2015 NASA Eastern States Championships presented by Toyo Tires Sets Grids for Finals
NASA Eastern States Championships presented by Toyo Tires Sets Grids for Finals
Qualifying races in the books
ALTON, Va. (Sept. 5, 2015) – The second annual NASA Eastern States Championships presented by Toyo Tires has set the grids for its championship races tomorrow at VIRginia International Raceway.
Under mixed weather conditions alternating between light rain and sun shine, the over 300 competitors have made it through two days of practice and qualifying races leading up to tomorrow’s championship races at the 3.27 mile, 17-turn VIR circuit.
The GTS class opened Saturday’s round of qualifying races. At the ten minute mark a full course caution flew erasing Randy Mueller’s, Friday’s winner, eighth second lead. He would go on to post his second qualifying race win in his GTS4 BMW M3. In GTS3 Edgar Cabrera was able to hold off Eric Wong’s BMW to win in his No. 184 BMW.
“It was crazy,” Cabrera said. “We had some rain sprinkles toward the end during the yellow. When the race went green I got attacked on both sides. It was crazy and tight all the way around. I was able to hold them off for the last three laps of green. It is time to go over the car for the big one tomorrow.”
In Spec Miata it was, once again, Blake Clements taking the win in his No. 6 Miata. Clements had help from second place runner Chris Haldeman, bump drafting and creating some separation to third place finisher Hernan Palermo. Once again the 35 Spec Miata competitors ran a clean caution qualifying race.
“We had a pretty good race,” Clements said. “The OPM Autosports guys worked really hard last night and put a good car under me. We had a good morning warm-up running in the top three. I started third and I was able to take advantage of the start and get into second in the first corner. I was able to take the lead on the backstretch. I had Chris with me the whole time which really helped. Then it got tricky later in the race, we were coming down the hill and it started to rain. All-in-all it was a good run for our OPM Autosports, SPN, CarboTech, Traqmate Spec Miata.”
In the Spec E30 race, yesterday’s qualifying race winner Sandro Espinosa hooked up with No. 125 Alex Barroso in his BMW 325 and the pair were able to open up a couple second gap to third. On lap five a full course caution flew, bunching the all BMW field. The race went green and then another full caution flew. On the restart, with one lap remaining, Larry Fraser took the lead into Turn 1 and the race win.
“It was a pretty good race,” Fraser said. “I started eighth and just went about picking cars off one at a time. I got lucky with two yellows. They helped bring the front two cars back to me. On the last restart I passed Sandro going into Turn 1. I then went all four wheels off up in South Bend, collected it up and still won.”
Spec 3 also had a new qualifying race winner. Jon McAvoy took the win in his No. 07 BMW.
“The best way to describe the race is mayhem,” McAvoy said. “We had a good race going with all seven BMW drivers, eat what you kill type environment. On the second restart I was halfway up the E30 pack. I had several of those guys spin in front us in turns 5, 7 and 10. Managing traffic is what helped me get up front today.”
The 944 Spec race was a great three way battle between Friday’s race winner Neal Agran, Dan Pina and Jason Walsh. The mid-race full course caution brought the trio back to the rest of the field. Two laps after the restart a final caution flew with the officials restarting the race with a green and white flag. Agran was able to hold off the charging field on the one lap dash for his second win in two days.
The Super Unlimited cars were able to hit the track in dry conditions this afternoon. Jeff Hinkle in his No. 5 Dodge Challenger was the early leader until Ray Cocoziello drove his No. 17 Crawford Daytona Prototype the front and the overall group win.
“It was a very competitive race,” Cocoziello said. “We passed each other twice in the 20-minute race. It was a great adrenalin rush. We had some suspension and tire issues this morning and we did a good job to get the car set-up for the race. I anticipate a tough race tomorrow in the final with Jeff.”
Also in the group Joe Moholland won ST1 in his Corvette, Kevin Harvey took the ST2 win his No. 01 Corvette, in In AI it was the No. 77 Mustang of Bruce Byerly and in SI it was Robert Miller in the No. 20 Mustang.
In HPD Honda Challenge 1 David Isbell, No. 7 Acura Integra, started from the back of the grid as a result of being disqualified from his race win yesterday. Isbell was racing Kevin Helms Civic all race until Helms experienced some overheating and had to back off. In HPD Honda Challenge 2 Jeremy Lucas took the win in his Honda S2000, again starting from the back of the grid.
“I had a good race,” Isbell said. “I had to start from the back. I made good progress up through the field and got up to David Helms and had a good race. Toward the end my car starting to mess up. I think I got some water in the fuel from all the rain yesterday. My Toyo tires held up the whole time. A pretty good day.”
“It was quite a run from last to first,” Lucas said. “I got a good start, I was able to pass a couple of cars before Turn 1. The fastest car out there today had a mechanical problem. I didn’t give up, I just kept driving. I didn’t think a win was possible today. I start last again tomorrow, so let’s see if I can do it two days in a row.”
In PTD-F Eric Powell took the early lead until he pulled his Mazda Miata into pit lane. Jason Fitzpatrick inherited the lead in his No. 74 VW Passat. Jason Kohler, No. 848 Mazda Miata, was the winner in PTE and the Team Edge Motorworks No. 1 Mini won in PTF.
“My race went pretty well,” Fitzpatrick said. “It is a shame that Eric pulled in. I was looking forward to catching him and battling it out. There is a few more things to pull out of the bag to see if we can give him run in the final. I am going to start second. Strategy for tomorrow is to go like hell. My advantage is the horsepower. I keep joking that I have the weight of a Miata on my front two wheels. If I get it off the corner the VW will really go.”
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VIRginia International Raceway’s 3.27 miles encompasses nearly every kind of turn. The fast uphill esses that lead into the signature Oak Tree Turn are known throughout the racing community. The long laps will reward a good race car set-up and require the competitors to display their driving skills as well as race craft.