LEXINGTON, Ohio (September 25, 2016) – Neil Verhagen, of Mooresville, North Carolina, became the youngest SCCA National Champion ever on Sunday, winning Formula F during the SCCA Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. At 15 years, 242 days, Verhagen is more than a full year younger than current IndyCar star Graham Rahal was when capturing a Formula Atlantic National Championship at the same track in 2005.
Hans Saurino, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and David Livingston, Jr., of Nashville, Tennessee, finished behind Verhagen on the podium.
Verhagen set sail from the green flag, showing poise beyond in years in the No. 3 K-Hill Motorsports/Hoosier Mygale SJ11/Honda. The youngster built a lead of over 15 seconds before a full-course caution wiped it all away, then ran away again at the restart for the three-lap dash to the checkers and a 5.451-second victory.
The champ covered the 21-lap race, slowed once for a four-lap caution period and shortened to the 40-minute time limit, for an average of 77.266 mph. His fast lap of 1:30.133 (90.187 mph) led the field by nearly a second.
Verhagen also claimed the SCCA Super Sweep Award, winning his U.S. Majors Tour Conference, the national point championship, a key regular season race, and, finally, the Runoffs.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” Verhagen said. “It’s quite an accomplishment to be the youngest driver to ever win the Runoffs and set pole. I’m head over heels right now.
“Since this class is known for the drafting, I was a little worried at the beginning of the session that there was a chance that they would be in the draft from me and could stay with me. I think a couple of mistakes on the first lap gave me enough gap to open up my lead. I did not want to see the restart come out at all. It was hard. I got a great start again, and by the time I looked out at turn three, I had enough of a gap and we kept building from there.”
Verhagen also punched his ticket to the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout with champions from a variety of racing series, where the winner can earn a scholarship to USF2000 for 2017.
Behind Verhagen, however, was an eight-car battle for the final two podium positions. Russell Ruedisueli (No. 20 Hoosier/Farley/Primus Van Diemen RF99/Ford), Andy Brumbaugh (No. 26 Blackhound Creative/Primus Racing Van Diemen RF98/Ford), John Benson (No. 7 ABS Racing/Cricket Farms Motors Swift DB-3/Ford), and Andrew Melvin (No. 23 American Pen Company Van Diemen RF00/Honda) joined Saurino and Livingston in a gaggle of open-wheel machines.
Saurino’s No. 11 Quantum Racing/Hoosier Van Diemen RF97/Honda was the first to make a big move, running from fourth to second under braking on lap five. That didn’t last long, however, as he fell back to third on the next lap, and made the pass into second on four different occasions throughout the race.
His biggest challenge, however, came on the lap 19 restart after Melvin bounced off the curbing trying to make a pass going into the keyhole and ended his day, as well as the day of Benson and Brumbaugh.
Saurino had a lapped car between he and Verhagen, but had Livingston’s No. 85 ThermaMasters Spectrum 14H/Honda in his mirrors. He timed the restart perfectly, however, and kept Livingston just far enough behind for the silver medal.
“I was very fortunate to get out ahead early on,” Saurino said. “Every lap was a battle. I went from fifth to second more times than I could tell. I was fortunate not to be in that wreck, and when I looked back and saw that huge gap behind me, I thought something bad must have happened.
“On the restart, it was a scary circumstance where I thought I’d have to battle again. My crew chief came on and said there was one lap, and I was so thankful because there wasn’t quite enough road to catch up. Another lap or two and it would have been a fight, for sure.”
Livingston had to recover from a spin, aided by a bump, on turn-in to the Esses during the 12th circuit. It seemingly put Livingston out of contention at the time, but the full course caution aided his march to his first podium finish and a Honda podium sweep.
“It was a very intense race,” Livingston said. “Going into the turn off the main straight, I got tagged from the rear and spun in the middle of the pack. Luckily everyone missed me, and the double yellow gave me a chance to catch up and a second chance. Another lap or two and I could have given Hans a challenge. We had a great race going there before I went off. It was a good day.”
Ruedeisueli finished fourth, followed by Rubenzer, who improved six positions from his qualifying spot to earn the Sunoco Hard Charger.
The 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB, the Pinnacle of American Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing National Champions this year at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, from Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25.
While the live broadcast of all 28 National Championships is available live at SCCA.com, each race will be on demand in the coming weeks.
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Provisional results for Sunday’s SCCA Formula F National Championship at the 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and lap.
1, (1), Neil Verhagen, Mooresville, NC, Mygale SJ11 Honda, 21.
2, (6), Hans Saurino, Tulsa, OK, Van Diemen RF97 Honda, 21.
3, (5), David Livingston Jr, Nashville, TN, Spectrum 14H Honda, 21.
4, (3), Russell Ruedisueli, Rochester Hills, MI, Van Diemen RF99 Ford, 21.
5, (11), Scott Rubenzer, Brookfield, WI, Spectrum 012 Honda, 21.
6, (10), Clifford Johnson, Stilwell, KS, , 21.
7, (8), Jeffrey Bartz, Plymouth, WI, Van Diemen RF00 Honda, 21.
8, (9), Rick Payne, Mission, BC, Van Diemen RF99 Honda, 21.
9, (14), Robert Gross, Washington Twp, MI, Piper DL7 Honda, 21.
10, (12), Mark Keller, Snohomish, WA, Piper DF5 Honda, 20.
11, (13), Jon Krolewicz, Elgin, SC, Swift DB-3 Honda, 19.
12, (4), Andy Brumbaugh, Elgin, SC, Van Diemen RF98 Ford, 19.
13, (7), John Benson, Dade City, FL, Swift DB-3 Ford, 14.
14, (2), Andrew Melvin, Lakewood, CO, Van Diemen RF00 Honda, 13.
Overall Time of Race: 36:49.327
Average Race Speed: 77.266 mph
Margin of Victory: 5.421 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: #3 Verhagen, 1:30.33 (90.187 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #31 Scott Rubenzer
Lap Leaders: Laps 1-21, #3 Verhagen