The NASA Nation descended upon the 2.25-mile, 15-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, for the club’s annual celebration of speed, with 370 car-driver combinations competing on the historic course for their shot at becoming a NASA National Champion. There was no shortage of storylines and certainly no shortage of action.
Mid-Ohio played host to the event for the second year in a row, the fifth time in its seven-year run. After two hot and sunny days of time trials and qualification races on Thursday and Friday, the stage was set for a weekend of high-stakes racing. When Saturday rolled around, heavy rains rolled in, making tire strategy a primary concern among drivers and crews in the paddock competing in the day’s first round of competition. On Sunday, gray skies gave way to a cool and sunny Midwestern day, making track conditions ideal for side-by-side racing and unrelenting horsepower.
When the dust settled, fans walked away with plenty to talk about. Twenty-four drivers from 12 different states and one Canadian claimed race wins. Jeremy Croiset took two championship trophies back to his hometown of Tehachapi, Calif., while a number of other drivers claimed their first-ever NASA Nationals victories.
James Forbis of Mason, Ohio and Karim-Alex Talbot of Streamwood, Ill. rolled off the Super Touring 2 grid in fourth and fifth, respectively, but by the third lap, Forbis found himself in the lead, with Talbot not far behind. After a heated battle, Talbot took command of the field before a full-course caution slowed the action on lap five. When the green flag flew again, Forbis retook the lead from Talbot, distancing himself from the hometown driver. As the track began to dry, Talbot began closing the gap yet again.
“Once we went green again, Forbis and I really took off. He was on wets so I knew it was just a matter of time before I caught him,” Talbot said.
When the two leaders encountered traffic, spectators who braved the rain were treated to a terrific side-by-side battle for the top spot. In the end, Talbot’s tire strategy paid off when he made the race’s deciding move on the outside of Forbis as they entered the Carousel on lap 15. It was all he needed to pull away, claiming the top spot on the podium and his first ST2 championship.
“It was a great event and a fun race,” Talbot said. “I went for the dry setup because I knew it was going to dry out. It was a gamble, but I told my crew chief, ‘Forget it, we’re going to take the overall.’”
Talbot was later DQ’d. Forbis was awarded the win while Geffrey Sawtelle of Neshkoro, Wisc., brought his Corvette home in second, with Chris DeSalvo in third.
The fight for ST1 supremacy was a good one, coming down to the McCann Racing Viper of Scott Welham and Terry Free’s Kaiser Racing Corvette Z06. Welham led early, but Free wasn’t done with the Louisville native yet. Free was gaining ground when the two encountered lapped traffic, giving Welham the opportunity to cement his lead and take the championship.
“I was hesitant to even go out because it was raining, and for the first time all year we put wets on,” Welham said. “I’ve got to give kudos to my crew and also to NASA for putting this on. I appreciate the whole experience — it was great!”
It was a hairy start for three-time national champion Dean Martin. Once he settled into race pace, however, he was the class of the class. Running on wets, his lead among the American Iron drivers never came under serious attack. He was running third overall when the track began to dry, setting up an excellent battle between him and American Iron Extreme driver Chris Griswold for the overall lead. On lap 17, the two split a lapped machine entering Turn 1, with Martin conceding the position to the now much quicker Griswold.
Bruce Byerly was able to keep his Ford FR500S in the top five overall, eventually taking second in the AI class. The final spot on the podium was locked up by Richfield, Ohio’s Mickey Remen, piloting his Paul’s Auto Eng/Andrew Racing/Hawk Brakes Mustang to third past Team Faessler.
“I was worried I was going to start losing some time to guys that went out on dries, but my plan was to get enough of a gap, because who cares if I give back a second a lap on my full tread compared to the worn out tires, and it worked out,” Martin said. “I’m happy about it. The Ford Mustang ran great.”
