The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) National Championship returned to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course September 6-11, with more than 40 Honda and Acura racers in attendance and claiming four class national titles.
An impressive 34-car field took the standing start for the featured Honda Challenge race on Sunday, led by veteran Kevin Helms on the overall and H1 pole in his Honda Civic while Jeremy Croiset headed the H2 field in his Honda CRX.
In H1, Helms and Jonathan Meris were locked in a fierce two-car battle for much of the race, exchanging the lead a total of seven times. Then on Lap 18, both John Schmitt and Luke Wilwert caught the leaders, making it a four-way fight for the championship over the final laps. At the finish, it was Meris just ahead of Helms and Schmitt.
"I have never had a race like that, ever," Meris said at the finish. "Hats off to Kevin Helms and his Honda Works team, he drove a clean race. We respected each other on the track and had a great race."
In the H2 race, Croiset led from the start and pulled out and appeared headed for the victory until slowing with mechanical issues mid-race. Teammate Manny Coats then took over at the front, having earlier passed both Colin Botha and the second-starting Erik Olson. Coats held a three-second lead at the finish, with Botha second and Olson rounding out the top three.
"It was a very hard race," Coats said at the finish. "I started fifth and it was really difficult to get by other cars at the beginning. I saw [teammate] Jeremy [Croiset] start to check out, but then he ended up breaking and it became a three-way battle with me, Erik [Olson] and Colin [Botha]. We were going back-and-forth, and then I think Colin's tires were going [off], and I was able to get by him."
Members of the Honda Racing Line taking part in the Honda Challenge races were eligible for up to $2,500 in contingency awards at Mid-Ohio. In addition, American Honda provided catered trackside hospitality exclusively for Honda/Acura competitors and their crew members. The tent offered a buffet lunch from Thursday, Sept. 8 through Saturday, Sept. 10.
Other Honda winners on the weekend included Brian Shanfeld, who overcame a back-of-the-field start after missing the qualifying races earlier in the week, to win PTD; and Brian Maske, in his fourth appearance at the National Championships, winning his first title in the PTE class and taking the TTE title as well. Maske dedicated the victory to his father, who passed away just two weeks prior to the race.
Launched in July 2009, the Honda Racing Line is a program targeted at licensed participants in sanctioned amateur and entry-level professional racing. The Honda Racing Line was formed to provide its members with a direct connection to Honda Performance Development and its unparalleled record of success at the highest levels of motorsport. Competitors may register for the Honda Racing Line through HondaRacingLine.com.
Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines.
HPD is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series and competes in prototype sports-car racing under the HPD banner in the American Le Mans Series, Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and the European-based Le Mans Series. HPD offers a variety of race engines for track applications from prototype sports cars to karting; for professional, amateur and entry-level racers.
2011 Honda NASA National Champions:
Honda Challenge 1: Jonathan Meris, Honda Civic
Honda Challenge 2: Manny Coats, Honda CRX
PTD: Brian Shanfeld, Honda Civic
PTE & TTE: Brian Makse, Honda Civic