Weather is a fickle thing. Though the forecast offered a high-percentage chance of precipitation for Sunday’s Championships races, it didn’t appear in the morning’s Spec Miata race, but that was about to change.
The third race of the day started out dry and then a sufficient amount of rain began to fall that the track became wet enough to require rain tires. Some drivers had them on their cars, and some didn’t, and the wrong tire choices was critical enough to change the outcomes in some classes.
The skies opened up a bit for the Spec E30 race, and nearly everyone went out on the new Maxxis rain tires for a race that began in the wet and ended in dry conditions when the rain stopped halfway through the race. The changing and challenging conditions produced one of the greatest races of the weekend.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is a bucket-list track for racing drivers the world over, and it proved to be a great venue for the 2022 NASA Championships. Here’s how the day’s races unfolded.
Some of today’s races had provisional results available as of press time. It is possible changes to the finishing order might occur.
Aaron Jeansonne started from second on grid after Wyatt Couch got the better of him in Saturday’s qualifying race. For Sunday, Jeansonne was not interested in a repeat performance from Saturday. He wanted to win.
He leapt from the green and got into first place early on in the first lap, with Couch just behind him, and fourth-place Harry Voigt pushing Dan Williams in third. A couple of laps in, Couch lost the third-gear synchro in his transmission, leaving him only third and fourth. That mean he didn’t have the oomph coming out of Turn 11 or Turn 2, and Couch began to drop back.
Jeansonne, Williams and Voigt continued to break away from the field and they got close at times, but Jeansonne turned up the wick and soldiered on for the win.
“As soon as Harry got in second, I said, this, guy’s not going to wait. So, I pushed as hard as I could,” Jeansonne said afterward. “We prepared the setup a bit for mixed conditions and that is not what we experienced out there, so I was trying as hard as I could with the car. Luckily it was put together extremely well by Eddie Lee … my whole team, and it’s such a dominant car. We were still able to come away with the win. So, I’m really proud of this whole team.”
Voigt finished second and Dan Williams finished third.
Teen Mazda Challenge
The race for the Teen Mazda Challenge Championship took place within the Spec Miata race. Harry Voigt finished second in Spec Miata, but he was the highest-finishing driver in the Teen Mazda Challenge, which netted him the TMC Championship, a fitting capstone to his TMC career in his last season of eligibility.
Voigt tailed Williams for most of the race, but he knew there were places he could perhaps get around him and take a shot at Jeansonne. He did get by Williams, but Jeansonne was out of reach.
“So, Dan and I worked together for a bit and I got to the point where I thought I would be better off maybe if he pushed me, so I made the pass into five,” Voigt said. “He fell off a bit and I just tried to put my head down and make my way up to Aaron. I didn’t have enough, though. He’s just he’s a man on a mission.
“You know what, it’s really nice to win my last year in TMC, but to be honest, this is my last year racing competitively. I’m a college student. I’ve got to get my degree. We’re more focused on school coming up next year, so it’s a good way to end the TMC and the Miata stuff for now.”
Wyatt Couch finished second in TMC and Clayton Williams finished third.
Bobby Pugh looked unbeatable in Sunday’s Legends Championship race. He had leapt out to a big lead and even extended it after the full-course caution about 25 minutes into the race. But trouble was brewing in Pugh’s No. 3 Legends car. The car was no longer turning left as well as it had been early in the race — WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is mostly left turns — and he ended up going off track late in the race, and that’s when Jacobson Dennett pounced.
“The caution worked to my advantage,” Dennett said. “I still had some traffic to get through once the caution went away, but other than that, it actually gave me a lot of time to just kind of self-reflect and calm myself down, smooth up a little bit, not worry so much about what the car was doing and just drive it, man. I pulled it off and the last lap and got lucky to shape up and make a clean pass.”
Pugh finished second and Bobby Christensen finished third.
