This year’s annual Hallett Summer Shootout featured a field of three new NASA Prototypes driven by Matt Rivard, David Beckmann and Dave Balingit. This was the first points weekend of the NASA Prototype Atlantic Series Championship and it turned out to be a great location as none of the drivers frequent this location and therefore no one had home track advantage. Beckmann having never driven the track, wisely took advantage of a full test day to learn the circuit and try different settings.
Saturday morning’s qualifying found Beckmann on the NP01 pole and 12th on the overall grid, having used the test day to his best advantage. Balingit was one second off, but took overall spot number 13. Rivard had an issue in qualifying and started 24th overall. Had Rivard been able to participate in qualifying his practice time from the morning session would have placed him right between Beckmann and Balingit. At the drop of the green flag, the rookie Beckmann who was still getting used to the concept of rolling starts stumbled just a bit which allowed Balingit and two other cars to surge ahead. Balingit was able to keep a Super Unlimted car between himself and Beckmann for the 8 lap race which Rivard was able to slowly catch up and start to harass Beckmann. At the checkered it was still Balingit, Beckmann and Rivard. The laptimes for the NP01’s were respectively; 1:25.188, 1:25.027 and 1:25.010!
Race 2 for Saturday was gridded based on the finishing position of the prior race. The start was a little closer with the three cars all in one group heading into the first turn. At turn 3, traffic backed up and Rivard was able to sneak around the outside of Beckmann and took over 2nd position. For the next 3 laps, Balingit played the same strategy as in race 1 by keeping a Super Unlimited Stock car between he and the other NP01s. A bobble at the exit of turn 1 allowed the buffer to get around Balingit and a lift by Rivard allowed Backmann to regain 2nd position. By turn 6 Balingit had lost the gap and his rear view camera was filled by the giant Firehawk symbol on Beckmann’s nose. Over the next three laps Beckmann tried several late braking moves and found himself along side Balingit but off the quick racing line. With Rivard filling his mirrors, he chose each time to drop back in line to protect his position. One final dive attempt into Hallett’s famed “Bitch” had Beckmann hoping over the apex curb and losing that position to Rivard and they finished in that order. The quicker pace of the second race dropped the laptimes down into the high 1:23 range and Rivard the new track record.
As with race 2, race 3 on Sunday morning was gridded using the prior finishing position. Rivard took advantage of an open inside line into turn 1 and passed Balingit for the lead. It was now Rivard’s turn to use the other traffic to keep the other NP01’s at bay. Eventually traffic cleared and Balingit had a clear view and was less than 4 car lengths behind Rivard. An early turn in for Balingit forced him up and over the inside apex curbing and caused a spin allowing Beckmann to breeze by. Beckman continued to chase Rivard while Balingit tried his best to make up the lost ground due to the spin. Beckmann had what appeared to be a “lack of go juice” and limped across the start finish line at the white flag and Balingit took over 2nd place. Rivard took the win, but Beckmann reset the track record down to a 1:22.152.
The final Summer Shootout Championship race was gridded based on points as we do for the NASA Championships events. Balingit with 2 wins and a third was first in NP01, Rivard with one win a third and two seconds and then Beckmann with a second and two thirds. Earlier that morning, Balingit grasped at a few straws to find the second a lap he had lost to the other 2 cars and played with suspension settings. The roll of the dice did not reward Balingit who managed to drive off track in turn one on the warm up lap. The first two laps stayed in order as traffic sorted itself out with Balingit, Rivard and Beckmann glued to each other. Exiting the aforementioned “Bitch”, Balingit’s car took a wider line which lifted a rear tire and he was unable to keep power planted to the ground. Rivard and Beckmann powered by to take the two top spots. Balingit slowly dropped back and eventually retired with a car “…too scary to drive.” For the next 7 laps, Beckmann harassed Rivard never dropping back more than a car length. At the end of lap 12, it was Rivard with Beckman tucked right under his bumper.
Exiting the weekend, Rivard leads the series with 375 points, Beckmann with 350 and Balingit 339. The next Championship Series race will be September 22-25th at Watkins Glen in conjunction with the NASA Eastern States Championships presented by Toyo Tires.