Hot Laps—Auto-X Labor Day Showdown

Written by Brandy Phillips

Photography by Brandy Phillips and Claudia Robles

With the heat index at an all-time high for the summer months, the fifth NMCA West Nitto Cup Auto-X kicked off Labor Day weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. As preparations were made for the weekend’s event, water and shade were encouraged in order to survive the sweltering heat.

Throughout the year the autocross is typically modeled after a historic road course, but at this event Rob Byrd of Racing Byrds patterned the cones after a K1 Go Kart track. After he was given grief about the last course, which consisted of tight turns, short straightaways and technical maneuvers, Byrd thought he should allow those with slightly larger vehicles to stretch their legs. After 18,500 steps and roughly 500 cones later, Byrd welcomed drivers to the starting line to embrace his oversized K1 autocross for another successful weekend of competition.

As people took to the course, several cars struggled to stay on track. One of those was Harrison Beach who brought back out his family’s 1964 Nova Wagon. The Beach family worked on dialing the newly modified wagon throughout the weekend, but that process also resulted in quite a bit of cone carnage, for which Beach was recognized during the award ceremony.

Racing does not come without its struggles, but when you completely change the dynamics of your vehicle you have to prepare for possible hurdles. After replacing his suspension with a DSE front clip and bigger wheel/tire combo, Mike Williams button up his 1969 C-10 truck and loaded it on a trailer at 1 a.m. the morning of race day. Unfortunately, the weekend presented several hurdles that left Williams and the crew from PCHRODS hustling to fix. Yet, somehow Williams’ newly built truck overcame each obstacle not only landing him first in the Truck Class, but also awarding him the title as fastest truck at autocross throughout the entire weekend.

Another inspiring victory went to Ryan Thacker, who was to dialing in his Camaro and getting seat time to improve his skills as he climbs the ladder in the Modern Muscle Class, also known as the largest class in the NMCA Auto-X series. Thacker pulled off the win in a demanding and competitive class, moving him into the Modern Muscle Pro Class. His hard work and herculean effort was readily apparent as he received his trophy during the award ceremony.

One of the most challenging life events is to watch your child get hurt. A month prior to the fifth race, Brittany Fitts was racing go-karts when she crashed and landed herself in the hospital. Surprisingly, the entire family was back out at the track as her dad Chris Fitts took to the wheel of the family’s 1971 Corvette. In addition, Brittany rode as a passenger with several different drivers throughout the weekend. Greg Thurmond who represented Centerforce and Brandy from PCHRODS both chose Chris and Brittany as special recognition recipients for their perseverance and optimism throughout everything they’ve recently been through.

Another unit recognized during the fifth race of the season was the Pierik family. Steve Pierik, who is an active member in the military, relocated to London to serve four years with the Air Force. He and his family prepared for this move all year and now the time had come for them to finally relocate. Luckily the family, including Pierik’s father, who normally races a 1971 Camaro at these events, was present for their last NMCA Auto-X before heading to London on Labor Day to start a new chapter in their lives. We will definitely miss this family and want to thank Steve Pierik for his service.

NMCA Auto-X events would not be possible without several factors, but the cone shaggers are some of the hardest working individuals that come out and help throughout the weekend. On Saturday the Cal State Fullerton Formula SAE group not only helped on course, but they had an opportunity to shake down their cars during lunch. The team worked together as they prepped the car to hit the track and got a couple laps in while collecting data and knowledge before their competition day.

Though there were several winners throughout the weekend, there can be only one who dominates the field. That victor was Jordan Priestley of JDP Motorsports. Priestley and his 2017 Corvette maintained a fast and consistent average throughout the weekend resulting in an overall lead over the entire competition along with the fastest lap time and the win in the Sports Car Pro Class. Priestley also had the largest gap seen so far this season between him and the rest of the field.

NMCA West Nitto Cup Autocross Saturday Class Award Winners:

CLASSIC MUSCLE: Nick Relampagos, 1970 Camaro; CLASSIC MUSCLE PRO: Chad Ryker, Mustang; MODERN MUSCLE: Tom Scalini, Camaro; MODERN MUSCLE PRO: Paul Molina, 2017 Mustang; SPORTS CAR: Jake Rozelle, Corvette; SPORTS CAR PRO: Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette; COMPACT: Nick Elia, Acura Integra; COMPACT PRO: Pelton Barnes, 2015 BRZ; TRUCK: Mike Williams, 1969 C-10; TRUCK PRO: Richard Trujillo, 1965 Ranchero; EXHIBITION: Michael Ahlstrom, 1991 Miata

NMCA West Nitto Cup Autocross Sunday Class Award Winners:

CLASSIC MUSCLE: Jason Wilcox, 1966 Nova; CLASSIC MUSCLE PRO: Chad Ryker, 1968 Camaro; MODERN MUSCLE: Ryan Thacker, 2015 Camaro Z28; MODERN MUSCLE PRO: Paul Molina, 2017 Mustang; SPORTS CAR: Robert DeuPree, 2009 Corvette; SPORTS CAR PRO: Jordan Priestley, 2017 Corvette; COMPACT: Michael Knudsen, 2013 Focus ST; COMPACT PRO: Mario Torres, 2004 Honda S2000; TRUCK: Brandy Phillips, 1972 C-10; TRUCK PRO: Mike Williams, 1969 C-10; EXHIBITION: Michael Ahlstrom, 1991 Miata