Qualifying races a glimpse at tight racing
BRASELTON, Ga. (Aug. 29, 2014) – The National Auto Sport Association’s (NASA) ninth annual NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires Eastern States Championships is underway. More than 300 competitors from across the country are racing for championship honors this weekend at Road Atlanta.
In near 100-degree temperatures the NASA Eastern Championships began today. In the opening qualifying race of the weekend, Brian Faessler in his No. 018 Ford Mustang made easy work of the American Iron Extreme field with Will Stukas winning the American Iron Class in his No. 93 Chevrolet Camaro Z28.
“It was fun,” Stukas said. “I started from back in eighth on the outside. I was able to get a few guys on the outside into Turn One and run down the rest throughout the race. Road Atlanta is my home track. I want to run the qualifying races up front and try and start on the pole for the big race on Sunday. I hold the track record here in this class with a 1:33.2. I don’t think we will get close to that time in this heat this weekend.”
In the Spec Miata race, the 37 car field took the green and instantly began mixing it up. Danny Steyn in his No. 39 Miata took the early lead. Steyn had the No. 60 of Matthew Pombo glued to his bumper in the early going. Jonathan Czarny made it a three car race in his No. 21 green Miata. On lap eight, Pombo went by Steyn and won the qualifier. The fast lap of the race was put in by James Drago in his No. 02 Miata turning a 1:45.104.
“It was a good way to start the weekend,” Pombo said. “I looked at it like a qualifying session. I was just trying to be smooth and keep it in the top five. My car was heating up so I switched spots with Danny. He got racing with Czarny and they kind of let me go. The car handled like a dream. There is a lot of racing left to go, another qualifying race tomorrow and the big race on Sunday. My dad won two National Championships here at Road Atlanta and I grew up watching him. This place has a lot of history for the Pombo family. We just tend to click very well here. The strategy for Sunday is to get the OPM Motorsports/Pombo Racing Spec Miata to the front and stay there and see who is going to win on the last couple of laps.”
In Spec E30, another big field at this year’s NASA Eastern Championships, with over 40 cars the qualifying race was full of great action. The No. 30 BMW of Jared Stoops took the early lead. On lap four Sandro Espinosa in his No. 32 BMW 325i took the lead and never looked back. The new Spec 3 Class qualifying race was won by Barry Battle in his No. 23 BMW 325.
“I started the day qualifying on new tires and I didn’t like the handling,” Espinosa said. “I went back into the trailer and dug up some old tires that are a few race weekends old and it came right back to me. This is the third weekend on these tires, but they are shot now. I think I am going to look in the trash can for some tires or look to my buddies for some used rubber. My strategy for this weekend is to find old tires. This is my home track. I wanted to run new tires for the big weekend, but my car just doesn’t seem to like them.”
In 944 Spec Jason Stanley made easy work of the near 40 car field in his No. 60 Porsche 944. He was followed to the line by No. 76 Daniel Williams and the No. 96 of Jason Walsh.
“I didn’t have much clear track in qualifying, so I didn’t get the pole like I wanted,” Stanley said. “I was third on the first lap. I tried to pass Pina (Dan, No. 149 Porsche) coming into Turn Ten, but he made it tough so I tucked in behind and did some bump drafting. Pina had a burble and I went by him. I was able to move to the lead and I put my head down, hit my marks and drove to the win. I am still looking for the sweet spot with my tires and we may get some rain on Sunday. If it rains, I have a good wet set-up so we are looking pretty good. My goal is to drive a safe race tomorrow and get a good starting position for Sunday’s main event.”
In the HPD Honda Challenge Class, Kris Popovic in his No. 9 Acura Integra took the qualifying race win. Kevin Helms turned the quick lap of the Challenge 1 group with a 1:38.895, but retired with one lap to go while in a heated battle with Popovic. In Challenge 2, the No. 8 Honda S2000 of Jeremy Lucas took the win.
“It was a tough one,” Popovic said. “Kevin was on me for a while. He pulled off coming into Turn Ten. You have to finish it to win it. I was able to get the win. I have my fingers crossed that everything stays together for the rest of the weekend. We have had a good year. I won a few races here at Road Atlanta early and then had some mechanical issues. I just need my motor to last and we will be good.”
“There was a lot of back and forth up front, I did not lead the whole way,” Lucas, Challenge 2 winner said. “We were pushing each other really hard all race. It was fun. I started the race from pole, went up into Turn Three and I was second, at the end of lap one I was third. I was able to come back and take the win. The car has a lot of weight at 2900 lbs. I need to keep the tires in check. In a 40-minute race it will be tight. This is my first race at this track with this car.”
In the Spec Z Class Brian Kleeman drove his No. 23 Nissan 350Z to the qualifying race win.
“It is hot out there,” Kleeman said. “I started on pole and was able to keep the lead. Jay (Pelligrini Jr., No 51) was right on my tail keeping me honest the whole way. Unfortunately he pulled in with a problem and I was able to cruise the rest of the way. The dash isn’t working, so I don’t know what the temps are, hopefully not too high. I want to get out front and stay out front the rest of the weekend.”
Ralf Lindackers won the last qualifying race of the day in his No. 01 BMW M3 in the GTS Class.
“It was a great run,” Lindackers said. “It was a little confusing at the beginning with two pace laps. I had a decent start, I went back to third from second. I was able to get up front and race with John van Houten, which was a really fun.”
Complete information on the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires can be viewed at nasachamps.wpengine.com.
The weekend’s schedule from Road Atlanta can viewed at http://www.nasaproracing.com/nationals/East_Combined_2014.pdf
Live timing from the Road Atlanta Championships can be viewed at http://www.nasaproracing.com/liveresults/champs
Road Atlanta is a 2.54-mile, 12-turn undulating road course located in Braselton, Ga., just 50-miles north of Atlanta. Road Atlanta is known as one of the most exciting places to drive a race car. The ultra-fast circuit has only one slow corner, Turn Seven, which leads onto the long back straight. The approach to the fast downhill Turn 12 is blind challenging drivers to carry a lot of speed down the hill that leads to the front straightaway and in to Turn One. The stretch out of Turn One to
Turn Five consists of a set of esses and lefts and rights that will reward a good handling car.
The NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires Western States Championships will take the green flag at Sonoma Raceway, Nov. 7-9.
For additional information, please contact NASA Championships Media Director, Kyle Chura at [email protected] or (248) 821-0468. More detail can be found at nasaproracing.com or nasachamps.wpengine.com.
To qualify for the NASA National Championships presented by Toyo Tires, NASA competitors must compete in and score points in four regional races around the country, five for the Western States Championships. The 2014 National Championship presented by Toyo Tires Eastern weekend will feature over 300 competitors racing for the NASA National Champion trophy in 36 racing classes and nine Time Trial divisions around the famed Road Atlanta circuit home to Petit Le Mans.