American Iron Extreme
One of the more entertaining drives of the day to watch was that of Chris Griswold. The Helenville, Wisc., native’s G&V/Hoosier/DSS/Maximum Motorsports Mustang fell back in the overall standings early. But as track conditions changed, Griswold’s machine sprang to life, shooting up to fourth overall on lap 16, nabbing the third overall spot a lap later, and passing ST2 racer James Forbis for the second overall position on the final lap. Once the course dried up, Griswold’s hold on the AIX championship was simply too much to overcome for runner-up Team Faessler and third place finisher Michael Stacy.
“The track was pretty wild, but slicks ended up being the right call,” said Griswold, who claimed his third National Championship. “I started working my way through the field and my grip started coming, and a dry line came out late in the race. [I was] running some pretty decent laps in the end so it worked out pretty well.”
Honda Challenge 2
The Honda Challenge 2 championship wasn’t much of a challenge for Tehachapi, California’s Jeremy Croiset. He held off an initial charge at the start, retaining his lead after a three-wide battle with Egidijus Sadauskas and Erik Olson. That’s as close as the competition would get to the back of his Honda CRX. Croiset started on point and led wire-to-wire for his first championship.
“The first three, four laps, I had to drive really defensively because [Sadauskas] was driving really strong lap times,” said a victorious Croiset. “Then Erik (Olson) finally got up on his bumper and started hounding him and giving him something else to look at. That allowed me to keep digging and keep pushing and keep running those consistent lap times and kind of drive away.”
The best battle on the circuit was between the Civic of Erik Olson and the Integra of Jonathan Baker. Olson made a press for second when the race went green, but by lap 7, his mirrors began to fill with Baker’s Acura. The two ran nose-to-tail for the rest of the race, with the Hollywood, Md., driver able to stay right on the bumper of Olson, but unable to find the speed to make a move on the Allentown, Pa., native, filling out the H2 podium in third.
Saturday’s final race was packed with action throughout the field. Forty-two Miatas took the green flag, with top qualifier Yiannis Tsiounis jumping out to a commanding lead early. Second-place qualifier Andrew Von Charbonneau found trouble early on lap 2 when his car spun off course in Turn 9, leaving the runner-up spot up for grabs between several drivers. The 57 of Alex Bolanos was eventually able to claim the position and put some distance between himself and a chaotic battle for third.
The race seemed in hand for Tsiounis, who had built an insurmountable lead, when a full-course caution came out for the powerless Miata of podium contender Justin Hille. Tsiounis was able to hold his lead on the restart, again pulling away from the field when yet another full-course yellow interrupted the action on lap 15, this time for a two-car incident in Turn 11.
The duel that ensued between Tsiounis and Bolanos after the final restart was the best of the race, with both drivers going side by side in Turn 7 and coming through the Carousel abreast of each other en route to the white flag. Tsiounis was able to get on the gas a second sooner and willed himself to the front as cars slid off-track behind them deeper in the pack. The New Yorker held on for the win, with Bolanos scoring second and Gregory Stasiowski rounding out the top three.
“Right before the white flag, I see a truck right in the middle of the track, so I think we’re going to have another double-yellow,” Tsiounis said. “I slowed down and then in the middle of the turn I’m thinking, ‘Wait a second- it’s a local yellow, I don’t see any other yellow.’ So I just gunned it and thankfully Alex made the same mistake and he wasn’t up on me so I had enough of a gap to win the race. It was a very eventful race that I thought was going to be easy, but I had a great car so I just had to run my race.”
The group race for the GTS classes was a dicey affair from the front of the pack all the way to the back. Staying out of trouble was the name of the game for Jean-Pierre Verbunt. The Ancastor, Ontario, driver piloted his Porsche 944 through several accidents to take top honors in the GTS1 class. Burlington, North Carolina’s John Mock finished second and Columbus, Ohio, native Jim Ginter brought his BMW 325iS home in third.
