April 2nd brought us back to Firebird International Raceway for the infamous “Night Event”, which is host to the Modified Tuner Shootout, a full lineup of HPDE, Time Trials, day/night races, and the UMS Tuning Time Attack.
For our drivers that like to view the track going sideways, there were ample drift sessions which nonetheless attracted quite a few spectators and participants. This event was host to TWO hyper-drive sessions with a full field of 19 drivers each. I think it’s safe to say that with all the fun students were having, a few got bitten by the racing bug! Everyone at NASA-AZ hopes to see them back on the track soon!
There was a little something for everyone at this event. With fewer vendors on the site it was all about the drivers. In fact, a large number local car club members arrived just to spend time with us, including AZAWD and the S2k Club. Entertainment was abound, including the pavilion display of an ex-Champ car, a DJ who played music all night long, plus live music played by fellow NASA-AZ racer Terry Denton. Three HUGE bouncy houses were made available (free of charge) ensuring a safe and enjoyable time for our young ones.
Most importantly, the day was split between the West and Main tracks for a wide assortment of activity on both. Thanks to the hard work and dedication to the many NASA-AZ officials and workers, the event was a great success. Let’s take a look at the details and why this particular event will always be one to remember.
Modified Tuner Shootout
Some very fast (and very loud) machines came out for a good show as the Modified Tuner Shootout got underway with the Autocross Competition on the FIR West track. Cone configurations were setup around the track to dictate the clockwise course. A flying start for our drivers at West track start-finish immediately led into a slalom. Winding around the carousel and a hard right turn, they double-backed through the same slalom from which they came. Simple, fast, but challenging to set a blazing AND clean lap.
Later in the day, drivers transitioned to the Main track for the Modified Time Attack sessions. The opportunity to watch fast machines at work showcasing their true straight-line potential on one of the longest straightaways in Arizona was a sight to see.
There was a good mix of regional tuners, including AFI Turbo (Jeremy Renshaw), Science of Speed (Mike Speck), Snail Performance (Travis Barnes), UMS Tuning (Tony Szirka), KSport (Phil Robles), and Hasport (Tage Evanson). Out-of-state participants included Sportcar Motion, AQ Motorsports, and Zenkai. Given restrictions per the Modified officials, I’m not allowed to report official results here but they will be made available in the coming issue of Modified Magazine.
Aside from the Tuner Shootout, Race Group was certainly one of the much awaited highlights of the day and evening. The races were great for both Small Bore and Big Bore–drivers and spectators alike. What I like most about FIR West is that it’s a track that equalizes the game across the board. A track like this showcases driver ability and technical know-how versus straight-line speed.
After West qualifying sessions, drivers found themselves plotted into their respective grid spots for the race. Leroy Moore took the pole in Small Bore and did a great job positioning his car by turning a lap 2-seconds faster than his PT-C competition. Spare not those apexes! Our 944 field brought Norm Hamden to the front of his class at the race start. Geri Amani in her PT-E Miata qualified in the front of her class and mid-pack overall; a first for this new Small Bore racer.
The start of Small Bore was a dusty one–tires dipped all around the track, leaving a light dusting for everyone who followed. As the front of the pack brought us a battle between Leroy Moore and Tony Lisa in PT-C, the 944Spec field played out with a few surprises. Norm Hamden kept his position in first while Glen Gormley managed to swap places with Joe Paluch who finished second and third, respectively. A few excursions upset the usual order of cars, bringing focus to PT-E with an all-out red car dual between Geri Amani and Shane Kneisel. Swept wide at the beginning of the race, Amani lost her original starting position as the Small Bore field spread apart. It was then a nose-to-tail battle between Amani and Kneisel for the entire race. Quick to defend any opening, Shane did his part in securing his first position in PT-E with Amani directly in his mirror finishing second.
Big Bore brought quick laps to FIR West, with a few more track records during the race. The fastest of the pack was Chad Nelson, who qualified at the pole position, followed by Mark Alger in the SU class. ST-2 had a great show of participants on this little track, with Bryan McCormick starting at the front of his class, followed by Ron Ballard only a few tenths away. Rick Johnson (Ricky Boo-Boo) and Steve Lisa led ST-1. Brian Turner did a great job in PT-A qualifying at the front of his class, with John Dowling only a couple tenths away. Racer Matt McIntyre really moved around the track, taking pole in PT-B and putting him right in the mix of PT-A lap times in his BMW E36 M3.
During the Big Bore race Chad Nelson was unstoppable. He turned a near sub-minute lap of 1:00.003, a new track record for SU. Mark Alger was unable to catch Nelson and finished second in SU. Ron Ballard brought good stuff to the track moving up positions and finished first in ST-2, followed by CV Wells and Sarah Cattaneo. Steve Lisa was our lone ST-1 racer but turned quality laps in taking the win. The PT-A win was delivered (pun intended!) by Brian Turner, followed by John Dowling and Sean Southland. Last but not least was our PT-B line up of BMW’s, with Matt McIntyre in first and Jeremy Renshaw in second.
