The third annual NASA Eastern States Championships presented by Toyo Tires is underway with qualifying races being run at the historic Watkins Glen International raceway.
As the first group of NASA cars took to the track the weather changed, dropping 10 degrees to the mid-60s with over cast skies. The NASA Championships weekend has begun with a series of qualifying races that culminate with the Championship races on Sunday.
In the first qualifying race of the weekend, Brian Ward drove his No. 44 Porsche 911 to the overall class win. Ward was in a close battle all race with William Vanjonack coming within a half car length at the checker in his No. 226 BMW.
“It was a lot of fun,” Ward said. “I started P2. The first three laps Ed Baus was leading in his Porsche and then I think he had an engine issue. After that William and I were battling the rest of the way. It was tight racing. It was also nice to get some clean laps in here at The Glen. I am looking to be competitive and have a fun rest of the weekend.”
David Schotz started the quest for 13 NASA Championships, already has won 11, on a high note by driving his No. 34 Pontiac Firebird to the class win.
“It was a great race,” Schotz said. “The BMW has a lot of handling and is good under braking, but we had a little more motor. I just tried to get a gap, brake early and focus on my exit speed. I think traffic treated him a little better than me, but I will take it. I’ll tell you it is worth the drive from Phoenix, The Glen is a great track. The G-Loc brakes and Hoosier tires Pontiac Formula was hooked up and loves Watkins Glen.”
Honda Challenge 1
Michael Kanisczak drove his No. 54 Honda S2000 to the Honda Challenge 1 win.
“It was a tough race,” Kanisczak said. “We had a standing start and I was able to get by the RSX and then it was just simple traffic management. I was able to keep the car clean and take the checkered flag. My motor is a little weak, I am throwing some thick oil in it to keep going for the weekend.”
Honda Challenge 2
In Honda Challenge 2 Robert Paskiewicz took the win his No. 101 Acura Integra.
“It was a good race, I was taking it pretty easy,” Paskiewicz said. “With three laps to go, Jonathan Baker tried to out brake me going into the Bus Stop. I heard his tires lock up and I had to go straight. He hit my front right wheel and he went skidding by me. I was just being patient. I was lucky my tire didn’t go flat.”
Taking the overall class win on the day was Brian Frisselle in the No. 17 Davidson Racing Norma BMW.
“It is great to be back at The Glen,” Frisselle said. “The Davidson Racing guys gave me a great car. The Norma BMW really likes the new pavement here at The Glen. Our strategy going forward is to work on the car, last until Sunday and go win the championship race.”
In the newly formed NP01 Class, Jeremy Croiset was the class of the field in the No. 01 élan NP01 Prototype.
“It was an awesome race,” Croiset said. “That was the first ever NASA Championship race for the NP01, it is nice to get that in the record books and also nice to have won it. I think we were three-wide going into Turn 1. Matt Rivard came out right behind me and pushed me the whole race. The pace was flat-out. The Toyo tires were consistent from start to finish. I think I turned my fastest laps at the end while I was still trying to figure things out. The NP01 was made for this smooth historic circuit.”
Robert Gagliardo drove his No. 609 BMW to the Spec E46 class win.
“I had a good clean start,” Gagliardo said. “I just tried to build a little bit of a gap to Ali Sahli behind me. The race was shortened, so it went pretty fast. I was able to get the win, so that is a good thing. We are all here to win and have some fun in this new class.”
In one of the biggest classes of the weekend, 41 cars, Robert Grace took the qualifying race win in his No. 74 BMW 325.
“We knew that it would be a short race due to some track repair,” Grace said. “I knew a clean start would be crucial and I was able to get a good jump and I was P1 exiting the Bus Stop. I just drove it from there to the win. It is a strong field, I am going to take one-day-at-a-time and stick to my game plan and get to Sunday.”
The 46 Spec Miata competitors took to the track for an abbreviated race. At the start Chris Haldeman, No. 73 Mazda Miata, made a move from his third place starting position and went to the lead. Two laps later the race was stopped due to an on track incident.
“It was a crazy race,” Haldeman said. “The schedule was running behind, so the NASA Officials bought us some extra time so we could get some laps in today. I started third and made a pass for the lead and was able to hold on. There was a crash that ended it early. I am planning to keep it clean tomorrow and look for a nice competitive race on Sunday.”