Earlier this year, Honda Performance Development announced a new contingency program for NASA racers in connection with its sponsorship of the Honda Challenge category. All Honda and Acura racers competing at Miller received $500 for taking part in the National Championships, while contingency awards of up to $1,500 were also paid out to the top three finishers in each of the Honda Challenge classes.
Graham Downey claimed the Honda Challenge 1 race victory in his Redstone Motorsports Honda Civic, edging the Honda Prelude of Brandon Kraus, with Brian Shanfeld rounding out the top three in his Team Honda Research Acura TL Type S. Shanfeld went on to win the PTB class championship on Sunday in the same car.
Against one of the larger fields of the weekend, Jonathan Meris won the Honda Challenge 2 race in his Midnight Performance Civic, despite contact early in the race that resulted in a damaged front wheel. After a full-course caution period, Meris passed the Diva Racing entry of Donna Gilio to take the victory.
“The Honda Civic came through when it really counted,” Meris recounted. “At the start, I was able to go from eighth to third by the time we got to the first turn. Unfortunately, the #25 car [of Jeremy Croiset] and I got together and our front wheels seemed like they locked together. Little did I know that a couple of the spokes of my Konig wheel broke off [in the contact]. Luckily, the wheel held together! After the double yellow, I was able to find my groove and work my way to the front. Then I just had to make sure to stay clean to the checkered flag.”
Gilio and Greg Neuwirth, both in Acura Integras, rounded out the top-three finishers in the 18-car Challenge 2 field.
“It was a fantastic event. It’s good to see Honda supporting grassroots racing in this country,” said Gilio, who also finished third in Sunday’s TC race. “If you’re a girl and want to start racing, get into a Honda and race in the Honda Challenge. It’s competitive, fun and the culture of Honda racers are good people.”
Honda/Acura NASA Championship Results:
Honda Challenge 1 (Top 3 finishers)
1. Graham Downey (Redstone Motorsports Honda Civic)
2. Brandon Kraus (Honda Prelude)
3. Brian Shanfeld (THR Acura TL Type S)
Honda Challenge 2 (Top 3 finishers)
1. Jonathan Meris (Midnight Performance Honda Civic)
2. Donna Gilio (Diva Racing Acura Integra)
3. Greg Neuwirth (AEM Acura Integra)
1. Brian Shanfeld (THR Acura TL Type S)
3. Donna Gilio (Diva Racing Acura Integra)
4. Manny Coats (Iron Clover Inc. Honda CRX)
5. Jeremy Croiset (Hasport/ASR Honda CRX)
2. Tage Evanson (KSport Honda Civic)