The X-Factor Team went to get some seat time at Road Atlanta before the upcoming NASA Nationals. Team leader Chris Haldeman showed the way at the Friday test and tune and the team picked up the track quickly. The test and tune was also great practice for the races to come as there was 70+ cars on the track with all classes running simultaneously.
NASA Texas usually has a SM only run group but SM shares the track with PT(x) classes as well as Honda Challenge and Thunder Roadster, a class that is non-existent in Texas.
Saturdayâ€™s qualifying in the mixed class went well as the fast Hondas and the Thunder Roadsters went out first leaving the track open for the teams qualifying efforts. Q1 had ended in three hot laps with all the team feeling like they left time on the table. Data review showed there was at least many more tenths or more to be had on the hot slippery track.
At the drivers meeting the many of the drivers found out their times were thrown out for drivers equipment infractions or sticker placement infractions. This left many drivers fuming and several others concerned as they were going to be on grid in front of the fire breathing DQ recipients. Then to compound the frustration the race director throws another curve at the field announcing that Honda Challenge and Spec Miata would perform a standing start with the PT(x) and Thunder Roadsters to follow with rolling starts.
The race started uneventfully with everyone getting through clean without too much contact. The SM pole sitter Ross was able to squeeze past several of the HC cars with Brian Wisler on his tale. Haldeman got a great start from the back after the DQ for missing a patch on his driverâ€™s suit. Haldeman was up to P3 by turn 1 with NASA Southeast regular Ben Rooke hot on his trail, but they could not slide by the HC cars by turn 3 and had to follow slower cars through the esses. Ross lead the first lap with Wisler acting as the pusher on the back straight for a the first two laps when they ran up on the back marker of the Thunder Roadster group. They were raced hard for a lap and half being balked at several turns allowing the rest of the SM field to catch them in turn 3. Rooke got by Haldeman and Wisler as the bottle neck produced a failed attempt at a pass by Wisler. Rooke fell in behind Ross and gave a push down the back straight still following the Thunder Roadster all the way to turn 1. Ross passed on the outside and was able to get the Roadster to check up enough for Rooke and Haldeman to get through but Wisler, Agha and Rushing were not fortunate enough to get through. They continued to battle to get by as Rooke, Ross and Haldeman continued to pull away. Rooke and Haldeman battled through turn 10a and b with Rooke getting sideways and at the track out and Haldeman forced his way by at the top of the hill. Ross built a good lead by working though traffic but Haldeman would not stop his pursuit. Haldeman caught Ross with 2 to go and decided to push on the back straight waiting for the right time to pass as the race wound down. Ross pulled away slightly going though to T7 and held Haldeman off again at 10 as they came up on a HC car that was off pace. Forced to follow the HC car through turn 12 Ross defended inside and held the HC car out until turn in at 1 which luckily trapped Haldeman behind the HC going up to turn 3. This gap was all Ross needed to mange his lead on the final lap and come home with his first win in the Spec Miata class.
It was very special because my father who loves racing as much as I do was with me this weekend and got to see me win. We have been working at this for 4+ years and we finally got it done. Thanks to X-Factor Racing for the power and setup. I rolled off the trailer stuck to the track and nothing changed all weekend. Thanks to my dad for being my sponsor, role model and friend. Hope I can build on this weekend and put more Wâ€™s in the column in the future.
Ben Rooke, you couldnâ€™t meet a nicer guy. Really solid driver, made one mistake that I saw all weekend. He got to see me use more track than most and I am sure he is still shaking his head.
Sunday had 2009 NASA National Champion Andy Rushing on the pole followed by Rooke, Ross, Wisler and Haldeman. Qualifying didn't go nearly as smoothly and only Rushing got a clean lap and that was on less than perfect tires. This time it was a rolling start and Rushing got to the lead at turn 1 followed by Ross, Wisler, Rooke and Haldeman. Many more passes and repasses in this race with Haldeman and Rushing pulling away from the pack as they managed traffic and the others were fighting back and forth. Haldeman and Rushing kept clean with a few laps to go and Haldeman was not to be denied this time and passed Rushing inside at 1 and never looked back. Ross tried to pass Wisler several times but could not get past the X-Factor monster lurking beneath the hood of the 59..... until they caught a SM lapper. As Wisler tried to get by in the esses but could not make it past he followed the 20 into turn five when the lapper had a "mechanical" mid turn and Wisler punted him into the kitty litter. This allowed Ross to sneak past and get the last spot on the podium.