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2010 H2 Champs Race Report -- #21 Acura Integra

John A

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John Almazan

HPD Honda Challenge H2

#21 1998 Acura Integra

2010 HPD Honda Challenge National Championships

Miller Motorsports Park

Race Report


Videos of Qualifying Races: http://s12.photobucket.com/albums/a247/sr20ve/2010%20Nats%20Videos/

In-Car Video of Main Race:

SpeedCastTv coverage of Main Race: http://www.speedcasttv.com/nasa/#/races/190


Thursday, September 16


8:00 AM: Morning Practice. It was an uneventful session as the goal was to make sure the car was running fine. I watched oil temperatures and pressure as well as water temperature. I also listened for any funny noises and kept a lookout for any weird vibrations. Everything checked out. I ran an easy 2:16.913 as to not to wear out the car.


10:15AM: Qualifying. With the car feeling good I gridded early to have clear track for qualifying. Unfortunately, one an H1 car caught fire and the session was black flagged. No one posted any times. It was decided that practice times were to be used to determine grid order for the Thursday’s qualifying race later that day.


1:30PM: Qualifying Race. Despite running a 2:16.913, I qualified 5th for the race. It was a rolling start, with me on the inside of row 3. I put a little distance between me and the car ahead of me and try to time the green flag. I miscalculated and backed off. Soon afterwards the green flag flew and I took off. I was catching the 3rd place car fairly quickly and decided to come out of his slipstream and pass him. It looked like everyone ahead of me was moving at relatively the same speed. So I continued passing everyone. I was all set to pass the leader when I misshifted while trying to get into 5th. I settled into 3rd place at the first turn. I chased the 2nd place car of Loren Fancy and decided that my best chance to pass him safely is back on the main straight. It would seem I have a pretty strong motor and I could easily pass him if I come off the last turn without any mistakes. My patience and my plan worked. I came off the last turn as planned and quickly dropped into his slipstream. I quickly caught Loren and passed him. I am now in 2nd place. With the leader 1 second ahead of me and moving pretty good, I decided to settle in 2nd place and bring the car home in one piece. It is only 1 of 2 qualifying races after all. I continued to follow the leader around the track. I was able to put some distance between me and the 3rd place runner so there was no threat from behind. I finished in 2nd place out of 18 with a fastest lap time of 2:15.863. The leader, Jonathan Meris, had a fastest lap time of 2:15.809. Car felt good and was able to bring it home without any problems. I was satisfied with the result.


Results from Thursday's Qualifying Race: http://www.mylaps.com/results/showrun.jsp?id=1692153&perclass=1


Friday, September 17


8:00 AM: Morning Practice. I decided to run the same procedure as I did yesterday’s practice. Again it was an uneventful session as the goal was to make sure the car was running fine. I watched oil temperatures and pressure as well as water temperature. I also listened for any funny noises and kept a lookout for any weird vibrations. Everything checked out. I ran a 2:17.723. A bit slower than yesterday but nothing to be too concerned about.


10:15AM: Qualifying. I decided to put on some brand new Toyo RA-1’s to scrub for Saturday’s main race. I would run them hard for the first 3 laps and pull it in. I was informed that the tires being new, they would not be as fast as other tires that already had some heat cycles in them. However, I figured they would be good enough to qualify well. I was wrong. The tires felt terrible. I didn’t think they were going to be this bad. The car went from understeer to oversteer. I was fighting the car the whole time and it showed on the timesheet: I ran a 2:16.209 with the leader turning a 2:14.675! I was going slower and the leaders were getting faster. I qualified 6th on the grid for Friday’s qualifying race.


1:30PM: Qualifying Race. I put on the tires I raced on Thursday. This time I was on the outside of row 3. There were 5 fast cars ahead of me. But I had a pretty good engine and I seem to have a knack for getting good rolling starts. We came around onto the front straight and the green flag flew. I had another great start! I immediately passed the 5th and 4th place car. I was 3rd going into the first turn behind Jeremy Croiset in 2nd and Jonathan Meris in 1st. The 3 of us cleared the rest of the pack. I decided to have them battle it out while I sit back and wait for them to make a mistake. These two were fast! I was working just to keep up.


Start of lap 2 I see that I started to gain ground on the leaders but not enough as we entered turn 1. They were slowly pulling away from me as the lap progressed.


Start of lap 3 I see that I still haven’t been gaining any ground however they weren’t pulling away from me either. At turn 4 I see Meris slow up considerably. He has car issues and subsequently fell out of the race. I finished the race in 2nd place behind Jeremy Croiset. Another 2nd place. With two 2nd place finishes, I grabbed pole position for the mains on Saturday. Not bad.


Results of Friday’s Qualifying Race: http://www.mylaps.com/results/showrun.jsp?id=1692155&perclass=1


Saturday, September 18


9:25 AM: Morning Practice. We put on the new race tires to scrub them a little more. I went out and ran them hard to quickly get some heat into them. I got a little of a tank slapper going into turn 3 but recovered. I checked temperatures and pressures. Everything checked out. I pull it in and clean up the car for the main race.


