NASA Florida Spec Miata racer Danny Steyn came to Road Atlanta focused on winning a Championship. In fact, even though he had raced at the track in the last few months, he had not been on it since the Turn 10, 10A complex had been repaved — so he attended a Skip Barber course a few weeks before the Eastern States Championships just to be sure he knew every nuance of the track.
It didn’t pay off immediately for Steyn. He scored two second-place finishes in the qualifying races behind Matt Pombo, who also races in Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. That put Pombo on pole, followed by Steyn, Jonathan Czarny, Alex Bolanos and James Drago, who had logged the fastest lap time among the top five at 1:45.104. The top 10 cars all qualified within one second of one another.
When the green flag dropped Steyn and Pombo drag-raced to Turn 1. Steyn took the outside, which put him on the inside for Turn 2. That put him in a position to take the lead, with Pombo, Czarny and Bolanos hot on his tail.
Steyn was golden for 11 laps, when Bolanos took the lead away and shuffled the front order, with Steyn in second leading Pombo, Drago and Texas’ Trevor McCallion. Steyn retook the lead four laps later and held it as the field rounded the circuit six more times.
That’s when Bolanos took the lead again, with Steyn in second, Pombo in third and Drago in fourth, which is the order that remained till the finish.
“The car came to me at the end,” Bolanos said. “I just tried to take care of the tires. This heat is just brutal on these cars. I just tried to manage the tires all the way through so I had something in the last five, and that’s the way it went. I want to thank, Mazda, Momo, AutoTechnik Old Dogs Racing for having me this week.”
Steyn offered Bolanos a hearty congratulations, but he wishes it could have been the other way around.
“I just couldn’t get the runs out of Turn 7,” Steyn said. “My car was pushing just slightly and I was having to manage my exit. The only place I was losing time was coming out of Turn 7, and of course that goes all the way down to Turn 10A, and that’s where Alex was gaining on me. Everywhere else I was holding, but that’s the place where I was giving it up. I think it was more driver than car.”
Pombo, who had started from pole, was fortunate to have finished on the podium. His car was having problems.
“I’ve got to thank Tom Fowler at OPM Autosports,” Pombo said. “They gave me a good car. Unfortunately, just as we were getting up to the front, it started cutting out on me. It cut out on me about three times through The Esses and that’s how I lost them. I just tried to hold on for a podium spot. I jinxed myself winning the qualifying races, but it’s always fun coming out with these Spec Miata guys. It’s so much fun racing. This is the best series in the country for amateur racing.”