Drivers took their finishing positions into the FIR Main race with Big Bore set to lead the field. This race was short-lived, however, as the unthinkable happened to one of our racers, Tage Evanson. Circumstances can always be “worse” but it’s safe to say this was more than shocking for everyone who ran this race and for the spectators in the grandstands.
As the racers circled around the track, roughly 9 laps in, the #17 white Honda Civic suddenly caught fire as a shift was made to 5th gear. Almost instantly the car was engulfed in flames with Tage still inside. Slowing from 100+ mph and no signs of the flames subsiding, Tage escaped while the car was still moving down the straight in approximately 8-seconds, then rushed over the barrier wall to safety. He then obtained a fire extinguisher and attempted to aid in putting out the fire. Evanson suffered third-degree burns to the back of his neck, with less severe burns to his face. It can only be said that preparedness and the use of safety gear kept Evanson from experiencing further injury or quite possibly the loss of his life. It can never be stressed enough that each of us take the proper measures to use the best safety gear one can afford. Practice getting out of your car each time you work on it, and then practice getting out faster. It could safe your life!
For a complete account of Tage’s experience and recovery updates, visit this thread http://forums.www.nasaaz.com/showthread.php?t=4774
Top Racers from FIR West (Big Bore)
1 – Chad Nelson #14
2- Mark Alger #4
1 – Ron Ballard #93
2- CV Wells #24
3- Sarah Cattaneo #42
1 – Steve Lisa #19
1 – Brian Turner #524
2- John Dowling #46
3- Sean Southland #777
1 – Matt McIntyre #31
2- Jeremy Renshaw #11
Top Racers from FIR West (Small Bore)
1 – Leroy Moore #019
2- Tony Lisa #119
1 – Norm Hamden #99
2- Glen Gormley #924
3- Joe Paluch #94
1 – Shane Kneisel #20
2- Geri Amani #34
3- Paul Siefert #11
Quick laps and good times were had for our NASA Time Trialers, as both FIR West and Main tracks were used as a speed-setting playground. Firstly, I have to bring notice to a few new track records that were set over the weekend. Starting with the FIR West Big Bore sessions we have Tage Evanson, who set a new TTU track record running a speedy 1:00.4 followed by Alger who took second running a close 1:01.4! Next up was Rick Johnson in third who ran a respectable 1:03.0. In TTS the fastest laps were turned by Pete Creek, who ran a 1:02.0, Phil Buffington turned a 1:03.1, followed by CV Wells who pulled a 1:03.4.
TTA lap-time leader was Brain Turner, who also set a new track record in his class, running a 1:05.0. Justin Markiewicz turned a second place lap running a 1:06.8, closely followed by Doug Evans with a 1:06.9.
Next up is Mervin Tan, Saturday’s TTB winner. Mervin turned a quick 1:05.8, while Matt McIntyre took second running 1:06.0, and Chris Wilson placed third running a brisk 1:06.8. Following the TT lineup are our TTC cars led by Dave Shotz, who turned a first place lap of 1:05.5. Next up, Phil Robles ran a 1:06.3 in his Honda Civic and took second. Eric Dayton finished third in his Acura Integra with a 1:08.1.
Moving along to TTD, Joe Catteneo ran his Mini Cooper S and turned some respectable laps. With a fastest of 1:06.8, Joe ended the TTD winning streak of Robert Rose, who took second with a 1:07.6, followed by Brett Lengel’s 1:08.8.
In TTE, Marc McCombs took first running 1:09.1, followed by Brad Lundahl who ran 1:10.2, followed by a 1:10.7 turned by Geri Amani. Last but not least is our TTF car driven by Eric Jacobsen (officially listed as a 1985 Mazda POS), who turned a 1:20.1.
Once the Modified Tuner sessions were over, Time Trialers had their chance to run FIR Main. Essentially, starting a new set of sessions with an opportunity to accumulate additional season points. Starting with TTU, Mark Alger turned our fastest lap overall and ultimately reset the Main track record with 1:04.952. Next up, Snail performance Subaru WRX STI (Travis Barnes) came in second running 1:07.011, followed by Science of Speed (Mike Speck), who turned 1:07.455.
In TTS, Pete Creek is at the top of the roster again and set the latest TTS track record with 1:04.456, followed by Phil Buffington who ran a 1:06.071. Not far behind was a 1:06.297 turned in by CV Wells. The absence of Brain Turner left the first place spot open in TTA. In the end, Justin Markiewicz ran a 1:09.396 and secured the win for the event. Doug Evans was only a few tenths behind Markiewicz, taking second with a 1:10.016 lap time. Third place went to Sean Southland, who was just a little ways away running a 1:10.905.
