We finally went to Daytona, and the thrill of racing at one of the most famous tracks in the world was exciting enough, but the 50+ Spec Miata's that were racing made the weekend an absolute blast. This was our first time racing at Daytona, it was also our first time racing on a superspeedway/road course configuration (roval to some). The wall-like highbanks and importance of drafting at Daytona were definitely a learning experience for us. The #25 5xR Spec Miata was put to the test with the high speeds of the superspeedway portion of Daytona, the Race Engineering 1.6L performed flawlessly and was one of the fastest 1.6L Miata on track. Our set-up was spot on as usual, with the high track temperatures from the August heat our tires were like glue. We did exceptionally well for our first trip to this famed NASCAR track, read on to find out the details of each of our on track sessions...
Q1 was a feeling out session, being our first time ever on the track we were trying to learn the turns and braking points of the 3.5 mile track. After a few laps we were able to get up to speed, one of the most comfortable portions of the track for John was the bus stop section in between NASCAR turns 2 and 3. The bus stop is a quick left-right-left chicane used for slowing the top speed capabilities of some cars, for the momentum cars such as the Miata it is one of the most important turns on the track. At the end of the session John qualified 9th out of 50+ cars in class for Spec Miata, which was more than good enough for our first time on track.
With the threat of rain all weekend, and the storm clouds moving in for the early afternoon race, it was uncertain as to what the weather was going to do. While sitting on the grid for the race to begin, the rain started coming down lightly. We gambled and stayed on our dry tires, as surely some other competitors did not. Fortunately the rain only lasted for a minute, which was good for us and surely good for a 70+ car field! When the green flag dropped, John got an excellent jump and slotted into 3rd after the first turn! 3rd is where we settled in until there was a safety car dispatched for on on track incident. On the restart John once again had another great start, this time he got into 1st and eventually dropped to 2nd after the first turn. After several laps of bump drafting the first place car, we had a decent gap on 3rd place. Coming out of the bus-stop, John had gotten a run on the 1st place car and made the pass in between the high-banked turns 3 and 4, streching out a 10-15 car length gap on 2nd place! After several laps of leading the race without drafting help, the 2nd and 3rd place cars caught up to John by bump drafting on the fast straits. Coming off of the tri-oval the 2nd place car made a super aggressive pass on us in the inside of turn 1 and caught John off guard. John went to counter-pass on the inside as it seemed the competitor was going off track, the competitor cut back into the inside of the turn and unfortunately there was contact as John could not avoid the car coming back into the turn. The competitor spun, and came back into John which caused a spin as well. The race was not lost though, as John was able to fight his way back up to finish 9th, where we started. Not so bad for our first time.
Q2 was a bit more comfortable for John, as track knowledge was not an issue. Working with 5x Racing friend and customer Pino Evola, we were able to post much faster laps than the previous day, but still only earned a 9th place qualifying spot as everyone else was faster on day 2.
Dry weather and sunshine were back again for Sundays race. Starting 9th, Race 2 was a bit more relaxed than Race 1, we did not want to have another incident and more repairs to make on the car. After several laps, John was locked into a 3 car fight for 4th place. There was a whole lot of clean racing with our competitors, as we all swapped positions several times over the length of the race. Many turns were taken bumper to bumper, inches from each other without incident, which is always more enjoyable than bumping each other. After an exciting race, John ending up in 6th place, which was more than satisfactory for only our second race at Daytona.
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