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2014 Western States Championship - Championship Race PDF Print E-mail
Written by A. U. B. I. E.   
Sunday, 16 November 2014 19:25
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Championship Race:

NorCal 944Spec has traditions: All the drivers paddock together, talk together, help each other with our cars. Before each race we shake each other’s hands and say “Be Safe. Have Fun.” Other rituals can become rote, but there’s something to a strong handshake and looking your fellow competitor/driver/friend in the eye, saying the words and feeling the weight of their meaning. There are a lot of reasons to race, boil away everything else and it is difficult to come to a more pure essence than “Be Safe. Have Fun.”

The moment wasn’t lost when 2009 944 Spec Champ Charlie Buzzetti said: “You ready?”
Auburn Schmidt, his first National event, nodded slowly.
Charlie said: “I’m nervous.”
So rookies, remember: If a National Champ can be nervous, it’s okay for you to be nervous, it’s how you handle the moment that matters.

After our two qualifying races we hadn’t lost a car, all sixteen of us came to grid in this order:
Jim Foxx
Charles Buzzetti
Steven Lewis
Dan Piña
Javier Cantu-Lucero
Jim Hicks
Ken Myers
Auburn Schmidt
Ronald Dale
Jim Richmond
Alberto Fonseca
Pete Dimuzio
Katherine Pelland
Jason Jane
Thomas Atteberry (11th - DQ, weight)
Austin Newmark.



Newmark had made it to grid! Austin’s crew set a record for most parts swapped, earning the admiration of his fellow drivers for getting his car on track and competing despite the unfavorable starting position. It is always fun to watch a young, talented driver start at the tail and make a charge through the field.

Hicks lost his shifter off the line and dropped out, the row of cars behind him on the inside grid position ducking and weaving to find their way forward, everyone keeping their nose clean despite the surprise. Schmidt missed a shift coming around 1, but Richmond gave him a bump-draft to keep his momentum.

Turn 1

As with the qualifying races there were numerous position swaps up and down the field, from the front and all the way through to the back of the pack. Buzzetti sniped Foxx at the start of the third lap, the announcers picked up on the two veteran racers who were so familiar with each other, battling it out.

Jim and Charlie

The leaders had a bit of gap to a viscous nose-to-tail battle between Lewis, Piña, Cantu-Lucero and Myers. Cantu-Lucero locked up into 7, giving Myers a good look, but Cantu-Lucero took the position back as they entered the esses and streamed downhill. On the next lap a Miata had spun right in the middle at the top of turn 2. Packs of cars picked their way through without incident.
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Lap 6: Lewis had to catch a fishtail in the middle of the Carousel, his correction gave just enough space to let Piña and Cantu-Lucero through, but Lewis recovered to hold Myers at bay. Cantu-Lucero had a big lock at 7, pushing hard but unable to make a pass on Piña. The four continued, loops in a chain lap after lap with Myers hanging on tightly, but not quite able to close up and contest for position. There was another big lock at 11 as the foursome lapped a Miata. Schmidt trailed by several seconds and there were several seconds again to Richmond at the head of mid-pack.

Fonseca, Richmond and Atteberry went three wide in turn 10, Richmond squished in the middle hoping things wouldn't turn sour. If there is one corner you don't want to be door-to-door in, much less three-wide, it's turn 10, a hyperventilating right-hander entered at the highest speed on track with only a touch of brakes. Oh and there's a giant wall that closes in on you as you track out. The trio made it through without incident. Deep breath.

Nobody in the Piña, Cantu-Lucero, Lewis, Myers group could break away and nobody would drop back. Cantu-Lucero got a glimpse of daylight from Piña in the middle of the Carousel but Piña held throttle and position. They finished the lap with Piña holding fort and Cantu-Lucero locking up into 11 but unable to draw overlap, the order unchanged, inches between one car and the next, then a moment of track to Myers.

