As is traditional, discussion of the weather must always be the first thing on the drivers mind since the weather has the most influence in the racing ahead. Once again, the SoCal NASA weather didn’t disappoint. Clear skies, gentle breezes and temps in the low 80’s would make for near perfect racing conditions. Many minds were focused on breaking the existing track record of 2:03.216, which was set by Rius Billing, but nearly broken at the event held earlier this year in March. However, this is the point in the season where the guys start to seriously contemplate their points. In fact, for many that was their biggest concern.
For this race, the Spec E30 racers would share the track with Spec Miata and 944 Spec groups. Spec E30 always has a standing start, therefore would take the third green flag.
In qualifying, Rius Billing would set the pole position on the second lap with a time that was 2 1/10’s faster than his previous track record! Steffen Thompson would qualify second, 7 tenths behind and Mitch Pepper would round out the top 3 with his best qualifying effort to date! Also having a great qualifying session was Team Sykes Racing in the 4th place spot! Steven Stepanian, who suffered from broken valves at the last event, was above to capture the 5th spot while breaking in a new cylinder head. Amazingly, Allan Hauser still manages to qualify 8th even though he would suffer from a broken spark plug wire.
1) 22 Rius Billing 2:03.015
2) 67 Steffen Thompson 2:03.706
3) 99 Mitchell Pepper 2:04.180
4) 75 Team Sykes Racing 2:04.657
5) 28 Steven Stepanian 2:04.728
6) 33 Sean Aron 2:04.799
7) 11 Frank Reed 2:04.924
8) 320 Allan Hauser 2:05.279
9) 111 Erick Strong 2:05.431
After finishing up the out lap, the cars would line up on the grid with all eyes on the flag man as he raised up the green flag over his head. The flag furled at first, and then it is opened up to display the green in all its glory. Hearts begin to pound as they anticipate the flag being dropped. A brief pause by the starter and then he drops the flag and the race begins!
2 notably good starts were from the #28 of Steven Stepanian who would quickly be contending for third as they headed into turn 1, but the car began to lose power. Clearly being down on power, he would slowly fall back in the field, but still managed to finish on the lead lap. There were to be no retirements in this race. The other was the 320 car driven by Allan Hauser. He would start way back in 8th place and as they were turning into turn 3, he was up to the 4th position!
Billing would retain the lead.
Qualifying 9th on an old set of tires, Erick strong got a great launch off the green flag. However, he could not find second gear off the start and consequently watched the entire field walk away from him. He would not give up and began his pursuit.
On lap 2 Hauser and Thompson would pass Mitch Pepper on the front straight to take over the 2nd and third place positions. Strong, as you remember fell back at the start, has now caught and passed for the 6th place position!
On lap 5 Hauser would pass Billing for the lead! Meanwhile, Strong and Sean Aron would work together to catch the ailing car of Stepanian and as Strong worked past Stepanian, Aron was next to find a way past Stepanian who was using every tool in his bag to maintain his position.
On lap 7 of the race, Hauser, Billings and Pepper would have to deal with slower traffic as they caught the back of the 944 Spec field. Luckily, they would not play a factor in the Spec E30 race up front. Thompson, who was in 4th place, would find himself behind 3 944 Spec cars. Meanwhile, the #11 car of Reed would now try to find a way past Stepanian and would get it done on the front straight.
When given lemons…..Thompson begins to bump draft the Spec 944 car of 805 whom, frantically waves Thompson off. The 805 has quite a long tow hook on the back bumper and he was fearful of Thompson having his radiator taken out. Thompson saw the hook and thought for a second, shrugged his shoulders, and began to bump draft the 805 anyways! Thompson was able to work his way past the Spec 944 back markers and once again, see the 3 lead cars in front of him.
Strong would battle with Aron for 5th, finally getting past him on lap 9. The #75 car of Jeremy Sykes, which was also having engine trouble, battled with Stepanian for a lap before taking the 8th spot.
As the checkered flag flew, it would be the brilliant drives by Hauser, Billings and Thompson to round out the top 3 on the podium! Post race tech inspections would find the #99 of Mitch Pepper a few pounds too light; hence he was disqualified from 4th place. The finishers from 5th place on would move up a position due to Pepper’s unfortunate weight miscalculation which also cost him some valuable season points.
Besides the first place points and Toyo Bucks, Hauser would also win $50 cash for the hard charger award from E30 Motorwerks as well as a bottle of Mothers R3 cleaner for being first to the racing grid! 2nd to the grid was Sean Aron, who took home a bottle of Mothers Showtime Instant Detailer. 3rd to the grid was Billing, who received a bottle of Mothers Glass Cleaner! Congrats!
1) 320 Allan Hauser 2:03.581
2) 22 Rius Billing 2:04.022
3) 67 Steffen Thompson 2:04.249
4) 111 Erick Strong 2:04.974
5) 11 Frank Reed 2:05.142
6) 33 Sean Aron 2:04.616
7) 75 Team Sykes Racing 2:05.228
8) 28 Steven Stepanian 2:06.285
9) DQ 99 Mitchell Pepper 2:04.420
Saturday night, even after a generally disappointing racing day, Steven Stepanian would graciously open his house the Spec E30 group, and friends of the group, to a fantastic BBQ featuring BBQ Ribs, tri-tip, pulled chicken, Tater salad and a BBQ wouldn’t be complete without Slaw! Dinner and great discussions went well into the night. It was a great time just hanging out with friends, who also happen to race together! Sometimes, it’s good to deposit a big karma check! Either that, or Steve was trying to weigh the field down as we all woke up Sunday morning still full from dinner! Thank you so much Steve!
