The first NASA Utah weekend of the year brought with it its fair share of action. From new track records to people driving the wheels off their cars, local hero’s, rookies, and national champs all came out to enjoy Utah regions Round 1. Over 100 drivers challenged Miller Motorsports Park’s outer loop configuration, and our Thunder and Lightning race group featured well over 40 cars on grid for the start of Saturdays race!
The GTS drivers were out in force, and entirely in Porsche 911s. In GTSU David Donner put his red and white Air Power Racing prepped machine in First place ahead of Peter Spencer and John Scarlett, both also in Air Power Racing machines.
GTS5 demonstrated some close racing between Alan Wilson and Roberto Albarran, with Roberto edging out Alan by just under 1 second, despite Alan posting better lap times. Russ Timmons debuted his beautiful new orange and chrome wrap job to round out 3rd. Sundays race was another barn burner for these two, Alan was leading a close battle when a daring move in lap traffic, quickly turned into a carefully managed spin, moving him to 2nd, but with Desire supporting over the radio, Alan climbed back into 2nd place, while Mark Brouse finished 3rd.
GTS4 was a two man battle between Darrell Troester and Chris Vivolo in their Tatum Racing 911s. When the checkered flag dropped it was Darrell taking the class win. Darrell was able to repeat his victory on Sunday, securing a healthy lead for his season.
In the Pro Touring classes it was Douglas Turnquist versus Bill Noblitt in PTB and Todd Green versus his Miata in PTE. Douglas put his Porsche 944 ahead of Bill Noblit’s Boxster, which retired early due to a mechanical issue.
Todd Green had an exciting Saturday in PTE. After only 4 laps his driver’s front wheel decided it wanted to take a lap off. It took the hub and brake rotor off into the infield while Todd wrangled the rest of the car to a stop just outside of turn 6. Determined to get back in the game he recruited Matt Guiver and Travis Tidball to sacrifice the E3 Miata sitting quietly in the garage. Todd worked hard and got his #60 PTE Miata back on the grid in time to edge out Allan Anderson for the class win on Sunday.
In other Miata racing news, Chris Bond was your Spec Miata winner, ahead of David Sherman and Troy Duffin respectively. Rounding out the class were McKay Snow, Paul McGarvey, and rookie Joe Shubert. David came back with all cylinders firing on Sunday and put down some consistent laps to take 1st place, Troy Duffin clinched 2nd, and Chris Bond had to settle for 3rd. Larry Carpenter had his hands full keeping cars tuned up for this competitive class.
Spec Z featured all rookie drivers, in 3 brand new Nissan 350Z Spec racers. Spec racing rules meant the cars were nearly identical, but Arthur Golebiowski, Tom Kaminski, and Paul House drove them very differently. Arthur wrestled his Strace Z into first, Tom pedaled to 2nd place, and Paul closed the race in 3rd. Arthur even took home a BFG R1 race tire, and $250 from Nissan for his debut race with NASA Utah. Sunday saw a surprise reversal, Thomas managed to take advantage of traffic to secure 1st place, even though Arthur set a new Spec Z track record with a 2:11.4 his effort was only good enough 2nd. Paul managed to bring it home in one piece for 3rd. All weekend these three drivers could be found in the paddock discussing strategy, and working on each other’s cars, it’s always nice to see camaraderie in the race grids.
Rounding out the Spec classes is Spec 944, which was the closest racing of the day! Samuel Kapp in his Eurotonic backed 944 battled with Otto Silva and his orange Euroworks machine. It was close, but Samuel took the win by .396 seconds after 10 laps on this 3 mile course!
Super Touring was a dense field, with the quickest cars and some very experienced drivers at the wheels. It also featured the widest variety of vehicles. From Alex Whetman’s Focus of Doom to Madison Snow’s IMSA GTD class 991 Porsche that sees action in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. There are also a good handful of Corvettes, and in ST1 is where we find the 2013 National champ Team Smith-Burke Corvette. They were competing with Dan Worley and his Chevy LS1 powered Porsche 944. They came out of the box with a fast pace, opening up a 1:15.701 gap, and setting a new NASA Utah record in the process.
ST2 had old hand Byron Smith in his BMW against rookie Brendon Stewart in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Brendon was hoping to not have a repeat of last season’s catastrophic failures and missed races, and things seemed to be working great. However an incident with the the #33 Skullcandy Team Nissan Altima in Clubhouse turn resulted in a spin, and driver penalties for Brendon. Determined to learn from his mistake, Brendon found the very small pieces of his bumper, and got the car back together to take 1st on Sunday with a 2:05.4.
ST3 was the deepest class with eleven drivers, seven of whom with driving FR500S Mustangs. Of the Mustang drivers, R. Ryan Curl proved to be the fastest, coming in fifth in class behind Todd Ainsworth’s Us Against One Clothing backed Subaru WRX STi. Cary Wilson took the class win in his gray C5 Corvette, earning some Hoosier race tires for his efforts, and Alex Whetman’s managed his Focus into second despite a catastrophically failed power steering pump. His effort was good for a contingency award for 1 free BFG R1! Gary Free’s RaceCo prepped Mustang FR500S rounded out the podium in what is shaping up to be an exciting season. Sunday saw Cary once again secure 1st place, while battling a new to him car, Todd Ainsworth drove the UAO STi to 2nd place, and Ryan Curl put down a blistering pace in his Ford Racing school FR500S easily securing 3rd place with a 2:13.9.
SU was the class to watch. Two IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship Porsches paired off against the two Skullcandy Team Nissan Altimas which see action in Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. Also in the fray were 2014 NASA SU National Champion George Smith and NASA Rookie Skip Sasser in Chevrolet S10. The Nissan’s were plagued by problems: the #33 had an incident with ST2 driver Brendon Stewart, while the #34 Nissan had clutch issues which forced them to retire after eight laps. No stranger to the race track, Skip Sasser drove his #38 S10 to a fourth place finish behind Melanie Snow in the #62 UIS Snow Racing Porsche 911. Ahead of her was George Smith in the yellow JDP sponsored C5 Corvette. And topping the SU podium in 1st place, Madison Snow. The 2013 IMSA GT3 Cup champion had a commanding lead by the time the checkered flag dropped. Sunday saw Les Long owner/operator of Air Power racing get behind the wheel of his Super Unlimited GT3, but there was nothing he could do to compete with Madison Snow. Driving hard, Madison managed a record shattering 1:52.0 to secure the win.
And so ends a successful opening weekend to the NASA Utah season. The next race weekend is April 25-27 on the West track. Registration is open and we look forward to seeing everyone return for Round 2 of the NASA Utah racing series
Words by Michael Chandler and Matt Guiver, Photos by Michael Chandler and Michael Wells
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