Highlights from the 2015 NASA Eastern States Championships

By Winding Road Staff

September 08, 2015

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Images: NASA / Chris Schutze Photography
The second annual NASA Eastern States Championships presented by Toyo Tires crowned it class winners this past weekend at Virginia International Raceway.
Under perfect 80-degree and sunny conditions the 300+ NASA competitors took to the 3.27 mile, 17-turn VIR circuit to settle who would be 2015 NASA Eastern States Champions.
Spec Miata
The opening event of NASA Championship Sunday at VIR was the 42 car Spec Miata race. Double qualifying race winner and pole sitter Blake Clements, No. 6 Miata, led the field to the green. A first turn, first lap melee cost top runner Danny Steyn, No. 39 Miata, as he retired with car damage. The race went immediately yellow. On the restart on lap three, Clements continued to lead until another caution flew on lap five. On lap seven the race went green with No. 0 Marc Cefalo driving his Miata to the front. On lap nine Clements went back to the point with Hernan Palermo, No. 13 Miata, taking the lead one lap later. On lap 11, NASA Western States Spec Miata Champion, Mark Drennan took the lead in his No. 10 Miata.
One lap later it was Clements, Palermo and Drennan. On the last a final lap, Clements got pushed wide in the last turn as a three Miata racers came to the checker side-by-side for the win. It was Hernan Palermo taking the Championship, followed by Mark Drennan and Jonathan Davis squeaking into third in his No. 161 Miata. Brian Henderson, No. 97 Miata, was awarded Hard Charger going from 36 starting position to finish fifth. Upon post-race review, Palermo was disqualified for contact. The final results are Mark Drennan first, Jonathan Davis second and Blake Clements third.
With the win, Mark Drennan does the double, winning both the Eastern States and Western States Spec Miata NASA Championships for 2015. The win also makes Drennan eligible for the Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout and the $100,000 prize toward driving in the 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
“The start was crazy, we were three or four wide going into Turn 3,” Drennan said. “Things were really bunched up, there was a lot of contact throughout the race. On the first restart I made up a spot. We tried going three wide through five, which is too many, I went up on the curb. On the second restart I was able to get by a few more cars. I had a good run for the lead and I out broke myself and went back to fifth. It was a drafting battle between Blake, Hernan and myself we swapped the lead a number of times. I ended up with a good run on Hernan off the last turn and I ended up second.”
“I was able to get good restarts and kept up with the front runners,” Davis said. “On the last lap, Blake got knocked off the track and I saw him come back on, so I moved over in case he was coming over. I had a run on Mark and Hernan as they were banging wheels down the front stretch. I was drafting them and I popped at the last minute and ended up third. I will take third today.”
944 Spec
Pole sitter Neal Agran, No. 76 Porsche 944, lead the field to the green. On lap two Agran and went off in Turn 1 handing the overall lead to Dan Pina in his blue and white No. 149 Porsche 944 who went on to win.

“I started from third,” Pina said. “I was really just hoping to be on the podium. The guys in front of me were racing hard. I was able to get to the front when they went off. I had some contact which affected my alignment, so I was just holding on. We had a few passes for the lead. I wanted to keep control, stay strong and be assertive. This was a last minute deal for me. My friends talked me into coming, I wasn’t even registered. I loaded up, drove 18 hours and I am glad I did.”
Spec E30
Larry Fraser, No. 112 BMW, brought the 30 car Spec E30 field to the green. Fraser, Sean Curran, No. 77 BMW and Sandro Espinosa, No. 32 BMW, were starting to pull away from the rest of the pack. The trio were joined on lap four by No. 40 Ryan Whitinger.
“It was a hard battle,” Espinosa said. “I was careful with Larry Fraser. I wanted to try and force him into a mistake. He missed a shift on the back straight and I went by him. I really didn’t want him behind me. I tried to stay in front of him as best as I could. Unfortunately in Turn 1 we went through there side-by-side, like so many times before. There is plenty of room on the left and he went off. It is not the way I wanted it to go, but that is racing. Ryan did a good job to make a run at me at the line and finish second. Thank you to Toyo Tires.”

10:50-11:35AM Championship Race 944 Spec, Spec E30 and Spec 32015 NASA Eastern Championships Presented by Toyo Tires #toyotires #nasachamps #nasaproracing

Posted by National Auto Sport Association on Sunday, September 6, 2015
Spec 3
In Spec 3 it was the No. 07 BMW driven by Jon McAvoy taking the win. By lap 10 McAvoy had established a 10 second lead over second place finisher Justin Taylor, No. 36 BMW.
“It was a hell of a race,” McAvoy said. “I got a bad start. I got passed by three cars at the start. It took about three laps to catch back up and take the lead. It was a great day at VIR. No yellow flags, everyone was really running clean. A huge thanks to Toyo, my tires were under me the entire time. Also Hawk brakes. Most importantly my wife, bless her heart for letting me do this on Labor Day weekend.”


