ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Sept. 20, 2013) – Rob Warkocki, of Frankfort, Ill., earned his second Sports Car Club of America GT-3 class National Championship Friday at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs® at Road America. Joe Kristensen, of London, Ontario, finished second, followed by Mike Henderson, of Alpine, Calif.
Driving the No. 78 TRO Manufacturing/Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-7, Warkocki started third but moved to the point on the first lap of the 12-lap, 48-mile race. His lead did not last long, though, as Kristensen put his No. 4 Acura RSX up front in Turn Five on the second lap.
The pivotal moment of the race came on the sixth lap as the GT-3 leaders worked through the back part of the GT-2 field. Running second, Warkocki and the GT-2 class Nissan 300ZX of Robert Lentz made contact entering Turn 13, with Lentz ending up in the barriers, necessitating a caution period two laps later to clean up the incident.
“We were side-by-side in the corner [Turn 12], but I was on the damp part of the track on the inside,” Warkocki recalled. “He got a better run out of the corner and I let off the gas to give him a little breathing room and he can scoot away. I don’t know if he missed a shift. I’m not sure. Because, when I went back to the throttle after I lifted, I’m right on him; right on him to the point that I lifted his rear up and he was gone.
“It was really bad. It’s not something that I do. The car looked pretty bad and I hope he’s okay. We can fix cars, but fixing people is more difficult.”
Lentz was not injured in the incident.
When racing resumed, just two laps remained, and Warkocki hounded Kristensen, making his move for the lead under braking in Turn Eight. With that pass, Warkocki earned the GoPro HERO Move of the Race, and he held Kristensen off for the final lap around the four-mile circuit.
“In Turn Eight, in 2009, we lost a very good friend of ours named Tom Thrash. He was a fellow GT3 competitor and E Production champion. We were very close friends, and it still hurts. Every time I go through Turn 8, I think of him. Believe it or not, under hard braking there pulling in next to Joe, all I could think about was Tom. He was probably riding with me, it’s very emotional.
“The last lap, there was a gamble,” Warkocki said. “I really, really had to push extremely hard to stay ahead of Joe, because he was coming. Again, you have that mindset where you’re charging in there and hope there’s not enough grip. And you’re throwing cares to the wind because, if there’s not, it’s going to be bad. But if it is, I could win this whole thing. Obviously it paid off for us.”
Warkocki won his first Championship in 2010, but admitted he was better prepared to enjoy the second one.
“This time, I understand a little bit more about what happens,” Warkocki said. “I focused almost 25 years on winning the first one, and I never realized what happens after you win. I sat in this [interview] room almost three years ago, and I didn’t even know about this. I didn’t know what to expect. And I thought, if I ever win again, if I’m ever blessed enough to do that, I’m really going to enjoy this. I’ve experienced it now, and I can take a step back and really, really enjoy it. So this time is probably even sweeter than the first time, because I understand. Before, it was such a faraway dream and I didn’t ever think I could do this. Now that I’ve done it twice, it’s amazing.”
For Kristensen, it was his third runner-up finish at the National Championship Runoffs.
“I thought it was going to be my day,” Kristensen said. “I looked in my mirror and I saw Rob was a ways back, and we got some traffic there. The yellow came out, and Rob got the better of me on the start. He deserved to win, it was a great race and I loved it.
“I was pretty good through the Kink and the Carousel, Rob was pretty good on the front straight and through turn three. But all in all, we were pretty evenly matched.”
Henderson started his No. 12 Mazda/Red Line Oil/M2 Motorsports Mazda RX-7 from the SafeRacer Pole Position for the third time in his career, but dropped to third on the first lap, a position he would maintain throughout the run.
“Unfortunately, it rained and the track was pretty wet and I was a little bit tentative,” Henderson said. “It was a good thing for me that Rob took the point, because it helped me get around here. I saw a lot of guys going off in front and behind me, and I was tentative. The track dried out, and by that time, I couldn’t catch up to them. The yellow got me there, but by that time we had two laps left and I didn’t have a lot of tire. It didn’t work out for me, but I had a great race.”
Wolfgang Maike finished fourth in his No. 42 Toyota/RedLine Oil/Hoosier Toyota Paseo, followed by Paul Young, in his No. 79 Young Engineering LLC/Hoosier Tire Ford Probe.
Warkocki earned the Hawk Hot Lap award for turning the fastest race lap at a 1:25.688 (98.841 mph), as well as the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing two positions in the race.
The 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs®, The Pinnacle of American Motorsports, will crown Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing National Champions at Road America, Friday, September 20 through Sunday, September 22.
Follow all the live timing and scoring and get results at www.scca.com/runoffs. Live Twitter stream is available @SCCALive. Follow this weekend’s races on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SCCAOfficial.
The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available through Sunday at www.SpeedcastTV.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Provisional results for Friday’s SCCA GT-3 National Championship at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America, with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (3), Rob Warkocki, Frankfort, IL, Mazda RX-7, 12.
2, (2), Joe Kristensen, London, ON, Acura RSX, 12.
3, (1), Mike Henderson, Alpine, CA, Mazda RX-7, 12.
4, (4), Wolfgang Maike, Santa Barbara, CA, Toyota Paseo, 12.
5, (5), Paul Young, Commerce Township, MI, Ford Probe, 12.
6, (7), Chad Bacon, Kingsport, TN, Toyota Celica, 12.
7, (6), James Hargrove, Surrey, BC, Honda Civic, 12.
8, (11), James Ashe, Prospect, CT, Mazda RX-7, 12.
9, (8), George Cichon, Rockton, IL, Mazda RX-7, 12.
10, (10), Ken Nelson, Novi, MI, Nissan 200-SX, 12.
11, (9), Steven Lustig, Chester, NJ, Acura Integra, 12.
12, (12), Mark Ward, Loxahatchee, FL, Toyota Paseo, 12.
13, (14), Robert Herman, Cairo, NE, Mazda RX-7, 12.
14, (13), Jim Stinehelfer, Frisco, CO, Mazda Miata, 12.
15, (15), Brian Haupt, Spring Hill, KS, Mazda RX-7, 12.
16, (16), Chris Stevens, Shawnee, KS, Mazda RX-7, 10.
17, (18), Dave Dobry, Plymouth, MI, Eagle Talon, 6.
DNS, (17), Jim Speights, San Antonio, TX, Mazda Miata.
Overall Time of Race: 37:34.847
Average Race Speed: 76.635 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.708-second
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: Rob Warkocki, 2:25.688 (98.841 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #78 Rob Warkocki
Lap Leaders: Lap 1, #78 Warkocki; laps 2-10 Kristensen; laps 11-12 Warkocki
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