“I tried not to tear [my car] up on the first lap. Glad I could snake my way through all the trouble. Then it was just hang on till the end,” Verbunt said with a smile. “It’s typical in this race. Last year I got taken out on the second lap because of this and this year I win. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes it isn’t. It was good though. It was really good.”
Verbunt was later DQ’d for “dyno non compliance,” and yielded the win to Mock, bumping Ginter to second and Brant Giere to third.
John Graber’s strategy was simple: Just make it through the madness. Starting near the middle of the 42-car field, Graber had his work cut out for him. The home-state favorite from Bay Village, Ohio, kept the nose of his Porsche 944 clean for the duration of the race, charging through the GTS2 field en route to his first GTS2 national championship. Fellow Ohioan Mike Ward and his Porsche 968 didn’t have quite enough for Graber, but still came home second. Chicago Illinois’ Zach Hillman, driving a Porsche 944S, took the final step of the podium.
“It went really well,” said Graber of his first NASA crown. “I started third in class, five behind the leader. Got through everyone on the first lap, just ran consistent, calm and smooth to the finish and everything worked out.”
When the green flag waved, Steve Ott and his Porsche Boxster were 21st overall on the grid. Top GTS3 qualifier Josh Smith and his BMW M3 took the green third overall. While Smith duked it out with GTS4 competition for the overall lead, Ott was dicing in and out of traffic on a mission to the front. By lap 7, the Houston native was running eighth overall. By lap 11, only the Porsche 911 C2 of Ralf Lindackers separated him from Smith’s BMW, with Eric Wong running third-in-class right behind him.
When Lindacker’s Porsche went off course at the top of the Keyhole to bring out a full-course yellow, Ott was in position to pounce. When the track went green again, Ott made his move, taking the lead and holding on for the win. Smith and Wong would finish second and third, respectively.
“It was [dicey]. There were a lot of guys fighting for a lot of positions, so it was a tough challenge,” Ott said after capturing his first GTS3 championship. “The yellow really helped, so everything worked out pretty well.”
At least until after the race, where Ott was DQ’d for reasons not listed in the official results. The victory went to Smith, with Wong in second and Stefan Sajic bumping up to third.
The GTS4 championship race was nothing short of eventful. Randy Mueller’s BMW M3 started on point and quickly jumped out to a big lead. The action behind him, however, was just heating up. After only two laps, Denny Pedri had maneuvered his BMW E36 M3 from 18th overall up to ninth, while positions two through six were all up for grabs. Jay Matus was running in sixth when he and Scott Bove tangled in Turn 5, sending Matus’ Porsche 996 up-and-over in the rain-soaked grass. Matus was OK, but the wreck brought out the race’s first full-course caution.
When action resumed, the green flag brought with it a little controversy.
“After that first yellow, I was bunching the field up waiting for the pace car to come out and all the sudden I got passed by four cars,” said Mueller. “I look up to the next corner and there’s no yellow out. They never threw a green, at least for me.”
After settling back in, Mueller was able to get by Bove and re-establish a commanding lead. The real late-race battle was between Pedri and Chris Streit. Pedri had moved into third place after a side-by-side fight through the Esses but on the final lap, Streit’s Porsche GT3 got a great run coming out of the Carousel, catching and passing Pedri at the line for the last podium spot. Bove finished second, unable to catch Mueller, who cruised to his second NASA national championship.
“I was a little panicked there for a minute,” Mueller said. “But it went well, for sure. Finished on top!”
It was an up-and-down race for several top contenders in the FFR championship. On the very first lap, outside pole-sitter and defending class champion Paul Kaiser was able to keep his machine rolling when he found the gravel outside the Carousel, but his chances of repeating seemed all but gone. His loss was Paul Arnold’s gain, as the Franklin, Tenn., driver was able to cruise to a commanding lead. Nashua, New Hampshire’s John George seemed like a lock for second, having built up a ostensibly insurmountable gap between himself and Kaiser, who had worked his way back to third after some fancy maneuvering in his No. 8 machine.