After the race on Saturday, the crew (Seth) at Midnight Oil would discover and solve the problems with the #28 car on Saturday. This would allow Stepanian to use all of the car in qualifying! However Billing would still turn in his best qualifying effort, breaking into the 2:02:730 world for the first time! Stepanian would show that “The Pumpkin” was back in business and took the outside pole position with a qualifying time that was two 1/100 th’s off the old track record! Erick Strong reminded us he can lay down a lap from the March event here at AAA Speedway and would start right behind Billing in 3rd. Thompson missed the 3rd spot by 1/10th of a second! This was a blazing fast qualifying session!
1) 22 Rius Billing 2:02.730
2) 28 Steven Stepanian 2:03.237
3) 111 Erick Strong 2:03.572
4) 67 Steffen Thompson 2:03.608
5) 320 Allan Hauser 2:03.714
6) 11 Frank Reed 2:03.796
7) 99 Mitchell Pepper 2:04.098
8) 33 Sean Aron 2:04.438
9) 75 Team Sykes Racing 2:05.262
One again, the group took their positions on the grid. “Reluctantly crouched at the starting line, engines pumping and thumping in time. The green light flashes, the flags go up. Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup. They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank, fuel burning fast on an empty tank. Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns”…. Ok, I totally stole that from the band “Cake”, but it so very much fits with this group! Once again, the green flag drops and those who have figured out how to get the most out of a standing start, DO, with the exception that many more of the drivers have figured out how to get things going.
Hauser started right behind Strong and was well into 2nd gear when Strong’s car unexpectedly slowed as fast as he realized Strong wasn’t going anywhere. Unfortunately, a returning problem for Strong from Saturday would leave searching for 2nd gear again. Hauser couldn’t react fast enough and drilled Strong in the left rear as Hauser tried to turn down under him, nearly spinning the #111 car. Hauser did manage to get back on track, but Strong would fall back to last place, but this time he wasn’t as far back behind the field. He would battle
Up front, Billing would lead the way into the infield with Stepanian right behind in 2nd while Hauser would hold on to the 3rd position. The three cars would maintain this until lap 5, where Stepanian would make his move past Billing for the lead. Thompson would also move up and take 3rd place from Hauser. There were 5 position changes on lap 5 and there were more to come before this was all over.
The very next lap, Thompson dove down the inside of Billings as they both exited the high banked turn 2 in an attempt to move up into second place. Tragically, Thompson lost focus and missed his braking zone. He narrowly missed having contact with Billing, but collected Stepanian (who was in the lead) by colliding with the side of his rear bumper, spinning both cars. Billing and Hauser would take over the lead and 2nd place, respectively. After narrowly missing the wall on drive’s left, Stepanian somehow got his #28 car rolling again and gave chase on Billing and Hauser with Thompson also in hot pursuit heading into the turn 5-6 combination.
As the cars come across the start line, Hauser’s prior contact with Strong at the start begins to shows it was more than just minor as the #320’s transmission would not allow Hauser to use 5th gear causing him to fall to 4th place. Having the drive of his season, Stepanian managed to catch up to Billing with Thompson, again sporting a familiar look of missing the left front headlight assembly, a few car lengths back. Hauser continues his fall down the grid as his transmission was now stuck in 4th gear.
Miraculously, Stepanian is once again able to pass Billing and retake the lead! Pepper, Reed, Strong and Aron battled all race long, each waiting for the other to make a mistake. Reed was able to get up into the 4th position while Pepper, Strong and Aron continue to hound each other for the 5th spot. Near the end of the race, Strong would use up his brakes and end up too deep in a turn as Pepper and Aron were able to squeak by him.
As the Checkered flag flew, Stepanian would cash in on his Saturday night BBQ scheme and take the win! Billing finished 2nd with another consistent drive and Thompson would claim what appeared to be the last podium position. After the post race impounding of the cars and drivers, the Race Director would determine that Thompson would be disqualified for punting Stepanian in turn 3. Reed would now claim the 3rd place trophy.
The racing was so close that one winner could not be determined. It was decided that the $50 cash hard charger award from E30 Motorwerks, would be shared by 2 drivers! Mitch Pepper and Sean Aron would each take home $25 cash!
1) 28 Steven Stepanian 2:03.908
2) 22 Rius Billing 2:04.433
3) 11 Frank Reed 2:05.111
4) 99 Mitchell Pepper 2:04.826
5) 33 Sean Aron 2:04.369
6) 111 Erick Strong 2:04.940
7) 320 Allan Hauser 2:03.793
8) 75 Team Sykes Racing 2:08.875
9) DQ 67 Steffen Thompson 2:04.162 Punt
Another great SoCal racing weekend is in the books. One huge contributing factor in this weekend being so successful, not only for Spec E30, but for some of the other series as well as some detailed Tech inspections that were performed flawlessly for NASA’s PT series, Midnight Oil made a huge difference for so many people. Thank you for all you do to make this series the absolute best NASA has to offer in SoCal! (OK, I’m biased, how can you blame me? Tell me SoCal SE30 isn’t great? Go on!) Thank you Midnight Oil and Seth!
Unfortunately, we won’t return to the track again until October at Buttonwillow where I expect the group to pick up where we left off! More outstanding racing, as always! Meanwhile, teams will be crunching the numbers to see where the results place them in the 2012 points battle! Hope to see you all there!