Every year we put out a list of drivers favored to win the NASA Championships and every year we get a lot of it wrong. But this year feels different. This year is the year we’re hoping to top the 55 percent that professional sports bettors look for to earn a living.
Of course, no one in Las Vegas is betting on the outcome of the NASA Championships. No one will be analyzing linear regressions or statistical distributions, but none of that matters. What matters is the level of preparedness of the teams and cars, the skill of the drivers and, from what we’ve been told, some measure of good luck.
We have pulled these picks from the list of people who already have entered the 2023 NASA Championships. As we’ve said in years past, we can’t pick people who haven’t entered, so if you think you have what it takes to prove us wrong, sign up for the NASA Championships and we’ll see you in Pittsburgh!
Time Trial 1
Looking over the entries in TT1, one name kind of stands out: Johnny Miller.
Miller took first place at the 2021 NASA Championships at Daytona International Speedway. In fact, he won that TT1 championship by more than a second over second place nearly 2 seconds over third place. Piloting his C6 Z06, Miller looks poised to stand atop the podium in TT1 again. Miller will need to stay ahead of NASA Great Lakes’ Joe Kellerman, who is another good candidate who’s also racing in ST1. If Kellerman can keep his C5 Z06 together and can take advantage of racing on a track in his region, he might have something for Miller.
Time Trial 2
Last year’s TT2 and ST2 Champion Jake Latham is coming to PittRace all the way from his home in the Rocky Mountain Region, and he certainly will be one to watch this year, but we’re going to give the nod to Ben Grambau for the 2023 TT2 Championship.
Both drivers are in C5 Corvettes, and Latham has a whole lot of car to get the job done, but Grambau’s car is equally well developed and we know Grambau, a nuclear engineer by profession, is the kind of driver who does his homework and arrives prepared. It’s going to be nail-biting close, especially for these two drivers, but look for Grambau on the top step.
Time Trial 3
For TT3, we think home track advantage is going to play a role. Of course, so will the skill of driver Dan Westerwick, who calls NASA Great Lakes home. Westerwick currently leads the Great Lakes points race in TT3, with three wins and one second-place finish to his credit this year.
It won’t be easy, though. Westerwick is going to have to beat Eric Magnussen, who has been dominant in the Northeast Region and is the 2021 ST3 National Champion. We give the nod to Westerwick because Magnussen is racing and competing in Time Trial, which is a lot to take on. Focused on TT3 only, Westerwick should be able to pull it off.
Time Trial 4
A singular focus on Time Trial and driving talent is going to put NASA Florida’s David Farrar on the top step of TT4 at the 2023 NASA Championships. If his name rings a bell, it should. He’s been featured in the Yokohama Move of the Month setting a track record at Roebling Road Raceway. He also set the TT4 track record at Sebring, so we think he looks poised to take the TT4 Championship in his Honda S2000 at PittRace come September. Look for NASA NorCal’s Shaun Webster to right there in the mix for the top step on the podium.
Time Trial 5
Drivers from seven different regions are going to be competing in TT5 at PittRace. Two Mid-Atlantic drivers, Nicholas Dugdale and Ricardo Soares, are looking like the favorites this year, but we’ll give the advantage to Soares. Yes, Dugdale has the TT5 points lead in the Mid-Atlantic, but during the matchups between the two, Soares has come out on top. We also think NASA Rocky Mountain’s Eric Nemnich will be pushing the two Mid-Atlantic drivers to perform at their best.
Time Trial Unlimited
By the time you start swinging for the fence in TTU, the car you bring can play an outsize role. This is, after all, an “unlimited” class. You can bring as fast a car as you want, and Jonathan Finstrom is bringing his Staudacher S12 prototype, the same car he won TTU with last year at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
A former professional hockey player in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Florida Panthers organizations, Finstrom is familiar with competition and he will have his hands full keeping NASA Great Lakes standout Brian Faessler at bay. Both are excellent drivers, but we think the Staudacher prototype will be more suited to PittRace, and give Finstrom the big bat he needs to knock it out of the park.
When a three-time 944 Spec National Champion compliments a fellow driver, you can probably trust it. Moments after finishing second at Daytona in 2021, Charlie Buzzetti had high praise for NASA Great Lakes 944 Spec driver Matt Giuffre, who finished third that year.
Entries for 944 Spec are a bit slim this year, but we think Matt Giuffre has what it takes to bring home a National Championship this year. Here’s why.
Giuffre leads the regional points race in Great Lakes because he’s won every race he started this season, and his competition at the NASA Championships will be largely the same group of drivers he’s been getting the better of all year. This is looking like Giuffre’s year.
NASA Great Lakes is American Iron country, and this year’s Championships is shaping up to be one of the better contests in recent memory. With nearly 15 cars registered, there are a few names worth noting, including NASA Florida’s Patrick Wehmeyer, Carmine Pace and Bruce Byerly, and NASA Great Lakes’ Gabe Gutierrez.
It’s going to be a spectacular, but if we had to lay odds on one driver — and that’s the whole point of this story — we’re going to go with NASA Great Lakes’ Bob Collins, who has won eight of nine regional races and leads the points chase over some of the same people he’ll be racing against at the 2023 NASA Championships. Look for Collins out front with Gutierrez in hot pursuit, with the Florida drivers looking to spoil their fun.
American Iron Extreme
American Iron Extreme used to be a another name for Super Unlimited, and in the past, some cars competed in both classes. Because power levels had become stratospheric in years past, the AIX Championship often became a contest of which car would last till the end of the race. The class is now limited to weight-to-horsepower ratios of 5:1, but AIX cars are still some of the fastest in the NASA Nation.
Before power levels were reduced, Brian Faessler was often the guy on the top step of the podium because even at those obscene power levels, his cars were always exceptionally well prepared by Paul’s Automotive Engineering. Faessler looks like a shoo-in to take another AIX Championship.
NASA Great Lakes has some of the best Camaro-Mustang Challenge racing in the country. That’s been true for years, and many of the drivers have been racing against one another for decades. In the Great Lakes Region, Kent Owens is leading the points race, but he’s not registered for the Championships, so we can’t choose him, although he’d be a safe bet.
Among the other CMC drivers coming to PittRace, we think it’s going to be a Great Lakes driver. We think it’s going to come down to either Bob Denton or Derek Wright, but ultimately we’re going to give the nod to Wright. He’s currently second in CMC points in his region ahead of Denton, who has beaten Wright this season, but we think the Magic 8 Ball says “signs point to yes” for Wright this year.
German Touring Series 2
GTS2 is going to be a little hard to pick this year because there are no Great Lakes racers in the class. That means no points comparisons, no home track advantage and other similar factors to put into play. But, we do expect good things from NASA Northeast’s Nick DeRosa who has four podiums this year in his home region. He has yet to beat Michael Sousa this season, whose name you should be familiar with, but Sousa isn’t registered, which means advantage DeRosa. Look for NASA Mid-Atlantic’s Daniel Witczak to be challenging DeRosa for the win.
German Touring Series 3
If you look at the 11-car entry list for GTS3, there’s a lot of fast drivers on roster, Luiz Serva, Dan Williams and Eric Wong among them. However, in the sense that past is often prologue, then Roberto Crescencio is looking like the best pick to win GTS3.
Crescencio was dominant at the NASA Championships in 2018 at Circuit of The Americas, winning qualifying, the qualifying race and the Championship in commanding fashion. Look for him to take the win again in 2023.
Honda Challenge 2
Honda Challenge 2 is going to be hugely competitive this year. Even more so than last year when Jonathan Baker nabbed his first H2 Championship after trying for years.
This year, a lot of the same players are going to be on hand, Baker being one, along with Brian Shanfeld, who podiumed at the NASA Championships in 2018. Making his way up from the Texas Region is Scott Adams, who we think is well suited to win it all this year. Though his home region is far away, we know he’s become familiar with the track, so when he gets there he won’t be learning the fastest way around, but perfecting it. He was a tough competitor at Laguna Seca in 2022, so we’re looking for him to take the win in his Acura RSX, which would be the first time that chassis has won a National Championship.