Super Touring 5
It would be safe to call the Team Palomar Racing’s ST5 efforts at the NASA Championships a dominant performance. Driver Matt Million was inch-perfect all weekend, scoring the fastest lap times Friday, winning the Saturday qualifying race, and capping it off with a win on Sunday and the ST5 Championship.
Million had to get through a caution period, which bunched up the field and put a lot of out-of-class cars around him at the restart, but he was able to hold off Team Moorewood Creative and take the ST5 win.
“This was super cool to kind of bring this program full circle right now and give the team an ST5 National Championship, which was our goal from January until now,” Million said. “That was the strangest race in my life because cars were spinning in front of me. I was passing a lot of lower-class cars. It felt like an endurance race. I was just trying to manage out front kind of clicking off a nice pace.”
Team Moorewood Creative Group finished second, with its sister car in third.
Super Touring 6
Nebraska driver Eric Nemnich of the Driving Force Motorsports team continued his winning ways in the Super Touring 6 class on Sunday, finishing more than 3 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor in the championship race.
The driver and lead technician for his team’s No. 0 Mazda Miata, Nemnich, who also assisted four Spec Miata entries during the event, was thrilled to earn his first NASA Championship.
“I have the regional Spec Miata championship this year as well in the Rocky Mountain, so to throw on the championship for ST6 is the cherry on the top. That made the trip worth it,” Nemnich said. “We didn’t have to deal with any rain so that was great. The track was a little slicker than yesterday’s race, but overall the car did great and the crew did a great job. I’m happy they got it right and we were able to pull out the first place.”
Nemnich made sure to thank X-Factor Racing for setting the car up with a great engine.
The second-place finisher in the race was Christopher LaBouff and Eric Talistu rounded out the podium.
Honda Challenge 2
Due to a clerical error, this story has been updated from the original version published Sunday, Sept. 18 at 11 p.m.
When the green flag dropped, most of the Honda Challenge 2 field approached the Andretti Hairpin from wide right. That left an opening on the inside for Jonathan Baker to dive down the inside and take the lead from his third-place starting position. Through all the traffic and cautions, Baker held that lead till the very end to take the biggest win of his career.
After eight attempts, and an assortment of second- and third-place trophies, Baker, who came all the way from Maryland, captured his first Honda Challenge 2 Championship.
Baker led Alexander Tarradelles-Newell for the first 25 minutes of the race. Baker was able to put a gap on Tarradelles-Newell until a full-course caution stacked up the field as crews cleaned up an incident on track.
“Once we went green, he kept falling back and I guess at some point, even Alex and Scott Adams got into a bit of a battle. Then we took the white flag and we passed the H4 leaders and passed the Start/Finish and that was it. I was so excited and so surprised that it went down the way it did, but it was it was amazing.”
The key to Baker’s killer restart was in-car communication. When the green flag waved at the Start/Finish line, he was able to get back to the throttle way back in Turn 10 and start putting out-of-class cars between himself and Tarradelles-Newell. It was the unfair advantage he needed to lock in the win.
“Luckily I have someone on the radio, and I got the green basically coming out of Turn 10. So I passed probably four cars on the way into 11,” Baker said. “I always feel bad doing that because they obviously weren’t aware, but it’s kind of like one of those eat or be eaten sort of situations. So I dove down the middle and, um, took a few few spots.
“It was a little tough going through, like I could tell I was battling with the leaders sometimes and I didn’t wanna mess up their race,” he added. “And I hung back a couple times because I knew I had a bit of a gap so that I didn’t mess someone else’s race up.”
Following Tarradelles-Newell’s DQ, the podium ended up with Team Scott Adams Driver Development in second and Dane Byrd in third in his Honda CRX.
Honda Challenge 4
Carlos Valenzuela had been dominant all weekend, but a dodgy transmission might have ended his chances for a Championship. That’s where Team Double Nickel Nine got around Valenzuela, and survived a caution period to grab the lead and hold it till the very last lap and the very last turn, when contact with James Landry caused Double Nickel Nine driver Keith Kramer to spin.
