Weekend Wrap-Up: Buttonwillow Raceway Park
Weekend Wrap-Up: Buttonwillow Raceway Park
Mostly sunny, light winds and temperatures in the upper 70s; you just couldn’t ask for better weather during the 2021 Tire Rack SCCA Time Trials National Tour Powered by Hagerty event April 10-11 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California’s Central Valley. While Buttonwillow has more than 40 different race and test configurations available, layout No. 13 clockwise was the primary battleground for this first ever Time Trials National Tour visit to the venue.
Competition in California
Saturday featured afternoon TrackAttack sessions for all drivers. The best lap over two, 20-minute sessions was counted as a competitor’s official time for that portion of the competition and was the first of three timed events conducted over the weekend. In Tuner 4 (T4), the largest field with 16 entries, the top three Saturday were separated by only 0.591 second. Pelton Barnes, in a Subaru BRZ, held the top spot with a lap of 2:03.361. Jeffrey Nam’s Subaru BRZ was second with a time of 2:03.588, and Eric Shin was third with a lap time of 2:03.952 in a Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Sunday morning saw the TrackSprint challenge take place, which featured a shortened circuit layout traversed in a counterclockwise direction. That portion of the competition shook things up and moved Nam atop the T4 leaderboard with a gap of 0.03 second over Shin. Joshua Thompson, in a Mazda MX-5 Miata, jumped up to the third spot as Barnes fell to fourth
The last test Sunday afternoon gave competitors final shots on Buttonwillow’s full No. 13 course to either secure victory or produce a come-from-behind win. In the case of T4, Shin shined in the final session to claim victory by a margin of 0.723 second over Nam. And Barnes was able to move up one slot to secure the final class podium spot.
Tuner 4 wasn’t the only class to create excitement over the weekend. In the Max 2 (M2) class, Peter Bollenbecker’s Saturday time of 1:57.910 in a winged Subaru Impreza bested a pair of Tesla Model 3s driven by Steven Case and Isaac Arciaga, who were only a couple seconds behind the Subaru. Sunday’s TrackSprint saw Bollenbecker increase his lead over Case by about half a second after turning a top time of 36.489 in the class. Bollenbecker’s gap held through the second TrackAttack portion of the event and he came home with the M2 class win at Buttonwillow. Case was second and Arciaga third.
A classic Ford vs. Chevy battle came to be in the Tuner 2 (T2) class as Alex Cooly’s Chevrolet Camaro had a lead of about 7 seconds Saturday evening over the Ford Mustang of Dale Shoemaker. That lead was extended to 10 seconds after the TrackSprint, and Cooley stayed cool during Sunday afternoon’s TrackAttack to earn victory in the class. Shoemaker finished second and the Chevrolet Corvette of Steven Huybers was third.
In the Sport 3 (S3) class, Robert Luis ended Saturday with a lead of more than 2 seconds in his Chevrolet Camaro. James Moss, in a Ford Focus, was running second, followed by the Hyundai Veloster of Philip Ma another 3 seconds back in third. Sunday’s TrackSprint saw Luis extend his class lead. However, Michael Prescott’s Ford Mustang leaped to the second spot after Moss and Ma were both unable to continue on with the competition after Saturday. In the end, Luis indeed emerged victorious with Prescott in the runner-up spot.
One other item of note comes from the Unlimited 2 (U2) class. If all went well, the likely winner of U2 would have been the nifty looking Honda S2000 of Nicholas Stentiford. He was super fast in both the Sunday TrackSprint and TrackAttack sessions. However, during practice Saturday morning he suffered suspension damage. The car was repaired in time for Sunday competition, but Stentiford was not able to post any times in the Saturday afternoon TrackSprint. So, the U2 win went to Tadeu Zagallo who completed all three timed events in his Mazda Miata.
Buttonwillow Awards Rundown
Bollenbecker took the overall win at Buttonwillow Raceway Park with a combined total time of 4:32.235 after all three events. Case finished second overall only 1.786 seconds behind. Third overall was Sport 1 class driver Guy Dreier in a BMW M4 with a total time of 4:37.899. If you look at the overall top five finishers, there were two Teslas and two BMWs that made the cut.
Recognition for being the Top Novice at Buttonwillow this weekend went to Brendan Mullen in a Ford Mustang. In Saturday’s TrackAttack, Mullen posted a time of 2:17.324. During Sunday’s final TrackAttack, Mullen managed to cut more than 5 seconds off his lap time and post a 2:11.988, taking the Tuner 3 class victory along the way.
Most Improved honors went to Tamara Woolever who finished first in the Street 2 class driving a Chevrolet Camaro. Woolever opened her competition with a 2:22.429 TrackAttack lap, but the “novice group” driver had whittled that down to a 2:16.764 by the time on-track activities concluded Sunday.
Nima and Heather Abrahim were bestowed the Spirit of Time Trials award. The couple shared a Mazda MX-5 Miata over the course of two days, and were simply having a blast. It was nothing but smiles and enthusiasm from the Abrahims everywhere they went and for everyone they met. Energy like that helps make Time Trails National Tour events so special.
The Crossover award, bestowed to competitors coming from other SCCA disciplines, went to Travis Miranda in a Ford Focus. Miranda, an avid ATV enthusiast, showed up Friday for an SCCA Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack event and was intrigued by what was going on around preparations for Time Trials National Tour. At the last minute he registered for the Buttonwillow Time Trials event and appeared to have the time of his life all weekend.
On to Texas!
The 2021 Tire Rack SCCA Time Trials National Tour Powered by Hagerty next shifts from competition in California to action in Texas, specifically Decatur, Texas, May 22-23 at Eagles Canyon Raceway. Be sure to register for that event today to reserve your spot!
Photo by: Otto Hsiao