The entire Legends field, three cars, is coming from NASA Texas to compete, and if history is any guide, we’re looking for Bobby Pugh to take the big win at PittRace. Car trouble sidelined him at Laguna Seca in 2022, but Pugh won the Championship in 2021 at Daytona in a borrowed car. As long as he can keep his car in shape mechanically throughout the 2023 Championships, he looks good to win it all.
The entire NP01 field at this year’s NASA Championships hails from the Great Lakes Region. These drivers know one another’s moves, so it will be great to watch them race. When the dust settles, we’re looking for Gobel Newsome to take the win. Here’s why. Harry Colson leads the Great Lakes points race, but Newsome has gotten the better of Colson two of the three times they have met on track. We think Newsome is going continue his winning ways at the 2023 NASA Championships.
The rumors are true. Spec3 is experiencing new growth, and as a result, the field at the 2023 NASA Championships will be the largest in NASA history. At deadline, 12 cars were registered.
Most of the drivers in the field have raced together before, and there are a number of names we’ve seen do well at Championships before, John McAvoy and Sean O’Hara to name a couple. However, there’s another name that looks more promising than the others, and that’s Charles Ford. Spec3 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting races at the Championships this year, but look for Ford to take the win.
Spec E30 is a dynamic class, keeping people interested for a long time while also attracting new drivers to the competition that it offers. That’s why it has been so successful for so long.
That competition is going to be on vivid display this year, with six different NASA regions represented in the field, two coming from both regions in California. However, if we have to pick a winner, we’re going to go with Jack Cobetto, who proved last year and this year at HyperFest that he knows how to win the big races. Look for him up front and on top.
Spec E46 is showcasing drivers from all over the country, but it looks like it’s going to come down to a couple of SoCal drivers, Lucas Weisenberg and Casey Mashore. It’s a difficult choice, but we are going to give the nod to Mashore, because at times when he and Weisenberg faced off, Mashore had the upper hand. Mashore also is the reigning 2022 Spec E46 National Champion. Look for Mashore’s lime-green E46 out front.
All but one driver in the Spec Iron field is a Great Lakes racer, so we’re going be treated to some close racing this year. Of course, we all know that past is often prologue, and we’re going to lean on that maxim for our Spec Iron pick. Knowing that, we’re going to go with Robin Burnette who knows how to win. In fact, he won the 2019 Spec Iron Championship in a borrowed car.
Spec Miata is always the most fun race to compete in and to watch. Trying to pick a winner is the most difficult. There have been larger Spec Miata fields in recent years, but this year’s field is certainly stacked with as much talent as ever.
There’s no doubt Jonathan Davis is going to be up front, as will NASA Great Lakes drivers Chris Finnigan and John Allen and NASA Northeast driver Marc Cefalo. That’s four drivers. Rounding out the top five, and most likely leading the field will be NASA Rocky Mountain’s Dan Williams.
Williams performed exceptionally well last year, taking third place behind MX-5 Cup driver Aaron Jeansonne and Teen Mazda Challenge driver Harry Voigt, who finished second behind Preston Pardus at the 2021 NASA Championships at Daytona. It didn’t seem to matter that Williams chose an early 1.6-liter car. He drive the giblets out of it and held second for much of last year’s Championship race, but eventually fell to third where he finished. Look for Williams on top.
Super Touring 1
We wrote earlier in this story that Joe Kellerman is going to be front runner in TT1, but might not ultimately get the win over Johnny Miller. However, for Super Touring 1, we think Kellerman has what it takes to bring home the ST1 Championship, after coming in second in TT1 last year at Laguna Seca, a track far, far from home. Kellerman’s closest competition at this year’s Championships is Chris Ludwig, but Kellerman has come out on top three out of three times the two have met in Great Lakes regional competition. We’d like to see more cars in ST1, but that likely wouldn’t change our pick.
