When Saturday rolls around during the NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires, that means time goes out the window and the racing becomes about track position. Saturday’s qualifying races determine who will start where for the Championships races on Sunday.
The races brought their fair share of excitement, with two-offs and four-offs shaking up the order, some bent metal here and there and some caution periods that meant leaders had to re-establish their leads all over again once the race restarted.
Qualifying proved once again that you never know what might happen during the race. Here are the provisional results and starting positions for Sunday’s NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires.
Super Touring 1
Terry Mathis was all smiles after winning the Super Touring 1 qualifying race. He had gone toe-to-toe with second-place finisher Mark Burt, who won Friday’s qualifier, to earn pole for Sunday’s National Championship.
“My goal is to win this thing. Today’s (goal) was to run the top two and I just got by because of traffic,” Mathis said. “Anytime you win a race it’s fun.”
Burt was more than 6 seconds off the leader with his best lap coming on lap six (1:29.877). Dmitri Goliakov, who races in the NASA Florida region, finished in third place.
Super Touring 2
A driver from the Great Lakes Region and an engineer for Honda in Maryville, Ohio, Chad Gilsinger has done enough laps at Mid-Ohio to make him tough to beat. He also has an enviable car for the job: a 2017 Acura NSX.
Gilsinger leaped from his second-place starting position and took the lead from pole-sitter Michael McAleenan early in the qualifying race, maintained that lead through traffic and held on for the win and pole position for the start of the Championships race on Sunday.
“This car, the strong point is the start because it’s got the hybrid system and all-wheel drive, so at the start, this car is a rocket ship, but then as the batteries wear down, it becomes more like a normal car,” Gilsinger said. “I’ve got to manage the weight. This car is quite a bit heavier than most cars in this class, so it’s just a matter of managing the tires after the first couple of laps. It’s even harder to do in a 45-minute race.”
Gilsinger will be followed by McAleenan, Todd Clarke, Paul Costas and Keith Workman to form the top five of a 12-car field.
Super Touring 3
Eric Magnussen is pulling double duty this weekend racing in Super Touring 3 and GTS3, so anything he can do to conserve energy and get the win is a necessity.
Magnussen led from start to finish in Super Touring 3 despite a late challenge by runner-up Luke Rumburg in his Volkswagen GTI. Just 2.2 seconds separated Magnussen and Rumburg when the checkered flag dropped.
“I saw Luke start catching me in the mirror, so we really had to play traffic and maintain as much as possible,” Magnussen said.
Ross Thompson finished third and Tyler Clarke took fourth. Rounding out the top five was Rob Williams.
Magnussen is looking forward to Sunday’s race and said a good start is critical for finishing at the top of the podium. The tires on BMW M3 perform best early in the race, he said.
“Everybody is going to be stickering up, and we’re going to see our fastest times of the weekend and it’s going to be a race to watch,” Magnussen said.
Jon Van Caneghem knows that the championship race will come down to getting through lapped traffic. Van Caneghem’s car is faster in turns than his main competitor Jacek Mucha, whose car dominates in the straightaways. Fortunately for Van Caneghem, Mid-Ohio has plenty of turns.
“If I can get enough distance in the corners then he’ll catch me in the straightaway and we’ll go back and forth,” Van Caneghem said. “But if he gets too far in front it will be about traffic.
“If you stay in range, it doesn’t matter. It’s about making the right move in traffic. It’s a long race. A lot of things can happen.”
Van Caneghem, who traveled from Southern California to race at the NASA Championships, is learning the Mid-Ohio track for the first time. It’s been a steep learning curve but Van Caneghem is making progress.
“It’s a tough track to learn,” he said. “Everything is later, more throttle and there is a lot more track than you realize.”
Mucha finished second and Brian Faessler placed third with John Deangelis in fourth.
Sam Mangiameli treated Saturday’s qualifying race as if it were the championship and built a 38-second lead over second-place finisher William Moore.
“Managing traffic is the biggest thing for us,” Mangiameli said. “We’ve got a huge advantage in the turns on most of the competition, but on the straightaways we don’t have as much power with the majority of the cars. Its real important to learn how to manage your traffic, manage your distance from each other and be able to get a run on them.”
