Team Honda Research and Team Honda Research-West ended their sprint racing season with a successful weekend at the 2010 NASA National Championships held at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
Drivers Lawrence Hwang and Brian Shanfeld had high expectations even though this was the first competitive event for either driver at the challenging 3.0-mile Outer Course at Miller Motorsports Park. Lawrence competed in the Honda Challenge 1 class in his THR-W RSX Type S. Brian and his BFGoodrich-sponsored 2007 TL Type S also competed in the Honda Challenge 1 class, as well as in Performance Touring B. Honda Challenge is a set of 5 class races exclusively for modified Honda and Acura cars. The Performance Touring category is a NASA class created using a versatile points system to allow nearly any production car to compete with a wide variety of allowed modifications.
The extended race weekend began with clear skies and high temperatures in the 70s.
The NASA National Championships started on Thursday, September 16, with Qualifying Race #1 for the Honda Challenge class. After a good morning qualifying session that placed him third on the grid, Shanfeld struggled in the race with unpredictable handling and finished a disappointing sixth. Hwang, however, had a strong race, moving up to finish fourth After switching to the faster BFGoodrich R1 tires and making a few setup improvements, Shanfeld had a much better result in Performance Touring Qualifying Race #1. Starting from the outisde of the second row, he was able to chase down the pole-sitting Mini Cooper S and take the win. In the process, he set the fastest race lap in the class for the weekend at 2:11.8.
On Friday, September 17, the format repeated itself with Qualifying Race #2 for each class. The morning didn’t start off well in the Honda Challenge class, as neither Brian nor Lawrence had good qualifying results. Brian’s session ended after only three laps with a broken upper ball joint, sending him to the paddock early. Lawrence ran out of fuel after one clean lap. However, both drivers were able to improve during the race, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. In the Performance Touring race, Brian wasn’t able to repeat his excellent result from Thursday, and instead finished a distant fifth.
With the qualifying races complete, the starting positions were set for Saturday and Sunday’s championship races. Lawrence would be starting third and Brian fifth in Honda Challenge 1 race on Saturday. In Sunday’s Performance Touring race, Brian would be on the outside of the front row.
The weekend weather continued to be dry, but temperatures had climbed into the 80s and the wind had picked up considerably on the flat and dusty Miller Motorsports Park. After a great standing start in the Honda Challenge race, Brian was able to move from his starting position to challenge for the lead through the first sequence of corners. In the end however, he wasn’t able to match the pace of the two leaders and fell back to fourth. After series of battles with the TSX of Andre Hartanto, Brian was able to regain third position and captured the final spot on the podium.
Lawrence was late to the pre-grid and had to start from the pit lane after the entire field had passed by. A crashed-out S2000 led to a damaged splitter on the RSX, but the yellow flag also helped Lawrence catch up to the pack. He was then able to filter through the field and squeeze by the RSX of Kris McCoy by Lap 14. At the end of the front straightaway on the final lap, Lawrence had the nose of the RSX on the rear bumper of the TSX ahead of him, but he ran out of time to further advance and settled for fifth.
In Sunday’s Performance Touring race, Brian charged to the lead from his starting position on the outside of the front row and never looked back. By the end of the first lap, his gap on the field was more than 5 seconds. Brian was able to keep up the fast pace due to the always-consistent BFGoodrich R1 tires and cruised to the victory over a Performance Touring B field that included such diverse vehicles as a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Mini Cooper S, and Mazda RX8.
Team Honda Research thanks Honda Performance Development for its ever-increasing support of grassroots motorsports and BFGoodrich for supplying fast, consistent, and easy-to-drive R1 tires.