Race Day Report (3/7/20)

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New challenger battles for Spec Miata crown against perennial frontrunner

Newcomer Richard Spaeth falls just short of upset over Keith Williamson in Summer Race Series opener

The opener for the Summer Race Series in the Spec Miata class was a fierce battle between usual front runner Keith Williamson and surprise challenger Richard Spaeth who gave last year’s series runner-up all he could handle.

With defending series champion Jason Bergstrom sitting out the opener, Williamson was perhaps expecting an easy day. That expectation was immediately shattered when Spaeth finished only 0.4 seconds behind Williamson in the opening qualifying session and followed that up with a close finish in Race 1, falling to Williamson by a margin of just under two seconds.

With Race 1 in the books and now confident he could hang with the title contender, Spaeth took the lead on the opening lap of Race 2 and held off Williamson for the first five laps though Williamson sure didn’t make it easy. It was bumper-to-bumper the entire length of the track. It was so close a piece of paper wouldn’t have been able to fit between Spaeth’s rear bumper and Williamson’s front.

Williamson kept the pressure on and found a fraction of space on the inside of Turn 1 on Lap 6 to get side-by-side with Spaeth completing the pass on the carousel. Williamson made the move he needed to make but instead of pulling away, the Race 1 winner fell victim to a bold counter move by Spaeth on the following turn.

Immediately after getting passed on the carousel, Spaeth drove inside of Williamson on Turn 6 out braking the racer. In fact, Spaeth waited so long to get on the breaks he had to smoke the tires just to make the turn, but the move worked and Spaeth was back in front.

After working so hard all race to make the pass, Williamson held the lead for only a single turn. Instead of feeling discouraged, however, the experienced driver went right back bumper-to-bumper with Spaeth just daring the newcomer to make a mistake.

Williamson’s patience paid off and on Lap 9 Spaeth slightly missed his mark heading into Turn 1 allowing Williamson to make a clean pass on the inside as Spaeth’s No. 20 car went wide around the corner. This time Williamson didn’t give his opponent a chance to retake the lead. Over the final for laps, Williamson gained a 0.5 seconds advantage on Spaeth per lap to win the race by two seconds. Jeremy Buckingham and Bill Miller finished third and fourth respectively, same as Race 1, while Matt White finished fifth and Mike Pascoe sixth, flipping positions with each from their Race 1 finishing order.

To mark the start of the Summer Race Series, Atlanta Motorsports Park decided to add a third race on the day for the Spec Miata class for the first time in recent memory. This race however wasn’t close. After coming within seconds of taking the checkered flag in the first two races, Spaeth ran out of momentum and so did his car sputtering during the second half of Race 3. Something was clearly wrong with the No. 20 car as Spaeth fell four seconds of the leader’s pace over the final four laps.

Williamson defeated Spaeth in Race 3 by over 16 seconds to sweep the day winning all three races but that was the margin between first and third. Spaeth struggled so much over the final laps that Buckingham was able to pass him in his Spec E30 car for second place while Miller fell short by just a few car lengths from doing the same. Spaeth finished third in the final race and Miller fourth while Pascoe was able to get the better of White this time finishing in fifth place.

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John Field opens Downforce class summer series with overall race win after early hiccup

John Field backed up his dominating performance in the finale of the Winter Tune Up Series taking the opening round of the summer Race Series in the Downforce class with a win in Race 2 after finishing runner-up in Race 1.

Field’s primary competition was from John Pearson. Although Pearson was driving an SR3 Radical car as opposed to Field’s SR1 Radical, the difference in the cars didn’t translate to much difference on the track. After qualifying fifth for Race 1, Pearson made his way through the pack to get around Field, gapping the pole sitter for a margin of victory of 5.355 seconds.

The roles were reversed for Race 2 with Pearson starting on the pole. Pearson led the race for all of a lap until Field rocketed around the SR3 radical in the Turn 2/3 complex. On Lap 2, third-place driver Justin Rosenblum spun in Turn 1 forcing him to check out his car in the pit area. Although Rosenblum did end up returning to the race, the driver finished three laps down.

After Rosenblum’s spin, Field and Pearson were alone up front but whatever changes Field made to his car between races worked like a charm with Pearson never being able to challenge for the lead. Instead, Pearson found himself in a battle for second place with Allan Barge for most of the race until Pearson pulled away late.

George Cooke fell off the lead lap late joining Rosenblum meaning four drivers would finish on the lead lap. Field dominated Race 2 with an 18.447 second win over Pearson followed by Barge and Madison Prince who finished off the pace in fourth but on the lead lap and up a spot from his fifth-place finish in Race 1. Rosenblum finished both races in sixth place while Cooke had a disappointing slide into fifth after a third-place finish in Race 1, but when it came down to the overall win Field edged out Pearson with the better fastest single lap time.

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