Matt Rivard Survived a Last-Lap Dash to Bring Home the Inaugural NASA Prototype Championship.

It’s not often a person in NASA that a person gets to be an inaugural class champion, but that’s what was at stake in the NP01 class at Watkins Glen. However, the start for the first NP01 Championship race was rough, waved off, in fact, due to a wreck at the front the Super Touring field.

ST1 Driver David Greenman got an off-kilter bump from behind at the green flag, and that sent him spinning into the inside wall and left his car a sitting duck across the front straight. The NP01s were waved off, but for whatever reason, the starter went green on the American Iron cars just behind them only to throw double-yellows moments later.

The field circled the track under caution for almost 20 minutes while crews cleared Greenman’s car and the resulting mess. Greenman was OK. Then, about 12 minutes after the race restarted, the track went to full-course caution again for all but one lap, which was a green, white checkers — and that last lap was a pressure cooker.

At the time of the second restart, Jeremy Croiset was in the lead, with Matt Rivard behind him and Warren Sackman giving chase. However, in that last-lap dash, Croiset got collected by a spinning car and ended up limping home in fourth.

That bumped David Beckmann to third in NP01, which was where he started the race.

“It was tough being under yellow for the majority of the race, but other than that it was still a great time,” Beckman said. “I had a blast.”

Warren Sackman, who started from fifth moved into second place.

Warren Sackman finished second from his fifth-place start in NP01.
Warren Sackman finished second from his fifth-place start in NP01.

“There was a lot of traffic out there, a lot of fast cars and we were just lucky enough that I didn’t get tangled up in some of the mess,” Sackman said. “We had two double-yellows and on that last lap some of the guys in front of me got tangled up and I was fortunate enough to come in second.”

On the restart, Rivard took a hit from a Thunder Roadster in ST3 trim entering the Uphill Esses. The contact hobbled his car, but he still managed to take first and the first NASA Prototype Championship.

“I don’t know how much time, but at least half or more of the race was under full-course caution, so there was a lot of tension when the restarts would take place, and everybody jockeying for position,” Rivard said. “We had these three or four cars off, and visibility issues with dust. It was probably the most difficult race I’ve ever been involved with. Jeremy Croiset had me on the final lap, and unfortunately he got collected in a spin in 9, and my car was disabled, but I was able to limp it across.”

David Beckman started from third and that’s where he finished in NP01.
David Beckman started from third and that’s where he finished in NP01.
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Image courtesy of Tracktime Photos