The incident was under investigation, but at deadline, Landry was still shown as the winner on the unofficial results.
“Obviously, that super long yellow in the middle was like a little bit of a perfect break, and then I made it from a sixth to about second or third pretty quick,” Landry said. “Those guys at the front are fast. Keith and I had a really great battle. Last corner of the last lap, I put it up inside and I don’t know if he saw me and he turned down on me and boom, we hit and he kind of went in the dirt and I went to the front, so I’m sure we’ll go to the video and see what happens. But, I don’t know. I thought it was clean.”
An emotional Ashley Burt paused for a second to collect his thoughts and let it all sink in. The Colorado Spec Z driver was overcome with joy as he took a deep breath, laughed and even choked away some tears as he found himself victorious on the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca following Sunday’s Group C NASA Championship race in which he edged out his nearest competitor, fellow Rocky Mountain region driver Bill Bowdish by three-tenths of a second.
“Oh man, this is amazing. I don’t even know what say. Yesterday’s race was a bitter pill to swallow, but as one of my good friends always says, ‘Champions adjust,’ and that’s what we did out there today. If we didn’t adjust, we wouldn’t deserve to be on the top step,” Burt said, referring to yesterday’s race in which he and Bowdish got tangled up toward the end of race, allowing fellow Colorado racer Matt McCarthy to pass both of them and earn the pole position for the final race. “I feel lucky to be here. You know, everything has to go right. It’s not one thing and there’s not one person. It’s a team effort.”
Burt said he knew Bowdish would be charging hard for the entire 45-minute finale.
“That was an incredible race. I got a great start that allowed me to cut through a little bit of lap traffic to get the jump on No. 16 (Bowdish’s Spec Z),” he added. “Bill is a fabulous hunter. He just puts his head down drives his line. I knew he was coming for me so I took some risks out there that I normally might not do. Luckily they worked even though he hunted me down—because that’s what Bill does, he keeps grinding—and somehow I was able to hold him off. Wow this feels so good.”
Official results for Spec Z had Bill Bowdish in second place and Matt McCarthy in third.
Changing conditions was the name of the game. When the NASA Prototypes took the green flag, there were as many blue patches of sky as there were clouds, so a coin toss might have been as good a method for choosing tires as any phone-based Doppler app.
At the green, Jeremy Croiset jumped out to an early lead, with Sam Mangiameli not far off his tail and Danny Dyszelski on Mangiameli’s bumper. Then came the cautions. Then came the lapped traffic. Then came the rain.
Croiset had chosen to go out on slicks. Mangiameli opted for rain tires and in the closing laps of the race, conditions had gone wet enough that rain tires were a must. Croiset bobbled in the wet, and Mangiameli took over first place.
“We chose to go out on rain tires, you know, hoping it would rain. Jeremy was out on slicks,” Mangiameli said. “So I was really impressed with how well the rain tires held up the whole entire time to be able to push on Jeremy. And then, you know, that little bit of rain at the very end just helped get him his car upset and a little squirrely and able to make a move on the last lap.
However, Mangiameli and Dyszelski were DQ’d after the race, which meant Owen McCallister took the win followed by Mark Abouzeid in second and Tony Brakohiapa in third.
In a class as diverse as Super Unlimited, anything can happen in a 45-minute final race. And that’s largely what occurred in the NASA Championship on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca as Northern California driver Vasili Stratton drove his Wolf GB08 Extreme to a first-place finish after working his way up 11 positions and holding off hard-charging James Paul, who had the fastest lap of the class at 1:26.174.
Pole-sitter Jonathan Finstrom, who had the fastest car on the track in any class at the NASA Championship, was forced out following an on-track accident six laps into the race. Another class favorite, Henry Hill fell off the pace toward the end with a mechanical issue in his Wolf Mistral while Michael McAleenan held the lead until the end of the race before his RCR Superlite Car spun out in Turn 11 heading into the home stretch, dropping him down to seventh place.