But it only takes one corner to change the complexion of a race.
Eight laps into the contest, Arnold’s commanding lead and any hope for an FFR crown literally went up in smoke. His Factory Five Challenge machine’s engine let go, sending him spinning off course. Again, it seemed the race was all but in hand, this time for George. But while locked in a back-and-forth battle for third with Gregory Wellinghoff, Gregg Wellinghoff went off in turn 1, bringing out a full-course caution and setting up a three-way battle for the win.
Kaiser was quick to capitalize on the restart, nabbing the lead in Turn 6, with George and Gregory Wellinghoff hot on his heels. Unable to maintain speed, however, Kaiser dropped to third, handing the lead to George. Wellinghoff and Kaiser would swap spots several times over the final laps, with Kaiser eventually taking second and Wellinghoff third, leaving George atop the podium when the dust had settled.
“I had Paul [Arnold] in front of me and he was gapping pretty well,” George said. “I was like, ‘All right, well, I better settle in for second because I can’t really catch him.’ And then he blew up, so magically I was first. And then the yellows came and I knew the gap I built up between Paul [Kaiser] and me would be gone. He jumped me on the start and got around me and then something happened with his motor, so I passed him back and the second yellow came out. I did the restart like normal, pulled away, maintained the gap and brought it home.”
The Spec Z championship was a show of speed for Jeremy Croiset, who had already notched one championship in Honda Challenge 2 victory the day before. After a great start, Croiset was able to jump to the front of the pack from his last-place starting spot and set his sights on early leader David Dirks. The lead changed hands for the first couple of laps, but Croiset was able to lock up the top spot when Dirks went off-roading as the two split lapped traffic from the FFR class.
The error locked Dirks in a great battle with Peter McIntosh for second until McIntosh lost control and spun at the top of the Keyhole. A late caution for some acrobatics out of the Nissan of Richard Baldwin allowed McIntosh to catch Dirks and eventually make the move for second place. Running away with his second championship of the weekend, however, was Jeremy Croiset.
“I knew it was a long race, so I was patient,” said Croiset. “It took me five or six good laps to get around Dirks. He was running strong, clean lines and making it really tough to get around him. Right after I got around Dirks, I lost the power steering system in the car, which made it really difficult to control. Overall it was a really fun race. Very, very challenging.”
Chris Ferraro of Huger, S.C., didn’t wait very long to show his hand in the CMC class. His No. 14 Mustang jumped out to an early lead, with Bob Denton’s Firebird and Derek Wright’s Camaro following close behind. The battle for the top spot was tight for a while, with the three CMC class machines darting through Spec Z traffic before Ferraro was able to extend his advantage. That lead evaporated, however, with the race’s first full-course caution on lap 12. The brief respite gave race late-addition Eric Sjoblom an opportunity to close on Ferraro’s silver Ford. Wright found trouble shortly after the return to action, spinning at the top of the Keyhole, while Denton had faded from contention into fourth place.
Having picked up significant damage to his fender, Ferraro did his best to hold off Sjoblom before another caution halted the action. Wright capitalized on the track position by jumping to fourth and was closing fast on the Pontiac of Kent Owens for third when he simply ran out of time. When the checkered flag flew, it was Ferraro who emerged victorious. Owens and Wright each moved up a position after Sjoblom’s machine failed post-race inspection.
“I didn’t have a right-side rearview mirror. We lost that in the melee I guess, so I didn’t see that parachute we were dragging from our rear bumper cover,” Ferraro said of the damage he picked up after the midrace restart. “The car seemed to act a little funny but we drove the heck out of it. It was a great race; just one of those days when everything seems to come together in your favor. I just feel extremely lucky and very happy to be here.”
Frisco, Texas’ Thomas Jones qualified on pole, and when the green flag dropped, he never looked back. Jones stormed out to a commanding lead, with Paul Alexandre and Bill Stevens bringing up the chase in second and third. By the eighth circuit of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Jones was already encountering Spec E30 traffic.