It’s the first time Mangiameli has raced at Mid-Ohio, and the team has been changing setups to deal with the track conditions.
“It’s a very technical track. If you mess up any turn, even an exit, it bites you for the rest of the lap. It really hurts you,” he said. “The track surface is an interesting one cause no matter how much mechanical you throw at it, it’ll loosen up on you somewhere.
When the green flag dropped on 28 Spec Miatas in Saturday’s qualifying race, the field got in a few laps before some argy-bargy brought out the double-yellow flags, which stayed out for several laps. Jared Thomas had the lead, followed closely by Jim Drago, Teen Mazda Challenge driver Matthew Dirks and Jonathan Davis.
On the restart, Davis pushed Dirks up the inside and into the lead into Turn 1, but Dirks didn’t stay out front for long. Thomas and Drago had the inside line into the Keyhole. Davis jumped in behind Drago to take third.
“If you hold your own on the outside of Turn 1 you can usually have the advantage going into the Keyhole, so I wasn’t too worried,” Thomas said. “I knew I could hold it, and Jim gave me a push going into the Keyhole and we were both able to clear.”
Thomas held onto the lead despite a last-lap, two-wheels-in-the-grass pass attempt by Drago in the Kink, one of the fastest sections on the track. So, the grid is set for the 2019 Spec Miata Championship. Thomas will start on pole, with Drago, Davis, Dirks, and Kyle Webb rounding out the top five. All will be looking to take advantage of the draft — or anything else.
“The draft is not huge compared with some of the other tracks we go to with long straightaways, but it does play a little bit of a role,” Thomas said. “It keeps people with you longer that you’re faster than. You can run with somebody that you’re not quite as fast as, but as long they’re in that draft, they’re right with you. It’s hard to break the draft here.”
American Iron Extreme
Brian Faessler’s goal Saturday was to earn pole position and get the car through the race with no damage. Faessler accomplished both goals as the team readies for the championship race.
Brian and his father, Paul, are both racing the classic 1965 Ford Mustang, but Brian expects to be behind the wheel on Sunday.
“He drove the car yesterday so I kind of jumped in the car today,” Brian said. “I’m just trying to get reacquainted with the car, it’s been a month since I’ve driven it.”
Brian knows the car well, putting down a best lap of 1:29.323, nearly 4 seconds faster than second-place finisher Elliott Fisher. Friday’s fastest qualifier Robert Shaw pulled off the track after four laps because of a mechanical issue.
Jay Andrew won championships at Mid-Ohio in 2006 and 2007, so he knows the road course well. Saturday’s qualifying race was about learning about his competitors in Spec Iron.
Andrew used his home court advantage to secure pole position in Spec Iron, out-pedaling second-place finisher Christopher Williams by 4.5 seconds. Cale Phillips took third.
“Sunday is the big race so that’s what really counts,” said Andrew, whose best lap was 1:38.768. “Today some of the top runners we were just going to take it easy and not be too aggressive today because at these events people kind of lose their head off their shoulders a little bit and tend to kind of get focused on the red mist and think that this race is the end-all be-all, but it’s just part of the long haul. It’s a marathon.”
Some drivers will tell you that pole position isn’t that important as long as they can start near the front. Not Kent Owens, who thinks pole is key to success in Sunday’s championship race.
“In our particular group that’s really important,” Owens said. “We’re a very tight group, top three or four cars are within a couple of tenths, so it’s important to be on the pole and to get a good start.”
Owens nailed the start Saturday en route to winning the qualifying race, outdistancing second-place finisher Derek Wright and third-place driver John Kelchen by more than 9 seconds. Owens also used Saturday’s race to measure up the competition.
“Today’s a good day to shake out the racers you haven’t raced with before, people from out of region, people you’ve never seen before,” Owens said. “It gives you a good indication of how they’re going to race, how they’re driving and that can pay dividends for tomorrow for sure.”
The trick to getting around Mid-Ohio quickly is to find that track’s rhythm. To do that, you must have an appreciation for detail, because Mid-Ohio is chock full of nuance. American Iron driver A.J. Hartman is proving to be a quick study, nabbing pole position in Friday’s qualifying and putting on a convincing performance in Saturday’s qualifying race.
