starting from fourth, Team Winged Foot Racing stayed in the hunt all race long, dropping back a bit here and there and inching forward when possible. Driver Daniel Verity maintained his grip on second place for a few laps, but Hoagland managed to get by him late in the race. Winged Foot Racing finished third.

“It went pretty well. I felt like I was being pretty consistent. I was just trying to hit my marks every time,” Verity said. “Luckily, my spotter was doing a really good job of warning me about flags and making me keep my composure as I was going around the track, and I think that really helped me achieve the position that I achieved today.”

Finishing first in Spec Miata and Teen Mazda Challenge, Andrews battled hard all race long, coming from third place on grid, surviving the incidents and driving around and picking up the draft from lots of out-of-class traffic.

“It was certainly an intense one out there. The whole weekend we had good pace, but with the winds picking up, we just struggled with straight line speed. So I knew it was a race about being strategic with getting the slipstream, getting the draft, and at the same time managing tires throughout the race,” Andrews said. “And the key was being consistent, making as few mistakes as possible and staying calm, managing through the traffic. And I felt that it really wasn’t sealed until the last turn. It was a nail biter to say the least. I didn’t really feel nervous until I actually crossed the finish line.”

Spencer Douglass finished second in Teen Mazda Challenge. Sam Spencer was DQ’d.



Teen Mazda Challenge driver Joey Andrews crosses the finish line ahead of Christian Hoagland and Team Winged Foot Racing’s Daniel Verity at Willow Springs in March.
Image courtesy of HERB LOPEZ

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