Miss Shifting my Way to Second at Nashville Superspeedway


I’ve moved out of the Mid-South to the beautiful ‘mountains’ of Northern Alabama. But, I’m still close enough to call the Mid-South region with the National Auto Sport Association home. Making the Nashville Superspeedway (NSS) event in … Nashville, TN … my first official event of 2023.

The number 351 Spec Miata could make quick work of the 944 Spec field if I could avoid miss shifts and grab the proper gear..
Only a little more complaining til I get to the racing.
The Move

In my previous post, I mentioned the new startup venture I’m involved in and my time is at a premium more than ever. Even so, I still have an insatiable desire to race and push myself to the limit. And I am calling my relocation to Alabama ‘The Move’, as that is ominous enough to convey my predicament.

Yes, I have moved to a beautiful town called Guntersville. Located on a 66,000-acre lake about 30 minutes south of Hunstville. For that, I am thankful, even though I am not a fisher. But there is a catch -pun unintended. My race operation is now spread across 2 states, and I do not have a good place to wrench yet. This has become quite a logistical nightmare at the start of the season.

I mention this because the number 351 Spec Miata needs a bit of work. I want to give a huge shoutout to my friends. Instead of enjoying a nice Nashville Friday night at their favorite venue, they helped me wrench on the Miata. Getting it in passable racing condition.

Race 1

Honestly, the races Saturday were pretty uneventful. Conditions were mixed, with both Saturday races taking place on the wet condition Toyo RA-1 tires. At the start of race 1, I miss shifted the transmission, grabbing the easy-to-find 2nd to 5th shift. Dropping myself from 2nd to last by turn one. I recovered pretty easily after a lap or 2, but that initial mistake allowed the 1st place driver, Ian Bryan, to build a lead I couldn’t contest by the checkered flag.

Race 2

Race 2 was more of the same. This time I started in 3rd gear to avoid the miss shift. Starting outside of the power band was loads better than miss shifting. I lost a couple of places that I easily recovered. But again, Ian was able to find his way through the field a little better, and with our lap times being very close in the wet, I once again finished 2nd.

Race 3

Race 3 is another story, though. On raw pace, I am a second faster in the dry than the opposition, so I knew this race was mine to lose. Again, I had to be careful not to miss shift this wonky transmission at the start. I held p2 through the first series of turns this time.

Then we started to drop the rest of the field. By lap two, I was executing a high-speed pass around the outside of turn 1 for 1st place when the car abruptly spun. You can see in the video what appears to be a darker patch on the pavement that may have been a bit of … something. All I knew was that I was at the limit. The car let go very abruptly and, fortunately, ended up high on the bank and pointing down the track.

I say fortunate because my starter was acting up all weekend, and I had to be push started before every session. So as I was stalled on lap two of the race, I knew I had one chance to ‘gravity-start’ the car. I pressed the clutch, built some momentum, and popped the clutch to start the car. It worked, and I was back in business, although solidly at the very back of the field.

The chase was on and I made contact with the 944 Spec and Spec Miata fields after a few laps. A few of my former compatriots in 944 Spec let me through easily, but then a few did not. Leaving me to battle with slower, wider cars in the infield that would then pull away on the straight. I knew this phase of the race would cost me the overall win. I had a blast out finessing the faster cars and eventually went on to finish 2nd in Spec Miata with the fastest lap, more than a second over the race leader.

The only race worth watching this weekend.

Starting the season with 3 consecutive 2nd place finishes and the fastest laps, during the races and time trials in TT6, is not too bad.

By Chris Simmons

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