The third annual NASA Western States Championships presented by Toyo Tires is in the books, with Championship races having been run at Buttonwillow Raceway today.
Under picture perfect California weather, 75-degrees and sunny, the 250+ NASA Championship racers started the day with the national anthem. The first group took to the track at 9:40 a.m. with Spec E30 and 944 Spec starting the Championship races.
Justin Ross, pole sitter, brought the Spec E30 field to the standing start line in his No. 80 BMW. Ross had a great launch at the drop of the green, getting nearly a car length lead going into Turn 1. Ross was followed closely in the early going by No. 55 Michael Mihld. By lap three, Friday qualifying race winner Michael Shawhan moved into the runner spot in the No. 152 BMW. As Mihld and Shawhan took up the battle for second, Ross was able to gap the two by nearly four seconds at the checkered flag.
“I got a great start and was able to get a little gap when they were two wide behind me,” Ross said. “The top guys are within tenth of a seconds of each other. The early gap gets them out of my draft and allows me to focus on my race. The lap cars were very nice when they saw us coming they moved out the way, no complaints. The car ran flawlessly this weekend.”
Charles Sharp started his No. 58 Porsche 944 from the pole. John Pentelei-Molnar took over the lead when the field completed the first lap in his No. 84 Porsche. By lap three Molnar had moved out into a two second lead. Molnar was able to gap Sharp by three seconds by lap five as he was engaged in a battle with third place runner John Niedernhofer in the No. 78 Porsche 944. Molnar took the checkered flag with over a 10-second lead on the field.
“I got a good start on Charley and the rest of race I was trying not to make mistakes,” Molnar said. “I had a couple of times were I missed shifts, and I thought oh man. I really have to thank Jacks Stock Car Southwest in Tempe, Frisbee Tire in Las Vegas for tires, Bob Schaffer out there is awesome. I have to thank Osborne Purdy for letting me come out and play. It is my birthday, so this is a great birthday present. My wife Sheri is awesome, she is so patient. When we got this car she said I don’t care where you put it as long I have a spot in the garage.”
HPD Challenge 2
Pole sitter Ken Adelberg in the No. 29 Honda Civic took the standing start and was overtaken going into Turn 1 by Friday’s qualifying race winner Tom Paule, No. 57 Honda CRX. On lap four Adelberg went by Paule with Karla Pestotnik close behind in third in her No. 155 Honda Civic. On the same lap a full course flew bunching the field. The race went green on lap seven with Adelberg still in the lead. On lap nine a second full course caution with Adelberg leading Paule and the No. 371 Honda Civic of Marcel Dekerpel. The race restarted on lap 12 and the white flag flew on the next lap. Paule made a move on the inside of Adelberg in the last turns of the last lap, but Adelberg was able to hold him off for the win.
“It was a great race, really exciting,” Adelberg said. “I have to hand it to DK Racing and Marcel Dekerpel for the great set-up on the car. It was crazy in the beginning. I wish the debris flag would have came out sooner. It was a serious pucker factor, I went off and spun and kept it off the wall. It was under yellow so my competitors gave me the spot back. I have to hand it to Toyo Tires they are fantastic. I had flat spots after the spin and I was still able to hold off Tom Paule, he is a great driver. I have family and friends here watching, so that makes it more special.”
HPD Challenge 4
Rob Krider chose the inside line for the standing start in his No. 38 Acura Integra. Krider was able to lead the field going into Turn 1. After one circuit of Buttonwillow Krider opened up a near three second lead to his to Gus Heredia, No. 17 Acura Integra. Krider’s near six-second lead was negated on lap four when a full course caution flew. The second full course flew on lap seven with the three second lead rebuilt by Krider lost again. The race restarted on lap 12 with the field getting the white flag on 13. Krider was able to take the win in his Speed News build documented Acura Integra.
“The game plan was to get a fast start and put as many other class cars between me and my competitors as possible,” Krider said. “The cool thing about this for me is the first event I ever won was in a 1977 Honda Civic in autocross back in 1996. Here I am today a NASA Champion in 2016 in another Honda product. That is pretty cool and I am pretty stocked about the win.”
Oner Khera, driving his No. 29 BMW, took the early lead in GTS2. Khera was able to put a host of cars between himself and second place runner Tim Carman, No. 55 BMW through the two full course periods and go on for the win.
“It was a little crazy,” Khera said. “We had the two full course cautions. There was a lot of craziness around me. I just had to keep it clean and keep my head on a swivel and stay calm. It was the best race for me all weekend.”
In the Legends Class, Dave Allen behind the wheel of the No. 43 Legends car took the lead in the early going of the 45-minute race. Steve Wilson, No. V8 got by Allen just before the lap five full course caution. Allen and Wilson were nose to tail at the second caution period on lap 11. On the restart Allen took the lead and the win in his No. 43.
“It was a little crazy with people driving over their heads a little,” Allen said. “I got molested by a Honda on Friday and had to rebuild the whole front of my car. The car was a little slow today, but we still won. It was a little hectic out there, especially in our little cars.”
