It’s been awhile since the last time NASA-AZ ventured to Firebird East, but that is what March 5-6 brought us. Temperatures were still good enough to keep both drivers and cars happy and, in the process, some impressive lap times were turned with a few new track records. Track conditions were considerably better than our event back in October, with enough rubber put down from other races having taken place before we made our arrival.
Qualifying on Saturday
The weekend was host to some great racing with Big Bore and Small Bore in full effect and some fast lap times on the menu. Saturday’s Big Bore qualifying session grouped our fastest classes together, with our SU drivers in the front; Robert Foster, Chad Nelson, and Kyle Foster all turning sub-minute laps. Mark Alger in ST-1 qualified first with a sub-minute lap as well, followed by Ron Ballard who qualified first in ST-2.
Small Bore qualifiers were led by our PT-B drivers Jeremy Renshaw and Matt McIntyre, followed by PT-A driver John Dowling for our top three respectively. The next competitive group in the Small Bore field was our 944Spec class led by Norm Hamden, turning the fastest qualifying lap for 944 Spec.
Saturday’s Race – Big Bore
The race on Saturday gave Big Bore some big challenges, negotiating space on this smaller track. As laps were turned, drivers found their positions and kept to their respective class battles. As the checkered flag waved across start/finish, we found Robert Foster in SU zipping by as our SU class and overall 1st place winner, followed by Chad Nelson and Kyle Foster. Mark Alger took the win for ST-1, with a white Civic not far behind driven by Tage Evanson who placed second in his class. Our ST-2 top qualifier Ron Ballard lead his class to the finish. Second in line for ST-2 was Bryan McCormick with Adam Bode taking third.
Saturday’s Race – Small Bore
Small Bore had a fun turnout in a lot of classes, with Saturday’s race beginning with our PT-B cars out in front, lead by Jeremy Renshaw. While Matt McIntyre managed to turn the fastest PT-B lap during the race, he came in a close second, followed by Marty Saltzman. PT-A started with Porsche driver John Dowling racing first across the finish line for a class win, with Paul Bloomberg finishing second. Next up is our lone PT-C car Erik Woods who mingled with the rest of the field. Our 944Spec class leader was Norm Hamden, who was followed by Dave Hauck and Steve Marlow.
Qualifying on Sunday
Sunday’s qualifying combined both small bore and big bore groups. SU driver Chad Nelson in his oh-so-sweet sounding Porsche was the top overall qualifier, followed by ST-2 drivers Bryan McCormick and Mark Klein as our top three. Matt McIntyre brought out a quick lap leading PT-B, while Bob Rittel qualified first in PT-A. Leroy Moore established his leading position in PT-C with a quick qualifying lap, followed by Rusty Dees and Dave Hauck who lead the start in PT-E and 944Spec respectively.
Sunday’s Race – Big Bore
As the green flag waved overhead and racers stomped the floor, our Big Bore front runner Chad Nelson took the start and also successfully finished the race leading the entire field of cars. Ron Ballard did rather well, turning similar times to our SU leader while also having good battles throughout the track as well. Ballard ultimately took the ST-2 win, with Bryan McCormick and Mark Klein finishing second and third. Tage Evanson, our lone ST-1 driver, mixed it up a bit with the rest of the field while taking his class win. Similar circumstances were found within the PT-A class, with Bob Rittel leading both qualifying and the class race. Second to finish was Brian Turner, followed by Rick Touton. Matt McIntyre in PT-B certainly turned some quality lap times mixing it up with adjacent PT-A cars, and ultimately took the class win followed by Jeremy Renshaw and Marty Saltzman. To Saltzman’s credit, rumor has it he finished the race with some mechanical gearbox issues but still turned some decent times nonetheless!
Sunday’s Race – Small Bore
Our front runner Small Bore cars began with PT-C drivers Leroy Moore and Erik Woods who battled it out for the PT-C win. Moore kept his lead after his front of the pack qualifying position, finishing the race in first as well. 944 Spec had a healthy turnout of racers with some close lap times in this spec-racing class. Finishing first was Norm Hamden, followed by Jeff Wojnar and Dave Hauck; all made for some great racing. Last but not least is our PT-E class led by Shane Kneisel with Rusty Dees finishing second.
Top Big Bore Racers from Saturday
1 – Robert Foster #017
2 – Chad Nelson #14
3 – Kyle Foster #23
1 – Ron Ballard #93
2 – Bryan McCormick #727
3 – Adam Bode #67
1 – Mark Alger #4
2 – Tage Evanson #17
Top Big Bore Racers from Sunday
1 – Chad Nelson
1 – Ron Ballard #93
2 – Bryan McCormick #727
3 – Mark Klein #062
1 – Bob Rittel #400
2 – Brian Turner #524
3 – Rick Touton #961
1 – Matt McIntyre #31
2 – Jeremy Renshaw #11
3 – Marty Saltzman #30
1 – Tage Evanson #17
Top Small Bore Racers from Saturday
1 – Jeremy Renshaw #11
2 – Matt McIntyre #31
3 – Marty Saltzman #30
1 – John Dowling #46
2 – Paul Bloomberg #51
3 – Sean Southland #777
1 – Erik Woods #5
1 – Norm Hamden #99
2 – Dave Hauck #08
3 – Steve Marlow #47x
1 – Rusty Dees #89
Top Small Bore Racers from Sunday
1 – Leroy Moore #19
2 – Erik Woods #5
1 – Norm Hamden #99
2 – Jeff Wojnar #28
3 – Dave Hauck #08
1 – Shane Kneisel #20
2 – Rusty Dees #89
It was great timing that NASA-AZ had a chance to run at this track before the Summer temperatures take over. Conditions were great, allowing some of our TT drivers to set some new track records.