Pina and Company

At the halfway marker Pete Dimuzio had broken free of Richmond and looked towards Schmidt.

Jim R and Co

Up at the front Foxx and Buzzetti battled, then Piña wobbled a touch mid-Carousel but held onto his car, getting right back on the throttle and pulled the train forward. The four drivers contesting for the last spot on the podum took multiple lines though 7 but nobody made a pass. The next cycle through 7 Lewis out braked Cantu-Lucero, drew overlap. They went side-by-side through the double-apex right, Lewis ahead by a fender but Cantu-Lucero got on the throttle to stay even halfway through the esses. Cantu-Lucero maintained position with a twitch of oversteer in the middle transition, then sent up a cloud of tire smoke again at 11.

Thirty minutes elapsed and fatigue would leave some marks. Newmark had worked his way from 16th all the way around Dimuzio, and was eating into a four second gap to Schmidt, running seventh.

Dimuzio and Newmark

Multiple drivers missed shifts into 2, catching slides or running wide at various corners. Much of the action was at 7 and 11, Piña got a poor exit through 6 and had to go defensive into 7, but nobody could take advantage and they proceeded on, Lewis showing a brief lock to no consequence. Pelland and Jane hung around as well, turning consistent laps, Pelland stepping up over the weekend setting personal bests.

Jason and Katherine

Atteberry, Fonseca and Richmond approached a lapped Miata coming into 11. Instead of lifting and letting an out-of-class battle pass through, the Miata stayed with each runner as it approached. The Miata hung in the middle of the trio from turn 1, all the way to 9, Atteberry going through at 2, Fonseca at the Carousel. The Miata went off into the dirt at the exit of 10, re-entered the track out of control and collected a dodging Richmond who had scrunched his car all the way to the opposite side of the track. The Miata continued to spin and hit Richmond a second time, making a mess of the exit lane and throwing cones mid-track in the braking zone of 11. A safety truck blocked the exit lane as the cars were cleared.

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It would get worse.

Lap 16. Piña missed the apex of 4 by two feet. Cantu-Lucero carried too much trail-brake, but got on the gas aggressively, counter-steering to hold his car on-track. It gave Lewis a strong run around 5.

Syeve and Javiar

Lewis would draw his bumper all the way to Cantu-Lucero’s front fender. At the crest entering the Carousel Cantu-Lucero locked up and carried into Lewis. Both cars careened off-track, hit an incline and launched. Lewis would go end-over-end and Cantu-Lucero would roll four times.

Quotes of the weekend would echo in every driver’s mind:
“I’m nervous.”
“Be safe. Have fun.”
“My friend is in that car.”
"We come together for each other."

Schmidt came through to a vigorous waving yellow, both cars smoking off-track. Team Brown/Heyer, a Spec Miata driver, and official NASA doctor stopped his car and immediately popped out to help. Safety vehicles were on-site within a lap.

Lewis exited to check on his fellow driver.
Race was flagged over shortly after.

It wasn’t the end that anybody wanted. Charlie Buzzetti had taken checkers, but said: “I don’t really feel like celebrating.” All the drivers talked in impound, getting what confirmation we could that Lewis and Cantu-Lucero were okay.


We would finish:
Charles Buzzetti
James Foxx
Dan Piña
Ken Myers
Auburn Schmidt
Austin Newmark
Thomas Atteberry
Alberto Fonseca
Katherine Pelland
Jason Jane
Javier Cantu-Lucero
Steven Lewis
Jim Richmond
Ron Dale
Jim Hicks
Pete Dimuzio (7th - DQ, yellow)


Buzzetti and Foxx both running their 944s under the top Spec Miata time, Foxx setting a new lap record at 1:55.495.

We all helped Steven Lewis and Javier Cantu-Lucero scrape what was left of their cars into their trailers, thankful that they walked away under their own power.


-=Auburn C. Schmidt=-
Twitter: @venndaubie
944 Spec #79