Nick Sommers held off the 26-car Spec Miata field to win from pole by 1.172 seconds despite heavy pressure at the 2016 Western States Championships at Buttonwillow Raceway. In a race that had three different leaders, Nick Sommers managed to be in the right place at the right time to capitalize and get the victory. Nick Sommers credits his victory to his dad and Haag for his motor.
“I had a really good start off the line,” Sommers said. “I got a good push from Tristan Littlehale and pulled away early, and then I messed up my entry into Star Mazda pretty bad and I lost two positions on the first lap. Then I slowly worked my way back to the front. I was able to get good drafts off of Riverside and pass them. Then it was basically defensive. My third gear started going out about a quarter of the way through the race, so I had troubles getting into third gear. My tires got too hot and they started fading, but I was lucky enough to have everyone battling for position behind me. That allowed me to slowly get away. I didn’t think I could do it, but I just kept going and going and going and I don’t even know how I’m here.”
The top four of Sommers, Justin Casey, Tristan Littlehale, and Matthew Cresci were dicing the entire race as the quartet gapped the rest of the field. With positions changing constantly, the race was left undecided until they crossed the finish line after 19 laps of competition.
“Well, it came down to who could conserve their tires the most as well as keep their corner speeds up,” said second-place finisher Justin Casey. “This track has such long straightaways in this configuration so it definitely became a drafting game. Who could out-brake one another. Overall the initial strategy was to let everyone settle out and wait until the last couple laps, but a couple mistakes from the top five shifted us around, and that’s the way it played out”
“It was a great race. Very clean racing,” said the third-place finisher Justin Littlehale, “We knew it was going to be the four of us battling it out. I wish I had gotten up front earlier because it seemed like I had the stronger car. I got the lead and then I made a bad braking zone error and lost it right then and there. I had to work my way back up to third. So overall I am very happy.”
Matthew Cresci, who finished fourth, said his car was working well the whole time.
“It was so intense I can’t even remember what happened,” Cresci said. “My memory was just wiped trying to focus completely.”
With three drivers taking turns at the head of the pack over 19 laps and countless passes between the leading four drivers, the race was a spectacular display of clean, fast, and safe driving from all.