At the top of Saturday’s roster in our Big Bore Time Trial group is our fastest overall driver in TTU. Mark Alger ran several sub-minute laps running a 59.269. Not far behind was Tage Evanson who seemed to battle for tenth-after-tenth running consistent 1-minute flat laps but settling for a 1:00.128. Tony Szirka was our third quickest TTU driver running competitive with Evanson and turning a 1:00.395.
In TTS CV Wells turned a quick 1:01.241, followed by Steve Eymann and Phil Buffington who ran 1:02.071 and 1:02.429 respectively. Brian Turner led TTA with a 1:03.568, Sean Southland ran a 1:04.495, followed by Justin Markiewicz who turned a 1:05.498.
Sunday the game was changed up a bit, resulting in some new track records. Tage Evanson was our fastest overall driver for the day running a stout 58.552, setting the latest TTU track record! Second in class and running a 1-minute flat was Mark Alger, followed by Travis Barnes who turned a 1:01.787. TTS was rather quick as well, starting with Pete Creek who took the win running a 1:00.411. CV Wells was not far off coming in second after a 1:01.239, with third quickest of the day by Dan Maloney turning a 1:02.29.
Sean Southland brought good stuff to the track and kept the wheels turning fast enough to set a new TTA track record with 1:03.350. Brian Turner was only a few ticks away but still running a fast lap of 1:03.834, followed by Gabe Ortega who used all that supercharged Honda power to turn a 1:04.887.
Top Drivers from Saturday
TTR – Brent Crosser #206, 1:04.297
TTU – Mark Alger #4, 59.269
TTS – CV Wells #24, 1:01.241
TTA – Brian Turner #524, 1:03.568
Top Drivers from Sunday
TTU – Tage Evanson #17, 58.552 (TRACK RECORD)
TTS – Pete Creek #727, 1:00.411
TTA – Sean Southland #777, 1:03.350 (TRACK RECORD)
Saturday’s TTB run group led the pack starting with Jeremy Renshaw who turned a 1:03.853, followed by fellow BMW E36 M3 driver Mervin Tan who came in second with a 1:04.240. Matt McIntyre came in third after running a 1:05.369.
Next up is Dave Shotz in TTC who, after a few “excursions”, ultimately took the class win running a 1:04.446, followed by Phil Robles with a 1:05.330, and third was a 1:08.397 run by Eric Dayton. TTD brought some quick laps to the table, with the fastest set by Robert Rose running a 1:06.665. Brett Lengel took second with a 1:07.871, and third was Jeff Wojnar who brought out a 1:10.022 by the end of the day. The TTE battle was on the table between Rusty Dees and Brad Lundahl, who had close times throughout the day. Dees manages to pull a few tenths off turning 1:10.157, with Lundahl in second place with a 1:10.440.
Conditions were most favorable on Sunday, with quick times being had till the end of the day. Jeremy Renshaw, Mervin Tan, and Matt McIntyre all ran close times turning respectable 1:03’s only tenths apart. Renshaw ultimately took first for the day with a 1:03.505, followed by Tan who ran a 1:03.685, and 1:03.756 driven by McIntyre. Small Bore also got in on the track record fun with a new TTC record being set by Dave Shotz who turned a very quick 1:03.901. Phil Robles took second in TTC with a 1:05.685.
Robert Rose, it should be noted, is the TTD Miata driver with consistent wins most weekends when the car runs solid. Once again Rose took first with his fastest on Sunday being a 1:06.438. Brett Lengel with a 1:07.290 and Dave McCombs turning a 1:07.843 took second and third. Last but not least are our TTE cars featuring a dual between a Datsun and a Miata. With Rusty Dees behind the wheel of an old-school-gone-fast Nissan, the win was secured by turning a 1:08.760, followed by Brad Lundahl who ran a respectable 1:09.613.
