INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 1, 2017) -- A chilly morning started the final day of the SCCA® National Championship Runoffs® at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday with 36 Formula Enterprises (FE) cars taking to the historic track.
Runoffs rookie Elliot Finlayson, of Yorkville, Illinois, went flag-to-flag to clinch his first national championship, finishing the 19-lap race nearly 13 seconds ahead of second-place rookie Justin Gordon, of Lake Worth, Florida. Paul Schneider, of Charlotte, North Carolina, completed the podium, claiming his third consecutive national third-place finish.
“I am trying to soak it all in,” Finlayson laughed as he pointed to his champagne-soaked race suit. “Winning my first SCCA National Championship Runoffs is a big accomplishment. We had a lot of good results in our region and to cap-off my season with a win here at Indy is a great way to end my rookie FE season.”
Finlayson, who debuted his professional open-wheel career this year in the SCCA Pro Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda at Virginia International Raceway, dominated his club region this season, securing the SCCA Northern Conference U.S. Majors Tour Championship. Finlayson is also a finalist for the Team USA Scholarship program that has helped many young Americans launch a professional career in the world of motorsports.
Driving his No. 59 Performance AFX Motorsports FE Mazda, Finlayson was challenged only once the entire race. Sitting on pole, Finlayson got the jump on front-row contender Flinn Lazier. The third-generation racer tried to insert his nose on the inside of Finlayson’s machine in Turn 1, but Finlayson shut the door on Lazier, pulling a full car-length in front. From that point on, Finlayson commanded the race capitalizing on his lead every lap.
In his mirrors, a tight battle for second place was brewing between Lazier, Gordon, Schneider, Quinten Nelson and Brandon Aleckson. Nelson overcooked his car, looping it in Turn 1. He continued, but his chance for a podium-position was out of sight. Lazier moved to second with Gordon tight on his gearbox. However, a mechanical problem stopped Lazier on the side of the track, ending his national championship fight. Gordon flew by Lazier, taking second.
“Sometimes you just have to be patient,” said Gordon. “I told myself, hit your marks, don’t hit the curbs and just wait on someone to do something. That’s what I tried to accomplish, but I didn’t get much relief though as Flinn pulled off because Paul and Brandon were right there.”
Gordon’s fight wasn’t over as Aleckson and Schneider were quickly approaching. Aleckson tucked under Gordon to use the draft to pass, but was unsuccessful in his attempt. This allowed Schneider’s No. 73 Comprent Motorsports/Syvel Images FE Mazda to close the gap. He closed-out Aleckson on Lap 15 for third. On the white flag, Schneider made a final attempt to move up the podium, but traffic ended his chances. Gordon’s No. 6 AAA Garden Center FE Mazda crossed the yard of bricks behind Finlayson for his first national podium. Schneider took third.
“I was determined to get on the podium again this year,” Schneider said. “This is the third year in a row I’ve finished third. Chasing these kids is a little tough. When I was 18, Justin was a baby.”
Aleckson finished just outside a podium position, crossing the line fourth in his No. 83 Dan’s Upholstery/OP Consulting FE Mazda, and Alex Scaler slotted into the top-five in the No. 53 AdvantageMotrsports.com FE Mazda. Eric Cruz, in the No. 86 Cruz Associates FE Mazda, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after moving from 34th on the grid to 22nd at the checkered flag.
The 54th SCCA National Championship Runoffs, the Pinnacle of American Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Friday, September 29 through Sunday, Oct 1.
While the live broadcast of all 28 National Championships is available at SCCA.com and Motor Trend OnDemand, each race will be on demand in the coming weeks.
Provisional results for Sunday’s FE race at the 54th SCCA National Championship Runoffs from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (1), Elliot Finlayson, Yorkville, IL, Mazda FE, 19.
2, (3), Justin Gordon, Lake Worth, FL, Mazda FE, 19.
3, (5), Paul Schneider, Charlotte, NC, Mazda FE, 19.
4, (4), Brandon Aleckson, Campbell, CA, Mazda FE, 19.
5, (8), Alex Scaler, Flemington, NJ, Mazda FE, 19.
6, (10), Dean Oppermann, Plainfield, IL, Mazda FE, 19.
7, (6), Rhett Barkau, Freeport, IL, Mazda FE, 19.
8, (7), Quinten Nelson, Newark, OH, Mazda FE, 19.
9, (9), Sabré Cook, Grand Junction, CO, Mazda FE, 19.
10, (14), Dale Vandenbush, Green Bay, WI, Mazda FE, 19.
11, (18), Thomas Green, Lake Mary, FL, Mazda FE, 19.
12, (13), Daniel Smith, Pendleton, IN, Mazda FE, 19.
13, (19), Matthew Cutter, Sterling, IL, Mazda FE, 19.
14, (15), Thomas W Burt, Woodway, WA, Mazda FE, 19.
15, (24), Justin Huffman, Herndon, VA, Mazda FE, 19.
16, (16), Todd Vanacore, Ormond Beach, FL, Mazda FE, 19.
17, (11), Lee Rackley, Clinton, NC, Mazda FE, 19.
18, (28), Adam Zerlin, Northport, NY, Mazda FE, 19.
19, (26), Carl Martin, Fayetteville, GA, Mazda FE, 19.
20, (23), Theodore Thorp, Dallas, TX, Mazda FE, 19.
21, (29), Chet Zerlin, Naples, FL, Mazda FE, 18.
22, (34), Eric Cruz, Barhamsville, VA, Mazda FE, 18.
23, (33), Kelton Jago, Alexandria, VA, Mazda FE, 18.
24, (32), Denny Marklein, Dodgeville, WI, Mazda FE, 18.
25, (35), Keith McDonald, Ranson, WV, Mazda FE, 18.
26, (17), Elliott Sohn, Iowa City, IA, Mazda FE, 18.
27, (31), Jeff Read, Vacaville, CA, Mazda FE, 18.
28, (27), John Mcaleer, Roswell, GA, Mazda FE, 17.
29, (25), Ray Mason, Blacklick, OH, Mazda FE, 16.
30, (21), Clemens Burger, Noblesville, IN, Mazda FE, 11.
31, (22), Rob Futcher, Liberty Township, OH, Mazda FE, 11.
32, (30), Craig Haltom, Blountville, TN, Mazda FE, 9.
33, (2), Flinn Lazier, Vail, CO, Mazda FE, 6.
34, (20), Joe Sammut, Locust Valley, NY, Mazda FE, 4.
35, (12), David Budres, Beloit, WI, Mazda FE, 4.
Length of Race: 49 miles
Overall Time of Race: 31:50.457
Average Speed: 92.801
Margin of Victory: 12.890
Fastest Race Lap: 1:39.726 (93.568 mph)
Lap Leaders: No. 59 1-19
Sunoco Hard Charger: No. 86 Eric Cruz
Image: Rookie Finlayson commands FE race from flag to flag.
Photo Credit: Mark Weber