“I did do my best lap of the weekend,” Hartman said. “Now, granted, it’s nice and cool, so that probably helped things out a little bit too. No complaints. Everything went pretty well.”
Hartman had built up a lead of several car lengths over second place Michael LaPaglia. That lead decreased a bit during the full-course caution, but once the green flags flew again, Hartman established another gap. It will be interesting to see if he can hold off 2018 American Iron Champion LaPaglia.
“There’s definitely, like any track, there’s little like nuances where you are fighting for tenths here and there that add up to a half second around a whole lap,” Hartman said. “I’m still trying to figure out some of them, but I think everybody else is figuring that out as well. It should be good racing the whole weekend.”
Hartman is on pole, followed by LaPaglia, Jeff Wood, Todd Davis and Marcos Rodriguez.
The top position in 944 Spec has been has been shared by three competitors this weekend. Marcelo Vine had the fastest qualifying time Friday, but made too much power on the dyno. That put Michael Cooper in charge at the end of Friday’s second qualifying session. But in Saturday’s qualifying race, it was Derrek Morehead who came out on top.
“It was a close race. I had to keep pushing hard the whole way because as soon as I got into a little bit of lapped traffic, Michael was right on my hind end,” Morehead said. “Just a steady focus ahead and not trying to pay too much attention to my mirrors. No cautions was definitely a plus, so I could pull out a little bit of a gap and maintain it.”
That finish puts Morehead on pole, followed by Michael Cooper, Paul Davison, Christopher Simmons and Tara Brewster rounding out the top five.
Daniel Goldburg is hoping he can replicate Saturday’s performance for the championship race where he led from start to finish.
Goldburg produced his best lap on lap three (1:42.878) and parlayed it into a 7-plus second victory over the grouping of Robert Grace, Sylas Montgomery and Eric Pennington, who were chasing the BMW 325is.
“I got a good jump right on the start and then I just put my head down and clicked off probably two or three really fast laps and built me a nice little margin,” Goldburg said. “I think maybe I increased it a little bit for maybe half the race and kind of maintained it there.
“I could see they were battling behind me and probably slowed them up a little bit, maybe held onto that gap and stayed out front. My team Performance Tech, they’ve been on it all weekend, the car has been great. We’ve been inching forward making little improvements.”
After locking up pole position for Sunday’s national championship race, Michael Kanisczak knows he has a bull’s-eye on his car. It’s the perk and pressure that comes with the spot.
“It definitely makes it easier starting off, but I know I’ve got a huge target on my back, so it’s going to be a hell of a job,” Kanisczak said.
Second-place finisher Broderick Bauguess made Kanisczak earn pole position, trailing less than two car lengths for five laps of the race. Just 2.53 seconds separated Kanisczak and Bauguess at the finish.
“We hit Spec E30 traffic a bit sooner than I thought, so that definitely got the adrenaline up,” Kanisczak said. “At that point I was picking them off one by one hoping I hit them in better spots than the guys I was leaving behind.”
Ali Salih, who races in the Great Lakes Region, finished third and Harry Voigt finished fourth.
German Touring Series 1
Michael Dearstyne has been in control of the GTS1 field all weekend, finishing up top in qualifying Friday and leading most of the qualifying race Saturday. Things were looking good for Dearstyne till a mechanical issue sidelined him and gave the advantage to Shane Denney, who went on to win GTS1 to start on pole for the Championship race Sunday.
“Really, he got me on the start because my traffic in front of me slowed me down, and pulled a few cars ahead there, but I hung with him for most of the race,” Denney said. “But then I got in some traffic and went off track twice, so I lost a little bit, but he broke his transmission, so we’re going to put one in it tonight.”
If the repairs are successful, Denney will start on pole, followed by Dearstyne.
German Touring Series 2
Zach Hillmann went into the qualifying race with the goal of staying clean and not taking any risks. The mild damage to the left front fender told a different story about staying clean, but Hillmann emerged with the victory.
“It looks like one my competitors took a risk and he paid for it,” Hillmann said. “That’s really what we needed to do was take care of ourselves today and preserve the car for Sunday.”
Hillmann played catch-up from the start, anticipating two green flags but the starter only threw one. “I went from the pole to like eighth before China Beach,” he said. “I was waiting for the second flag.”