Top Drivers from Saturday
TTB – Jeremy Renshaw #11 BMW E35 M3, 1:08.337
TTC – Dave Schotz #175 Camaro, 1:04.446
TTD – Robert Rose #003 Mazda Miata, 1:06.665
TTE – Rusty Dees #89 Datsun 510, 1:10.157
Top Drivers from Sunday
TTB – Jeremy Renshaw #11 BMW E35 M3, 1:03.505
TTC – Dave Schotz #175 Camaro, 1:03.901 (TRACK RECORD)
TTD – Robert Rose #003 Mazda Miata, 1:06.438
TTE – Rusty Dees #89 Datsun 510, 1:08.760
HPDE looked good from a participation standpoint with a full field of cars–drivers overall had a great time learning the ins-and-outs of Firebird East. With each of the run groups staged for various driver levels, the NASA AZ HPDE ladder is a safe and efficient environment for drivers to expand upon their skills with quality instructors on hand to help overcome any challenges that might come up. To aid with the differences in horsepower on a tight track like FIR East, occasionally HPDE groups are known to split into “Small Bore / Big Bore” to help with the distribution of traffic and, on the same note, make the learning environment less intimidating for slower cars negotiating space with faster ones.
One of our regular HPDE drivers Paul Green registered in both HPDE3 and the UMS Time Attack on Sunday. Behind the wheel of the #245 white Integra, Paul has been climbing the HPDE ladder gradually. While on his days off from the track, he can be found helping friends at the track with their cars.
“Saturday I was there just as a spectator and to get some pictures. However, I helped out a fellow driver change one of his axles to get him back out on the track. The Saturday night BBQ was great and the weather could not have been better.” Paul explained. “Despite some alignment and tire pressure issues, I managed to post a personal best lap time during the UMS Time Attack. Weather conditions throughout the day where amazing as were the track conditions!”
As with a lot of HPDE drivers, Paul is a classic example of someone who both loves the sport and his car. He purchased the Integra for the sole purpose of having a fun track car. He stripped the car down to it’s shell for a rebuild. “All in all, I think it’s a great combination of parts that make a crazy fun car to drive.” Says Paul. “The cars burns at least 2 quarts of oil per track day and still puts down some good power and always puts a smile on my face. A job well done I think… All this could not have been done without the help of some friends.”
UMS Tuning Time Attack
Each event NASA-AZ dedicates a time slot to the fabulous series known as the UMS Tuning Time Attack. Participant numbers continue to increase making for some added competition – and of course, added fun on track. With only a couple laps to make their mark in the standings, let’s take a look at the results from each of the respective classes.
From the fastest pack of TA-ers is our TA-C class, starting with Tony Szirka, who yet again took the overall lead by turning our quickest TA Lap of 1:01.425. Next up was Travis Barnes who was only a couple tenths behind with a 1:01.657, then in third was Jerome Silvers who ran 1:02.491. Given his history of dominating TA-A, will Gabe Ortega reap the same results in TA-B? It’s looking to be a positive start for him as he ran away with first in class running a 1:04.542, with Mervin Tan right there with him turning a close 1:04.756! Phil Robles took third with a quick 1:05.865.
The front of TA-A was all about the Mazda-speed (get it?) as Robert Rose took his Mazda Miata into first place running a 1:06.675, separating himself over 2-seconds from his competition. 1:08.039 was second fastest run by Brett Lengel, and Dave McCombs took third just behind Lengel with a 1:08.337.
Congrats to everyone who ran TA this event, some good competition out there!
1 – Tony Szirka, 1:01.425
2 – Travis Barnes, 1:01.657
3 – Jerome Silvers, 1:02.491
1 – Gabe Ortega, 1:02.491
2 – Mervin Tan, 1:04.756
3 – Phil Robles, 1:05.865
1 – Robert Rose, 1:06.675
2 – Brett Lengel, 1:08.039
3 – Dave McCombs, 1:08.337
NASA-AZ Returns to Arizona Motorsports Park
As FIR came and went then we suddenly found ourselves at Arizona Motorsports Park (AMP)! After much effort spent in sound-metering participants, NASA-AZ was able to return to AMP on March 19th following track requirements limiting both dB levels and number of participants in the facility. This time TT track-records were up for grabs with our TT and Race groups running combined sessions. HPDE was completely sold out as well, making for a full paddock of happy drivers excited to run on the track–for many of them it would be their first time at AMP. The AMP line-up also included the UMS Tuning Time Attack, with a full grid of competition ready to go.
AMP is certainly a “drivers track” with a lot of fast, sweepy corners certain to test your resistance to pucker-factor! This track compliments our existing lineup of places to drive and race within the NASA-AZ region, adding to the diversity of corners that test driver skills.
With any luck, AMP will be regularly added to our schedule of great places to drive in the Arizona region–perhaps replacing our once beloved PIR (to some degree at least).
Our next event on the calendar is a big one! The infamous Firebird Night Event, which is host to the Modified Tuner Shootout, a full lineup of HPDE, Time Trials, AND day/night races. Did I mention we will get to run on TWO tracks? Yep, FIR West and Main! This event will surely be a great turnout for participants and spectators alike. If you haven’t registered yet, I encourage you to do so now before time is out!
See you at the track!
Register here – https://www.nasaproracing.com/event/1189
Schedule here – http://forums.www.nasaaz.com/showthread.php?t=4677
Article Written by Geri Amani.
Photography by Doug Hughes, Matt Chander (www.MattChandlerPhoto.com), Carlos, and Clayton Peck.