Drivers battle tough competition, hot, sticky weather and rain to capture Eastern States Championships
Drivers battled the elements and each other on Sunday’s final day of the NASA Eastern States Championships, which were held at Sebring International Raceway. Sunday’s championship day was the culmination of the three-day event, which drew more than 200 competitors from 10 of NASA’s 15 regions.
Drivers had to fight the heat during the day and the rain that fell when the final group of the day was on the track, which led to a brief stoppage and some interesting track conditions.
Jim Drago started on the pole, but was involved in a first-lap incident, which led to a duel between Selin Rollan and Michael Ross. Rollan led nearly the entire race, but Ross was able to win a drag race down the front stretch to claim the championship by .052 seconds.
“It looked like his (Rollan) car was starting to go a little more than mine toward the end of the race, so I was hunting and pecking for a place to pass,” Ross said. “Turn 17 looked like my only spot. He’s too good of a driver. I got him down on the front straight the last time and made the pass there, but I thought 17 was going to be it.”
Ross said winning the Eastern States Championship was huge.
“I teared up a little on the front straight coming back around on the cool-down lap,” he said. “It really couldn’t sink in. I really didn’t think I was going to get there this weekend. I haven’t driven much this year and I’m the kind of guy who needs to be in the car a lot, but maybe that’s not my mentality anymore.”
Bryce Byerly led a Florida podium sweep, capturing the American Iron title by 1.761 seconds over Dennis Ramsey. Contender Michael Patterson, driving the lone Camaro in field, suffered a mechanical failure and pulled off early.
“We’re just happy to have at least one Camaro out here, but unfortunately he broke,” Byerly said of Patterson. “I think he said he broke the diff, but next year I’m sure he’ll be showing us the way around COTA because that’s where we’re going next year.
For Byerly, the finish couldn’t come soon enough.
“The Toyo tires were doing all right, but this car was smoking,” he said. “We basically run a stock car and the trans was overheated, it was done. I was begging for that white flag for five laps. I knew I couldn’t shift anymore. It was crazy. I just got lucky.”
American Iron Extreme
Robert Shaw was the only competitor in the American Iron Extreme race, but stepped it up a notch on Sunday, even though he was essentially running by himself. His fast lap of 2:19.509 was easily the best he turned all weekend.
Super Touring 1
Dmitri Goliakov captured the ST1 class with a solid effort, and was the only one of the drivers to complete 15 laps. Goliakov managed to run a clean race, something not all of his competitors were able to do.
“It feels great,” he said. “Thanks to the staff. Too bad for the Panoz (Brian Goldburg). He was strong, but unfortunately cut a tire. Then the Elan (Franklin Futrelle) was pushing for a little bit. He got caught in traffic.”
Goliakov said 45 minutes in the heat takes its toll, especially during a red-flag period.
“I was sitting over there talking to my guys and say ‘Hey, a cold martini would be nice right now because I’m sitting in an oven.’ It takes a lot out of you, I’m exhausted.”
Super Touring 2
Scott Argow and Ken Montovani had a hard-fought battle in the ST2 class, and Argow crossed the finish line first, but when the officials released the final results, it was Montovani who was awarded the Championship.
Super Touring 3
Sebring International Raceway is Mark Burt’s home track, which meant he was familiar with its intricacies. So, when the rain started coming down after the race began, Burt knew the wet line and where to find grip. Burt also had been keeping a little something in reserve for Sunday’s Championship race.
“I put fresh tires on and I just drove it harder. Always save a little bit for the last race,” he said. “That way, nobody knows or expects you. This is my home track, so I know a little bit more than these guys who have only been here once.”
Super Touring 4
Stephen Pearce drove his Honda S2000 to victory in the ST4 class, out-dueling David Davison by less than a second to capture the title.
“That was a great race,” Pearce said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else. I love the track. It’s a fantastic time. We came down in January for the first time to get the lay of the land. I think it paid off.”
