March 28, 2007: The second season of the North American MINI Cooper Championship (NAMCC) got underway under perfect weather conditions at Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump, NV near Las Vegas, on Friday March 23rd. Two rounds of the championship were contested with a special appearance by the 2006 British MINI Challenge Series Champion, Gareth Nixon taking on the U.S. counterparts for this race as part of his season-ending championship prize.
The 2006 NAMCC Champion, Waylen Hunsucker had previously contested one event of the British series at the end of the 2006 season. Hunsucker, a relative rookie in racing went up against the more veteran British racers and managed a top ten finish in the highly competitive UK MINI Challenge Series. Here in the USA, the NAMCC is in its more formulative stages and interest was high to see how well the American drivers could do against the veteran British champion.
At the traditional ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œstanding startÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â of the first race, series newcomer and pole sitter, Bob Scheer took a narrow lead from 2nd place Nixon. Randall Smalley followed close behind in 3rd. At the end of the second lap, Scheer got sideways and Nixon, taking advantage, moved into the lead but clipped the corner of ScheerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s car. Both continued, albeit Scheer had fallen to 3rd behind
Smalley. As Scheer tried to close the gap back to the leaders there was contact with Smalley and both were forced to retire. Meanwhile the action was not only at the front of the grid. Brian Black was charging closely behind U.S. series champion Waylen Hunsucker, but fading brakes resulted in Black hitting Hunsucker from behind bringing BlackÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s race to a premature
conclusion. Hunsucker motored on but was unable to catch the UK champion who had managed to open a gap between himself and Hunsucker. At the checkered, UK champion Nixon beat U.S. champion Hunsucker with series newcomer Clark Brownstein driving Phil WicksÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Racing showroom stock MCS taking the checkered in 3rd place.
With several of the most competitive entries sidelined for the 2nd race, Gareth Nixon found that his primary competition would be from U.S. champion Hunsucker. But after the start, NixonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s greater experience in racing MINIs began to show as he managed to increase his lead by about a half second each lap. Despite the hard charging efforts of Hunsucker, he was unable to catch Nixon to finish in 2nd place with Brownstein repeating his 3rd place finish and rookie racer Carolyn Kujala in another showroom stock MINI Cooper S finishing 4th.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have come a long way in a year,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â commented series organizer Phil Wicks. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt is a challenge to create an American version of the highly successful British series, but I am proud of our competitors here today and they managed to give Gareth Nixon a bit of a run for his money. This was no pushover and one mistake by Nixon would have changed the result. Our guys did a very commendable job and it was an exciting race to watch. I want to thank all of
our competitors for putting on such a great race.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Series official sponsor MavTV was there in force with five cameras covering the on track action and five in-car cameras recording the action from the cockpit. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe MavTV guys were great,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â added Wicks. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey are so enthusiastic about MINI racing and it shows in their approach to covering our races.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â In addition to MavTV, series official sponsors include ALTA MINI Performance, Hendrick Motorsports, Kumho Tires, Minnie Pearl Foundation (official charity)
and newly added M7 Performance.
The next events on the schedule are rounds 3 and 4 of the western division series The Streets of Willow at Willow Springs, CA on May 12-13. The series will then move east for the first of the eastern events at Summit Point Raceway on May 18-20.
For more information on the NAMCC, visit the website at www.minidriving.com and click on the race series pages.