Matt McIntyre brought good stuff to the Main track, running a quick 1:08.763 while securing first in TTB. Second place was Mervin Tan, who turned 1:10.515. A 1:10.997 lap time positioned Chris Wilson in third. Our TTC lineup was led by Dave Shotz–yet again–and another track record–yet again–running a 1:09.273. Phil Robles took home second and ran a 1:10.636, followed by Eric Dayton who tuned a 1:14.365.
Robert Rose regained his first place winning position in TTD with a lap time of 1:12.233. Dave McCombs, who ran a 1:14.696, took second place. Brett Lengel took third running a 1:15.250.
Marc McCombs took another class win in TTE turning a 1:14.716, followed by Brad Lundahl who ran a 1:15.888, and Geri Amani in third who ran a 1:16.657. The TTF “1985 Mazda POS” was piloted by Eric Jacobsen and ran a 1:25.181.
Top Drivers from FIR West (Big Bore)
– TTU Tage Evanson #17 Honda Civic – 1:00.4 (Track Record)
– TTS Pete Creek #727 Corvette GS – 1:03.1
– TTA Brain Turner #524 Porsche 911 – 1:05.0 (Track Record)
Top Drivers from FIR West (Small Bore)
– TTB Mervin Tan #45 BMW E36 M3 – 1:05.8
– TTC Dave Shotz #175 Camaro – 1:06.3
– TTD Joe Catteneo #101 Mini Cooper S – 1:06.8
– TTE Marc McCombs #430 VW Jetta – 1:09.1
– TTF Eric Jacobsen #98TTF 1:20.1
Top Drivers from FIR Main (Big Bore)
– TTU Mark Alger #4 Dodge Viper CC – 1:03.952 (Track Record)
– TTS Pete Creek #727 BMW E46 M3 – 1:04.456 (Track Record)
– TTA Justin Markiewicz #32 Subaru WRX STI – 1:09.396
Top Drivers from FIR Main (Small Bore)
– TTB Matt McIntyre #31 BMW E36 M3 – 1:08.763
– TTC Dave Shotz #175 Camaro – 1:09.273 (Track Record)
– TTD Robert Rose #3 Mazda Miata – 1:12.233
– TTE Marc McCombs #439 VW Jetta – 1:14.572
– TTF Eric Jacobsen #97 Mazda POS 1:25.181
All HPDE groups were completely sold out this event, bringing a full grid and lots of smiles to drivers faces. Several drivers moved up the HPDE ladder as they continued to demonstrate driver ability. After the race at Main, I’ve had quite a few emails sent my direction asking about suggested safety gear. Not a bad idea. Even if you are in HPDE and not yet in Race Group, TT, or TA, misfortunes such as crashes and fire can happen at any speed and in any run group. Simply put; having some added safety equipment is better than none at all. Buy the best safety equipment that is within your budget (and consult the NASA CCR’s and our NASA Tech officials for guidelines to follow when preparing your car with added safety equipment).
HPDE has been a great environment to develop yourself as a driver and have a lot of fun in the process. With the excitement of this event and the diversity of two tracks, as well as day and night driving, good times were had by all who participated.
UMS Tuning Time Attack
A grid of 38 drivers lined up for their turn to run a fast time and compete with cars in their respective classes. At the top of the roster we have Travis Barnes, who turned our fastest overall TA lap with a 1:05.8, securing his win in TA-C, followed by JC Meynet with a 1:06.0 taking second. In third was Science of Speed (Mike Speck), who turned a respectable 1:06.9.
TA-B was led by Taylor Wilson, who ran a quick 1:09.3. Justin Markiewicz was not far behind taking second place with a lap time of 01:09.9. For third place we have Sean Southland, who turned a 1:11.0. Robert Rose continues to keep alive a winning steak for TA-A, taking first place with a 1:12.2. Next up was Leland Forbes who ran 1:14.2, and only a couple tenths away was Dave McCombs who ran 1:14.5, securing third place.
Top Drivers – TA-C
1 – Travis Barnes – 1:05.8
2 – JC Meynet – 1:06.0
3 – Science of Speed – 1:06.9
Top Drivers – TA-B
1 – Taylor Wilson – 1:09.3
2 – Justin Markiewicz – 1:09.9
3 – Sean Southland – 1:11.0
Top Drivers – TA-A
1 – Robert Rose – 1:12.2
2 – Leland Forbes – 1:14.2
3 – Dave McCombs – 1:14.5
As many of you know our next event will be held at Inde Motorsports Ranch located outside of Tucson in the small town of Willcox. This will certainly be an event to remember as NASA-AZ will hold a makeup race (in lieu of the Main cancellation) and sprint races, a full TT lineup, all HPDE groups, and Time Attack. This track is a sizable distance from Phoenix so plan on staying over the weekend. Be sure to reserve a hotel soon as spots will fill up fast.
See you at the track!
Article Written by Geri Amani
Photography by Doug Hughes (http://www.waypast210.com) and Pure Street Photo (http://purestreetphoto.zenfolio.com)