Bryan Putt captured the competitive Super Unlimited class in his Elan DP02, but not without a solid fight from Charles Wicht in his Ligier JS P3. After Putt pulled out in front, Wicht was coming at him all race long, but spun out when the two made contact at Turn 7.
“It went well because we got the win,” Putt said. “Charles in the LMP3 car was running really good and I had to pedal as hard as I could. It was a great day.”
Jay Aranha captured the win in the Tom Hahn-built Elan NP01, although Charles Liniger didn’t make it easy on him. But Liniger didn’t have luck on his side, and Aranha’s car was running great.
“It was a great race, pretty clean in the beginning,” Aranha said. “We were just trying to stay out of any trouble out there. Charles ran an amazing race, but he got caught up behind the pace car on a yellow and ended up losing a lap. It was awesome racing and this is an amazing car.”
German Touring Series 4
Randy Mueller didn’t exactly play possum, but he wasn’t in a hurry to tip his hand completely, either. After seeing what the car could do, he was in no hurry to put it through the punishment known as Sebring International Raceway. But when it counted, he took the victory by 6.778 seconds over Robert Ferriol.
“It was good,” Mueller said. “We did the first qualifying race and I saw where we were time-wise, and then decided to park the car the rest of the weekend and save it for this race. All-in-all it was a good race.”
Carlos Mendez captured the Spec E30 victory in a thrilling finish, briefly surrendering the lead on the last lap, but grabbing it right back momentarily later and took the checkered flag.
“The last lap was crazy,” Mendez said. “In the last turn, going into 17, I ran a defensive line and Brian Edmonds came in on the inside, and he passed me and I thought this might be the end. I might finish second. I kind of went under him through 17 and I made it, and I can’t believe it. I’m still in shock.”
Dan Piña captured his second 944 Spec Championship by taking a 1.967-second victory over Jason Stanley.
“Honestly, that whole race wouldn’t have happened without teamwork,” Piña said. “You know in 2015 when I won, I got lucky. The two top guys took each other out, so that was an inheritance. I really wanted to win this one. Honestly, I have to give a huge thank you to Bob Keller. He paid the price.”
Keller, who had been having temperature problems all weekend, overheated, leaving Piña to hold off Stanley and Kyle Kimball at the end.
“Kyle and Jason hooked up and once they did that, oh, man, they were both coming for me,” Piña said. “Once I saw Jason’s yellow car get in front of that orange one, I knew I was in trouble, and luckily the clock ran out before he could get to me.”
German Touring Series 1
Clarice Lee took the default victory once again as the only car in her class, completing nine laps in a race that was marred by rain and a black flag due to track conditions. But the rain went away quickly and racing resumed, where she took home the championship.
German Touring Series 2
After winning both qualifying races, Scott Blair went out and completed the trifecta by capturing the Eastern States Championship by 11 seconds over Aaron Nash.
“You have a plan what you’re going to do, and then it starts dumping on you and it all goes right out the window,” Blair said. “I was still in the lead so I tried to drive to the limit in the rain. I tried not to overdrive the car, just enough to stay in the lead.”
German Touring Series 3
It was an up-and-down weekend for Michael Camus, but ended on a high note, as he took the victory in the GTS3 class. The final margin of victory showed 9.591 seconds, but Camus had to work hard for the win.
“It was a great battle,” Camus said. “The rain came, I did four donuts. I recovered and I was in fifth overall. The track kept drying and I kept getting faster and faster, and I pulled away from everybody. I really had a great time. It’s my first NASA Championship, ever.”
HPD Honda Challenge 2
Robert Paszkiewicz made it three for three with his victory in the HPD Honda Challenge 2 class, sweeping both qualifying races and taking the win in the Championships. Unlike the qualifying races, Paszkiewicz had to bear down on Sunday and his margin of victory was 3.257 seconds.
