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Old 05-24-2017, 02:37 PM
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AZMiata AZMiata is offline
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Auto Club Race Report

Spec Miatas in Hollywood

Okay technically not Hollywood and maybe not even LA (I’ve never been confused for a Geography Professor) but it sounds better than Spec Miatas in Tupelo, right?

Fresh pavement on much of the I-10 made the drive from Phoenix to LA easy although I heard reports from around the paddock that a few trailer tires didn’t make the entire trip. *The whole NASA AZ contingent of Spec Miatas made the trip out to do battle with a 16 car field of So Cal Miatas bringing the total grid to 21 cars! *That’s a lot of Miatas.

Last year at Auto Club I made a serious mental/driving error and spun my car into the inside wall of turn 17 so coming back here was not without some trepidation. *I took it slow in Saturday practice and ran somewhere near the back of the pack which was not unexpected considering my (lack of) experience here coupled with soaring temps.

Qualifying went about the same with me ending up gridded 13th followed closely by Devin “Green Flag” Dahn, Paul “The Differential” Seiferth and Steve “The Exterminator” Bodeman. *Mike “Bumpdraft” Babcock on the other hand, put on a clinic for us AZ guys and took P2 for the start of Saturday’s race.

Saturday Race;

When the green flag dropped Babcock took off with the leaders while the rest of us jockeyed for position coming off the banking into turn 3. *If you haven’t experienced it, it goes something like this, Wide open throttle in 5th gear then hard on the brakes, heal, toe downshift three times and throw the car into a 90 degree left hander while trying to stay ahead of the car behind you and out of the car(s) on either side of you. *There’s a lot going on and that’s just one corner of the 21 turn road course that makes up the Auto Club “Roval".

As the race progressed I found myself getting a little faster and noticed I was gaining on a large group of cars in a pitched battle. *I managed to reel them in and even pass a few, swapping positions and a little bumper paint with the So Cal SM Series Leader, Brett Becker. *Brett is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in a paddock, always willing to lend a hand or hunt a broken part from one of the other racers but let me emphasize the “in the paddock” part of that statement. *On track, he’s a fierce competitor and a lot of fun to race with. *We had a great 5 car battle going when the checkers waved and to my surprise, I learned I finished 10th. *I was even more excited when I found out Babcock extended that clinic into the afternoon and stepped up on the podium for his 2nd place trophy. *Way to go Mike, congratulations! *Devin and Steve both reported they had a good time but unfortunately Paul Seiferth broke his differential (again) on the warm up lap of all places!!! Better luck next time Paul.

Finish Order:
1st Ryan Pond
2nd Mike Babcock
3rd Hannah Grisham
10th Paul Perkins
13th Devin Dahn
14th Steve Bodeman
DNS Paul Seiferth

Saturday night we celebrated with a brat cook out and pot luck at Camp Miata. *A few of the NASA AZ and So Cal SM group joined us for some bench racing, camaraderie good times. *
* * * *


NASA So Cal likes to make it interesting sometimes… *In that spirit it was decided that the starting order for the 20 minute qualifying race would be inverted to 10th place. *What does that mean you ask? *By virtue of my 10th place finish, I’m the pole sitter! *Great, on top of having a healthy fear of this track I also have to worry about being in the way of the really, really fast Miata drivers going into turn 3... *Intimidated? *Yeah I’d say so.

Fortunately in morning warm up Mike took me on track to practice a few places where I could gain some speed and showed me a better line through my nemesis, turn 17. *Again, to my surprise he and I ended up 2nd and 3rd fastest in warm up separated by .022 of a second and more importantly for me, with a huge boost of needed confidence. * *

Sunday Qual Race;

I led the field onto the front straight and held 5,000 rpm’s in 3rd gear till the green flag waved and then I caned it for all I was worth! *#56, Lee Papageorge bumpdrafted me all the way to 3 and into a clean lead for the infield complex. *I admit the voices in my helmet were onboard for this one… On one shoulder I had *Redmist Racer screaming “Go, go, go, hit your marks, shift clean, apex, track out, win damnit!” and on the other I had Mr. Doubt saying “You’re a back marker, you don’t belong up here, you’re not fast enough.” but I managed to shut him up and lead the first two laps until Ryan Pond and Hannah Grisham drafted past me on the front straight. *I kept my head down and drove as hard as I could falling to 4th behind Dave Varco at one point before regaining and finally finishing in 3rd place. When I crossed the line I was thinking “Hmmm…maybe I can run with this crowd.” Meanwhile, Mike Babcock finished 8th, Steve Bodeman 13th, Paul Seiferth 15th and Devin Dahn 16th to set the grid for the main event.
Video link from Mike Babock's on board during the main race

Sunday Main Event;

NASA AZ brought the heat to So Cal for the weekend (sorry about that) and the temps for the start of the main SM race were in the mid 90’s. Armed with my coolshirt system I hoped was ready. *I was gridded in 3rd place directly behind Saturday’s race winner Ryan Pond and hoped to capitalize by drafting with him and watching his lines through the infield. *I’d like to say it worked out that way but you know what they say about the best laid plans… *I got a good start bump drafting Ryan and followed him into turn 3 along with 3 other cars. I was forced wide onto the grass and quickly found myself in 4th place behind another really fast So Cal guy by the name of Ron Burgoon. *Oh well… *I put my head down, took several deep breaths and drove my lines. *I noticed Ron drafting Hannah Grisham and gaining on Ryan and I hoped to bridge the gap so I could draft with them too. *I was gaining when Hannah’s car briefly burped white smoke and then a second later looked like something out of “Spyhunter” as her engine blew. *Being a smart and experienced driver (She’s 15 years old and has been racing for 11 of those.) she quickly drover her car down onto the apron and off the racing line. *Ron was forced to check up a bit when her engine went and that allowed me to regain 2nd place and close the gap to Ryan. *A few laps later, Dave Varco snuck under me going into turn 5 and that’s how the order went for a few laps until Mike Babcock showed up to the party at the pointy end. *With three laps to go Mike and Ron were right on my bumper but battling for 4th pretty fiercely. *Mike finally got around Ron and then we worked together in an effort to catch the leaders. *We gained some pretty good ground but the white flag came out signaling the last lap. Seeing we weren’t close enough to mount a serious charge I went into “podium mode”, not necessarily driving the fastest line but the widest line. *It worked out as I was able to take the final podium spot getting to the line .141 seconds ahead of Mike. *Devin Dahn broke into the top ten with a 9th place finish while Steve Bodeman and Paul Seiferth in a borrowed car finished 12 and 13 respectively. *All great results considering the strength of field. All in all a strong showing from the NASA AZ Spec Miatas.

I have to say, it was very humbling to be on the podium with the level of talent that showed up to race this weekend. It wasn’t something I expected at all. *I have to thank Mike Babcock for the coaching, advice and development he’s given me over the last season and a half. *The help and support of all the NASA AZ SM Drivers, Devin, Steve and Paul as well as the other drivers, officials and volunteers that populate the NASA paddock on any given weekend. *Ya’ll are what truly makes racing so much fun!*

Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you in October at Arizona Motorsports Park for racing on Saturday and Australian Pursuit on Sunday. I hear it’s “Heaps grouse”…Ask an Aussie.

Until next time,

#57 Paul Perkins
NASA AZ SM Series Leader

Last edited by AZMiata; 05-25-2017 at 08:45 AM.
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