Back in the pack, the battle for third was heating up, with Stevens pressing Dallas’ Bernard Lucien Nussbaumer around the 2.2-mile course. Fending off the challenge, Nussbaumer set his sights on Alexandre in second. Lapped traffic became critical, with Nussbaumer able to gap the Boxster of Alexandre and Stevens able to close to make the battle for third the one to watch. On lap 22, however, Alexandre suffered a mechanical issue and pulled off, moving Nussbaumer and Stevens into the final two podium spots.
Meanwhile, back at the front, it was a Sunday drive for Jones as he strolled across the line with his first national championship.
“The car performed flawlessly and very smooth today,” Jones said. “There are four of us here from Texas, we race and push each other really hard. This track suits my driving style; very technical. Going through the traffic staying away from the other class competitors was a little taxing, but everyone was gentlemanly today. It was a great day.”
It was a game of hot pursuit in the early going of the 944 Spec championship. Eric Kuhns of Sterling, Ill., started on pole and lead Oceanside, California’s Tyler Palmer and Dan Pina across the stripe on lap 1. Palmer kept the pressure on for several laps before eventually making a move for the lead into Turn 1 on lap 7. Kuhns was able to keep it close, but Palmer would pull away en route to his second 944 Spec championship.
Kuhns cruised to second, coming up short of claiming his second 944 crown. Dan Pina, Sam Grant from Indianapolis, Ind., and Bradley Raum, from Ravenna, Ohio, rounded out the top five.
“In the beginning I was stuck behind Kuhns,” Palmer said. “His car started to fade away. My car was better toward the end. I passed him and left everybody else. The start was a little anxious, but I felt pretty comfortable in taking it to the win.”
Twenty-two BMWs lined up for the standing start of the Spec E30 championship race on Sunday afternoon. Anthony Magagnoli, out of Florence, Kentucky, got a great jump from his second starting spot and led the pack across the line on lap 1. While his 325is was clearly the class of the field, who would stand on the final two steps of the podium was anything but settled. Pole-sitter and Delaware, Ohio, native Jeremy Lucas was left to defend the second position from a host of challengers, the foremost of which was Fisher, Indiana’s Simon Hunter. Charlie Hayes, making the trek all the way from Walnut Creek, Calif., joined the fray for runner-up, getting by Hunter and challenging Lucas. After losing momentum from a battle that saw three-wide action down the front-straight, Hunter dropped two more spots and would eventually have to settle for a fifth-place finish.
A thrilling battle ensued for second, with Hayes pressing Lucas on every inch of the circuit. It looked like Hayes finally got the run he needed when he pulled even through the Carousel and cleared Lucas exiting turn 1. Lucas got him back right away, but wasn’t able to fend off Hayes’ No. 22 two laps later.
Lucas now had the BMW of Ryan Ciechanski breathing down his neck, and eventually ceded the third position when Ciechanski made a move in the Carousel. Unable to run down Hayes, the Chelsea, Mich., driver soon had his hands full with Alpharetta, Georgia’s Eric Palacio. Palacio was able to make the move in the waning moments of the race and score a top-three finish. Hayes came home second, but the day belonged to Magagnoli, who was nothing but smooth in his aptly-numbered 007 on his drive to the championship.
“It was a long race,” Magagnoli said. “I was focused on putting fast laps together the whole time. This was not just one race. We had two races before this that put me in a position to start upfront when it really counted. The track was a little slippery today. I adjusted to it and was able to finish out front.”
The PTA championship may have been decided in qualifying when David Ziegler claimed the pole for Sunday’s race in his Corvette Z06. Despite a start that saw Kevin Harvey grab the lead, Ziegler eventually found his way back to the top spot at his home-state track. Racing out of Baltimore, Ohio, Ziegler simply had it covered. A great late-race battle developed behind him for the second spot between Harvey and Rory Alsberg. Alsberg of Freemont, Wisc., eventually made the pass, coming home runner-up while Harvey, who hails from Mooresville, N.C., finished third.