Super Touring 2
For more than a decade, Anthony Magagnoli has been making a name for himself at the NASA Championships since taking the Spec E30 Championship in 2012 at Mid-Ohio and scoring second place in ST2 in 2019, also at Mid-Ohio.
Entered in ST2 for this year’s Championships, Magagnoli looks poised to come out on top, but it’s going to be a close race. Real close. Magagnoli will have his hands full fighting off Ben Grambau, 2021 ST3 National Champion Ken Mantovani and Jake Latham, who won ST2 and TT2 Championships in 2022 at Laguna Seca. If you’re at PittRace for the Championships this year, stop what you’re doing to watch this race. It’s going to be epic.
Super Touring 3
NASA Northeast’s Eric Magnussen is double-dipping in ST3 and TT3, and though we gave the nod to Dan Westerwick for the TT3 win, we think Magnussen is the right call for ST3.
Magnussen has dominated Super Touring in the Northeast in recent years, with wins in all 16 races he entered in 2019 and 2020, and the 2021 ST3 Championship at Daytona when all he had was fourth and fifth gears. Winning a Time Trial Championship and one in racing is as tough to do, and Magnussen might prove us wrong and win both, but we think most of his focus will be in ST3. Look for NASA Florida’s Mark Burt and NASA Mid-Atlantic’s Scott Blair to challenge Magnussen for the win.
Super Touring 4
With all due respect to drivers from nearby regions, there are a couple of drivers from California who are coming to steal your trophies. NASA NorCal racers Shaun Webster and Scott Smith are going to be the ones to watch in ST4, with the advantage going to Webster.
Both are exceptional drivers with lots of wins to their credit and peerless depth of experience. Their cars are always fastidiously prepared, but we think Webster has what it takes to take the big win in ST4.
Super Touring 5
2022 Super Touring 6 National Champion Eric Nemnich traveled from Nebraska to Laguna Seca last year and won his class. For 2023, he’s traveling in the other direction to get to PittRace and bumping up to ST5, and we think he has what it takes to win this year, too. He’s going to have to be on his game, though. NASA Great Lakes racer Cagri Yilmaz likely has more laps at PittRace and a podium at the 2021 Championships at Daytona.
Super Touring 6
If you look at the ST6 field, you’ll find it is dominated by Great Lakes drivers. Yes, there are four other regions represented, but most of the field is racing in their home region. If you look at who’s dominating ST6 in the Great Lakes Region, it’s Michael Weber, who has podiumed at every race this season, notching four wins, three second-place finishes and two third-place finishes.
Of course, we still have to run the races, right? That means Weber will have to fend off Andrew Janosik and Christopher Amrbruster, both of whom have gotten the better of Weber this season, and that doesn’t account for the talent coming in from the other regions. It won’t be a gimme — a Championship never is — but Weber has the chops to get it done.
You will recognize the name from Jonathan Finstrom from last year’s coverage of the 2022 Championships from Laguna Seca, and front the SU prediction higher up in this story. Well, we’re picking him again for Super Unlimited for most of the same reasons. No pressure.
The cars in Super Unlimited this year are varied, from a C&R Lightning Crown car to Dodge Vipers to Brian Faessler’s familiar Ford Mustang. But Finstrom’s Staudacher S12 prototype seems like the best tool for the job and Finstrom has demonstrated that he’s the man to drive it. No pressure.
Thunder Roadster GTR
The word “spec” doesn’t appear in the class name for Thunder Roadster GTR, but this is as spec a series as you can get. The cars are so well equalized that this is truly a driver’s series. The Thunder Roadster GTR finish at the 2022 NASA Championships was a testament to that. James Wheeler didn’t get the win at Daytona, but he did at Mid-Ohio in 2019, and we think he’s ready to do it again.
However, he will be waging hand-to-hand combat with Jason Oehler Derrek Morehead and John Spain and Shane Denney to get it done. It ain’t over till it’s over, but Wheeler looks good for this year’s Championships.