In Thunder Roadster David Standridge, No. 83, Tom Boyd, No. 77 and Brian Gibson, No. 37 were locked in a three way battle for the lead. Boyd was the leader five laps in when a full course caution slowed the field. Standridge went off on the last lap handing the win to Boyd.
“I was going into Turn 1 and they took me three wide,” Boyd said. “I went to the back of the field, my hood was flying up and I had work my way back up. I guess carma caught up with the guy who took me out as he spun on the last lap. I have been to this race four times and something always went wrong when I was leading. So it is good to finally win it.”
Nick Sommers, No. 83 Mazda Miata, started from pole as 25 other Spec Miata racers lined up behind him. Matt Cresci, No. 51 Mazda Miata, came to the line first to start lap number two with the No. 12 of Tristan Littlehale in second and Sommers in third. On lap three Justin Casey, No. 85 Mazda Miata joined the battle moving up to second. By lap six there was a four way battle between Sommers, Justin Casey (No. 85), Cresci and Littlehale all within a second of each other and over four seconds clear of fifth place. By lap nine the four car train, led by Sommers, settled in seemed content to draft for a while. On lap 12 Littlehale posted his first lap out in the lead just to give it back to Sommers the next time bye. Sommers went onto the race win with Casey in second and Littlehale in third.
“At the start I got held up and it lost me a couple of positions,” Sommers said. “I slowly worked my way back up to the front. I was able to get a couple good drafts off of Riverside and get past them for the lead. Then my third gear started to go out. I had trouble getting into third gear exiting the hairpin. My tires got a little too hot and started to fade. Everyone behind me was battling for position, so I was able to get away a little. I want to thank my dad for all of the help and support. I want to thank Mazda for this great class and Haag Engines.”
Brian Lock was the pole sitter in the No. 34 NASA Prototype élan NP01 powered by Mazda. On the first lap Jeremy Croiset had a spin in his No. 01 NP01 and had to pit. Lock and Tyler McQuarrie, No. 06, were engaged in a tight battle for the top spot at the quarter race mark. The No. 5 of Andy Lee joined the lead pack by taking the second spot from McQuarrie on lap five. On lap seven a full course flew bunching the field. On lap 12 the race returned to green.
“It was incredible,” Lock said. “This is a good example of having a good start against some tough NP01 competition. I was able to put some other cars between me and my competition and put some lap cars between me and the guys behind to get a buffer.”
At the start Jon van Caneghem drove his No. 7 Elan DP02 Mazda off into the distance, turning laps eight seconds faster than the rest of field, fast lap of 1:41.417. Van Caneghem drove off to a commanding win.
“We had a tough start to the week, my crew worked day and night to put a new engine in the car,” van Caneghem said. “I got a good start and I was never really challenged so a good run today. It was slippery out there, but still a lot of fun. This is my fourth NASA Championship win in a row.”
Robert Kahn in the No. 35 Chevrolet Corvette took the lead early. On lap seven Kahn had an incident across the back stretch leaving him parked on the track and kicking-up a cloud of dust. As a result Ed Charnock took over the class lead in his No. 6 Chevrolet Stock Car.
“It is always difficult with mixed classes,” Charnock said. “The NP01 guys were a lot more courteous today and I gave them just dues back. I was racing Kahn very hard. The incident in the kink was something else. The visibility was tough. Overall everyone was heads-up out there on the track. I really wanted to race Robert in his ex-World Challenge Corvette. It would have been a really good race.”
Oli Thordarson got a good start and was at the head of the ST2 field in his No. 22 Chevrolet Corvette. At the yellow Chuck Mathews took over the lead in the No. 38 Corvette.
“It was a great race. The first half of the race it was three Corvettes in ST2 nose-to-tail, anyone could lead. We had a little spin out on the back straight and once Corvette went left, the other right and we inverted the three cars. On the restart is about traffic management. I got the best of it and ended up winning. It was great racing in the first half.”
In ST3 Tony Colicchio was at the head of the field in his No. 331 BMW M3. Tristan Littlehale was parading around in second right on the bumper of Colicchio under the yellow that flew on lap seven. Colicchio went on to take the win.
“I had a good start,” Colicchio said. “Tristan gave me a good run today. The conditions were a little tough out there with the wind and the dust. I just had to focus on executing passes in traffic. It was a good race.”
Corey Weber started where he left off in the qualifying races by taking an early commanding lead in his No. 47 Ford Mustang. Weber had an eight second lead by lap three. Weber had his 12 second lead negated on lap seven with a full course caution.
“It was a good time out there,” Weber said. “It looks like we got off track just in time. It was a brown out with the dust on the cool down lap. I was able to get through that crash on the back stretch. It was a pretty uneventful race, the car was under me the whole way.”
Pole sitter and now 15 time NASA Champion David Schotz was in the lead early in his familiar yellow No. 34 Pontiac Firebird. He was being chased by the No. 00 Mini Cooper of Ricky Johnson.
“The wind and the dust was unlike anything I have ever seen,” Schotz said. “On lap two I went off into Cotton Corners, it was just brown. The dirt was crazy. The dust stayed out of the busy corners and I could just run some laps. Ricky was there the whole time and I think traffic really hurt him. Thanks to G-Loc brakes and Hoosier tires. I want to give a shout out to Austin Newmark. He was on the pole and I was looking forward to racing him, but he had some car trouble.”
Joshua Allen was the early leader in his No. 27 Mazda MX5 and went on for the win.
“It was pretty uneventful,” Allen said. “It was interesting because we were dealing with a lot of dust and wind. Visibility was an issue at times. I had a couple of offs coming through Cotton Corners under braking. Just not a lot of grip there at that point.”
Charley Hayes set the pace early his No. 22 Mazda Miata and went on for the win.
“It was a pretty good race,” Hayes said. “The Toyo Tire No. 22 Mazda Miata started on pole and I was able to drive away. Some of the drivers were a little confused with the dust, but I thought the grip was there the whole race. It was fun.”
Dan Howard in the No. 103 Mazda Miata led early. He was engaged in a battle with the No. 26 Saturn SC2 of Roman Vaisman and the No. 147 Mazda Miata of Justin Ross. Howard went on for the win.
“I was blowing some oil smoke out of the car with three laps to go,” Howard said. “Thankfully they didn’t black flag me and thankfully the car stayed together. I’m from Ohio, so I am not used to the wind or the dust. Driving through dust clouds is pretty spooky. I limped that one into victory lane.”
Eli Villa, No. 31 Kia Rio, had the pace to lead early in the race. Gary Joseph went by Villa at the halfway mark in his No. 112 Toyota Celica to take the win.
“It was so much fun,” Joseph said. “When you are racing against a great guy like Eli it just makes it fun. We had some cars in the other classes that raced us really well. We gave them room and they gave us room. A lot of respect out there today.”
The No. 22 of Michael Shawhan took off into the lead at the beginning of the race and was able to hold on for the win.
“That race worked out for me finally,” Shawhan said. “The dust was insane. It got pretty crazy. I got a good lead and was able to cope with the dust and keep my line. My BMW was under me the whole way.”
Andrew Morton was the early GT3 leader in his No. 0 BMW and held on for the victory.
“It was pretty tough conditions,” Morton said. “I got lucky in traffic. I was able to stay out of trouble. I stuck the car in the tire wall on Friday. I had a couple of mates come over and cheer me on. I put it back together and made it today. It isn’t pretty, but it turns laps.”
Maury Gentile was the class of the GTS4 field in his No. 87 BMW M3.
“It was fun,” Gentile said. “I did some good racing with some of the other guys in the other classes. There is always someone to race with out there today. I wanted to keep it clean and on the pavement. There was a lot of wind and dust, it was a little difficult, kind of like being in the rain. There were a lot of people going off.”
Yesterday’s qualifying race winner Tom Kaminski proved his speed by leading Spec Z in the No. 16 Nissan 350Z.
“It was a blast out there today,” Kaminski said. “It was super slippery with the dust on the track. A few people went off behind me that I usually race with and would have been competing against. I survived the first couple of laps, established position and just went for it after that point.”
NASA Western States Champions (provisional):
Spec E30, Justin Ross, No. 80 BMW 325
Spec 944, John Pentelei-Molnar, No. 84 Porsche 944
HPD Challenge 2, Ken Adelberg, No. 29 Honda Civic
HPD Challenge 4, Rob Krider, No. 38 Acura Integra
GTS2, Oner Khera, No. 29 BMW
Thunder Roadster, Tom Boyd, No. 77 Thunder Roadster
Legends, Dave Allen, No. 5 Legends
Spec Miata, Nick Sommers, No. 83, Mazda Miata
NP01, Brian Lock, No. 34 NP01 élan Prototype
SU, Jon van Caneghem, No. 7 Elan DP02
ST1, Ed Charnock, No. 6 Chevrolet Stock Car
ST2, Chuck Mathews, No. 38 Chevrolet Corvette
ST3, Tony Colicchio, No. 331 BMW
American Iron, Corey Weber, No. 47 Ford Mustang
PTB, David Schotz, No. 34 Pontiac Firebird
PTC, Josh Allen, No. 27 Mazda Miata
PTD, Charlie Hayes, No. 22 Mazda Miata
PTF, Gary Joseph, No. 112 Mazda Miata
Spec E46, Michael Shawhan, No. 22 BMW
GTS3, Andrew Morton, No. 0 BMW
GTS4, Maury Gentile, No. 87 BMW
Spec Z, Tom Kaminski, No. 16 Nissan 350Z
TTU, Jon van Caneghem, No. 7 Elan DP02
TT1, Jason Capelli, No. 25 Nissan GTR
TT2, Oli Thordarson, No. 22 Chevrolet Corvette
TT3, Erik Davis, No. 6 BMW
TTB, David Schotz, No. 34 Pontiac Firebird
TTC, David Schotz, N0. 75 Corvette
TTD, Charlie Hayes, No. 22 Mazda Miata
TTE, Dan Howard, No. 103 Mazda Miata
TTF, Team Rotary Heds, No. 419 Mazda Miata
The 2017 NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires will run at Thunderhill Raceway Park, October 7-8 and at Sebring International Raceway, October 21-22.