SoCal region’s Tyler Palmer reported for duty at Miller Motorsports Park looking to win his third National Championship in 944 Spec, and for the first five laps of the race, it looked as though he might not get it.
Despite starting from pole position, Palmer dropped back to third at the first turn and was battling the Midwest region’s Eric Kuhns to hold onto that. Midwest region’s Neal Agran and SoCal’s Charles “Buzz” Buzzetti were shoulder to shoulder for the first two laps. On the second lap, the two made contact and a brief trip off the racing surface sending up a cloud of dust near the Tooele turn. That slowed them down a bit and allowed Palmer to inch forward on the front runners. Agran held off Buzzetti, but by lap five, Palmer had moved into second place.
“I had him for the first five laps,” Agran said. “It was going exceptionally well. I had a pretty good gap for a brief while when Buzzetti and Palmer were mixing it up. But they were drafting and there wasn’t much I could do about it.”
By lap six, Palmer had the lead, but on the next lap, a full-course caution brought out the safety car and bunched everyone up. The mess was cleaned up, and one lap later, the field was off again, with Agran and Buzzetti bump-drafting down the front straight in an effort to catch Palmer, but the kid proved too fast and began gapping the others — until another double-yellow two laps later, which tightened up the field once again.
“Two full-course cautions came out and I was a little mad about that, but when the green flag dropped, I did the best I could to get a good start,” Palmer said afterward.
Palmer held the lead through the green-white-checkers finish to take his third National Championship in 944 Spec. Agran held onto the second spot and remarked about how close the racing was up front.
“He (Palmer) got underneath me in Turn 1 and we ran door handle to door handle,” Agran said. “We couldn’t have been any closer, and we just barely kissed although it’s no issue at all, through Turn 3 and he pulled it out. After that Charlie and I worked together, but we just couldn’t bridge the gap. I want to say thinks to Jim and Kelvey Hartmann of Pine Tree Motorsports. They take care of all of us in the Midwest. They built two out of the top four cars here. Just absolutely exceptional. David Dirks from 944 MotorWerks, who built my motor. He did a fantastic job and his coaching has been exceptional.”
Buzzetti, who was 2009 944 Spec National Champion, took third. Buzzetti also took third in 944 Spec in 2010 and was GTS1 National Champion that same year.
“We had a lot of activity,” he said. “The race started real well. I think the cars are evenly matched. I had a little contact on the first lap, and got the toe knocked out on the front end. The car was pushing badly, so I was very lucky to be in third. I didn’t think I was going to be there.”