Hillmann was more than able to catch up, finishing 9.78 seconds ahead of Douglas Horton and 10.12 seconds in front of Will Choice.
German Touring Series 3
Eric Magnussen has been making it pretty clear all weekend that he’s quick behind the wheel of his M3. Double-dipping in Super Touring 3 and German Touring Series 3, Magnussen has had the quickest times in both classes so far in the 2019 NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires.
But in the qualifying races, quick isn’t always enough. It takes race craft and traffic management to get to the front. Here again, Magnussen answered the call. Though he suffered some body contact during the race, he will start on pole for the Championships race in GTS3 in front of Tyler Clarke in second and Rob Williams in third.
“We had little bit of body contact because the GTS3 and GTS4 groups were together almost immediately, and we got tangled up,” he said. “Tomorrow, maybe I’ll be a little less aggressive on the start when all the GTS4 guys are in full attack mode. It was a really good GTS3 field. There’s only three of us, but we were really close for a couple of laps through traffic. Once I got a clean track, I was able to break away.”
German Touring Series 4
Robert Thorne figures his BMW M3 is probably the least powerful car in the class, so getting out front early is crucial for the driver from Newtown, Pennsylvania.
“I don’t make the max power-to-weight in this car at all, so being able to get out front and get that lead so they can’t drive by me on the straights is important,” Thorne said. “I can catch back up but it’s tough to get around without the power. I’m happy to be up front and build the gap.”
Thorne had the lead early and never looked back, finishing 7.7 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Michael McAleenan and 13.7 seconds in front of third-place Todd Clarke.
Averaging better than 75 mph on the track, Thorne had his fastest lap (1:30.401) 11 laps into the race.
“I kept an eye on my competition for probably the first five laps and then kind of lost track of them,” Thorne said. “It’s hard to see out there.”
Honda Challenge 1
Driver Jose Suero found himself looking at the door of a Porsche GTS car that had spun out on the penultimate lap, and he had to react quickly. Suero drove his Honda S2000 onto the grass to get around the spinout and back on the track.
The evasive maneuver gave Kevin Helms a chance to catch Suero, who had a comfortable lead going into the final lap.
“It’s awesome, but it wasn’t that awesome when the four wheels went and I picked up all that grass, and I get back on track and the second-place (driver) caught up to me because I didn’t have any grip,” Suero said. “It took me like a whole lap to clean the tires, every turn was a fight just to keep the car. I think that was the most nerve-racking moment I had in the whole race. Just having my guy behind me again and me not having the grip to respond to that.”
Despite the oh-crap moment, regained the lead and won by 4.5 seconds over Helms, who took second place. Matthew Briddell was third.
Honda Challenge 2
Nicolas Hammann and Brian Shanfeld had one of the best qualifying races of the day on Saturday with both drivers finishing .29 seconds apart. Hammann came out on top and will have the pole position in the championship race.
“We got a clean start and I followed Brian for a little bit and then it was dealing with lapped traffic and trying to get a good jump or get a good pass,” said Hammann, dripping with sweat after the afternoon qualifying race. “I got a good run on the back straightaway and I was able to pass him. He kept with me the entire race. Keep it clean, be consistent and working with letting faster cars by, trying to pass the slower cars as easy as I can and not ruin your lap. It was a lot of fun.”
Hammann, driving a Honda S2000, and Shanfeld, driving a Honda Civic Si, battled the entire race. Both drivers fastest lap came the 11th time around the track, a testament to how close the race was.
Hammann, who works in R&D for Honda at the plant in Maryville, Ohio, loves running the Honda car on the road course.
“If you look around the paddock, these things are so easy on tires and brakes. It’s just a driver,” Hammann said. “It’s so evenly matched, it’s a blast.”
Honda Challenge 4
Honda Challenge is a bit of an anomaly among NASA’s racing classes. Instead of flying starts, Honda Challenge cars do standing starts, and they can be a little dicey to orchestrate. Once the field gets settled, they present a number of challenges to the drivers. Too much gas and rpm and you spin the tires. Too little and you bog. Either way, you don’t get a good start. It has to be just right.
Rob Krider had pole for Saturday’s qualifying race, but got a little overzealous with the throttle and had big time tire spin at the start.
“The tires were cold, and we’re not used to the surface here at Mid-Ohio, so the standing start was a challenge,” Krider said. “I messed it up and blew up the front tires and I was seeing the shift light on, and then luckily right behind me was my teammate Keith Kramer, who gave me a little nudge in the back and that pushed me in front of Carlos (Valenzuela) and then I ran it flag to flag from there.”
He made it look easy. Krider maneuvered through traffic all while letting the faster GTS cars through while maintaining his lead. He’ll start the championship race from pole in front of his teammate Keith Kramer in second, Steve Peterson in third and Dillon Brennan in fourth.
“It was one of those nice races that you want on a Championships weekend where you’re just all alone the whole event,” Krider said. “It was a solo run and I got out front by six or eight car lengths.”
Super Touring 4
Matthew Wasilewski has been the man to beat in Super Touring 4, and he was looking to carry that torch on to victory when he suffered a left rear suspension failure in the Carousel. That failure left him stranded on the front straight with the left rear wheel cocked badly.
That brought out the yellow flags, and a lengthy caution. When the race resumed, it was Andre Eisenbach who took the checkered flag. Eisenbach was having mechanical issues of his own before the race. His ABS was acting up, but Team Edge Motorworks got it fixed in time for him to take the green.
“We got out there and started in second place,” Eisenbach said. “Matthew Wasilewski, who I would call the odds-on favorite, he had a great start. I was able to keep with him but then in the Carousel, something happened and he had a bit of a tank slapper, and I was able to get by him. Unfortunately, that was the end of the race for him. I sure hope he can come back tomorrow. There’s some great competition here, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Eisenbach will start on pole in the 13-car field with Team Performance Eurowerks in second, Team ST Edge MV in third, Jeffrey Birdwell in fourth and Nicholas Simon IV rounding out the top five.
Super Touring 5
Cagri Yilmaz had pole position for the start of the qualifying race, but Eric Waddell wasn’t going to let that deter him. He got a good run on Yilmaz going into China Beach to take the lead away.
“I had a great run coming out of Turn 1 and I got him in the brake zone coming out of the Keyhole and I never looked back,” Waddell said. “And once we got into traffic, I was able to pull a little bit of a lead, but then a yellow came out, and I stayed in traffic and kept him behind me. The car’s got a lot of torque. It pulls hard out of the corners, so once I get in front, it’s hard for him to get around me.”
Team Rotary heads broke a transmission after working their up to third, so it’s not clear whether the they will make the start Sunday. Yilmaz will start second, with Thai Deep in is rotary-powered RX-8 behind him, and Brett Westcott in fourth.
Super Touring 6
Stuart Killian has a lot of laps at Mid-Ohio and that worked to his advantage in the ST6 qualifying race on Saturday. He was able to capitalize on Nolan Feathers going off at China Beach, and held on for the win.
“Just steady laps, that was all it was. Nolan went off in China Beach and I waited till the caution to clear going down into China Beach,” Killian said. “You’ve got to get out of the Keyhole. That’s the big turn. Everything with this track is won five turns earlier. It’s all very connected.
Sunday’s Championship race should provide a lot of excitement. Killian is on pole, and Southern California driver Sonny Watanasirisuk has clawed his way back up from a last-place start due to a dyno infraction He’ll start second. Feathers will start from fourth, but he had the fastest lap times today. Luke Wilwert starts from third and Jason Walsh will start fourth.
To be sure, Thunder Roadsters are one of tightest fields on the track. Yes, there are faster drivers, but the cars are all usually within sight of one another. That makes for some great racing.
James Wheeler had started from pole and built up a small lead. But the yellow flags came out and bunched up the field again, which put Jason Oehler right on his bumper. That mean Wheeler was going to have to build a gap all over again to earn the lead and the win.
“All these guys are really good. Jason was closer at the start of each stint, so right at the start, he was super close and then I managed to get a bit of a gap, and then on the restart he was super close,” Wheeler said. “His tires get up to temperature much quicker than mine do, so it needs a little while for me to get up to speed, but we’re very very close and it’s a good race then.”
Wheeler will start on pole for the Championship race, followed by Oehler, Gary Tinker, Brian Bohlander and John Spain rounding the top five. Tinker and Spain each have won a Championship in Thunder Roadster.