In SU, Ray Cocoziello took the lead at the green in his No. 72 Crawford Daytona Prototype over Jeff Hinkle’s No. 9 Dodge Challenger. On lap two the race was black flagged to due to two cars blocking the track between turns three and four. Following the black flag, Cocoziello couldn’t restart his car. Dan Raver in the No. 7 Superlite assumed the lead. A few laps later after Raver had an issue, Robert Iversen took the lead in his No. 1 Radical and the SU win.

“The yellow and the black flag did not help my effort at all,” Iversen said. “We knew we had to take the long view of the race and manage our tires. We needed to be there at the end. We knew we could run within a couple of seconds of these 800 and 900 horsepower cars, we only have 440. I think as it showed at the end that no one can out brake us. Thanks to everyone at Wisco and NASA Southeast.”
In ST1 Joe Moholland navigated the caution and race stoppage to post the win in his No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette. “It wasn’t as crazy at the beginning as they often are,” Moholland said. “I had a tough day yesterday. I tore half of my splitter off on the first lap. So today I was going to be a little more conservative and little more patient on the start. I didn’t want to get mixed up with the SU cars too early. My patience paid off today.”

Green Flag Championship Race ST1-3, SU, AI, CMC, SI2015 NASA Eastern Championships Presented by Toyo Tires#toyotires #nasachamps #nasaproracing

Posted by National Auto Sport Association on Sunday, September 6, 2015
The ST2 winner was Kevin Harvey in his No. 01 Chevrolet Corvette. “The yellow and black was interesting,” Harvey said. “Cars were going everywhere at the start. When the Mustangs got together over there between three and four it was nice that they reset the order so we could go back to racing fairly. Later when the Lotus went into the wall in the esses, the race went yellow and went green really fast. I had my wife and friend calling flags for me that really helped.”
Terry Mathis drove his No. 71 Chevrolet Camaro to the AI win. “I had a great run,” Mathis said. “Yesterday the car was good, but I was a little loose today. Every second we had red in front of us. I didn’t want to be cautious and give up the lead. Maybe I was a little too cautious I was being pushed the whole time. One more check off my bucket list, winning a NASA Championship. I really enjoyed it.”
In CMC, Russ Carter drove his No. 720 Ford Mustang the class win. “I got a lousy start,” Carter said. “I think I won the burnout contest. We do standing starts, so when the green flew I did a big burnout. I was able to stay with the pack. The yellow and black bunched us up. I slowly picked through our small field to the front. It is tough to run in the back of the thunder group, a lot happens in front of us. We are used to dealing with adverse track conditions. It was an absolute blast. All of the competitors know each other and that makes it really fun.”
Robert Miller was the SI Class winner in his No. 20 Ford Mustang. “I ran great,” Miller said. Once we got in front after the caution I was able to stay in front and bring it home. I didn’t want to see the yellow or the black. That let everyone get up to me again. I had a good restart and was able to bring it home for the win.”
HPD Honda Challenge 1
In HPD Honda Challenge 1 it was an early race battle between Kevin Helms in his No. 05 Civic, Brian Shanfeld in the No. 17 Acura and the No. 75 Honda S2000 of John Oldt. The trio circulated most of the race together with Helms and Shanfeld exchanging the lead early. Oldt fell back with an engine issue at three quarter distance just about the same time that Helms began to open up a two second gap to Shanfeld. Helms went onto win his first NASA Eastern States Championship. He was followed to the line by Shanfeld and Matthew Briddell in the No. 108 Honda S2000.
“At the end I was able to get a little gap,” Helms said. “I knew it would be dicey at the beginning, that Acura TLX has a lot of horsepower. I tried to get a good gap in the small parts so he couldn’t catch me. He passed me once and he started to make a few mistakes, I think his tires were going off. I saw that and I said it was time to get going.”
HPD Honda Challenge 2
Jonathan Baker, No. 32 Acura, and the No. 36 of Robert Casella were locked in a two-way battle up to mid race when Baker fell back. Spencer Anderson in the No. 516 Civic took up the challenge in second place, keeping Casella honest. Soon after Baker fell back, Casella had issues as well. That left the No. 516 of Spencer Anderson in his Civic as the HPD Honda Challenge 2 winner. Eric Olson in his No. 10 Civic was second and the No. 31 Accord of Karl Kondor was third.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Anderson said. “I came to this weekend with the wrong engine, hoping for maybe a top five. I didn’t expect to win. I got a good start and was moving up through the field. I hung out in fourth for a while and then the race started to come to me. A couple of guys had engine issues, one blew up on the last lap. It kind of fell in my lap.”
Randy Mueller made it a qualifying and championship race win hat-trick today sweeping the GTS4 Class in his No. 0 BMW M3. Mueller won by 20-seconds. The win makes Mueller a five-time NASA Champion.
“It was a good race weekend for us,” Mueller said. “This is a total package, not just a driver. The equipment that you are in and the people who put it together are all important. We have MCS Suspension, Hoosier tires, Bimmerworld, Red Line Oil and Epic Motorsports. It is great to have that group behind me. We had an anxious moment right when we were rolling to the grid the ABS stopped working. One of my crew was able to get it fixed in two minutes. It may have been a different race if he didn’t.