1:40 PM: Main Race. So this is it. We’re finally ready to run the race and in 40 minutes time we’ll know who the 2010 HPD Honda Challenge National Champion will be. With that, we’re starting the race in the best possible place – pole position. Starting next to me is the fast CRX of Jeremy Croiset and in the 10th spot (due to a distributor failure) is the ever quick Jonathan Meris. Instead of the rolling start that was employed in the 2 qualifying races, it was decided to have a standing start for the start of the mains. I started with the new tires I scrubbed yesterday and earlier today.


We roll out on the parade lap and I begin to warm up the tires and the brakes. I also run through all the gears just to make sure their all ready to go as well. The pace car pulls off and we turn the final corner onto the front straight. I find the cone that indicates where I should stop on the grid. Everyone else falls in accordingly. I put in gear, bring up the revs and I’m watching for the wave of the green flag. If I can keep Jeremy behind me from the start, he’ll have to race me and at the same time watch his rear view mirror. The key was to have a great start. Don’t spin the tires.


The green flag comes out, unfurled and finally waves. I was able to get on the gas hard without any wheel spin. At the same time I hear in my helmet “Green flag! Green flag! Go! Go! GO!!!” Out of the corner of my eye, I see Croiset moving back. I got another good start! I concentrate on my shifting making sure I don’t commit any misshifts. I continue to rocket down the front straight. I see the first turn and start to move to position myself to try to defend. I look in my rear view mirror to see where Croiset was. He was about a car length or two behind me and behind him a field of 16 other cars!! I didn’t have a good start, I had a GREAT start! I enter turn 1 without any problems. I go into turn 2 and quickly scan my rearview mirror to see where Croiset was. He’s still behind me but closer. Croiset was fiendishly fast in the turns all week. I also saw something else unexpected: A flash of Meris’ car behind Croiset. Meris moved up 7 places into 3rd. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who had a great start. I go through lap 1 with Croiset all over me. Unfortunately for Croiset, Meris was all over him as well. Lap 1 complete and I’m still in the lead.


At the start of Lap 2 I hear “debris at turn 2!” I look as far forward as I can see and there at the exit of turn 2 is a black bumper. I round turn 2 and avoid the bumper. As I’m doing so, I notice a thick stream of dust obscuring turn 3. I quickly assess that I wasn’t in any danger of hitting any out-of-control cars. I decided to fly through the dust. Besides, Croiset would pounce if I let up in any way.


I clear the dust and immediately I see gravel laid across the apex of 3. WHOA! The car slid to the outside. I quickly gathered it up but Croiset took advantage. He passed me on the inside at the apex of 4. He goes defensive going into 5. I take my normal line. Croiset goes wide at the exit of 5 and I cut back to the inside. Unfortunately that puts me on the outside going into 6. Croiset moves to the left ahead of me entering 6. He brakes a bit early and I take the inside line. I regain the lead at the exit of 6 but not without getting a little donut from Croiset on my driver side rear quarter panel/door. I start turning into 7 and felt a little vibration. I hesitated. That slight hesitation cost me. Croiset passed me on the outside of 7 going into the S’s. I continued to give chase from the S’s all the way to the final turn onto the main straight. Croiset knows my car is faster down the straight so he begins to slowly snake to try to break the draft. I follow anyway and gain on him. Lap 2 complete and I’m running second.


I wind through the gears all the while gaining on Croiset. I reach for 5th, misshift. I quickly try again and this time it goes in. It cost me again but was able still gain on the leader. Entering turn 1 I’m back on his bumper but go in a little wide. Croiset takes off and Meris now takes advantage and passes me at turn 2. I give chase. We go into turn 3. Croiset goes through fine but Meris hits some of the gravel and goes sliding. Meris was able to recover and continue on. I slow a little just so I can get through without going off. I continue to give chase. I look in my rear view mirror and I see the 4th place runner is way behind. I can concentrate on what’s ahead of me. I continue through lap 3 chasing Meris and Croiset. They are slowly pulling away. We get on the front straight and I stand on it trying to gain ground on the leaders. Lap 3 complete.


As I continue down the straight I see Meris make a pass on Croiset to take the lead. I continue to give chase through lap 4. No changes in position. Lap 4 complete.


Entering turn 1 on Lap 5 I can see Croiset is right on Meris’ bumper. They enter turn 2 and Croiset tries to take Meris on the inside. Meris turns in but has to turn in a little more to avoid the bumper that’s still sitting on the exit of 2. They both tangle up and go off. This is my chance! I push as hard as I can to get to 3 before they come back on track. I was able to get by Meris but Croiset gets to 3 before me. I slide into 2nd with Meris running 3rd. We enter turn 4. Croiset’s car doesn’t seem right. He goes into 4 late and starts drifting around the corner. I try to get underneath him and I hit the rev limiter at 2nd gear. I quickly go into 3rd and Croiset recovers. I hear “double yellows in my ear piece” at the same time Donna Gilio goes by me! She seemed to have timed that pass perfectly. Under yellow, it’s Croiset in 1st, Gilio in 2nd, Almazan 3rd, and Meris 4th. Despite the full course yellow and the pace car is out, we play follow the leader at speed. We complete lap 5 and we STILL haven’t seen the pace car and we’re still under double yellow conditions.


