Four more NASA Championships Earned in Mazdas

The NASA Championships at COTA wrapped up with the title races on Sunday

The Sept 13-16, 2018, NASA Championships Presented by Toyo Tires, the first united championship for the organization in several years, attracted a record number of entries to Circuit of the Americas. Boasting more than 450 entries from across the country, the event was poised to bring fantastic racing – and it didn’t fail to deliver. 

“There’s no better place than COTA to bring back the combined event as a single NASA National Championships,” said NASA Texas Regional Director Will Faules. “COTA Vice President Eric Paradis has been totally instrumental in not only getting NASA Texas regional events here, but also putting on this huge national championship. I’m really pleased with how the event turned out, and we’re grateful for everyone at COTA for helping us make it happen.”

The weekend of racing was packed with the kind of competition that only a singular national championship event can bring, including a stellar Spec Miata race for a massive purse provisionally won by Chris Haldeman on Saturday. On Sunday, the green flag flew on the rest of the championship races, with several Mazda drivers coming out on top.

Performance Touring D racer Brett Westcott didn’t enter the event with a Mazda, but he ended up winning in one. He knows firsthand about the NASA spirit of helping others as a fellow competitor let him use his car, which Westcott powered to a national championship.

“We’ve been trying for five years and we only get it done when my car doesn’t work and a fellow competitor lets me use their car,” Westcott said with a laugh. “It’s that spirit of NASA, right? It’s the racers that will do anything, they’ll give you their extra car, they’ll help you set it up, they’ll throw their own tires on it.”

Westcott, who ran the car for the first time Saturday afternoon, had to adjust from driving a front-wheel-drive car to a rear-wheel-drive Miata. “The thing is dialed in, it’s a really good car,” Westcott said of his borrowed ride. 

Chris Kopitski’s luck hasn’t been the best at the NASA National Championships in past years. His Performance Touring E Miata always seemed to be plagued by mechanical gremlins at the time when they were most unwelcome. However, this year was different. Kopitski notched the fastest lap in PTE qualifying on Friday and went on to win the qualifying race on Saturday. That put him on pole position for the race, a position he never relinquished.

“It was unbelievable,” Kopitski said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start in this, [and it was a] perfect race all the way through. I missed a couple of apexes and missed a shift about three quarters of the way through the race – other than that, it was flawless. This has been a long time coming. I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been trying so hard to get this championship. I’ve had mechanical issues every year, but this year I finally pulled it through, and this car is capable of so much more than this. It feels great. I’m on top of the world.”

Sunday’s NASA Prototype national championship race was three years in the making for Jeremy Croiset, who was consistently the fastest driver all weekend in NP01. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with this weekend,” said Croiset, who sat in his car soaking up the victory. “It’s a pretty big personal triumph simply because I’ve been working toward this event for three-plus years, and to see it all come together, everybody to have a good time, I can’t say enough about this NASA crew, the staff, all these racers that come here to make this event happen, and I’m proud to be part of that.”

A slow start didn’t stop Croiset, who won the race by 5.3 seconds over runner-up Sam Mangiamelli with Chad Plavan in third. 

Tim Barber won Spec Miata Deux, the second-chance race for Spec Miata. Barber took home a $2,000 check courtesy of Toyo Tires.

Barber, who also won a championship in another class, didn’t make it into Saturday’s 60-car Spec Miata race because his rental car suffered a mechanical issue that required rectifying. Once the problem was fixed, however, Barber pretty much led his race from start to finish.

Asked what it was like running two cars in hot and humid conditions in Texas, Barber acknowledged it was tough, especially for the last race of the weekend. “It was warm,” Barber said. “I started getting a ripping headache half way through that one. I had my hand out the window just trying to cool off.”