Championship Race Spec GTS42015 NASA Eastern Championships Presented by Toyo Tires#toyotires #nasachamps #nasaproracing

Posted by National Auto Sport Association on Sunday, September 6, 2015
In GTS3 Hugh Stewart took the win his No. 122 BMW. “It was absolute insanity,” Stewart said. “I got tangled up at the start, I was third on the grid and went back to fifth. I was able to catch back up to the front. I was over heating a little bit going off track to pass, I had some grass in the radiator. But a good run and a good race.”
Zach Hillman took home the GTS2 trophy in his No. 158 Porsche 944. “We got the start that we wanted,” Hillman said. “We just maintained from there. A lot of guys switched up their tires and tunes. We knew the first lap would be important and we were able to control the pace. My crew put in a lot of prep work for this race. All the work paid off and we finally won it! I want to thank all my guys back at home.”

Championship Race GTS 22015 NASA Eastern Championships Presented by Toyo Tires#toyotires #nasachamps #nasaproracing

Posted by National Auto Sport Association on Sunday, September 6, 2015
The GTS1 winner was Jason Stanley in his No. 60 Porsche 944.
“It was pretty hot out there,” Stanley said. “I had already done the Spec 944 race this morning and my cool suit wasn’t working. At the start I got swamped. I stayed patient and just picked them off one-by-one. I got into the lead and just made sure that I was letting the faster cars by in the right place for them and for me. My Hoosier tires got a little tight at the end. The Hoosier engineer gave me some good tips on how run the tires. I would like to thank my sponsor Fantasy Garage for providing me with an awesome rolling tool cart and Bluetooth speaker. It kept my tools organized and gave us tunes as we worked all weekend. I am very pleased with the result.”
In PTD Eric Powell took off to a ten-second lead on the first lap in his No. 74 Mazda Miata only to drop out on lap seven handing the overall group lead to Jason Fitzpatrick in the No. 75 VW Passat who went on to win the class. 
On the first lap I went through the gas coming up onto the front straight,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was a shame to win it with Eric going out early. Once I saw Eric behind the tow truck, I just focused on being smooth and maintaining the car. It would have been fun to race him, but I will take it.”
In PTE Jason Kohler drove his No. 848 Mazda Miata to the class win. “I was able to get to the front on the second lap,” Kohler said. “The Miata matches up to the Nissan Sentra pretty well. At most tracks we are within about a second. The longer tracks seem to favor the Miata on overall set-up and speed.
Anthony Zwain drove the Team Edge Motorworks Mini to the PTE Class win. “It was pretty spectacular,” Zwain said. “The race was a lot of fun for me. I was pressured pretty hard. I was racing with some out of class guys. I think I busted my oil pan, but I was able to get it to the checker. The car is running as good as it has ever run.”
NASA Eastern Championship presented by Toyo Tires Winners (provisional):

GTS4, Randy Mueller, No. 0 BMW M3
GTS3, Hugh Stewart, No. 122 BMW M3
GTS2, Zach Hillman, No. 158 Porsche 944
GTS1, Jason Stanley, No. 60 Porsche 944
Spec Miata, Mark Drennan, No. 10 Mazda Miata
944 Spec, Dan Pina, No. 149 Porsche 944
Spec E30, Sandro Espinosa, No. 32 BMW
Spec 3, Jon McAvoy, No. 07 BMW
SU, Robert Iversen, No. 1 Radical
ST1, Joe Moholland, No. 3 Corvette
ST2, Kevin Harvey, No. 01 Corvette
AI, Terry Mathis, No. 71 Chevrolet Camaro
SI, Robert Miller, No. 20 Ford Mustang
CMC, Russ Carter, No. 720 Ford Mustang
HPD Honda Challenge 1, Kevin Helms, No. 05 Honda Civic
HPD Honda Challenge 2, Spencer Anderson, No. 516 Honda Civic
PTD, Jason Fitzpatrick, No. 75 VW Passat
PTE, Jason Kohler, No. 848 Mazda Miata
PTF, Anthony Zwain, No. 1 Mini
Time Trial top VIR finishers:
TTC, Brian Barclay, No. 107 Honda S2000
TTD, Marc Cantor, No. 26 BMW M3
TTE, Jason Kohler, No. 848 Mazda Miata
TT1, Gil Smith, No. 70 Chevrolet Corvette
TT2, Donnie Hylton, No. 626 Chevrolet Corvette
TT3, Eric Wong, No.121, BMW M3
TTU, Rick Macpherson, No. 38 Nissan GTR
Official results will be posted here once they’re available.