You know the racing is good when three drivers share the podium two races in a row, with each driver in a different spot each day.
In NASA SoCal, Spec E30 races begin with a standing start, which is always entertaining for those driving and watching. Mickey Miller had pole position, but a missed shift on the run down to Turn 1 and the order shuffled.
Jojo McKenzie also missed a shift, but was able to get the lead early in the race in front of Sean Aron, who started from P2. Aron trailed McKenzie for a bit when a double-yellow came out and brought out the pace car. Aron closed in on the leader before the restart, but so did everyone else, and when the green flag flew again, Aron got caught up behind out-of-class traffic and McKenzie retook the lead.
Aron put his head down and chased McKenzie, eventually retaking the lead and holding it till the end for the win.
“I chased him for probably a lap and a half, but I got him back,” Aron said. “And after that, I don’t think I was that much faster than anybody else, but two, three, and four were fighting the whole time. I was just out there turning laps, so that was really helpful.
McKenzie held on for second place, dropped to third and then got back into second place, where he finished.
“No, nothing for Sean today. He got held up by another car in another class, so I was able to get in first place for a little while, but he was on my bumper for about two or three laps and I ended up dropping back to third place and Sean basically drove away,” McKenzie said. “He was out there driving by himself, but I moved up the second. Toward the end, the driver in front of me made a mistake and I finished with a really good race.”
Starting from sixth on grid, Ryan Walton also capitalized on the missed shifts from his competition, kept his cool through the full-course caution and put himself in a position for a podium finish.
“We had a really good start through first gear, got second well, and then it seemed like it was a few people in front of me that missed shifts and I picked the wrong guy to follow,” Walton said. “So I didn’t really make up any positions and I thought it would maybe kind of deserved after the good start, but other than that, it was all right. I did a Hail Mary pass at the end with somebody and pulled it off.”
For Sunday’s main, the eventual winner, Walton and his spotter employed a crafty bit of strategy that almost didn’t work, but we’ll get to that in a bit. From his third-place starting position, Walton battled with Aron going into Turn 1, and found his way into P1 and eventually built a sizeable lead.
It was green-flag racing the whole time, which meant the faster Spec E46 cars began to file through the Spec E30 cars. Walton’s spotter said that if he let an E46 pass him, he could do one fewer lap. He had the lead, and who doesn’t hope for checkers each time you pass Start/Finish when you have the lead? In the end, it worked, but just barely.
“I let him through at the Buttonhook, but then second and third caught up to me at that point,” Walton said. “So that’s why it looked like a close finish at the end. But it was better than doing another lap.”
Behind Walton in second, Aron fell behind Mick Omelko at the start, but Omelko developed a mechanical issue and pulled in. That put McKenzie in Aron’s mirrors, where he would stay for the entire race.
“He was chasing me for a long time and I only had to get defensive a couple times,” Aron said. “We were really close and I managed to hold position.”
2022’s most improved driver in Spec E30, McKenzie started from seventh was happy with his finish and his progress and strategy all weekend.
“I had a great start. I really think my tire strategy worked really well today,” McKenzie said. “I had really good tires at that last race and was able to come on strong toward the end.”