More than 25 champions will be crowned Sunday at the 2018 National Auto Sport Association National Championships Presented by Toyo Tires in NASA’s largest field ever competing at the Circuit of The Americas.
On a day where racers were dealing varying weather conditions, the field is set for Sunday in what promises to be one of the most competitive National Championships in NASA history. The winners of the qualifying races are:
Calling it the most challenging conditions he’s ever raced in, Jeremy Croiset has dominated the NASA Prototype class qualifying this weekend whether the track was wet or dry.
The rain was so intense during Saturday’s qualifying, he was only able to complete six laps on the track with a best lap time of 3:38.910. Contrast that with Friday, where Croiset notched a best lap speed that was a full minute faster.
“The rain started getting heavier and heavier to the point it was almost a race of chicken because the NP01s are so light,” said Croiset, who races in NASA’s SoCal Region. “The tires are so wide that you can’t get enough water evacuation, so you literally had to feel the hydroplane of the car and drive just below that.”
Super Touring 1
Timothy Bidwill and his Porsche GT3 Cup car will start on pole in Sunday’s Championships after winning the rain-soaked Super Touring 1 race. Bidwill left nothing to chance by running 38 seconds faster than second-place finisher Terry Mathis on his best lap.
“I couldn’t see anything at the start of the race and I was lucky to finish,” said Bidwill, who posted his best time on the final lap of qualifying. “Challenging visibility, marginal traction even with rain tires, hydroplaning many times. I hope it’s clear tomorrow.”
Super Touring 2
Alan Cohen admits he was a little nervous driving in the rain, but after he got off the track, he was all smiles after winning his qualifying race.
“I have to thank my coach, he saw the rain coming and it really made a difference, obviously,” Cohen said. “I’m so happy to be here with these amazing drivers and friends. I love it. I can’t believe it.”
Cohen, who races in the Northeast Region, posted his best time on lap five with a 3:45.240 run as the rain started to ease. With the win, Cohen will start on the pole for Sunday’s Championship race.
Kevin Jander was exhausted after he climbed out of Ford Mustang GT after being pushed to the brink by Bill Agha during their race. Jander pulled the fastest lap by less than a second, running the 3.4-mile track in 2:37.171, while Agha ran a best lap of 2:37.802.
“I’m was pretty happy when I didn’t have to put the rain (tires) on,” said Jander, who races in the Texas Region. “I got a new sticker set of tires. These are the ones I’ve been on all weekend so I’m going to put a sticker set on and hopefully that will keep me up front.”
Tim Barber’s mission Saturday was to be near the front of the Spec E30 group for Sunday’s Championship. He did himself one better as he earned pole with a best lap of 2:43.512.
“If it was dumping rain and somebody else really wanted to be on pole, I wouldn’t care where I started tomorrow as long as it was dry,” said Barber, who has run at Circuit of The Americas more than 10 times.
Barber said he ran the right setup for his BMW 325i and will stay with it for the Championship. “I’ll nut and bolt it and keep checking the weather,” he said.
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, Jason Fraser was hoping for a little rain, figuring it gave him an advantage against other drivers in the Spec E46. He ran on a dry track and still posted the fastest lap in the group with a 2:36.415.
“I think if it rained and it rained hard, I really think we might have had an advantage because we do a lot of rain racing in the Northwest anyways,” said Fraser, who lives in Snohomish, Wash. “Had there been rain, we were prepared for it, but there is nothing like racing in the dry. That’s what we come here for the speed, the G-forces.”
Marcelo Vine used the qualifying race to size up the competition for Sunday’s Championship by laying down the fastest lap of 2:46.433, just a hair faster than the second-fastest driver Norman Hamden 2:46.456.
“It’s pretty much to measure where the faster guys behind me are doing and kind of control the pace and save the car in case there is an attack,” said Vine, who runs in NASA SoCal Region. “There are some fast guys that actually started last today, and they caught up. I think they’re third and fourth, I saw them in the rearview mirror. I got to keep an eye for those guys.”
German Touring Series 4
Having the group’s race session cut short of a crash, Michael McAleenan couldn’t get a good feel for what his rivals will be bringing to the Championship race. McAleenan had posted a 2:29.822 lap before the race finished under a caution flag.
Earlier in the day, the German Touring Series 4 was racing in what McAleenan described as a “monsoon.”
“Everybody was out with slick tires on and the monsoon happened at that point it was pure preservation trying to get around,” he said. “It’s been a challenging day but we made it through. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
German Touring Series 3
Asking what strategy Roberto Crescencio planned for Sunday’s Championship in German Touring Series 3, he laughed about tipping his hand.
“The mindset is hopeful and optimistic, but I won’t tell you the strategy,” Crescencio said. “I’m not going to give it away. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
Whatever his strategy, Crescencio has enough to hold off Dick Hunter during their crash-shortened qualifying race.
“I’ll take pole any day, any time. You never know what is going to happen,” he said. “The competition is tough, they were right behind me, and I couldn’t pull away.”
German Touring Series 2
When it comes to grabbing pole position for Sunday’s final, Greg Smith is indifferent.
“It always helps, but sometimes here the inside lane versus the outside lane preference, both have their advantages, but it doesn’t matter that much to me to be honest,” Smith said.
Making a couple shock changes to his BMW 323i, Smith was tough to beat outpacing second-place driver Eric Foss by 13.2 seconds.
Super Touring 3
Justin Bordonaro figured the drivers would be aggressive going into turn one, so he hung back a bit before making his move. It paid dividends as Bordonaro held off second-place finisher David Schotz in a race that was shortened to three laps because of an accident.
“I missed warmup because I wanted to set the car up for the rain, so I spent about four hours to do that and then the rain didn’t come, but that’s fine,” he said.
Super Touring 4
Ricky Johnson knows that finishing near the top of his qualifying race is crucial for success come the Championship race. In the crash-shortened qualifying race, Johnson in his Mini Cooper pushed past second-place finisher Andy Kwitowski.
“If you look at any of the races for a National Championship, you’ve got to be in the front to get the National Championship,” said Johnson, who competes in the Arizona Region. “You very rarely see the back markers coming through to win. Previous years there are racers that can come through the back, but this year the class is too tight, so you’ve got to be up in front and you’ve got to be battling.”
Super Touring 5
Nik Romano is probably one of the few racers wishing for rain during Sunday’s Championships, calling his car a solid performer when the track is wet. He still has to make a couple of adjustments to get his car ready for the final.
“We tried some of them for this race and it didn’t work,” Romano said. “It was evil, so we’re going to go back to what we were doing before because that was better, and we have a better shot in the dry. If it does rain, we’re putting those wets on and baby we go.”
Honda Challenge 2
Brian Shanfeld has been spending the last few days trying to learn the Circuit of the The Americas track. Judging by Saturday qualifying race, Shanfeld knows it pretty well. Shanfeld bested second-place finisher Robert Paszkiewicz by nearly 3 seconds.
“I’m just trying to get faster with every session, learn my ways through these corners a little better each time and try to stay ahead of the other guys,” Shanfeld said. “(Sunday) is a pretty long race, but at the same time these cars are pretty equal, especially down the straightaway. It’s going to be hard to pass anybody. Getting out front is a big advantage.”
Honda Challenge 4
Robert Krider knows that wins in qualifying races don’t mean much come Sunday afternoon. But he also knows that earning pole position can be the difference between winning and bringing home a participation award.
“Really today means absolutely nothing,” Krider said. “It’s nice to win. I’ve won every session I’ve been in so far and had the fastest lap in every session, but that means absolutely nothing if I get shunted in Turn 1 tomorrow. Someone else is the national champion.”
Tom Kaminski might be his toughest critic, especially after winning the Spec Z qualifying race. He beat Daniel Williams by more than 10 seconds, but it was a mistake that Williams made that was the difference.
“I overdrove the car and the first couple of laps, overheated the tires and they just kind of fell off,” Kaminski said. “My approach for tomorrow is to be a little bit smoother with downshifts, corner entries, corner exits and just kind of conserve tires and wait for the right opportunities versus kind off stuffing it when I shouldn’t and cooking the tires.”
In a 10-car Thunder Roadster field, it was Gary Tinker of New Port Richey, Fla., coming out on top as he outlasted John Spain, who finished second. The top three finishers in the class all finished within 2 seconds of each other.
Performance Touring D
Joey Thomas said the first time he saw the track at the Circuit of Americas he was a little nervous. Any nerves he had earlier in the week were gone by Saturday afternoon when he edged out Jose Garcia.
“I have to say I was really intimidated the first time I pulled out there,” Thomas said. “It was a lot trickier than I ever expected. I never ran a track that I have to use second gear so much, never. On the East Coast I run VIR, Watkins Glen, if I hit second maybe once. Here you can use it all day.”
Performance Touring E
Chris Kopitski sees earning pole position as an insurance policy after easily winning Saturday’s qualifying race in Performance Touring E.
“It’s nice to have the pole, get a good early start just in case something goes wrong,” said Kopitski, who runs in the NASA Central Region. “You never know what happens on the track.”
Kopitski beat the second-place car Team Rotary Heads by 17-plus seconds, while Jamie Clos was third.
Cody Powell made the best of the rain-shortened race to outlast Corey Weber and win by .696 seconds.
“I started in the second row, P3, got the jump, was in first around the first turn, and then led it the whole way,” Powell said. “Corey Weber and Mike Patterson got into me a couple of times, some incidental contact, and it was great. I qualified third in the rain. That’s not my forté, so the lord’s looking after me.”
American Iron Extreme
NASA Florida Region driver Billy Griffin knew his car was outgunned in American Iron Extreme, but he also had a hunch that rain tires felt like the right call. That decision took him to the front of the AIX field when the rain started coming down in buckets. His car is actually legal in American Iron, a slower class, but Griffin thought he could find his way to the front.
“It was wet. It was deep. It was full of puddles,” Griffin said after the race. “I believe I’m only one of a couple of people with rain tires on. I went out there with that anticipation. This car is way underpowered for AIX. I kind of had a strategy and it worked, and I used it to my advantage.”
Chris Hamilton is no stranger to Circuit of The Americas. The NASA Texas Region driver races here two or three times a year, so he’s familiar with the track. However, he is not a meteorologist, so when it came time to choose tires he relied on two radar apps. One of them forecast rain. One of them forecast a dry race.
“It was very limited visibility, and it was a fun race. I just got lucky and made the right tire call. I’m glad we got through it with no damage,” Hamilton said. “Literally 20 minutes before the race we slammed the rains on. It was the flip of a coin. Tomorrow I think we’re going to be in the dry, so I felt that if I ruined these rains in a dry race today I’d be OK for a dry race tomorrow on slicks. That was the right called based on everything we saw.”
Hamilton’s Radical racecar was slower in dry conditions than three or four of his competitors, so he has his work cut out for him in the Championship race Sunday.