The "official" race report:
NASA Great Lakes, Mid Ohio, April 15, 2012
The season opening weekend in Great Lakes Spec Miata began with a glorious practice day that included an abundance of sunshine, and most importantly no snow! The favorable weather quickly gave way to a day of rain showers, beginning with the early morning’s slick practice session. After the spray had settled on Saturday’s qualifying, # 87 of David Spencer sat on pole. The #31 of Chris Price took home P2, while #48 Justin Hille(in a brand new ruby red paint job) rounded out the podium qualifiers.
The first green of the year was taken in the rain with a very wet track. Saturday’s start fielded 27 Spec Miatas with several new faces in a crowd of very usual suspects. The #18 of Matt Montes, the #12 of Dan Harding, the #99 of Chuck Price, the #57 of George Winchester, and the #06 of Dan Johnson were all newcomers to the class.
David Spencer was off to a quick start, followed by a group of cars that included Chris Price, Justin Hille, the sparkling new yellow #23 of Matt Paderta, the #46 of Ben Paderta, #614 Bob Keller, #55 Chris Williams, and the #8 of NASA newcomer Seth Rowley. The entire field took the first wheel to wheel turn of the year in very slippery conditions, and went from flag to flag without a single serious incident, very clean and exciting for all involved!
As the race progressed, Spencer began a dogfight with several other front runners, especially the #23 car of Paderta, who snatched the lead from Spencer during the race. Spencer fought back and took the checker for his first win of the year. Along the way, Spencer also picked up the fast lap of the race at 2:03.149, aided by a drying track towards the end of the contest.
Matt Paderta, and Justin Hille rounded out the podium. Chris Price, Bob Keller, Seth Rowley, Ben Paderta, Chris Williams, TJ Graven, and Brian Murdick finished the top ten. The #99 car of Chuck Price picked off P18 to finish as the highest rookie in the battle, while the #28 car of Bill Biel vaulted from a DQ in qualifying to P16 in the race earning Biel the hard charger for the rain race, gaining 11 spots in just under 29 minutes.
Sunday dawned with the promise of no wet weather. The first practice session provided plenty of challenges while the track was toweling off from the wet Saturday. By the time the SMs took to the track for qualifying, the sun was out, and dry tires were on!
David Spencer gave a repeat performance of Saturday’s qualifying, snagging the pole position once again. Chris Williams improved on his wet runs to capture P2, followed by Chris Price in P3 to round out the qualifying podium. The #17 of Brian Murdick appeared in P4, followed by Hille and #22 TJ Graven in the third row, thus, setting the start with a cast of very familiar Great Lakes Spec Miatas in the first three rows.
When the green flag dropped, Spencer once again lead the drag race to China Beach beating Williams and taking the early lead, the rest of pack followed suit, and another perfect start and very clean SM race had begun. After just two laps, the running order matched the qualifying order, this time Spencer was hounded by Williams instead of Paderta. The fun continued with relatively little passing in the front but loads of action a little farther back in the pack. The #113 of Jay North, the #56 of Jonathan Davis, the #46 of Ben Paderta, the #12 of Dan Harding, the #66 of Rich Strickland, the #37 of Nick DeCuzzi, and the #77 of Scott Berlin, all improved upon their qualifying positions by at least 4 places….Davis improved from P19 in qualifying to P12 in the race to take away the hard charger award for Sunday’s race.
Back at the front of the pack, Spencer still couldn’t put distance between himself and the #55 of Williams, until Williams fell out of the race with a mechanical issue. Price replaced Williams on Spencer’s bumper, soon to be followed by Murdick in the P2 spot. In the end, Spencer held off all comers, and completed the weekend sweep, crossing the line in P1 and grabbing his second checkered flag. Murdick wheeled his #17 car to the P2 spot, and TJ Graven made a last corner pass to edge Chris Price out for the remaining podium spot by a margin of just .026 seconds(time to check where you mounted your transponder)! Price took home P4, while the #35 of Frank Todaro had an excellent showing in P5 finishing ahead of Hille in P6 by a mere .089 seconds, another photo finish!
Matt Paderta, the #21 of John Guthrie, Bob Keller, and Jay North, rounded out the top ten in a very tough opening weekend field of racers. Dan Harding pulled the highest spot for a rookie at P16, while TJ Graven took the fastest lap in his run to the podium, turning a 1:47.027 on the club course.
The series moves to Putnam Park on May 11-13, 2012, after a great opening weekend at Mid-Ohio!
2000 Spec Miata Orange #55
NASA Great Lakes Spec Miata Series Director