The biggest fields of Spec Z’s in the country are in the Southeast and NOLA regions, so the field of eight drivers that showed up for the Eastern States Championships at Road Atlanta knew Road Atlanta.
Brian Kleeman started from pole followed by Liam Dwyer, fresh from his Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge victory at Lime Rock Park, then Clark Crawford in third.
Dwyer got the jump on everyone at the start, leading them all through Turn 1 on the outside. Dwyer made an error on the back side of the course a few laps in, and did not finish the race. That left Kleeman to duke it out with the NOLA Region’s Jay Pellegrini III, who took second place in Spec Z at Miller Motorsports Park last year. This year Pellegrini III capped it off with a big win and the Spec Z Championship.
“The first few laps we were struggling for grip,” said Pellegrini III. “Brian, Liam and I had a pretty tight race for the first three laps. I got past Brian on the second or third lap and was able to get past Liam. I just got lucky and fortunate. I just want to thank Nissan and BFGoodrich for a wonderful series. I’m really enjoying it.”
Pellegrini left Kleeman to take home second place.
“Well, man that was an exciting race,” Kleeman said. “Liam got a great jump on me and was past me by Turn 1 on the outside, so we had a pretty good battle going and then one or two laps later Jay came down on the inside of both of us in Turn 1 and it was a three way battle. We went side by side through Turn 12, door to door. It was pretty hairy. We just kept it there and didn’t touch. It was pretty good racing.”
John Baldwin Jr. had his share of adventure during the race, too. He was exiting Turn 12 when a competitor bumped him from behind, sending him on a wild ride, spinning down the front straight. He nearly gathered it up, but spun it again till the car finally pointed in the right direction again. Baldwin Jr. located a gear, stood on the gas and headed for Turn 1 and onward to a third place finish. After the race, he was rather nonchalant about the incident.
“It was eventful for sure,” said Baldwin Jr. “You know, spec class racing, everybody’s running tight and close. There was a lot of traffic out there with the Hondas, but we held in there and made our way up. BFGoodrich supplied a great tire, as they always do, and we got third, at a National.”
And a tremendous save we’ll remember for a long time to come.