Wyatt Couch and Eric Slivkoff on top in Spec Miata at Buttonwillow

No. 66 Wyatt Couch scored pole position and led No. 211 Ryan Pond from flag to flag in Spec Miata at Buttonwillow in April.

At the drop of the green at Buttonwillow, Wyatt Couch capitalized on pole position and jumped into the lead, with Anthony Zarcone, Ryan Pond and Mike Haddad hot on his tail.

A couple of laps later, Pond was within striking distance, but was unable to take the lead, so when the race went to full-course caution and bunched up the field, that presented new opportunities.

When the race returned to green, there was only about 10 minutes left in the race, and Pond had his sights homed in on Couch, but Zarcone and Blake Minasian were just behind looking for opportunities of their own. In the end, Couch held off Pond to take the win, and Zarcone was able to get around Pond to take second, putting Pond in third.

“We had the yellow with 10 to go, which was a bunched us back up and made it all interesting when we got going again,” Couch said. “It was a two-lap shootout and then it was me, Ryan, and AJ all going for it and I came out on top.”

Despite what he called a messy start, Zarcone took the second step on the podium, his first podium finish in Teen Mazda Challenge and Spec Miata in his first season out of karting.

“I kind of missed third gear and then just kind of fixed it, got going,” Zarcone said. “I saw them battling and I was thinking, “Oh, this is pretty good,” and I caught back up.”

Post-race tech infractions shuffled the podium, moving Blake Minasian up to third.

Sunday’s main started with Couch on pole, Zarcone in second and Minasian in third, followed by Haddad and Eric Slivkoff. At the green flag, the field barreled into Turn 1, and a couple of cars pushed wide into the dirt. In Turn 2, Couch went four off, tried to re-enter, but dropped to last and eventually dropped out.

That put Haddad in front with Slivkoff and Minasian just behind. Haddad was able to keep Slivkoff behind him for a few laps, but Slivkoff squeaked around him, drove clean, consistent laps and took his first big win in Spec Miata after two years of trying.

“I think sometimes you get good luck. Sometimes you get bad luck. In the first few rounds, we got a taste of the bad luck,” he said afterward. “And luckily the carnage this time was in front of us. We got to the clean air early and just walked away. So, I can’t ask for an easier drive.”

Former Teen Mazda Challenge driver No. 52 Eric Slivkoff got out front after an early incident, and fast consistent laps kept him out front to take his first Spec Miata win at Buttonwillow in April.

Haddad battled with Minasian for second, but a mistake late in the race bumped Minasian up into second place.

“I was battling with Mike Haddad at the end, last lap,” Minasian said. “And coming into the sweeper, I was on the inside. We went two-wide and it looks like he ended up going straight off there. But then I secured second, so it was a great race. Great racing. A lot of fun.”

Another Teen Mazda Challenge competitor, Mark Polunin pulled himself forward five positions to take third place, his first podium in Teen Mazda Challenge and Spec Miata in his first season with NASA SoCal.

“I kept my distance cause people were pinata’ing into people and not giving enough room and they got the consequences of that,” Polunin said. “I stayed back, saw that people were going crazy, and just drove calmly. I did go off, but people were having a lot of battles and they ended up going off and I was in fourth, went back up to third.”


Image courtesy of Brett Becker and Herb Lopez

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