After all the hype, all the preparation for and anticipation of the Toyo Tires Classic at the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires, the Spec Miata race result boiled down to a few simple elements: speed, skill and, most of all, determination.
Of course, the fate of the podium finishers lies in the hands of tech inspectors, who won’t be finished full inspections on specific parts on the winning cars Friday, Sept. 21. Until then, the results are provisional.
Winner Chris Haldeman qualified poorly Saturday morning and found himself starting from 24th in a field of 60 cars. That came after he posted the fastest lap time on Friday and looked poised to be starting at or near the front. The poor starting position must have motivated Haldeman because he climbed up more than 15 spots on the first lap and set his sights on the leaders, Danny Steyn and Todd Buras.
“Fortunately, when that green flag came out, I just dropped the hammer. I think we were like seventh or eighth on the first lap and then we closed in,” Haldeman said. “All I had to do was keep from vomiting in my helmet and this race was going good. I’ve been sick all week. I’ve been battling a cold. I’m just glad to get it done.”
Danny Steyn broke out to a one- or two-car lead briefly, but he couldn’t hold off Buras, who took over the lead at the end of the back straight on lap one. Steyn got by Buras in the same spot a couple of laps later, but Buras repassed Steyn on lap seven. Buras held the lead for another lap, but ran wide at the exit of Turn 12, and Haldeman pounced.
“It was a shootout. Best racers in the country,” Buras said afterward. “By the exit of 3, I was behind Danny Steyn and I was going to push him a little bit, and he slipped a little, so I took the lead and ran for a while in the lead. Then I looked in the mirror and here comes Chris.”
After Haldeman found his way into the lead, Buras wasn’t done trying. Buras badgered Haldeman every chance he got, presenting for a pass and even getting a nose up on him several times in the second half of the race, but Haldeman was determined.
“Every battle with Todd, that man is an animal. He’ll put it anywhere, anywhere!” Haldeman said. “We never touched each other, in everything you saw. We were off track together. We never touched each other. It was just clean and fast.”
Steyn slipped back to third, and with some help from fourth-place finisher Brian Henderson, managed to stay within striking distance, but was never able to recapture the lead and finished third.
“I had the better qualifying position, but to come from 21st to first is the stuff of legend,” Steyn said. “That really will go down as one of the greatest drives in club racing for years. That’s how good it was, especially after how bad he’s been feeling. He’s been ill and everything. He put on a great show. I was kind of hoping that Todd and I would work together to get past Chris, but people choose the faster car and I wasn’t quite with them. I was just a little bit off.”
When the tech inspectors finish their work this week, we’ll all know for sure.
This story was updated Tuesday, Sept. 18.