“I’m stoked, I’m really stoked. What else can you say? It was an interesting race with a lot of changes, and you know the Wolf V8 came through. So who says a bunch of horsepower doesn’t win the race?” Stratton asked with a chuckle. “There were a lot of changes out there and people were having a hard time. We had some bad crashes. But I just pounded and had a good time and tried to pass people reasonably. It was a lot of fun.”
Stratton, who thanked his sponsor, Golden Eagle Development, added that he was excited to win his first NASA Championship and hopes to race in the 2023 event at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Pennsylvania.
California driver James Paul finished second in Super Unlimited ahead of Utah driver James Ingram.
Super Touring 1
Arizona’s Timothy Bidwill capped an impressive week of racing, capturing the Super Touring 1 title on Sunday in his 2019 Porsche GT3 Cup. Bidwill, who is sponsored by Ben’s Soft Pretzels, was excited to bring home first-place trophies in ST1 as well in Time Trial 1 after recording a 1:30.830 lap time in the first round on Friday.
“I did the ‘triple crown’ this year—I got the TT1 and I won the qualifying race and the championship race. For me that was a big deal, and I’m pretty emotional right now. It’s finally hitting me,” Bidwill said, adding that he was glad his team took the rain tires off at the last possible moment. “We had a bit of a fire drill. We went out to the pre grid with the wet tires and with about 5 or maybe 6 minutes remaining, we made the decision to pop the car up and put the dry slicks on. My crew did a fantastic job getting the car set up and getting me back on the ground so I didn’t lose any time getting the car out for the formation lap.
“The race went fairly smooth. We had a clean start and there were no issues with the track at all until frankly the rain started to come down on the white flag,” he continued. “My hats off to Martin (Daszkal) and to Max (Panchuk) for being such a great group to compete against. I really enjoyed running with those guys. The one guy that was missing is my teammate, Ricky Johnson. He had a mechanical so he had to withdraw. I’m sort of miffed that he wasn’t up here celebrating on the podium with me, but we’ll get there eventually.”
Taking the next two spots on the podium were Martin Daszkal and Max Panchuk.
Super Touring 3
Matt McIntyre has been nearly perfect all weekend. Except when he had to start from the back for making slightly too much horsepower on the dyno Friday afternoon, he’s been at the front all alone all weekend. By the time checkers flew on Sunday afternoon, it was very much the same story. McIntyre was up front taking the win and the Super Touring 3 Championships.
“What a relief, man. It’s been a crazy weekend with the Friday sessions and disqualifications,” McIntyre said. “That was totally my fault. Uh, but I live and learn and with a little bit of weather, I came back to win.”
McIntyre got a clean start and survived the two double-yellows, and when the rain got heavy at the end he held on for the win.
“In the last two laps, it started pouring a little bit, so it was getting a little slippery,” he said. “I think they put the flag out for a slippery surface.”
This year was shaping up to be another classic 944 Spec battle between Marcelo Vine and John Pentelei-Molnar. However, on the rain-soaked lap 1, Vine got tangled up with an out-of-class car and was shuffled far enough back in the pack that he never posed a threat to Pentelei-Molnar.
The rain, two caution periods, out-of-class traffic and competitor Kevin Fry was a factor. Fry had the lead briefly as Pentelei-Molnar at times struggled with a loose car that didn’t have windshield wipers. But in the end, Pentelei-Molnar said his win boiled down to focusing on the fundamentals of smooth inputs, and he captured his second 944 Spec Championship.
“I’ve got to thank my wife, Sherry. We took the car apart last season, redid everything, spent a ton of money,” he said. “The car needed a lot of updating and she was so patient with the hundreds of hours and then being here for four days, I promised her a vacation in Monterey and she got to see this for four days.
“But I had my hands full, but that car was so twitchy out there, but I know everybody was battling with it.”
Kevin Fry finished second and Kalem Fletcher finished third.
By the time the Spec E46 field took to the track, the rain had begun to fall and the track was soaked enough to require rain tires. Casey Mashore had enjoyed pole positions and running out front all weekend, with one minor exception for a tech violation that put him back to fifth for Saturday’s race.
But Mashore had never really raced in the rain, so he was swapping positions with the JDZ Motorsports car until he was finally able to learn from the lines JDZ was taking, then use them to his advantage to make a pass, make it stick and pull ahead for the win and the Spec E46 Championship.
“So, Jared knew to stay off the line in the rain. And I didn’t know that. It’s kind of my first real race in the rain,” Mashore said. “After he passed me and showed me that you can drive on the outside of the turns, it was all a game changer. I was able to come back by him. The last lap, I think he ended up having a hard time. Yeah, I think he got into some traffic and might have caused him some grief.”
Jason Fraser finished second with Team Legacy Motorworks PB in third.
While there were several close races at the 2022 NASA Championships, there wasn’t a more exciting back-and-forth battle for first and second than what transpired on Sunday in Spec E30. Respected California Northern region drivers Sean Lovett and Sylas Montgomery swapped positions at the front of the 31-car pack several times during the race.
Eventually Lovett, who earned the pole following a close qualifying race on Saturday, took the lead for good with a few laps remaining and managed to keep Montgomery in his rearview mirror, winning by a little more than 3 seconds.
“That was the most amazing race I’ve ever had in my life. I was hoping for some rain and we got it. I had a feeling there would only be a few of us that could do this in the rain, and I knew it would be Sylas and me and we did it,” Lovett said. “Racing with Sylas, being the driver he is — a past national champion — was just so clean, bumper to bumper. We were learning from each other out there and we both knew where we needed to be for most of the race. We nearly took each other out probably a dozen times. But it was really more lapped traffic that was the hardest. It was all about being patient and trusting that wet line.
“I was just trying to keep the car underneath me, which wasn’t easy,” he continued. “I can’t say enough for North Bay Bavarian for just giving me the best car possible. They were working on the car literally 10 minutes before the start of the race. What a great weekend.”
Finishing in third behind Lovett and Montgomery in Spec E30 was Nick Thiemann.
Although he didn’t have rain tires for his Thunder Roadster GTR, Ryan Raduechel of Raduechel Performance Motorsports in Northern California was able to survive a wet track during the Thunder Roadster finale to bring home his first NASA Championship. The pole-sitter did not have an easy go of it as he fell behind early in the wettest race of the day and was forced to be patient and battle his way back to front of the pack.
“We didn’t bring rain tires so we went out there on slicks and Dave (Standridge, who was disqualified after finishing the race in second) had the rain tires on and I thought if I could just go slow enough I could keep him behind me but he was able to get in front,” Raduechel said. “Then my dad reeled me in and passed me and I just kind of thought, ‘I just need to slow down and settle down,’ and see if we can reel him back in.”
Raduechel did just that. But how did he find his pace and position on the wet track that he said didn’t start to dry up until about last two laps?
“I moved my line—I just found a line that was working better. I had to calm down and slow down and find where I could get the drive off the corner and find where it would turn. It worked out and I ran them down,” Raduechel said. “It has been a long time coming. I’ve run second, I think, four times in a row now so it finally feels good to get one in the bank.”
Following the Standridge DQ, Tom Boyd ended up in second place and Raduechel’s brother, Robert, took third.
Super Touring 2
While two double-yellows in the Group E race, which included the American Iron Xtreme, Super Touring 2 and Super Touring 4 classes, took away any hope that Colorado driver Jake Latham had from pulling away from the rest of the Super Touring field in his Corvette, he still managed to come out on top, winning his first NASA Championship by less than a second ahead of California’s Brett Strom.