The win was Ziegler’s first PTA national championship.
“The start was interesting,” Ziegler said. “I got a good jump on my competition and quickly caught up to the back of the STR2 field. They were going three-wide so I just stayed back. And then one of my competitors (Kevin Harvey) went down the inside and passed me and a couple other STR2 cars and that got me worried. Had some traffic to deal with but once I got around them, I caught up to [Harvey], took the lead and was in cruise control from that point forward.”
The early stage of the STR1 bout was a nose-to-tail battle between the top three of David Pintaric, Scott Welham (who was going for his second championship of the weekend) and Terry Free. The order took a shook-up, however, when Free’s Z06 blew an engine on lap 9. From there, Pintaric and Welham separated themselves from the rest of the class. As the two leaders stretched their advantage, the fight for third heated up between Chris DeSalvo and David Davison. DeSalvo took third as Davison dropped to fifth behind Gregory Wellinghoff.
Welham couldn’t pull within striking distance of Pintaric, who took the top step of the podium in the winner’s circle.
“I had a very well-prepped car,” Pintaric said. “Kryder Racing puts together a great car for us so I’ve got the advantage there. Scott [Welham] did a good job keeping with me but, again, more car. It was a little dicey at the beginning. Some of the SU cars checked up going into Turn 1 (traditionally turn 7) at the beginning. I was able to negotiate to the left of them and that got me on the outside of the other two cars so by Turn 2, I had the lead and was able to run around the front and keep out of trouble.”
Having already won his fourth NASA national championship on Saturday, Dean Martin was poised to tie Danny Popp for most national wins all-time when the STR2 field took the green flag on Sunday. When an early caution slowed the action, Team Faessler’s Mustang led Geffrey Sawtelle’s Corvette and Martin’s Mustang. Martin cleared Sawtelle when racing resumed on lap 6 and began stalking the Faessler Ford for the top spot. After swapping the lead, Martin slid off course, seemingly dashing any hopes at tying Popp’s record. Meanwhile, the Faessler machine dropped off the pace, relinquishing the lead to Sawtelle.
Battling back, Martin caught Richard Golinello and eventually made his way back to second place. With time winding down, Sawtelle got loose, putting Martin well within striking distance. In one of the most dramatic moments of the weekend, Martin made a move on Sawtelle in the Carousel just as Super Unlimited leader Ralph Provitz (who was himself feeling all kinds of pressure from behind) shot to the inside to clear the two STR2 frontrunners. The move sent Martin off the course yet again, ensuring Sawtelle the victory and Golinello a second place finish. Martin would hang on to a third.
It was an exciting race and one that left Sawtelle smiling atop the podium.
“The race results ended up with Geffrey Sawtelle at the top, which couldn’t be any better,” Sawtelle exclaimed. “My Hoosier Tire, CSI Performance and Pfadt Racing Products Corvette No. 22 held the day! I ran TTS, second yesterday in ST2 and first today in STR2. It’s been a perfect weekend. It could not have been a better championship weekend other than if my bride Debbie was here. Next year!”
Sawtelle was later DQ’d, giving the win to Golinello and bumping Craig Capaldi into third.
The on-track action of the Super Unlimited championship was every bit as exciting as the cars were fast. The first three laps featured a shootout for the lead between Ralph Provitz, Michael Bagnoli and Team Nobama. Provitz and Bagnoli exchanged the lead several times after an early caution, while the battle for third changed hands between Team Nobama and the Riley Mark XI of Robert Gewirtz. That battle ended, however, when the Nobama machine blew an engine on lap 14.
