When Southern California’s most hardcore Spec Miata racers reported for duty in July, the mercury was rising on the thermometer. Low triple-digit temperatures were the order of the day and winning a race meant mastering the heat.
Fresh from a pair of podium finishes in June, Steve Champlin took pole position for Saturday’s race, followed by Ryan Pond, Brett Becker, Rob Burgoon and Mark Hazboun.
At the green flag, Champlin was right on the bumpers of some out-of-class cars, which immediately mired the Spec Miata field in traffic. By Turn 3, Pond had squirted into first followed by Champlin and Burgoon. Two laps in, Becker dropped out due to an oil leak.
That left the front three to dice it out in a race that each of them would lead at one time or another as they wended through traffic. In the end, it wasn’t clear who crossed the finish line first. Even the Race Hero app got it wrong.
“On the last lap, I put a wheel off in Turn 9 and then third place got a run on me,” said Pond. “Bump drafting by Steven helped a lot to get past Rob and get that first place from the beginning. I don’t know where I finished yet. It was awesome. First, second and third all lined up at the finish.”
Pond finished third, but not by much. Champlin edged him for second.
“We had a whole lot of traffic the whole race and it was just a battle of who could get through the traffic the best,” Champlin said. “It came down to all three of us under a blanket right at the finish, so it was a really fun race.”
Fresh from a pair of wins at Buttonwillow, Burgoon took the win, despite traffic and the grueling heat.
“I was having to pull out of the draft, even though it would get me closer to where I wanted to be, just to try to preserve the engine and get more cooling going on,” Burgoon said. “But in the end, my Race Engineering engine powered me to a win and I’m happy about that.”
For Sunday morning, there was no qualifying race due to an enduro. Competitors gridded according to Saturday’s finish. That put Burgoon on pole, with Champlin in second, Pond in third and Becker in fourth. By lap two Becker had worked his way into second and set his sights on Burgoon. Becker couldn’t get around Burgoon, but Pond could, and he ended up taking the win. Champlin eventually got past Becker to finish third. Lap times among the top four were less than .100 seconds apart.