Winning a Time Trial Championship is an uneasy pursuit. In racing you need to finish in front of the drivers you’re racing against, and you know where they are, because they’re right there with you on track. Unless it’s a photo finish, when you win, you know it.
In Time Trial, it’s all about speed and lap times, and you usually don’t know where the other drivers are on the leaderboard. It’s a nail-biter all weekend long. All you know is you need to push hard and then push harder. A differential as small as .001 seconds can mean the difference between gold and silver. So, you push, and push harder.
We’ve looked at the Time Trial entries for 2019 NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires, and come up with a few predictions on which drivers to watch. It’s pure science that is sure to be reflected in the results when all is said and done. Yeah, right.
At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
The two drivers to watch in TTU are NASA SoCal’s Jon Van Caneghem and NASA Great Lakes’ Kyle Musch. Van Caneghem has four Super Unlimited Championships and at least two TTU Championships that he earned driving two different cars: an Élan DP02 and his current car, an LS-powered Ginetta G57. It’s probably one of the fastest cars in all of NASA racing and TT, and Van Caneghem has shown time and again that he can wheel it to victory.
We’re also going to be watching Kyle Musch, whose Staudacher S06 sports racer has helped him get on the TTU podium in the Great Lakes Region three times this year. Neither of the Faessslers were registered for TTU at deadline, but that could change before the event begins.
This year, TT1 is going to be a hot contest. Driving a Dodge Viper, Cable Rosenberg just missed out on a TT1 Championship last year at Circuit of the Americas. He looks good, as does Gabe Gutierrez, who’s putting his Ford FP350RS Mustang to good use this season in the Great Lakes Region. Gutierrez is currently second in TT1 points in the Great Lakes Region behind John Taylor, who is not registered for the Champs. Add in NASA Texas’ Terry Free, who notched a TTU Championship at Mid-Ohio in 2012 and you’ve got a recipe for competition.
This year, it seems like Free is going to place greater emphasis on ST1 racing, so we’re going to give the nod to Rosenberg. We think he’s got what it takes to take the TT1 Championship.
The guys to watch in TT2 this year are Dave Balingit, Jeremy Croiset and
Alan Cohen. They all will be easy to spot. Balingit and Croiset drive NASA Prototypes and Cohen drives the “Patriot Missile,” a killer Cadillac CTS-V.
Croiset is going to have his hands full racing and working. Balingit, the former Rocky Mountain Regional Director, is now focused only on racing and TT. Cohen will be the X factor, and if he can pull off the TT2 win against NASA Prototypes, he’ll make believers out of all of us.
In this instance, we’re going to give the nod to Balingit, who has some valuable and irreplaceable TT experience from when he took on Pikes Peak in his NP01 in 2016.
If we had to pick a horse for TT3 at Mid-Ohio — and the whole point of this story is to do just that — we’d have to go with Dan Westerwick, who leads the Great Lakes Region in TT3 points. In fact, of the eight TT competitions he’s entered this year, he’s won all of them, and that includes both visits to Mid-Ohio. He looks really good this year, and his S197 Ford Mustang GT has a full kit of aero goodies to keep him glued down on Mid-Ohio’s tricky course.
If Westerwick trips up somehow, look for John Alfini in his Porsche Cayman S to pounce. Alfini has been nipping at Westerwick’s heels all season.
At the NASA Championships in 2018 at Circuit of the Americas, Andre Eisenbach, finished fourth in ST4 and took second in TT4 in his rookie season in the class. Eisenbach faced some ABS issues at COTA that bedeviled his shot at the ST4 podium, so he looks poised to come out guns blazing at Mid-Ohio in TT4.
However, when you look at the points standings in the Great Lakes Region, Dariusz Koman should be the man to beat in TT4 at Mid-Ohio. Why? Well, in 10 TT events this season, he’s won five, finished second in three and third in two. All podiums. What’s more, Koman’s car is a Mitsubishi Evo 10, so he has all-wheel-drive going for him, which is nice. We’re thinking Koman comes out on top in TT4 in 2019.
Almost half the field in TT5 is from the Great Lakes Region, which means the competitors from Texas, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Central and SoCal are looking at an uphill climb in terms of track knowledge.
That means taking a look at the local talent to see who stands the best chance to come out on top. In the TT5 points race in the Great Lakes Region,
Mark Phillips is leading, but it looks as though it’s because Nick Owens had a poor showing in his first outing at Mid-Ohio in April. That poor-showing seems to be related to a mechanical problem, because in six of the seven TT events he’s contested, he’s won all but one. Phillips has two second-place finishes and one third, so give the nod to Owens as long as his Mazda RX-8 holds up its end of the bargain.
With eight first-place finishes in TT6 in 10 outings this season, NASA Great Lakes’ Christopher Armbruster looks like he’s the driver to beat in TT6. The other two events he finished second and had one DNF.
Armbruster’s lap times at Mid-Ohio — when it’s dry — are consistently in the 1:43s. The only competitors who look good to challenge Armbruster are NASA SoCal’s Sonny Watanasirisuk, who holds the lap record in TTE at Mid-Ohio with a 1:41. Now, TT6 rules are not TTE rules, so it’s going to be tight, especially when you consider Great Lakes 944 Spec driver Michael Cooper also is running 1:43s at Mid-Ohio in his Porsche. Watch for these three to slug it out all weekend.