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2012 944 Spec Nationals PDF Print E-mail
Written by Eric Kuhns   
Thursday, 04 October 2012 17:42


Clean, competitive, racing and great sportsmanship characterized the 2012 National Championship race week. We'll get some race videos up soon, that will show there was a whole lot more racing that went on than was covered this year! Each of the three races this week had a different winner, with Tyler Palmer taking the one that mattered, making him the 2012 National Champion!


The cars really looked great this year!  Shows off the class well!


Car 51

Car 17

Starting on Thursday, with a green track after some rain, Neal Agran started on pole, followed by Eric Kuhns, Tyler Palmer, and Dan Pina. These top 4 turned lap times with 2/10ths of a second. At the start, Pina got by Palmer, and the front 4 finished nose to tail, with a 3 second blanket over them -Agran, Kuhns, Pina, and Palmer respectively. 1 second back was another tight 3 car group of Sam Grant, Angel Blazquez, and Bradly Raum, with only 2 seconds among them. Shannon McCue Round out the field, only a couple of seconds off. Clean racing all around, with a special mention to Dan Pina of dP Racing, who was nearly 10 HP down from the strongest 944 Spec motors, in holding his own through some inspired driving!


Friday's qualifying definitely picked up the pace as the track got rubbered in and car setups got dialed in. Kuhns turned a 1:42.4 in a wild lap - on the edge of disaster the whole way through to take the pole for this race 1/2 second ahead of Friday's pole sitter Agran. Palmer was again 3rd, and Pina 4th.Friday's race saw a wild start, with Agran getting a bit of a jump, which Kuhns made up under braking to regain the lead. Pina again found his was past Palmer at the start, but Palmer was not to be denied, and found his way around the crafty Pina after a few laps. Back up front, Agran whittled away at Kuhns' initial gap until the two were nose to tail with a couple of laps remaining. A pass attempt led to the only contact of the weekend, resulting in a spin for Agran, moving him back to 4th where he was able to continue at speed, and finished. After extensive review all the way up to NASA Executive Director Jerry Kunzman, the incident was deemed so close that no fault could be decided (apparently the first time Kunzman has made that call since the 1990's!). This left Kuhns up front, Palmer in second, and Pina in 3rd place, setting the grid for the Championship race as follows:

80 Eric Kuhns 190 (90+100) 1:43.047
9 84X Neal Agran 180 (100+80) 1:43.009
4 Tyler Palmer 170 (80+90) 1:43.209
149 Dan Pina 170 (85+85) 1:43.563
151 Sam Grant 150 (75+75) 1:45.847
17X Angel Blazquez 140 (70+70) 1:46.229
106 Bradley Raum 138 (69+69) 1:46.206
16 Shannon McCue 136 (68+68) 1:47.819
5 Sudhir Chhikara 133 (66+67) 1:46.358
24 John Armstrong 133 (67+66) 1:48.496

Unfortunately, disaster struck for Agran in the GTS race on Saturday. He was collected by a GTS -1 car that spun in front of him after that car was punted by a passing GTS -2 car. The contact broke his left front suspension and sent him into a concrete wall on the drivers's side. Good cage design by Hanksville Hotrods and a halo seat saved the day. Neal has only a bruised arm, and broken watch that stopped at the time of the incident! His cage is bent, though, and the unibody twisted, so the car was done. Agran, winner of the first qualifying race, and still the owner of the fastest (non-race) lap at Mid Ohio, a 1:42.1, would have been a force for the National Championship, and the loss of his one month old Spec car was especially tragic. In a show a 944 Spec camaraderie, Dan Januch towed his beautiful Martini liveried 944 Spec car out over 2 hours to loan to Agran for the race, and to maintain our contingencies. Dan, along with 2 other new Great Lakes drivers, did not have enough races in to qualify for Nationals themselves, but all volunteered their car to help the 944 Spec cause! Special thanks to Dan's wife, who took her Sunday out to come along as well!

The new car moved Agran to the back of the field, and Palmer to the first row alongside Kuhns for a head to head battle between National Champions. At the race start, Kuhns & Palmer were side to side going into the first turn "Madness" complex. Kuhns used the inside line to good effect, slotting into P1, and the field got through the start cleanly, essentially in their grid order. The ensuing battle between the Kuhns and Palmer, unfortunately largely missed by  the coverage, was epic. Kuhns would open a couple of car lengths on Palmer through the technical backside of the course, only to have Palmer make that up and then some, in the faster front side of the course, pulling alongside Kuhns on the outside going into the Keyhole and Madness lap after lap. I wish we had side facing cameras (or rangefinders!) to measure the inches between the two cars, as they battled for position, side by side, moving each other over down the straight, like a precisely choreographed mechanical ballet. This was so close that the spectators were sure that the two were banging doors all the way down the straight lap after lap, and were amazed to see no tire donuts on either car. Palmer would drive up along Kuhns on the outside, and Kuhns would use the inside line and outbrake Palmer to maintain postion. No mistakes were made, and no quarter given in these maneuvers! Kuhns thought he had his break when Palmer ran wide in turn 1, going 4 wheels off at over 80 MPH. To his chagrin, Kuhns saw Palmer slot right back in behind him having lost only a couple of car lengths in the process!

Palmer displayed a lot of patience, and after several laps his better strategic, and tactical choices started to pay off. Between a decision to run lower tire pressures, and better tire management, he gained the advantage as Kuhns began struggling with dreaded Mid-Ohio understeer from torturing his LF tire in the grinding Carousel, and Keyhole corners. Kuhns was unable to protect the inside line coming out the Carousel, and Palmer executed a flawless pass into the high speed turn 1. From there, Palmer put on an amazing display of consistent, blazing laps. Not only did he break the lap record, he went under this [i]5 year old[/i] lap record for 6 out of the next 10 laps! Kuhns, who was still turning laps that would have walked away in all the previous Mid Ohio Nationals, could only hope for traffic, or a yellow as Palmer steadily gained a few 10ths per lap. Kuhns' dimming hopes were finished when a Spec E30 re-entered the track into traffic, costing him several seconds to negotiate the melee.  Kuhns & Palmer had long since checked out from the rest of the field, so I will need to leave it to those guys to fill in the details of the mid-pack race. I can say it was clean, and finished with Dan Pina taking the remaining podium spot, followed by Sam Grant, Brad Raum, Anhil Blazquez, Sudhir Chhikara, Shannon McCue,  John Armstrong, and Neal Agran, who graciously put in a couple of laps in the borrowed car to make the contingency minimum.


-Thanks to NASA for putting on a great event!

-Thanks to Toyo, Royal Purple, Sampson Racing, AIM, Hawk, and Grassroots Motorsports for the comtingencies.

-Thanks to all the spouses and families who helped this happen, especially mine, who also was instrumental in organizing the event!

-A special thanks to Jim & Kelby Hartman (in the grey shorts at the right in the pic below) of Pine Tree Motorsports for the support. They get all the credit for keeping all the cars running well, and turning around the Midwest & GL regions mechanical fortunes this year with their meticulous preparation of the cars.