NASA racers looking for redemption

Race at Sonoma to feature drivers looking for payback after Eastern States races.

NASA racers looking for redemption
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The National Auto Sport Association's (NASA) ninth annual NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires Western States Championships to run at Sonoma Raceway Nov. 7-9 will feature racers seeking redemption from troubles at the NASA Eastern States Championships.

Greg Vannucci (Ottumwa, Iowa) and Ralf Lindackers (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) both competed at the NASA Eastern States Championships at Road Atlanta in August. Both drivers are looking for redemption from issues suffered that weekend.

Resurrection, rebuilding and a second championship run is on the table for Vannucci and his Lotus Exige - part two. Vannucci was the pole sitter in ST2 in his No. 25 red Lotus. Leading the event, Vannucci hit some fluid in the last turn and met with the front stretch wall ending his Eastern Championship bid on the back of a tow truck. Vannucci and his team are working toward redemption as they have entered the Western Championships with a new Lotus.

"We were very proud of the No. 25 car having developed it over four years from the original supercharged four-cylinder to the normally aspirated V-6," Vannucci said. "The car was extremely competitive and reliable, which made my unfortunate 'mating' with the inner wall on the front straight at Road Atlanta even more disappointing as the car was set-up very well, earning pole for the race. I had a four-second lead by the third lap until catching some fluid at the apex of Turn 12, losing the front end, washed out wide and hitting the wall.

" As we loaded up our 'accordion', we immediately started contemplating options to still make Sonoma. We feverishly searched the internet on the drive back to Iowa, sore neck and all, to locate a chassis to rebuild before the end of our season in the Midwest. We wanted to, hopefully, shake down some new iteration of our car before going all the way out to Sonoma.  We found a Lotus with a blown 4 cylinder and took delivery September 14th. Up to that time we stripped the original red car down to the chassis in anticipation of its replacement and began tearing down the new vehicle on September 18th. My sole mechanic/crew chief/R&D guy/ and father-in-law Tim Muchow single handedly reconstructed this race car from the ground up as there was very little salvageable from the new Lotus.

" We worked literally to the wire completing the car at 1 a.m. October 11th, loaded it and drove to Heartland Park Topeka five hours away to compete in NASA Central season finale. We arrived in time to tech and were on track at 8:20 a.m. I competed in both TT2, setting a new track record, and racing in ST1 taking third of seven with my car in ST2 trim. The car performed flawlessly without any mechanical issues and ran beautifully! With minor tweaking over the next two weeks, we hope to be very competitive in Sonoma." 

Doing the double

Regarding competing in both championships, Vannucci continued, "I had every intention of attending both once it was announced as I thought it was a great idea to increase access and exposure to more drivers and demonstrate the willingness and capability of NASA in cultivating real amateur and pro racers.  I have never driven Sonoma Raceway before and I am really looking forward to putting this new car and myself to the test. Certainly there is a little retribution to be had since Atlanta, but more importantly just anxious to get on the track and compete with the West Coast boys."

Ralf Lindackers (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) is another driver that raced at Road Atlanta and will be making the long trek to Sonoma. Lindackers is from the NASA Great Lakes Region and ran his qualifying races at Mid-Ohio and Road America. He will be running his No. 01 BMW at Sonoma in the GTS4 Class following repairs from the run at Road Atlanta.

"It's a long way to Sonoma Raceway from Michigan, but I always wanted to race some of the California tracks and Sonoma is on the top of my list," Lindackers said. "It's also getting cold here, so it's one more reason to go west. We ran the NASA Championships at Road Atlanta in August. We did very well, qualified on the front row for the championship race and stayed in a strong P2 until about lap 13 when my right front suspension collapsed under braking into Turn Five. Game over! My goal for Sonoma next month is to win my class, GTS4, and bring the car back in one piece. I know there are strong competitors in my class, it won't be easy learning a new track and getting up to speed with the local boys in one day, but I like that challenge. I have Stephen Cramer from Autocore preparing the car. We have updated the suspension mount which turned out to be a weak link, so I am confident it will not break again."

Will Faules, NASA National Event Director, likes the enthusiasm surrounding the Western Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

'A lot of buzz'

"With just 17 days remaining, there is a lot of buzz around the Western Championships event at Sonoma Raceway," Faules said. "From my home region in Texas to Iowa and all the way up to Michigan we have competitors coming across the country to compete at Sonoma Raceway. We also have competitors still running qualifying races to become eligible for the championship event."

Sonoma Raceway is a 2.52-mile, 12-turn undulating road course located at the gateway to California's wine country. The challenging road course used by NASCAR and IndyCar is sure to provide exciting racing throughout the championships weekend.

The NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires Western States Championships will take the green flag at Sonoma Raceway, Nov. 7-9.

For additional information, please contact NASA Championships Media Director, Kyle Chura at or (248) 821-0468.  More detail can be found at or      

To qualify for the NASA National Championships presented by Toyo Tires, NASA competitors must compete in and score points in four regional races around the country, five for the Western States Championships.  The 2014 National Championship presented by Toyo Tires Eastern weekend featured over 300 competitors racing for the NASA National Champion trophy in 36 racing classes and nine Time Trial divisions around the famed Road Atlanta circuit home to Petit Le Mans.


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