50th Runoffs Under Way From Road America
History is in the making at Road America this week. Here are just some of the things we're looking for:
50th Runoffs Celebration: The 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs began officially on Monday, with all 28 National Championship-eligible classes running a practice session at Road America. The week-long event culminates with the victory laps of the freshly crowned National Champions during races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The SCCA Runoffs has been crowning National Champions for 50 years, and some of racing’s greats have used an SCCA title to springboard their careers. Bobby Rahal, Mark Donohue, Roger Penske, actor/driver Paul Newman, Graham Rahal, Scott Sharp and Randy Pobst all made their name at the Runoffs.
Elkhart Lake Party: The 700 competitors and 550 volunteer workers at the 50th Runoffs have plenty of extracurricular activities throughout the week. Monday night’s welcome party, hosted by the Elkhart Lake Chamber of Commerce, is in downtown Elkhart Lake at the Osthoff Hotel. Wednesday and Thursday’s big events take place at the race track for the BFGoodrich Tires Worker of the Year dinner and the 50th Runoffs Celebration on Thursday night.
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Feats: The racers at this week’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs are a unique mix of talented drivers. Most are “weekend warriors,” mixing it up on the track on the weekends before heading home to their day-to-day jobs through the week. Some are youngsters with an eye on a professional driving career, honing their craft while looking to the future. The common theme to an SCCA competition is that these are seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things with racecars.
Closing The Road America Chapter: The SCCA Runoffs are visiting the four-mile Road America for the fifth time in this era of the event. It’s just the sixth track to host the event, following Riverside International Raceway (1964, 1966, & 1968), the road course at Daytona International Speedway (1965, 1967 & 1969), Road Atlanta (1970-1993), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (1994-2005), and Heartland Park Topeka (2006-2008).
The near future of the Runoffs has already been announced, as the event will travel to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (2014), Daytona International Speedway (2015), and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (2016) over the next three years.
Champions Return Home: For the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs, all past National Champions were declared eligible to participate.
Many drivers who had been away from SCCA Club Racing have chosen to take advantage of the exemption. Some drivers had “retired”, like seven-time champion Dave Weitzenhof, who scored a DNF in 2009 at his last Runoffs appearance before showing up this year in Formula Vee. Jerry Barker, David Daughtery, Tom Hughes, Mike Rand, Jamie Houseman and Arnie Loyning fall into this category.
Others, like Pirelli World Challenge driver Randy Pobst, current off road racer Andrew Caddell, or pro racer and driving instructor Tony Kester are using the week as an excuse to get back to their Club Racing roots.
John Morton, the former IMSA champion, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring winner, and 1970 and 1971 C Production SCCA National Champion will make his return to the cockpit this week in E Production.
Record Watch: The 50th Runoffs has brought a number of cars out to celebrate the occasion. As of Monday morning’s post time, 710 cars remained on the entry list.
If each of those cars turned a lap throughout the week of competition, that would eclipse the previous Runoffs best of 709 cars at Mid-Ohio in 2004.
Accompanying that is the record 60 cars that started the 2010 Spec Miata race. A full track of 62 cars ran Monday morning’s practice session, with seven more on the entry list to participate.
World Class Broadcast: Once again, every race at this year’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs will be streamed live from Road America on www.SpeedCastTV.com. The on-air team includes broadcast veterans Rick Benjamin, John Bisignano, Dorsey Schroeder and Jim Tretow as well as current Pirelli World Challenge driver, and former Runoffs Champion, Randy Pobst and new team member Jeff Lepper, who calls the live World Challenge races on SpeedcastTV.
Championship Worthy: Monday opened with just practice sessions… Jim Downing, running in C Sports Racing this week, was the polesitter in the inaugural Runoffs race. Downing finished 10th in Formula Vee in 1964, but was a podium finisher most recently in 2011… The same CSR group was first out this morning. Jason Miller, of nearby Sheboygan Falls, Wis., was the first car on track for the history-making event… Michael Ross, of Friendswood, Texas, was the first big accident of the week. His No. 22 X-Factor Racing/TPR Consulting Mazda Miata hit the wall in Turn 14. He was uninjured, but the Spec Miata will need some work for his week to continue… The first qualifying laps will be turned in a combined group for C Sports Racing and D Sports Racing on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (CDT). Super Touring Under will take the green flag for the first race on Friday morning at 8:45 a.m.
Qualifying: 28 classes, running Tuesday, September 17 through Thursday, September 19. Each class gets one 30-minute session per day.
Races: Friday, September 20 through Sunday, September 22
A complete schedule and entry list is available at www.scca.com/runoffs.
Race Lengths: 13 laps, 52 miles or a 40 minute time limit
Broadcast: All 28 races will be broadcast live on www.speedcasttv.com throughout the weekend.
Timing/Scoring: Live Timing & Scoring and lap notes via the SCCA® Pit Board are available for all sessions through www.scca.com.