The third annual 2016 NASA Western States Championships presented by Toyo Tires is underway with qualifying races being run at Buttonwillow Raceway just north of Bakersfield, California.
The first group of NASA Championship cars took to the track this morning under perfect 75-degree temperatures. The 250+ competitors will run qualifying races Friday and Saturday to set the grids for Sunday’s Championship events.
In the first qualifying race of the weekend, Ed Charnock, drove his No. 6 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, to the overall ST1 Class win in convincing.
“The car handled absolutely fantastic,” Charnock said. “I have a saying, looser is faster, and it was today. This is my first year in this car. I know it is a qualifying race, but every time I come out here I get in a rhythm and the zone and just run. It was tough with the NP01 cars out there today. We are 3,300 lbs. and those guys are really light and nimble. That makes things interesting. Buttonwillow is a medium speed track, but very technical. It is a real equalizer with the different cars. NASA puts on a great event. I am fire fighter so I have a limited budget. The car is handling awesome, cross my fingers and we make to Sunday for the Championship race.”
In the all-new NASA Prototype élan NP01 powered by Mazda, Brian Lock won the first of two qualifying races in his No. 34 NP01. With seven of the new NP01 prototypes in the field, the competition for top honors this weekend will be very close.
“It was easier than it should have been,” Lock said. “I was settling in for a battle with Tyler McQuarrie (No. 6 NP01). He went deep into the braking zone and I was able to get past. He was then battling with the second and third place car, I got some clear track and was able to pull away for the win.”
The Spec E30 qualifying race took the standing start with a field of 22 BWW 325s. Michael Shawhan drove his No. 152 BMW to the class win.
“It was pretty straight forward,” Shawhan said. “We qualified second and I was able to get a jump on the pole sitter at the start. I went into the lead and never looked back. Charles Buzzetti (No. 7 BMW) came up and challenged and my teammate Justin Ross (No. 80 BMW) caught me and we ran together all race. It all went to plan.”
Charles Sharp was the class of the 944 Spec field today. Driving his No. 58 Porsche to the qualifying race win.
“It was a lot of fun,” exclaimed Sharp. “Tom (Atteberry, No. 19) and John (Pentelei-Molnar, No. 84) if they wouldn’t have made mistakes I would have never gotten by them. We were all quick, it was just a matter of who would make the mistakes. Once I got ahead it was a lot of fun!”
Twenty-six Spec Miata racers to the track for the first qualifying race of the afternoon. Matt Cresci, No. 51 Mazda Miata, took the early lead of the 30-minute event. By lap two he had nearly a two second lead on second place runner Tristan Littlehale, No. 12 Mazda Miata. On the final lap, Littlehale was passed by the No. 83 of Nick Sommers for second place going into the esses.
“It was good,” Cresci said. “I set my car up for the later part of the race. My plan was to hold them off the first half of the race and then pull away. But, the final few laps I started to have a huge problem with the left front. I was worried I was going to have a hub failure on the track so I had to baby it in a little. But, I made it in and it was a good race. It is going to be a gnarly one tomorrow too.”
HPD Challenge 2
The No. 57 Honda CRX of Tom Paule had the pole for the HPD Challenge 2 race. He was followed closely by the No. 29 Acura Integra of Ken Adelberg. On lap three Adelberg went by Paule into Turn 1 to take the lead. On the same lap a full caution flew bunching up the field. The race returned to green on lap six and soon after Paule retook the lead for the win.
“It was a very interesting race,” Paule said. “There was crash going into the esses between a Honda Challenge car and a Thunder Roadster which brought out the full course caution for a couple of laps. I was behind a few of the Thunder Roadsters on the restart which made it interesting. It was a great race and a lot of fun. The plan for Saturday and Sunday is win, win.”
Honda Challenge 4
In Honda Challenge 4 James Landry in his No. 15 Acura Integra was locked in a battle with the No. 23 of Steve Peterson and his Honda CRX for the number one spot.
“That race had everything, Landry said. “There were cars crashing left and right. Then we had the full course caution, which helped me out. My car is running and handling really good. The plan for the rest of the weekend is to keep going to the front.”
Twelve time NASA Championships winner David Schotz led the field in the PTB race in his familiar No. 34 yellow Pontiac Firebird. Driving to a win by nearly four seconds, Schotz looks primed for number 13 on Sunday.
“Austin (Newmark, No. 47 Miata) is really fast,” Schotz said. “His car had a lot of grip over mine. We had the power on him. I used my strengths to keep the lead. I would have five or six cars on him across the back and he would be on my bumper coming onto the front straight. It was clean racing and a lot of fun. My Hoosier tires and G-Loc brakes put me to the front. A great time.”
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