ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (September 20, 2013) – Jim Drago, of Memphis, Tenn., survived a record field of 69 cars to win back-to-back Spec Miata titles at the 50th SCCA® National Championship Runoffs®. Voytek Burdzy, of Algonquin, Ill., and Danny Steyn, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., completed the podium at Road America.
Drago became the first person in the eight-year history of the class to win a second National Championship, taking the checkered flag 0.150-second in front of Burdzy. Drago averaged 74.525 mph in the 13-lap, 52-mile race that was slowed by one caution for four laps.
The 69 starters was a Runoffs record, breaking the previous mark of 60 set by the same class in 2010. Unfortunately, eight of those Miatas were eliminated in a first lap crash in turn seven, after a spinning car caused a pileup mid pack.
A swarm of Miatas that stretched 16 deep were in the lead group early in the race, where Drago took the lead from the SafeRacer pole in his No. 2 East Street Racing Mazda Miata. Drago missed a shift coming through turn three, with teammate Craig Berry taking the point in the No. 29 Berry Marble and Granite/East Street Racing Miata. His lead lasted until late in lap two, when Steve Gorriaran moved his No. 44 Gorilla Racing/Driven Performance Miata to the head of the pack.
A full course caution to clean up that incident slowed the field on lap three, and 16 cars were within striking distance on the restart. Berry reclaimed the lead on lap nine, but mechanical problems forced him to pull out of the lead and off the track on lap 10.
When Berry pulled off, the No. 74 Reynolds Bros./Race Engineering Miata of Matt Reynolds moved into the lead for the first time. That lasted until just before the front straight, where Erik Stearns found his No. 97 East Street Racing/Ed’s 24 Hour Service Miata back in front with a push from Drago and a chance to break away.
There was no getting away for either driver, as Stearn’s day ended with one and a half laps to go following contact with his teammate and friend.
“One of my best friends in and out of racing is Erik Stearns,” Drago said. “I went down into five and the car got really squirrelly and just touched him enough to get him out of shape, then he put the car off in six. I’m just sick. It’s a little bit shallow as far that goes, because you never want to see that happen to anyone – let alone one of your best friends. I’ve got a lot of apologizing to do for that one, because I’m sure he’s upset. He’s got every right to be.”
That incident moved Burdzy, who had started 10th in the No. 41 Advanced Autosport Miata, into the lead temporarily. Unfortunately, it also allowed the second scrum of cars to close on the leaders.
On the start of the final lap, Drago, Reynolds and Elivan Goulart, in the No. 70 SAC Racing/SCDA1.com Miata, freight trained past Burdzy through turn one. Goulart moved up front under braking in five, but Drago had a counter in six. Once in front, Drago had enough of a run to take the National Championship.
“I think we’re all a little bit mentally exhausted. It was just a crazy, crazy race,” Drago said.
“I was fortunate enough to win, but there were 15 guys that could have won this race. Any one of these guys could have won. I think everyone tried to be fair. All of us have raced here enough that I think the mindset was to get to the front fast, because the race can be over any lap after lap seven.”
Drago pointed out just how difficult it was.
“You didn’t have to tell anybody to try. I think everyone was trying on every lap, on every corner.”
Burdzy knew he was a sitting duck in the draft when he crossed the stripe in the lead with one to go.
“When Jim and Erik had contact in Turn 5, I was in the lead, but my crew guy told me there was one more lap, this wasn’t the last lap,” Burdzy said. “And of course, everybody behind me decided at that moment to stop fighting so they drafted past me in the first turn on the last lap.”
Steyn had mechanical troubles during Tuesday’s qualifying session, and, with rain the rest of the week, started 26th. He passed several cars on the start, was in 10th on the restart, and worked his way into contention by the finish for his first career Runoffs podium. That march through the field was enough to earn the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
“This is an event, this whole week, where it has to go right from the beginning,” Steyn said. “And unfortunately, on that very cold day on Tuesday, I lost a gear on the second lap of qualifying, and ended up 42nd place. And of course, thereafter the weather never cooperated, and the best I could do was move up into 26th place.
“To get to the podium from 26th place was not something that I was expecting, dreaming of, but the race was very aggressive. A lot of people were making a lot of very significant moves, trying to make up track position, because I think a lot of people feared a lot of laps would be done under yellow. And as that kept on happening in front of me, I kept on moving up. And slowly but surely, I got closer and closer to the front, and eventually challenging for a spot on the podium.”
Goulart, who won the Super Touring Under race earlier on Friday, crossed the stripe in fourth. Nick Leverone finished fifth in the No. 90 Flatout Motorsports Miata and turned the Hawk Hot Lap with a lap of 2:44.204 (87.696 mph).
Joey Jordan, Reynolds, Alex Bolanos, Justin Elder, and Jeff Luckritz all cracked the top 10 in the race.
Brian Wisler earned the Sunoco Hard Charger after improving from 59th on the grid to 18th, a 41 position improvement in the No. 59 X Factor Racing/Philips Race Prep Miata.
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 Spec Miata 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, (1), Jim Drago, Memphis, TN, Mazda Miata, 13.
