Round 2 of the 2019 NASA Norcal Spec e30 Championship saw 11 teams make the trip to a lovely springtime version of the legendary Thunderhill Raceway Park. Cool temperatures made for hot racing, and plenty of power to set some speedy lap times around the 3 mile track.
Bright and early the racers headed out and immediately set some very fast lap times with JP and Bennett dipping into the 2:06s, and five more cars within the next second and a half.
A green flag saw the entire field cleanly launch with Bennett jumping JP from the outside front row, and Bill Shawhan moving up two rows by turn 2. Zanotto's stylish ultimate tanning machine jumped from 9th to 5th by the exit of turn 6, also taking advantage of 1st lap mayhem in Thunderhill's twisty eastern loop. Both Ben Winter and Andy Chittum fell back, but ended up in an epic battle side by side with Chittum on the outside of T8, 9, 10, and 11, finally making the pass stick going into T14.
Meanwhile, ahead in the mid-pack, Zanotto kept up the attack on Shawhan Senior, moving ahead to 4th while JP moved ahead of Bennett, with Nick Thiemann just behind in 3rd, ready to pick up the pieces of any mistakes.
Unfortunately, pushing to take advantage, Thiemann spun in 6T, doing a full snap 180 in the lovely soft springtime greenery. A verdant green burnout put Nick back in 7th, looking to make up lost time.
While JP slowly pulled away from Bennett, Chittum managed to catch back up to the Senior Shawhan-Zanotto battle, and
zipped by both cars up the inside of T1. Fresh from the fields, Thiemann made it back up to 4th by the end of the race, setting the 2nd fastest lap of the race.
Unfortunately Thiemann and Chittum's cars both went over post-race dyno limits, each by less than a single horsepower, and were sent to the back of the field for Sunday.
Sunday Race 1 (Qualifying)
Exercising their right to creative control, NASA officials inverted the top 8 grid positions for the Sunday race, which put Tony Domenici on pole, with Ben Winter outside front, Team Shawhan and Zanotto row 2, and JP and Bennett row 3. After running to and fro most of the morning with a dodgy axle that was replaced with the group's help, Team Shawhan substituted in Micheal Shawhan, former series champion to add spice to the lineup.
At the drop of the green flag, Shawhan Junior did indeed get an amazing start, and took the lead from the 2nd row by the time the field rounded T1. Winter slid in behind, getting ahead of Dominici, while JP slotted into 4th. Flying high and barely lifting for the bypass, JP slid inside of Dominici at T6, and set off after Shawhan and Winter.
Meanwhile, from the back of the grid, Thiemann motored through the field, reaching P6 by the end of the 1st lap, with the midfield just out of reach. JP also made it around Winter, and his battle with Shawhan was on.
With the #52 Shawhan car still equipped with the legacy suspension rather than the newer Ground Control suspension, both drivers had advantages in different parts of the track, overlapping in some areas, and pulling away in others.
Finally, late in the race, Shawhan got a slight advantage in lapped traffic, and was able to make a gap stick ahead of JP to the end of the race.
Mid-field, Thiemann arrived just as Bennett was making a neat outside pass on Winter, and was able to take advantage of his lost momentum to get into 5th. Catching Bennett through the east course, he just about threw it away in T6 again, but this time hung on and set after the Zanotto - Bennett train. Also aggressively not giving up, Winter joined in, and a cavalcade of mayhem ensued while all 4 cars traded position nearly every lap in and out of lapped traffic, until Chittum finally caught up on the last lap and made it 5 cars passing over the line all within a few tenths of each other.
Sunday Race 2
For the final race of the weekend, Team Shawhan bowed out with mechanical issues, and JP started from the back, putting Bennett and Thiemann on the front row, with Zanotto and Winter on the second. Chittum and Dominici made up the third row.
At the drop of the flag, Bennett got away fastest, and a solid train, Thiemann, Zanotto, Winter, and Chittum formed up behind him. Shortly, JP caught up behind Chittum, and joined in the fun. Several laps later, making a late move up the inside of 10, JP passed Chittum, making his move on Winter in the same place a lap later, then attacking Zanotto's ultimate tanning machine a few laps after that into T1. At the same time, Chittum got inside Winter in T1, and the entire train started to re-shuffle.
JP and Thieman took off into the sunset, separated by a gap, while Chittum made his way by Zanotto, then finally catching Bennett and taking advantage of lapped traffic to move into 3rd with just a few laps to go.
The Norcal Spec e30 Circus will return May 18th and 19th at Sonoma Raceway. Follow us here for all the latest news and excitement!
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