With near-perfect conditions at Auto Club Speedway July 28 and 29, many Spec E30 racers focused on breaking the track record of 2:03.216, held by Rius Billing. However, at this stage of the season, competitors begin to consider their points. For many, that was their biggest concern.
In qualifying Saturday, Rius Billing set the pole position on the second lap with a time .02 seconds faster than his previous record. Steffen Thompson qualified second, .07 seconds behind. Mitch Pepper earned third in his best qualifying effort to date.
At the start, Billing, Thompson and Pepper led the field to Turn 3 into the infield. Allan Hauser, who had repaired a bad plug wire after qualifying, leapt from eighth to fourth by Turn 3 and by Lap 5, he had passed Billing for the lead.
Two laps later, Hauser, Billings and Pepper had caught the back of the 944 Spec field. From his fourth spot, Thompson drafted a Porsche, was able to work his way past the Spec 944 back markers and once again, catch the three lead cars in front of him.
As the checkered flag flew, brilliant drives by Hauser, Billings and Thompson earned each of them a spot on the podium. Post race inspections revealed that Mitch Pepper’s car a few pounds too light and he was disqualified.
On Sunday, Billing started on pole again, with Steve Stepanian in second and Erick Strong in third.
When the flag dropped, Strong’s car unexpectedly slowed as he struggled to find second gear. Just behind, Hauser couldn’t react quickly enough and drilled Strong in the left rear as he tried to turn down under him, nearly spinning Strong. Hauser got back on track and on the gas, but Strong fell to last place.
On Lap 5, Stepanian passed Billing for the lead. Thompson also moved up and took third place from Hauser.
The next lap, Thompson dived down inside Billings as they exited the high-banked Turn 2 in an attempt to move into second. Thompson missed his braking point, narrowly avoided contact with Billing, but collected Stepanian, and spun both cars. Billing took the lead and Hauser took second place.
As the field crossed start/finish, Hauser’s contact with Strong at the start might have caused other problems. Hauser couldn’t shift into fifth gear, and he fell to fourth place. Having the drive of the season, Stepanian caught up to Billing and Thompson again. Hauser continued to fall back in the grid when his transmission stuck in fourth gear.
Miraculously, Stepanian passed Billing again to retake the lead, and when the checkered flag flew, it was Stepanian for the hard-fought win! Billing finished second with Thompson in third. However, the race director disqualified Thompson for punting Stepanian in Turn 3, which handed third place to Frank Reed.