2, (10), Voytek Burdzy, Algonquin, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
3, (26), Danny Steyn, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Mazda Miata, 13.
4, (11), Elivan Goulart, Shelton, CT, Mazda Miata, 13.
5, (16), Nick Leverone, Bellingham, MA, Mazda Miata, 13.
6, (23), Joey Jordan, Fallbrook, CA, Mazda Miata, 13.
7, (8), Matt Reynolds, Boerne, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
8, (20), Alex Bolanos, Miami, FL, Mazda Miata, 13.
9, (29), Justin Elder, Lakeville, MN, Mazda Miata, 13.
10, (28), Jeff Luckritz, Saint Joseph, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
11, (40), Mark Drennan, San Jose, CA, Mazda Miata, 13.
12, (6), L. Patrick Sandlin, Cordova, TN, Mazda Miata, 13.
13, (38), Peter Arthur John Tonelli, Westborough, MA, Mazda Miata, 13.
14, (12), Matthew Ferris, Pawling, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
15, (22), Jerret Gerber, Dodgeville, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
16, (34), Scott Brunk, Harpers Ferry, WV, Mazda Miata, 13.
17, (50), Henry Van Vurst, Pompano Beach, FL, Mazda Miata, 13.
18, (59), Brian Wisler, Grapevine, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
19, (30), Anthony Geraci, Glen Head, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
20, (44), Marc Cefalo, Swoyersville, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
21, (36), Michael Novak, Highland, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
22, (14), Ted Cahall, Clyde Hill, WA, Mazda Miata, 13.
23, (31), Michael Ross, Friendswood, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
24, (9), Tom Brown, Muskego, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
25, (45), Amy Mills, New York, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
26, (42), Brett Fenske, Charlotte, NC, Mazda Miata, 13.
27, (24), Jamey Randall, Watertown, MN, Mazda Miata, 13.
28, (43), Whitfield Gregg, New York, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
29, (64), Keith Mellen, Joliet, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
30, (67), Kyle Watkins, Broomfield, CO, Mazda Miata, 13.
31, (48), Richard Mooney, Madison, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
32, (49), John Costello, Dallas, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
33, (47), Peter Naumburg, Albuquerque, NM, Mazda Miata, 13.
34, (39), Josh Bilicki, Richfield, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
35, (51), Jeff Van Bendegom, Middleton, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
36, (58), Domenico Leuci, Binghamton, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
37, (54), Douglas Spencer, Livonia, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
38, (52), Michael Crawford, Pittston, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
39, (57), David Cox, Pleasant Prairie, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
40, (61), Michael Makus, Oshkosh, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
41, (62), David Schroeder, Des Moines, IA, Mazda Miata, 13.
42, (46), Greg Blaser, Eau Claire, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
43, (63), Roger Pogorzelski, Mount Prospect, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
44, (55), Lon Blaser, Eau Claire, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
45, (69), Spencer Patterson, Pittsburgh, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
46, (4), Daniel Bender, Glencoe, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
47, (65), Greg Kasprzyk, Yatesville, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
48, (66), Kristen Novak, Highland, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
49, (56), Jim Kettelkamp, Bettendorf, IA, Mazda Miata, 13.
50, (68), J Jay Simaras, Waukesha, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
51, (5), Steven Gorriaran, Providence, RI, Mazda Miata, 12.
52, (3), Erik Stearns, Van Buren, OH, Mazda Miata, 11.
53, (13), Jason Knuteson, Danville, IN, Mazda Miata, 11.
54, (19), David Bednarz, Ann Arbor, MI, Mazda Miata, 10.
55, (2), Craig Berry, Tyler, TX, Mazda Miata, 10.
56, (17), Tom Sager, Naperville, IL, Mazda Miata, 8.
57, (7), Andrew von Charbonneau, Boca Raton, FL, Mazda Miata, 7.
DNF, (60), James Suhr, Springboro, OH, Mazda Miata, 3.
DNF, (27), Luke Bickham, Dallas, TX, Mazda Miata, 1.
DNF, (37), Steven Powers, Mesa, AZ, Mazda Miata, 1.
DNF, (15), Todd Lamb, Atlanta, GA, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (21), Thomas Roberts, Naperville, IL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (18), Chris Haldeman, Anna, TX, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (32), Brian Schofield, Lakeland, FL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (33), Michael Collins, Mount Airy, MD, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (41), Charlie Campbell, Corry, PA, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (53), Matthew Van Vurst, Pompano Beach, FL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNS, (25), Andrew Carbonell, Miami, FL, Mazda Miata.
DNS, (35), Jeff LaBounty, Cape Coral, FL, Mazda Miata.
Overall Time of Race: 41:51.923
Average Race Speed: 74.525 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.150 second
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: 2:44.204
Fastest Race Lap Average Speed: 87.696 mph
Sunoco Hard Charger: #59 Brian Wisler
Lap Leaders: #29, laps 1, 8-9; #44, laps 2-7; #97, lap 10; #2, laps 11, 13; #74, lap 12
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