2019 National Auto Sport Association National Championships at Mid-Ohio

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That title is a mouthful. But after replacing my steering rack, tie rods and realigning the racecar after my previous venture at Mid-Ohio, I was once again on the ten hour trek to Ohio. This time to take a shot at a national title.

The format of the weekend was a little different. With warm-up and qualifying taking place Friday and 2 qualifying races Saturday. Your best finish Saturday (by lap time) determined the start order for the championship race Sunday.

I was entered in two classes GTS1 and 944spec. More on this shortly.

Paddock

I feel like this deserves mentioning but with over 300 racers attending this event, paved paddock spots were very limited. So limited that there was a charge for paved parking. And since I entered pretty last minute, all spots were spoken for. That left myself and many others (over half the field) setting up paddocks in the grass. This was a first and I just want to let everyone know, paddocking in the grass sucks. I had a few laughs watching the more prepared racers mow their paddocks before unloading. (yes they brought their own lawn mowers)

Lucky for me, 944 racers look out for each other and fellow competitor Shane Denney offered to let me use his left over paved area. This was of tremendous help on the test day that took place Thursday.

Test Day

After traveling 10 hours and bringing a car that has just been repaired and realigned, it would be foolish to pass up a chance to test before a national event. And during test session one I had a problem immediately. All right hand turns were met with abrupt over steer.

I’m pretty good at setting these cars up. However, as I’m still involved in the never ending home remodel, I was forced to align the car on leveling plates on a very non level driveway in 95+ degree weather. I didn’t quite get things right.

This is where the paved spot saved my weekend as I had to tweak my toe settings during multiple sessions until I got the car doing the things I wanted. This would have been near impossible in the grass. So once again, thanks Shane.

Finally not having to wrestle with the car, I dropped two seconds since my last outing and also noted that the temp gauge was not looking happy. Something. that will rear it’s head later.

Friday Qualifying

There were two qualifying sessions Friday starting on a high with a p3 finish in qualifying 1 that morning. This gave me room to relax as q2 would take place in the heat of the afternoon and we all know the track is slower in the afternoon… WRONG!

I threw on a new set of tires and went out a little less aggressive to break them in. Suffice to say, I was bumped down 3 places as the competition brought out the eye of the tiger.

Qualifying Race

I was bumped up to 5th on the qualifying grid as competitor Marcelo Vine suffered a blown motor. My race plan was to pass position 4 early and stay on pace with the front runners. In reality, myself and the top 4 immediately broke from the pack. Then on lap three position 4 was yielded by Stu Jones as he spun entering Thunder Valley. He managed the spin perfectly as more than a handful of cars have met their fate on the outside wall.

944spec car #901 piloted by driver Christopher Simmons. at Mid-Ohio during the 2019 NASA National Championship.

And this is where my cooling issue pops back up. I immediately discover that if I stay in the draft on the long straight, the racecar immediately starts overheating. If I stay out of the draft of positions 1,2 and 3 running the train down the straight, I lose about .5 sec to them. I play it safe since this isn’t the Champ race and stay out of the draft while maintaining my pace. Overall putting a 20 second gap on the field to my rear and keeping within a few seconds of positions 1 through 3 by playing catch up in the corners.

Overall a pretty lonely race as I was constantly just out of reach of the podium with no one at the rear. I spent early Sunday morning fabbing radiator ducting to hopefully force more air through the system.

Sunday – GTS1 Championship Race

I was entered in GTS1 as well as 944spec. I ran the 944spec car in the GTS race to fill out the field for two former 944spec racers that have moved on to GTS1. In GTS1 you are allowed a better power to weight ratio as well as aero and more extensive suspension modifications. Regardless, a 944spec can still be pretty competitive in the class.

NASA GTS1 2nd Place Trophy 2019

I started third and immediately noticed p2’s muffler was dragging on the ground. I stayed off his tail to avoid any issues and he was shown the meatball flag after a couple laps forcing him to pull off. This put me in an easy second place where the gap between myself and first fluctuated but I was never able to get into true striking distance. Finishing the GTS1 class with a second place finish.

I also drove a very ‘nice’ race as GTS2-5 were on track as well. The 944spec car had the worst power to weight disadvantage of any car on track and the speed difference down the straights was very noticeable with some of the higher classes. With that said, I made sure to set up the faster cars for easy passes as my main race would take place in the afternoon. The video of this race may as well be a ‘how to let faster traffic by’ tutorial.  (video added soon)

Sunday – 944spec Championship Race

This is what I was here for. I even resprayed the car and stayed out of trouble all weekend so the car would look presentable on the live streams.

Everyone would be on fire during this race. I started in position 4 and knew that the driver in p5, Tara Brewster would come out swinging. I wasn’t disappointed. (be sure to look at the rear view during the first few laps).

I stayed right on third until … you guessed it … my car started overheating. This time I thought it was raining as water drops started appearing on my windshield. Nope, that’s coolant boiling out. So out of the draft once again. Pretty disappointing but now I had fresh air and the car was slightly happier. (There was no issue during the GTS1 as it was 20 degrees cooler)

So once again I had a relatively lonely race. After a few laps and a nice battle, Stu Jones crept up from 6th putting pressure on Tara to defend. At which point I put a gap between us and finished the race in 5th after Marcelo Vine charged from the back to first.  Making the podium Marcelo Vine, Michael Cooper and Derrick Moorehead in that. order.

As they say, ‘that’s racing.’ Sometimes the smallest things can plague you. I would be remiss to say I’m not a little disappointed as my cooling issue turned out to be something as minor as an ill fitting coolant reservoir cap. But overall I’m very happy with not only my progression as a driver but also a 2nd place in GTS1 and a 5th place in 944spec at my first National Championship attempt. And all of that in an ailing car. After all, gotta protect that racers ego. 😉 😉

By Chris Simmons

Chris Simmons is a race car driver, instructor, business owner and all around gearhead. His passion for motorsport started in the drifting community over 10 years ago and progressed into wheel to wheel racing of all kinds. When off track Chris can be found training and working on a myriad of projects. After a hiatus from writing, he is back to share his passion, knowledge and experience in regard to motorsports on and off the track.

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