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ML/GL Round 5 Recap -- Road America PDF Print E-mail
Written by Neal Agran   
Monday, 25 August 2014 07:48

Round 5 of NASA’s Midwest and Great Lakes 944 Spec championships took place at the world famous Road America on August 1-3.  The draft on this track’s long straights makes for close racing and frequent position changes, and this three race weekend did not disappoint.  Drinks and dinner at the historical Siebkens Resort and the chance to share the track with the professional Pirelli GT3 Cup series also made for a memorable event.

Race 1

Neal Agran earned the pole, followed by Gary Barton, Shannon McCue, Shane Patza (in his rookie debut), Ken Frey, Brad Raum, Sudhir Chhikara, Peter Nystrom, and Michael Cooper.  At the flag, Agran got the jump and was able to slip away as Barton and McCue exchanged 2nd multiple times on the first lap.  As Barton built a gap on McCue after reclaiming second, a 5-way battle for 4th emerged as the race to watch.  Chhikara eventually took control of the scrum in lap five, moving from 7th to 4th and eventually building a small lead on Patza in 5th.  Immediately behind, Frey and Nystrom fought tooth and nail to the end, with Frey earning 6th in a drag race to the line.  Cooper and Raum rounded out the field.

Into Turn

Race 2

An abbreviated qualifying session shuffled the field for Race 2, setting up a fantastic battle.   Agran again secured the pole in a flyer lap, followed by Barton, Cooper, Patza, Chhikara, Nystrom, Raum, McCue, and Frey.  Agran and Barton formed a breakaway two car train for the first several laps, but the race to watch was the four-way battle for 3rd between Cooper, Chhikara, Patza, and McCue.  Each eventually held the position as they jockeyed in a four car train over the first half of the race – twice in the case of Cooper.  McCue made the critical move four laps from the end, shifting from 5th to 3rd in a single lap while Patza fell back to 6th with an off course excursion.  In the closing minutes, Patza, benefiting from data coaching throughout the weekend, clicked off the second fastest lap of the weekend to regain the tail of the fight for 3rd and set up a sprint to the finish.

Battle In

Gary and Neal

At the line, Agran set a new lap record and took the win over Barton while the four-way battle for 3rd culminated in a drag race.  McCue held off Chhikara for the position by 0.2 seconds with Patza then snaring 5th from Cooper by a mere 2.5 feet at the line (0.015 seconds) after getting the run out of turn 14.  Within sight were Raum, Frey, and Nystrom running nearly identical laps.

Race 3

The late race on a three race weekend is always a great battle for those who stay to the end of the day, and Race 3 was no exception.  Agran volunteered to start at the rear, leaving Barton on the pole followed by Chhikara, Patza, Cooper, Raum, and Agran.  At the flag, Barton and Chhikara made a clean getaway while Patza, Cooper, and Agran made their way through turns and 1 and 3 two-wide.  Agran emerged onto the back straight with a run that allowed him to suck up on Chhikara in the draft and pass for second under braking to turn 5.  As the race progressed, Agran eventually assumed the lead from Barton under braking for turn 12, after which the two formed a two car train until Agran broke free working through Spec Iron traffic.  The battle for 3rd was a replay of prior hostilities, with Patza putting together consistent laps and edging away from the nose to tail Chhikara and Cooper.  At the line, Agran took the win over Barton, followed by Patza (in his first podium!).  Cooper out-dragged Chhikara to the finish by tenths, with Raum looming only 2 seconds behind.  

Epilogue

Besides having an outstanding time, Midwest and Great Lakes 944 Spec drivers took home over $1400 in TOYO and HAWK contingency dollars this weekend.  A special thanks is due to Jim and Kelby Hartman of Pine Tree Motorsports, who again offered technical support to all competitors during the event.

Pit Lane

Round 6 will take place at Autobahn Country Club on September 6-7, following the NASA Eastern States Championship race at Road Atlanta on August 31.  If you’ve read this far and you’re not racing with us… why not?  We’d love to have you out to an event and give you a ride, let you take a test drive, and get you involved.  We believe 944 Spec is the best way to get racing fast and to get faster.  Take us up on the offer to try it and find out!!

Neal Agran
NASA 944 Spec Midwest Region Series Director