Written By RJB
Photography by Luis Vivar
October brings us temperatures in the high-80s and another beautiful weekend as we prepare to face off in a quest for speed at the 2020 Nitto Tire NMCA WEST Auto-X Power Festival presented by Speedtech Performance, which delivered the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and everything in between. We witnessed first-time winners, last-lap victories, and an epic David vs. Goliath showdown play out right in front of us.
These events are challenging to say the least, so here is a breakdown of what a competitor is up against each day, weekend, and season. Your weapon of choice will determine which group you race in as your vehicle sets the class: Modern Muscle, Classic Muscle, Sports Car, Truck, or Compact. There are not a lot of rules but your trusty steed must be street legal and carry valid registration and insurance. There is a rule on tire requirements, but we do highly encourage upgrades.
Each day your flat-out fastest run determines the class winners, which is simple to understand. What’s not so easy is an event win. You must race both days and complete all your laps. This is when we ramp up the pressure on the driver. Since everyone gets the same number of laps, we make every lap count. By averaging all your laps from Saturday and adding that to the average from Sunday and the lowest combined time gives us our event winner. This means that you not only need to be fast but have precision and control to avoid penalties on every lap.
But wait, there’s more… We cranked up the difficulty level to 11 with a season-long series championship for each class. Points are awarded based on your event averages: 50 for First Place, 49 for Second Place, etc. The total points for your five best events will determine the class and overall champions for the season. With 90 total laps on 10 different courses throughout the season, it’s not exactly a piece of cake to come out on top. Needless to say if you win a class championship, you’ve earned it!
We look forward to seeing who came out on top, but before the season wraps up, we had to tabulate the winner from the fifth event of the season. Check out some highlights of the action from the penultimate event of the 2020.
The first goal of any competitor is to get the daily class win and move into the Pro group for that class. A racer with NMCA West for several years, Ryan Callahan was on a mission to make it into the Pro group. Competing against modern Mustangs and Camaros in a 2001 Mustang didn’t make this easy. Let’s face it, the SN-95 a little help to carve up the corners. With an assist from the automotive aftermarket, a lot of hard work, and a focused determination to improve, Callahan realized his goal by taking the Modern Muscle class win on Sunday. His ride will also go in the record books as the oldest car to make it into the Modern Muscle Pro group.
Have you ever had one of those days? Nick Relampagos saw both sides of this coin over the weekend. Saturday started out OK, being only 0.019 seconds off the lead in Classic Muscle after the first round. On his first run of the second session Relampagos pulled to the line ready to go ‘full send.” Well, somewhere out on course he pulled his left foot out, stuck his right foot in, and spun it all about. Doing the hokey pokey was cool and all, but he earned a DNF for going off the course. From that point on, no matter what Relampagos did he couldn’t improve on his time, it was a rough day! Sunday was another story and Relampagos had all the right moves. Taking the in the first round was one thing. Shaving six tenths off his time and winning the class by almost a full second was a whole other thing. Here is some perspective; the next 10 guys in Classic Muscle were all within a second. Moving into the Pro group made it a good day.
The suspense of competition is something to behold. This weekend the Classic Muscle Pro group gave us a nonstop thriller in the on going battle of Camaro vs. Mustang. A Corvette jumped into the mix making it an action packed weekend. With a Corvette, Mustang, Camaro finishing one-two-three on Saturday, Efrain Diaz drove the TCI test car Red Dawn to defend the Camaro’s honor. What happened next was like it was written for a movie. After the first round, all three cars were close, but Chad Ryker driving the Mustang took the lead.
Diaz was a tenth back and Tom Kamman in his C4 Corvette was only hundredths behind that. The Camaro moved ahead in the second round but the Mustang and the Corvette both improved closed the gap. On the first runs in the third round Kamman put the Corvette back on top with a 47.258. During the second run Ryker got the Mustang in front of Diaz with a 47.3 to takeover second place. As they lined up for their final runs Kamman was up first and couldn’t improve but was still in the lead. Ryker went next and ran a 47.257 to put the Mustang ahead of the Corvette by 0.001 seconds (It doesn’t’ get any closer than that!). Diaz was in third place as he lined up for his final run. Like a story book ending Diaz ran a 47.132 to put the Camaro on top. What a show!
In the category of “never happened before,” Michael Oest showed us all that David could defeat Goliath. For the first time in our event history a Compact class car took the Fastest Lap of the Day award on Sunday. Oest also proved that you don’t need 800 horsepower to run fast as he earned the event Victor award. Some sticky tires, masterful driving, an aggressive alignment, and a few of those aftermarket goodies did the trick. It goes to show that on any given day, anyone can win! That’s why we race.
It’s hard to believe that for the last four years these two amazing young ladies attended all our events. Watching them grow up and gain a passion for cars is why we love this so much. Over the years they would help out whenever they could but in the last couple of years they have created job for themselves. Emma Fisher (left) if our flag girl and Brittany Fitts (right) handles the staging lanes (It’s like herding cats).
This year both young ladies celebrated their Sweet 16 birthdays and here is the really cool part—as soon as they had the permits they asked if they could drive on the course. During the lunch breaks we would get them out on the track for so “spirited” driving, it was strictly for instructional purposes. Even Cooler, as soon as they turned 16, they both passed their driving tests with flying colors. Since then, Emma bought a car and it’s a manual and Brittany competed in a full day of racing and almost beat her brother in his own car. We couldn’t be prouder of both of them. Sharing our passion for cars, camaraderie, and competition making memories that last a lifetime is what it is all about!
Michael Oest hauled to the overall win in his 2019 Miata, while Porsche pilot Tom Berry was hot on his heels to nab the runner-up trophy.
As the fifth event of the season came to a close, all the class winners came together to celebrated their hard-earned hardware. Saturday’s winner’s included Tom Kamman (Classic Muscle Pro), Sal Solorzano (Classic Muscle), Paul Molina (Modern Muscle Pro), Vern Bowan (Modern Muscle), Scot Spiewak (Sports Car Pro), Chad Sage (Sports Car), Mike Williams (Truck Pro), Marc Lewis (Compact Pro), Michael Oest (Compact), and Scot Spiewak (Fastest Lap). Sunday’s winners included Efrain Diaz (Classic Muscle Pro), Nick Relampagos (Classic Muscle), Paul Molina (Modern Muscle Pro), Ryan Callahan (Modern Muscle), Tom Berry (Sports Car Pro), Jeff Williams (Sports Car), Mike Williams (Truck Pro), Arlo Kirikomi (Truck), Michael Oest (Compact Pro), Shani Borchert (Compact), and Michael Oest (Fastest Lap).