Oner Khera, of the Arizona Region, and his 1995 BMW 325i managed to bounce back after failing a mandated dyno test following Friday’s qualifier, and being disqualified after Saturday’s qualifying race due to passing under yellow. All this led to Khera taking an early lead after a brilliant start to win by over 10 seconds after a dusty race at the 2016 NASA Western States Championships at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Khera looked to be the fastest all weekend and despite having his lead reset twice during the final race due to safety car periods, he was able to maintain his lead over Steve Stepanian and the rest of the GTS2 field.
“I just wanted to play it by ear,” said Khera after the race. “I was able to catch a slipstream between Mike and Sean and I was able to ride that all the way in. I saw Steve Stepanian was slipstreaming behind me, which worked out pretty well, but there were a lot of double yellows out there and it bunched us all back up, so I never really got a break at all. I’d look in my mirror and Steve Stepanian and Mike and Sean were all right back there, so they kept me working for sure. I had to stay focused.”
Stepanian got up to second early on after starting from the back and held on despite pressure from Mike Dovorany and Sean Aron.
“It was tough to get back into a rhythm. You drive, everybody was fighting and then the yellow came out and we were driving, and then the yellow came out again,” said Stepanian, “But it made for a fun finish. The whole field restart, that was kind of exciting.
“We were having a heck of a time staying on course through Cotton Corners … when they would pick up some dirt there, we hoped it would be done by the end of the straight, but a lot of times we would see a ton of dirt at the end,” he added. “The problem was what was sitting in the air. You couldn’t see through it. I think I drove through three dust clouds at 20 mph hoping I wouldn’t have to hit the brakes. It was tough to see, but it was fun. Always enjoyable.”
Polesitter Sean Aron was unable to hold on to third place due to a dramatic last lap pass by Mike Dovorany. The two had been swapping positions all race, and it came down to who had the last laugh.