Ruby Slippers: This year marks the 40th running of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. The event spent 30 of its first 36 years in the Sunflower state, but it’s not in Kansas any more. For the fourth-consecutive year, the event will be held on the concrete runways of the Lincoln Airpark.
SCCA has signed an agreement with the city of Lincoln and the airpark to remain at the location through 2017, with an additional five-year option that could keep the event in Lincoln through the 50th running of the event.
Coming Strong To Lincoln: With a week to go before competition gets underway, 1,161 entrants are on the entry list and expected to attend. That number bests the previous record of 1,157 competitors that attended the 2007 event at Heartland Park Topeka in Topeka, Kansas.
The Best In The Country: The Tire Rack Solo National Championships is a one-off event that crowns the National Champion in 69 classes. Additionally, there will be 11 supplemental classes, competing but not formally crowning a National Champion.
With the entire title dependent on just this one event, there’s little margin for error. One slip, one two-second penalty for hitting a cone could be the difference between a National Championship title and finishing out of the trophies.
Deans Of Course Design: The two courses used for this year’s National Championship events were appropriately designed by SCCA Hall of Famer Karen Babb and Roger Johnson, who have laid out more Nationals courses than anyone. Each competitor will spend one day of runs on each of the two courses, which are sure to feature a mixture of tight, technical layouts and fast, flowing turns.
Triad Conquerors: The top on-track honor an SCCA Solo driver can claim in a given season is the Solo Triad Award, which consists of a Tire Rack National Tour win, a States Championship, and a National Championship win, in the same class. Eighteen drivers are currently eligible for the award, with the toughest and most exclusive leg to be determined in Lincoln.
Those gunning for the honor include eight Stock Category drivers. Sam Strano (Super Stock), Shelly Monfort (Super Stock Ladies), Lane Borg and Paul Kozlak (A Stock), Meredith Brown (A Stock Ladies), Daniel McCelvey (C Stock), Jerry Jenkins (E Stock) and James Feinberg (H Stock) all make the list. Andy Hollis (Street Touring FWD), Jim Harnish (Street Touring Compact) Kraig Klippel (Street Touring S) and Sean Grubb (Street Touring U) represent the Street Touring category. In the Prepared groups, Joe Tharpe (Super Street Prepared), Doug Rowse (D Street Prepared), Mark Madarash (E Street Prepared) and Bo Rader (G Prepared) make the cut, with Carter Thompson (Super Street Modified) and Jeff Kiesel (E Modified) gunning for Triad awards in their classes.
The McClintock-Berry Cup is a similar award for young drivers. While not eligible for an official National Championship in the “Junior” classes, the Cup recognizes the same categories as the Triad award. A win in Lincoln would give Kevin Teague (Formula Junior A, for drivers aged 12-15) the title in his class, with Trey White and Zak Kiesel eligible in Formula Junior B – the 8-11 year-old group.
Champion Drivers, Road Race Division: While many drivers at the Tire Rack Solo National Championships make a career as an autocrosser, some spread their wings into other racing disciplines. Someone gunning for a title in Lincoln could we become an American racing legend in the future. Peter Cunningham and Randy Pobst, for instance, are former SCCA Solo National Champions before becoming the winningest professional road racing drivers of all time in the United States. Cunningham just secured his 10th professional racing Championship last weekend in the Pirelli World Challenge, while two-time Solo Champ Pobst has won four World Challenge Championships as a professional racer, and was a two-time National Champion at SCCA’s Runoffs for amateur road racing. Jason Saini was a two-time Solo National Champion before winning the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, and was a World Challenge Rookie of the Year. Jeff Altenburg won a title in Solo, at the Runoffs and in an SCCA Pro Racing series in the same season (1997), and was later a World Challenge Champion.
The newest driver to join that illustrious list is still a Solo competitor, and will be in Lincoln this week defending his Street Touring Roadster title. Last year’s National Champion by only 0.002 second, Thorne won a race in the Touring Car class of his Pirelli World Challenge debut last week in Sonoma, Calif.
Hill Climbing Notables: Like their road racing brethren, three of next week’s competitors used their Solo skills to participate in the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb just a few short weeks ago.
Jeremy Foley made national news when his run ended with a spectacular end-over-end tumble off the side of the mountain in his Mitsubishi Evolution. The car’s safety features held up, and Foley will drive a Mazda MX-5 in A Street Prepared.
Brianne Corn participated at Pike’s Peak, and is back in Lincoln to defend her B Modified title. Corn became just the third woman to win an open-class National Champion when she won last season. Christy Carlson is the defending Street Touring U Ladies Champion and also competed in the hill climb this season.
ProSolo Finale: Warming up the Lincoln Concrete is the Tire Rack ProSolo Finale. Many of the same drivers will compete in the ProSolo event over the weekend, which mixes autocross with a drag-racing “Christmas Tree” start. Using a competition balancing index system, drivers qualify for the bracket-style elimination round until only one driver is left standing. The TireRack ProSolo Finale runs Friday, August 31 through Sunday, Sept. 2. 270 drivers are currently on the event entry list.
Admission is Free: Lincoln-area residents, as well as friends, family and fans of those entered, who want to attend the Tire Rack Solo National Championships may do so free of charge.