“That was the most intense, hardest race of my life. I don’t think I’m going to quit tingling until after midnight. It was amazing. This has been a lifelong goal, so to come out on top is kind of surreal,” Latham said. “Those restarts absolutely killed me because Brett had such a huge straight-line speed advantage. I knew I just had to find some way to stay ahead of him and I did … barely.”
Latham said his car performed perfectly.
“It was absolutely perfect out there. GSpeed built the car and Zebulon built the aero and it worked amazing,” he added. “It’s just the same always. It’s unbelievable.”
Brett Strom finished second in the Super Touring 2 class and Oli Thordarson was third in his Z06.
Super Touring 4
Due to a clerical error, this story has been updated from the original version published Sunday, Sept. 18 at 11 p.m.
In the hotly contested Super Touring 4 class, which had been dominated through qualifying rounds by Andre Eisenbach, the unofficial results had the GT Auto Lounge team in first place ahead of second-place finisher Jason Beacham with Eisenbach in third. After the race, the results were still up in the air, so three different podium shots were taken.
When the dust settled, Beacham was first, with Team ST Edge MV in second with Eisenbach behind the wheel and Justin Sprugasci in third.
“We had such a stacked field of competitors here this week. It was a little frantic before the start of the race because it was still wet out and we were making last-minute decisions about what tires to use,” said Beacham, who was unsure if he finished second or first following the race, which was under official review and remained that way into Sunday night.
“I was just trying to run as clean and as smooth of a race as possible. I knew I had to be patient because it was a long race. Toward the end, I had two or three cars behind me that were just pushing. They seemed to have better pace than I did so I was just making my car as wide as possible so they couldn’t make a move.
“I’ve had an incredibly fun time at Laguna Seca. I came out here with a goal of top 5 so to be on the podium is just like a dream,” he added. “And, if in the end I do actually win, after the review is complete, I’ll be speechless.”
American Iron Extreme
By the time the American Iron Extreme cars had taken to the track for their Championships race, the track had dried, but the conditions were still different from the day before. Rain tends to rinse away accumulated rubber and change the nature of the track. There might not be much grip where there once was.
Changing conditions and a transmission that was on its last legs didn’t stop Sal Molinare from taking the American Iron Extreme Championship on Sunday. After convincing performances on Friday and Saturday, Molinare found himself in and out of the lead a few times on Sunday. Whenever he would miss a shift, he would get passed. In the end, Molinare held out to take the AIX Championship.
“I’m pretty happy with that. I mean, it doesn’t look very fancy, but it’s got all Cortex suspension. It makes all the difference in the world,” Molinare said. “It’s got a cambered rear end and the short-long arm, front suspension and the JRI shocks and the torque arm and the Watts link, everything.”
Charlie Bosselman finished second with David Gordon in third.
Time Trial competitors wrapped up their competition Sunday. Here’s who came out on top. Unfortunately, photos were not available at press time.
Jonathan Finstrom drove his Staudacher S12 sports racer to the TTU Championship scoring a lap time of 1:22.225, the fastest lap of the entire event.
Matt Cresci drove his Rattlesnake Electric Sport Radical to the TTEV Championship with a 1:39.879-second lap time.
Timothy Bidwill capped off his ST1 race win and Championship with another Championship in TT1. Bidwill’s lap time of 1:31.473 was a second better than his nearest competitor.
Jake Latham drove his C5 Corvette to an ST2 Championship this weekend, and added a TT2 Championship for good measure. He ran a 1:32.197.
Austin Kent took the TT3 Championship in his BMW M3, rounding the circuit 1:35.555 seconds.
Team Edge Motorworks ‘ntagen took the TT4 Championship with a lap time clocked at 1:36.588.
Team Moorewood Creative took second in ST5 and grabbed the TT5 Championship with a 1:38.931-second lap time.
Michael Omelko snagged the TT6 Championship in his BMW 325i with a lap time captured at 1:49.112 seconds.