“I went off in the rain, I spun off,” he said. “It sucks it happened, but I’m glad it happened because I had to work for it, so it makes me feel like I earned this trophy instead of just sailing home with a win.
Paszkiewicz said he’d definitely like to hit the Championships next year.
“I’ve never been to COTA. I’d like to,” he said. “Hopefully we get a good turnout in our class, so why not go out there and give it a shot?”
Performance Touring C
Aaron Michelet captured both qualifying races and followed that up with the Eastern States Championship. Not bad for somebody racing a PTD car in the faster PTC class. It wasn’t easy, however, because he had to fight off a hard-charging Michael Globe the last two times on the track, and won the Championship by 1.201 seconds.
“That was crazy,” Michelet said. “It’s everything my dad and I have been working for and I can’t thank him enough for giving me a great car. And Mazda and Hoosier Tires, for giving me a great contingency, I can’t even put into words how I feel right now.”
Michelet knew Globe was going to be coming hard at the end.
“My dad’s on the radio telling me he’s a half-second behind. If I hadn’t taken Turn 7 on the inside line, I wouldn’t have been a champion today. That was the race right there. Then the last lap, I almost blew it in 7. He was right there again.”
Performance Touring E
Brian Henderson took the victory in PTE after having some issues earlier in the day in the Spec Miata race. Henderson took the checkered flag by a margin of 3.752 seconds over Tyler Harrell.
“That was a wild race, with all the traffic and then the rain came,” Henderson said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it until the end of the race, but I’m glad I came out on top. It has been a very long weekend. We lost one car in Spec Miata, didn’t the finish the race due to an electrical issue. This makes the weekend a lot better. I’m glad we got it.”
After winning Friday’s qualifying race, Broderick Bauguess had some issues Saturday. But when it counted most, he turned in a big performance to grab the Spec E46 Championship.
“The rain really threw a wrench into plans,” he said. “Being on slicks, it was like an ice skating rink out there.”
Once the track started to dry, Bauguess was able to lay down some solid lap times.
“The first few laps it was tricky. Everybody was being careful, but then it got better and I was able to put a gap on second place,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible because we had an incident yesterday. Our friends at Crucial Motorsports helped us get it back together. I’m really happy with it. Setting a track record for the class was pretty good.”
Carmine Pace knows Sebring International Raceway pretty well, because it’s his home track. On Sunday, he was able to use that knowledge to his advantage and capture the Spec Iron class championship.
“The rain helped me out,” Pace said. “The rain came out and we had a restart. This is my home track. I had a dry line and just kept going. I was able to get away from Robert Miller and get ahead of him and finish the race.”
Pace had come close to winning a Championship, which is what made his victory all the more meaningful.
“I got my first championship, finally,” he said. “This is great. I had a second and a third the last two years and I was able to come up here and get the win.”
Thunder Roadster GTR
When John Spain says the cars in the Thunder Roadster GTR class are equal, he’s not kidding. The top three finishers in Sunday’s Championship race were separated by .639 seconds, but it was Spain who crossed the finish line first.
“This class, these Gary Tinker cars, Toys by Tink, they’re all about parity,” Spain said. “We’re all equal and it’s all about the driver. I’ve been running with these guys for about four long years and it takes a long time to get to the pointy end of the field. They’re great drivers. Maybe this year is my turn, but I don’t think it will happen next year. They’re great guys and a tough field.”
Time Trials Recap
NASA Time Trial is another component of NASA Championships racing in which drivers compete for the fastest lap time rather than track position, as in racing. In Time Trial competition:
• TTU: Jack McAfee Jr. – 2:21.381
• TT1: Brian Rosati – 2:13.410
• TT2: Rokket Horton – 2:19.618
• TT3: Kevin Harvey – 2:19.543
• TTC: Joshua Feingold – 2:36.349
• TTD: Peter Lier – 2:32.260
• TTE: Brad Wagner – 2:38.538