Race leader Ryan Whitinger exits Carolina Motorsport Park’s Turn 14 with Sandro Espinosa and A.R. Hoshmandy in hot pursuit. Espinosa stuck his nose inside, which forced Whitinger, No. 40, to take an outside line. Espinosa’s move also prevented Hoshmandy, behind, from trying to get inside.

Fifteen SpecE30s fought it out at the NASA Southeast season opener at Carolina Motorsports Park. Sunday’s race was particularly dramatic because the fastest drivers in the field started from the rear and battled their way to the front.

Friday night though, it was about flannel jammies and electric blankets, because the temperature plunged into the mid-20s under a million stars in rural South Carolina.

There was more than just car racing, though. CMP has a kart track and the SpecE30 racers had brought kids and karts. The kids and SpecE30 drivers raced karts until exhausted. The adults were at a disadvantage because of their weight and reasonable sense of caution.

Saturday’s race lineup was Sandro Espinosa on pole, followed by A.R. Hoshmandy, Ryan Whitinger and Paul Patrick. Espinosa, Hoshmandy, and Whitinger often make up the top three in Southeast SpecE30. Espinosa’s and Hoshmandy’s videos can be alarming to watch as they casually handle 30 degrees of yaw in turn after turn. In contrast, Whitinger’s videos can be viewed without being tempted to cover your eyes and peek through your fingers.

In the race Saturday, Espinosa and Hoshmandy battled hard, changing positions several times. Whitinger dogged their heels watching for a mistake. The first four to the checker were Espinosa, Hoshmandy, Ryan Whitinger and Rob Eskew.

Saturday night was warmer than expected, and Hoshmandy grilled steak and salmon. The SpecE30 paddock settled in around a campfire and swapped lies until late into the night. Sunday morning came with bright February sunshine. By afternoon people were breaking out shorts and T-shirts.

There were problems in Sunday qualifying with scrubbing tires under a green flag. As a result, the fastest half of the field started in the rear, a sure recipe for excitement when the quickest drivers came charging through the field.

The SpecE30 drivers voted for a standing start, a tradition rarely seen outside SpecE30. Sunday’s race started with Ryan Whitinger on pole, followed by Paul Patrick, Scott Gress and Craig Guthrie.

In only three laps, Espinosa and Hoshmandy had moved up through most of the field. Espinosa was glued to race leader Whitinger’s bumper. While driving a defensive line to keep Espinosa back, Whitinger was still putting down lap times so fast that Hoshmandy wasn’t quite able to get into the fray. Hoshmandy gained car lengths in braking zones, only to lose them in the straights that followed.

Then it all changed. Espinosa moved up on Whitinger’s rear quarter to go two-wide through the high-speed “kink.” Whitinger gave him room, but Espinosa lost rear grip over a bump and went into a tank slapper at 110 mph. Hoshmandy stayed on the throttle and went wide. This put Hoshmandy on Whitinger’s inside quarter as they stormed into the braking zone for Turn 11, which is where slower traffic on the school line spelled doom for Whitinger’s magnificent defense.

Whitinger couldn’t move inside to avoid the slower traffic because Hoshmandy had a nose in. Whitinger had no gentlemanly choice but to slow up and give Hoshmandy the corner. In the space of 10 seconds, Hoshmandy had gone from fighting to hang with the lead pair, to leading the race.

Rob Eskew slides off Carolina Motorsport Park’s Turn 14 and gets some dirt. Scott Gress and Craig Guthrie are looking to pounce.
Rob Eskew slides off Carolina Motorsport Park’s Turn 14 and gets some dirt. Scott Gress and Craig Guthrie are looking to pounce.

Before the checker, Espinosa got by Whitinger. At the finish, it was Hoshmandy in first, Espinosa in second and Ryan Whitinger in third.




Image courtesy of Scott Gress

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