We continue with lap 6 under double yellow. We finally catch the pace car the rest of the H1 pack at the exit of turn 6. We continue lap 6 with the pace car. Pace car pulls off at the last turn of lap 6 and we’re on the front straight. The green flag is about to fly!


Lap 7 we have green flag conditions. I gain on Gilio’s bumper. I’m setting up to pass her. I reach for 5th it won’t go in! I reach for 5th again and again it won’t go in! I forcefully go to 5th and this time it goes in. The racing week is finally taking its toll on my car. My little mishap with 5th gear cost me the pass on Gilio. We go into 1 and Gilio goes underneath Croiset to go for the lead. They go side by side and almost hit. I watch carefully and try to position myself to take advantage of any mishaps between the two. Up ahead are some of the slower H1 cars so we have them to contend with. Gilio and Croiset exit turn 1 with Gilio sliding in back behind Croiset. I continue chasing them with Meris right behind me. Toward the end of the lap we start to pass the first of the slower H1 cars. At the last turn before the straight, Croiset has already made the pass on the slower H1 car. Gilio is still trying to make the pass with me closely following behind. I figure if I can another good exit out of the last turn, I can take Gilio and the slower H1 car all at once. The plan worked somewhat. I took 2nd place back from Gilio but wasn’t able to get around the slower H1 car at the entrance of turn 1 on lap 8.

I get pass the slower H1 car by turn 5 on lap 8 and I see Croiset up ahead. I give chase. Maybe some of the H1 cars ahead of him will give him some grief. I have another chance to regain the lead on the front straight. In my exuberance I exited Club House Corner a bit wide, hit the rumble strips and the car starts to slide out. Meris passes me underneath and I recover back into 3rd. Fine, I’ll follow Meris into the last turn get in his draft and bump draft him down the straight. Maybe we can catch up the Croiset who put some distance between us. I come around the last turn on following Meris. I get on the gas and something is wrong. I don’t feel the power that I’ve grown accustomed to all week. Meris starts to pull away and Gilio puts a pass on me on the straight. Something is wrong. I look down and my check engine light is on. I check for VTEC. It’s not there. At that point my race is over.


Lap 9 I watch as the leaders go off into the distance. I get to turn 2 and I see a car slowing ahead of me. It’s Croiset. It looks like he has car trouble as well. I eventually get passed him as he slows and pulls off. I continue hoping that somehow the check engine light goes away and my VTEC comes back. I continue to get passed by the rest of the field as I go through lap 9. By the time the lap was over, I’m running last among all the cars still running.


I continued on with the race, shutting down my car completely, coasting down the front straight and restarting it in hopes to reset the ECU and clear the check engine light for the next 7 to 8 laps. No such luck. Despite my lack of pace and no other reason to continue, I was determined to see the checker. At least we can say we finished the race.


Although the records indicating I’ve completed only 15 laps, I completed all 17 laps. There were times my car was shutdown (including my transponder) on the front straight and timing and scoring didn’t see my car go by. Eventually I will finish in 13th place.


Not exactly the finish we were looking for. However, we did come away knowing that we had a strong car. We just needed a little bit more reliability from it. Despite the disappointing finish we learned quite a few things along the way. We’ll take that knowledge and make improvements to the car—especially its reliability--and we’ll be ready to fight for the Championship again.


Congratulations to the podium finishers Greg Neuwirth finishing 3rd, Donna Gilio finishing 2nd and Jonathan Meris taking top honors and becoming the 2010 HPD Honda Challenge H2 National Champion.


Here are the results from the main race: http://www.mylaps.com/results/showrun.jsp?id=1693593&perclass=1



Result Thursday Qualifying: 5th on Grid

Result Thursday Qualifying Race: 2nd Place

Result from Friday Qualifying: 6th on Grid

Result Friday Qualifying Race: 2nd Place

Result from Qualifying Races: Pole Position for Main Race

Result Main race: 13th Place


I’d like to thank the following for all their support:

• My Crew: Anthony Samonte, Glenn Swinn, and Michelle Almazan

• Honda Performance Development

• Toyo Tires

• Midnight Performance

• APR Performance

• Konig Wheels

• Meris Motorsports




Following picture courtesy of Ashley from Redstone racing team:



Edited by Guest
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Why is the vid of the final race only 10 minutes?


Mike, I edited my post. Apparently photobucket chopped it at 10 minutes. I've since moved the main video to vimeo. The entire video is posted there. Enjoy.



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