Spec Miata Season Review

The 06′ season presented many difficult challenges to overcome and learn from within the newly formed team and newly finished racecar. These obstacles rightly began at the 1st event of the year, a rainy Blackhawk Farms Raceway. While having made it to the race and getting the car through its 1st SCCA annual tech inspection was a major accomplishment for the team, having no rain tires quickly complicated matters. Chris managed to out qualify a few cars on rain tires, but come race time in a steady downpour, he pushed a bit too hard ending the run in the marsh outside turn 8. Learning that lesson in short order, a set of treaded tires was to accompany them to the next race at Grattan Raceway. Just 3 days before leaving to that event, a major engine problem was discovered and prompted immediate action to source a junkyard motor. One was secured, and it was installed the night before the trailer rolled. It did rain at Grattan and Chris put down the race’s fastest lap on his new rubber. A potential race win was lost though after light contact with former national champion Harry Manning slowed the charge and thus resulted in a 5th place finish. Returning to Blackhawk, the issue was a massive brake failure during the race. Luckily at turn 6 where the airport grass runway could be the cars landing point about 200 yards out. A strong qualifying session and 4th place result at Mid-Ohio in early June gave some hope of better things to come.

However, the June Sprints were next and it presented itself as a mixed bag of failing differential, failing transmission, and ultimately the heartbreak of having the ignition plug under the steering wheel come unhooked on the last lap while running in 8th. Not gridding on time at Indianapolis Raceway Park lead to a forced start from the pit lane as a field of 18 cars screamed by. Chris drove possessed through the field to finish 4th and won the race’s Hard Charger Award. The July run at Road America turned out to be a hectic time that consisted of a crew members wedding, a last minute tire change which eventually lead to the little detail of attaching the car’s hood pins before final qualifying being overlooked. The hood came over into turn 5 on the 1st hot lap and chaos ensued. With no option of running without a hood, the team was blessed by the help of B6 Racing in the late night hours while they attended the reception by delivering a new hood with all the attaching hardware to just bolt on the following morning. A 9th place finish resulted in receiving a single point, but as it turned out, that point would eventually mean everything to their season. With finishes of 8th at Nelson Ledges and Grattan Raceway, Chris was the potential odd man out of making it into the SCCA’s National Championship Run-Offs coming into the last event at Nelson Ledges. After a strong downpour, Chris – a true “Mudder” – put the car on the pole by 1.8 sec. over the Central Division’s Champion Mark Bennett. The race was dry and only a 2nd place finish would secure his place in Topeka. With a nice gap in hand, Chris asked a bit too much of his cold tires in turn 3 and was suddenly facing the end of his season head-on. Needing to charge through from back in the pack, he went into “red mist mode” and put on one of his best drives ever. He drove to that 2nd place finish by a margin of less than a second, giving him the 8th position in the divisional points championship and thus earning the team its first entry into the SCCA’s Championship Run-Offs by only the 1 point cushion.

A new experience to all involved, the Run-Offs were being held at Heartland Park Raceway in Topeka, KN after a 10 year stint at the famed Mid-Ohio Raceway. Unbeknown to the team before the event, a transmission engagement problem reared itself upon arrival and plagued the team throughout the 4 days of qualifying before a new transmission could be sourced and then used for the race. This resulted in qualifying 46th position on the grid of 57 entries. The bright spot during the qualifying week was running the overall fastest time in Wednesday’s rain session despite these times meaning nothing to the race’s overall grid positions. The track was wet at race time, but had a dry line just starting to form. The call was made to run a wet set-up due to the team’s starting position and the fact that much time would be spend off-line making moves. It turned out to be a good call as Chris rocketed out of the gate making up 20 spots in the first 3 laps. He was hit and driven off-track on 2 separate occasions by other drivers later in the race, but fought hard to finish in 20th place. He was the races biggest mover, picking up 26 positions and earning himself the Hard Charger Award of the race.

With many important lessons learned over the course of the season it should be said that Chris has continued to build his racecraft skills and is another year the wiser.

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