Bagnoli, a resident of Lafayette, Ind., and Provitz, from Macomb, Mich., put on a show that featured hard braking and plenty of side-by-side action. Bagnoli was hot on Provitz’s tail as they entered the Carousel on lap 18 when Provitz made contact with the STR2 machine of Dean Martin. Bagnoli closed as they cleared the lapped traffic, making the winning move on the final lap of the race and claiming the championship. Burt Frisselle of Aspen, Colo., finished third.
“It was great. It was great,” said an exuberant Bagnoli. “Ralph was much faster this week, and just a phenomenal driver. I was just lucky enough to kind of stay with him. He might have had some mechanical things that slowed him down on that final stretch, which allowed me to catch him going into Turn 7 and once I got by him, it was just foot-to-the-floor to the finish line. So it was great. Such an enjoyable time. It was a blast.”
The PTB championship would go down as a duel between the Honda Civic of Egidijus Sadauskas of Lemont, Ill., and the Acura TL of Kevin LeClair from Dublin, Ohio. It initially appeared as though the two might have something for the PTC class and contend for the overall win, but they just didn’t have the speed to stay in contact with the PTC leaders.
Within the PTB class race, Sadauskas and LeClair got the jump on the field and established a big lead early with LeClair setting the pace. Steve Walker, from Chesapeake, Va., was running third when he found the gravel on lap 1. He kept his Mitsubishi Evolution VIII rolling though and was able to rejoin the fight. Sadauskas made a pass for the lead on lap 2 and was able to hold serve for the next 10 laps.
By lap 13, LeClaire looked to be poised to make a move for the top spot again. He set up Sadauskas but couldn’t out-brake him into the corner, sliding off course but keeping the car out of any real danger. The mishap was all Sadauskas needed to cruise to the PTB championship.
“It was an amazing race,” Sadauskas said. “It took a lot of us getting together and not making any mistakes, like I did yesterday that cost me second place. Just kept it together. Hoosier Tire kept me there the whole time and everything else went really well. I thank all my sponsors and all my crew, family and everybody who made it all happen for me.”
PTC was a mixed bag of vehicle types with modified Mazda Miatas and RX-8s against front wheel drive Acura RSXs and a rear wheel drive Ford Mustang.
At the start it was Kevin Boehm in his No. 8 Acura who grabbed an early lead. Emilio Cervantes in his Miata got caught up in the kink with a big Mustang, driven by Erik Sjoblom, who put tires in the grass to get by Cervantes, who remained patient and later got by the Mustang. On lap 6, going into the very fast Turn 1, Cervantes made a Hail Mary pass on a PTF Nissan Sentra which gave him a run to try and catch Boehm. As the Miata and RSX approached the Key Hole, Cervantes got his nose inside Boehm at the apex, which was real estate on the track Boehm wanted to use. Cervantes steered clear and had only his left two wheels on the inside rumble strip as his right side tires where in the dirt. The two cars went side by side through the Key Hole with some minor contact. As the cars exited the turn Cervantes earned the lead on lap 7. After that pass he never looked back and finished first overall earning the 2012 NASA Performance Touring C championship.
“The car got better and better through the race,” said Cervantes. “I had a little traffic with the Mustang at the start, but after that the car was perfect. In fact, I set my fastest lap at the end.” Boehm finished second and Sjoblom rounded out the podium in third.
Pole-sitter Eric Ross led the field early in the PTD championship run, with Joshua Allan keeping pace behind. On lap 7, Allan took the lead, but the battle allowed the third place machine of Mark Domo to close the gap and make it a three-car showdown up front. A couple of laps later, Ross repaid the favor and moved back to point.
With just three laps to go, Ross took his best shot in Turn 1, but couldn’t get his Civic Si alongside Allan’s MX-5 enough to close the deal. Allan would secure the win, with Ross in second and Ben Anderson finishing third.
“The race went great,” Allan said. “It was a tough battle with Eric Ross. We swapped the lead a couple of times and I got a few lucky breaks when he hit some oil that another car was trailing and I managed to take him on the inside in 1. Braking into turn 7 we were always neck-and-neck and I managed to beat him out into the braking zone. But I really have to thank the Mother’s Polishes, Waxes and Cleaners and Robert Davis Racing for their amazing support. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Chesapeake, Virginia’s Xavier Calderon and Centerville, Ohio’s Kyle Webb set the tone in the opening stages of the PTE championship race. Logan, Ohio’s Eric Waddell broke up the two-car party on lap 5, taking the lead from Webb. By lap 10, other contenders entered the fray for the front, including Ventura, California’s Mike Rose and Wexford, Pennsylvania’s Jim Feniello. Webb had trouble keeping his Miata atop the running order before eventually succumbing to mechanical issues. Rose eventually made his way around Calderon for the second spot. Not concerned with the battle behind him, Waddell cruised to the victory with Rose and Calderon in tow.
“The race went great,” Waddell said, “Traffic went my way, no problems, stayed out front. The start was pretty hairy. There’s a lot of body contact but I got lucky and made my way through and pulled it out.”
Michael Weber, out of Mount Prospect, Ill., was virtually untouchable en route to the PTF championship. Webber started on pole and, aside from a brief battle with Cale Phillips of Raleigh, N.C., he didn’t have much need to check the rearview mirror. Walter Carlos, from Rancho Palos Verdes, California, had the most interesting race of the group, dropping back from his second starting spot early and battling back into contention. Phillips and Tony Lee had a great battle for second, with Phillips able to secure the position from Lee. Late in the race, however, Carlos had closed on the podium contenders. Heading into Turn 14, he made an impressive move, blowing by Phillips and Lee in one corner to lock up second place. Phillips would finish third.
“Right off the start we got passed by the third qualifier going into the first turn and he held it for most of the first lap,” Weber said. “Got into some slower traffic going into Turn 1. I was able to use that to get around him and I was able to pull away. It was smooth sailing after that. I got pretty lucky. The car ran well and it went pretty well.”
No Spin-and-Win for Charbonneau, But a Drive to Remember in Spec Miata
Auto racing is an unpredictable undertaking. True, the ultimate goal is to cross the finish line first, but in motorsports, success is constantly redefining itself.
In the case of Andrew Von Charbonneau, a second-place spot on the grid for Saturday’s Spec Miata race meant a great shot at claiming the ultimate goal: his first NASA National Championship. It would be an uphill battle, despite the excellent starting track position. Yiannis Tsiounis won both qualifying races to secure the pole position by a whopping 40 points, while Charbonneau finished sixth in the Thursday round and second on Friday.
But race day always brings hope. When the green waved, Charbonneau held the second position despite heavy pressure from behind, and gave chase to Tsiounis. As the top three began to pull away from the rest of the pack, Charbonneau found trouble on the second lap, spinning off the 2.25-mile course in Turn 9, dropping him all the way back to 29th in the 42-car field.
The ultimate goal was gone. Success now meant finishing strong. The driver from Delray Beach, Fla., did just that.
Rejoining the field near the back of the pack, Charbonneau set to work, carving-up position after position. As the field spaced itself out, Charbonneau was in need of a little luck if he was going to make a serious push for the podium. When Justin Hille’s Miata lost power on lap 13, Charbonneau, now running 13th, got the break — and the track position — he needed.
The ensuing green-flag stint was short-lived, however, as another full-course yellow, this time for an incident in Turn 11, now ate away precious minutes in the timed event. The restart on lap 17 saw Charbonneau again making moves toward the front. Despite his efforts, the second caution simply left too little time for Charbonneau to get within striking distance of the podium contenders. Seconds after the checkered flag declared Tsiounis the Spec Miata Champion, Charbonneau crossed the line in sixth, which was changed to seventh after post race appeal.
It wasn’t a championship, and he didn’t get to swig the champagne, but among the fans that were treated to Andrew Von Charbonneau’s run, he certainly got more than a few “cheers.”