In the weeks and months leading up to the Eastern States Championships, drivers from regions other than the Southeast were signing up to race at Road Atlanta. They came from Florida, the Great Lakes region, the Midwest and as far away as California. Those drivers wanted the track time to get used to Road Atlanta, home of the inaugural NASA Eastern States Championships.

This is a bucket list track, and lots of drivers aspire to race here. But Road Atlanta is unforgiving. Punishing, even. The track has some significantly fast turns. Turns 1 and 12 leap to mind. It has some tricky turns, too, in The Esses, Turn 5 and the Turn 10 and 11 complex. Road Atlanta also is lined with concrete walls, some just a few yards off the racing surface, lying in wait for drivers who don’t get those turns just right.

Despite the peril, at 2.54 miles, with long straightaways and lots of room to race, Road Atlanta was the perfect spot for the Eastern States Championships. Voted by Car and Driver magazine as one of America’s best road courses, Road Atlanta set the stage for nine run groups encompassing some 30 racing and Time Trial classes.

The new Championships format made for a shorter schedule from Thursday to Sunday. With fewer qualifying races on tap, that meant it would be more difficult to climb back up the grid if you made a mistake or had a tech shed violation early on. Some drivers found that out the hard way and still clawed their way back to the podium when it counted. And isn’t that what a Championships event is about?

Blind luck can get you a regional race win sometimes, but to win a Championship, you should expect to work for it. Drivers in the 2014 Eastern States Championships worked their tails off to finish on the podium. Then, just minutes after the champagne corks popped, some of them were already talking about next year’s event at Virginia International Raceway. Because that’s what racers do.

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