As the 2018 National Auto Sport Association Championships presented by Toyo Tires inches closer, the pace becomes more frantic and focused in the garages and shops around the country as NASA racers make their final preparations for the event. We caught with a few contenders to see how their plans are coming along.
Georgetown, Texas, GTS3 driver Dick Hunter has two wins at MSR Houston this year, one at MSR Cresson and won all three races at Circuit of The Americas in May of this year. That doesn’t guarantee he’ll take it all at the Championships, but home track advantage and the confidence of his sweep in May should give him the momentum to rise above at the Championships at COTA in September.
“I am doing everything I can to put the best car on the track,” Hunter said. “I have had the shocks rebuilt, changed fluids, performed dyno runs, wheel alignment, corner balance and even built a new rear diffuser. I can’t wait to get on track!”
In this year’s Spec Miata Championship race, the Toyo Tires Classic, Anna, Texas, driver Chris Haldeman has been busier than most drivers because he owns X-Factor Racing, a shop that specializes in Spec Miata racecars and engines. Haldeman is in a good position to win the Toyo Tires Classic because he has a lot of laps at COTA and is one of the quickest drivers on grid, but he is putting in some serious work before the event.
“Preparing for the Champs for me has been going through the car I’m driving with a fine-tooth comb making sure it is ready,” Haldeman said. “I have been eating right and have already started hydrating. This past weekend I took a group of guys to COTA for some testing. There is still plenty of work left to do, but I am sure I will be ready! X-Factor racing has been working seven days a week making sure all the customer cars are ready, as well.”
It would be foolish to bet against Mike Patterson in this year’s Championships event. In the past few years, Patterson has had his share of bad luck at Championships events. He broke a differential last year at Sebring and the year before at Watkins Glen, an incident in a qualifying race kept him out of the main. This year, we think things will be different for Patterson, and he’s been doing his due diligence before the NASA Championships.
“I’ve spent the last few weeks ordering and replacing various parts on the car, verifying alignment and corner weights, nutting and bolting the car, conducting NASA CCR and class-specific compliance checks, and dealing with trash talk from (AI competitor) Pat Wehmeyer,” Patterson said. “I’ll be conducting final testing this weekend, mounting some fresh Toyo RRs, and then loading it up. I’m looking forward to the awesome AI field at COTA with participation from across the entire U.S.!”
Queens, N.Y., ST2 driver Adrian Wlostowski is bringing two ST2 Corvettes to COTA, one owned by Doug Winston and his usual black F.A.S.T. Auto Corvette. Wlostowski’s shop, F.A.S.T. Auto Repair rebuilt Winston’s yellow Corvette from the frame up during the winter and has been fine-tuning and improving that car every event this season. Wlostowski also has been making sure he and his car are ready.
“I have been on the track with our car every two weeks on average during the year and we have never felt better as a team,” Wlostowski said. “I feel that a major point many drivers tend to overlook is being mentally ready to find speed at a certain racetrack, meaning in that particular race weekend nothing else exists. Your mind is on data and video and self-reflection as a driver. Where did I lose half a second? Which corners am I losing time on? Am I killing the tires by doing unnecessary maneuvers? That self-reflection as a driver, having a good team to relieve you of tasks at the track, and a good car setup is the right formula to a winning race team. The rest is luck. We will be looking forward to great finishes from both Corvettes!
Last year Marcelo Vine won both qualifying races at the Western States Championships, but traffic ended up working against him in the end, and he finished second. This year, Vine is eager to go racing, and to prepare, he has been, well, playing video games.
“I’m playing PS3, the F1 game … driving COTA!” Vine said. “I am in the low 1:44’s, so if I can get close to that on my 944 Spec, I should be just fine. Two weeks to go! I can’t wait!”
For the record, a 944 Spec is incapable of lapping COTA in 1:44, but it’ll be fun to see him try at the 2018 NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires.