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Heat, Pressure, and Victory: Inside A Thrilling Weekend

Back To Work

Having such a strong start to the year, I knew that we had to nail this weekend and shake off a run of 3 non-podium finishes. Friday morning was all about getting up to pace as quickly as possible to ensure that we would have a competitive car.


A Productive Day

With only 52 laps, the car was dialed in quickly. We were fast and consistent. I felt stronger than ever going into the weekend. The biggest question lying ahead would be if the car would survive the heat. In the previous race at Willow Springs, the car was fast over one lap but could not retain pace during the races. This Spec Miata NA does not have the straight-line speed of the NBs, especially in the heat.


A Super Close Qualifying

Qualifying was held in the early morning and it wasn’t terribly hot out yet, which meant the car would be competitive. It ended up being the closest qualifying session of the year with me finishing P2 just 86 thousandths off of pole position. This pointed to an exciting race ahead where racecraft would be key.


“To Finish First, First You Have To Finish”

During Race 1 the temperatures were extremely hot and I knew that the car would not have the pace to run up front. I nailed the start and took the lead of the race on the first lap but after 3 laps I could no longer retain it due to my lack of straight-line speed. Now it was time to enter defensive mode and ensure I could bring the car home without any reliability issues.


Keeping Me On My Toes

Even though I was running in 2nd, I was only the 5th fastest car on track. For the next 14 laps of the race until the chequered flag, I had to defend from my championship rival Christian Hoagland. Every single lap he was right on my rear bumper trying to find a way by and pressure me into a mistake. The key was to stay as cool as possible, both mentally and physically! Those 13 laps felt like the longest laps of my life, but I was able to secure a second-place finish. A much-needed return to the podium!


Patience

Sunday’s Qualifying Race was relatively uneventful as I started in 5th and moved up to 3rd where I would end up finishing. Once again, with the extreme heat, I simply did not have the straight-line speed to catch the cars ahead. With that in mind, I just drove calmly knowing we would need a miracle to win.


The Miracle

I started Race 2 in 3rd and quickly fell to 4th once again struggling with straight-line speed due to the heat. Despite the situation being frustrating, I stayed calm knowing there was nothing I could do. But then the safety car came out, and that eventually turned into a red flag.


The red flag period lasted 40 minutes due to the circuit catching on fire when a car in another class got stuck off track. Race control extended our race time with a hard stop time. This meant we would get a 4 to 5 lap race if we were lucky. The white flag dropped quickly after 3 laps.


Time to Pounce

With the entire multi-class field bunched up starting single file, I knew this was the opportunity I needed. Immediately after Turn 1 I gained 2 spots and moved up to 2nd. Now I had one to go.


After navigating around cars in another class I caught up to the leader, my championship rival Christian. I got a good run going down the back straight and outbraked him to take the lead. I then managed to hold him off for the next two laps and got the win. That was fun!


Back On Track

After getting the win on Sunday and finishing 2nd on Saturday we truly managed to turn things around and maximize every ounce of performance the car had. Despite the heat, I brought the car home in both races and matched our best results of the season. That was the perfect way to enter the 4 and a half month long summer break. 


You won't have to wait 4 months, there will be plenty of exciting action coming soon! Stay tuned!


📸 Donna Wittlin Studio, Herb Lopez

Jun 20, 2024

POST RACE

Buttonwillow

June 7-9, 2024

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Heat, Pressure, and Victory: Inside A Thrilling Weekend

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