VTEC Club’s Battle Of California At Buttonwillow

Fun fact: “If you build it, they will come,” is a famous movie misquote.

The original line written for Kevin Costner’s character in the movie Field of Dreams was: “If you build it, he will come,” which referred to the ghost of Costner’s deceased father, who was a big baseball fan.

As it turns out, the word “they” lent a tremendous amount of value to situations in which a little kick in the pants is needed to build (or organize, or just start) something great, so the mistaken line stuck. And that’s great for our purposes, because not too long ago Duane Bada, Extreme Speed Track Events, and friends built VTEC Club, and Honda-powered time-attack enthusiasts have definitely come. A lot of them.

VTEC Club returned to its regularly scheduled 2019 season after more than a four-month break, and the event round continued the season streak of selling out among serious competitors and track-day enthusiasts. After shedding some weight from the schedule, this year’s six competition events offer something unique and different designed to keep regular wheelmen engaged while encouraging new drivers to enter the fold. So far, it seems to be a winning recipe.

You’ll recall our coverage of VTEC Club’s sold-out Round One competition at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in March, so deep in the California desert it’s basically Arizona. Round Two couldn’t have been further from that, taking place at Buttonwillow Raceway, right in the middle of Central California’s breadbasket. Dubbed the “NorCal vs. SoCal battle”, it further proved the ethos by bringing out a record number of drivers from each camp, including some all-new additions.

For however many NorCal-ers came (and we appreciate that!) they … tried their best. However, Team SoCal more or less had their way with them. Fastest of the day by a large margin, was SoCal’s Dustin Dessero, with a blistering 1:49.499 time in his Group A No. 138 S2000—six and a half seconds faster than Group A’s second-place finisher (and second fastest of the day), Socal’s David Lara, with a 1:56.001 from his No. 587 S2K. Claiming third was SoCal’s Chris Elders, with a 1:56.919 from his No. 140 S2000.

Just a bit of context: Chris is quick. He won the inaugural, invite-only Attack Challenge held during Round 1 festivities at Chuckwalla, which makes Dustin’s quickest lap this time (in some crazy summer heat, no less!) extremely impressive. Dustin was so quick that even I couldn’t catch him. I had to rely on the talented Thomas Lee to provide the photo of him seen here.

Team Norcal got buried a wee bit more in Group A2, with VTEC Club vet Jason Kim nabbing the win with a 1:58.292 in his no. 69 S2000. Not far behind was Socal’s Jesse Jia, with a 1:59.993 in his no. 554 S2000, and just barely behind him was Ivan Cai — finally a NorCaler! — with a 2:00.032 … in another S2000.

Breaking up the S2000 cool-guy club was SoCal’s John Cruz and his “Goldy” EG hatch, scantly missing the podium with a 2:00.628—nowhere near his best with the freakishly quick Civic, but still very impressive. Oh, and previous VTEC Club champ Matt Rojana also came out to play, with his immaculate Ballade Sports S2000 freshly out of the shop after two years and landing fifth in-class this time (which he’s sure to improve upon, soon).

One final S2000 earned top honors by winning Group N competition in Round Two competition at Buttonwillow: Billy Jang and his No. 369 roadster (1:59.888), who engaged in the closest podium battle of any class with Thomas Van in his No. 555 red EG (1:59.930) and AJ Jaquias and his S2K (2:00.354)—all from Socal.

Everyone in Group N1 got beat by a girl—by a lot. Muoi Tran ran a new personal best and won the class by more than four seconds in her No. 47 EK, with a 2:01.444. If that is not impressive enough, E46 BMW M3 racer Tony Jackson clinched second from behind the wheel of his TSX daily with a 2:05.077, just barely ahead of Nissan 350Z racer/drifter Michael “Stubz” Hillo, who belted out a quick 2:05.126 in the No. 568 EK hatch. Again, all from SoCal.

Team SoCal also dominated the beater class, Group N2 (We kid!! But not really), with dual-entrant owner Chris Garay running a best 2:09.542 in either his Prelude or Integra. We don’t know, because neither he nor Duane got back to us with the info. It might be because they just don’t know either—for two entirely different cars, they both look very … “Group N,” shall we say.

Javier Rodriguez earned second in class with a quick 2:10.562 from his No. 156 Integra LS, right before pushing too hard and nearly burying it in the outfield, and our man Rocco Pedreira defended the Fit’s honor with a 2:13.394 to claim third in class.

VTEC Club’s next adventure will be their much-anticipated annual night event, running the Streets of Willow circuit counterclockwise on August 31. If you’re one of “they” (one of us) who love a good time at the track with friends, friendly competition, and some cold ones after the track goes cold, meet us there.

Get involved via the link below, and remember to follow Front Street for more, all season long: