Words by Jodie Boy
(Editor’s note: After reading this story, if you feel inspired to attend your first Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships, remember that early registration for the Sept. 6-9, 2022, event ends on Aug. 10. A link to the registration page can be found at the end of this story.)
As the title suggests, I am still fairly new to the world of SCCA motorsports. My adventure into driving began back in June of 2019 thanks to my father, Bill Boy, who fostered my racing interest, and a friendly colleague, Jason Gast, who playfully pestered me into attending the novice school his Region, Indiana Northwest Region, was hosting. My weekend was spent speeding around a parking lot and picking up cones during coursework. When I returned the next weekend for an event by another Region, Jason nodded knowingly saying, “New drivers either never show up again, or they’re hooked. And here you are.”
There I was indeed.
Fast forward through events nearly every weekend in 2019, then driving two hours or more nearly every weekend the following year in 2020 to find events. I scored a second in Ladies PAX and first in Novice for South Bend Region, a new-to-me Miata, a co-driver in Nick Zelisko, a few ProSolos (with a perfect 500 start at Toledo 2021, I must add – although ignore my overall time), and too many Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Tours to count, Nick convinced me it was time for Lincoln.
I had heard tales of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships – drivers everywhere speak of their experience at the event. David Finchum was as big of a supporter as Nick was of my attending because I was admittedly worried that I didn’t belong there yet. However, Finch and Nick tirelessly reassured me that there is always a great group to compete with, and they both said the same statement about the event: There’s nothing else like it.
There was also nothing like an eight-hour drive in a ’99 Miata with a bent gas pedal, no power steering, no cruise control, no a/c, a soft top so loud you couldn’t hear the CD player or hold a conversation, and a floor that heats up to lava status. That aside, I would make that drive again in a heartbeat.
There is nothing else like it. Nothing else is the Solo National Championships. The level of competition alone was the fiercest I would see in all of 2021. E Street alone had 54 entrants (I was a happy, hard-earned 53rd) where the time difference from the top of the podium to the bottom of the trophies was just over two seconds. However, when people say, “There is nothing else like the Solo Nats,” the level of competition is only part of it.
The true feeling of the Solo Nationals is the spirit of the competitors and the site itself. Despite the tight competition in E Street, there was never a sense that I, a newb of newbs, did not belong. Everyone was as friendly and as helpful as they would be at a test-n-tune. Whether it was friendly banter in grid, teasing jokes in the paddock, or Heidi making sure I got registered for Driving Forward Together to represent the ladies, everyone was positively delightful.
As for the site, there’s nothing quite like repeatedly walking the course to the evening sounds of parties, karaoke, and scavenger hunts. People were as serious about having fun and enjoying the company of their fellow drivers as they were the competition itself.
The other “Nationals experience” of having to fix a broken car – something Nick always joked about as a staple of his past experiences – we blissfully believed we were immune to. While Nick’s past was full of mechanical issues leading to long hours wrenching on the car in the paddock or scrambling for a co-drive, surely we would be safe in an E Street Miata, right?
Of course not.
2021 Solo Nationals wanted me to get the full experience, which included our clutch busting on the last run of our first competition day, Mike White thankfully loaning his truck so Teresa White and I could drive all over town finding parts and tools, and coming back to Nick under the car for what ended up being a six hour ordeal.
Despite that, even as the sun set, the spirit of the Solo Nationals was present. The E Street gang came over to humorously rib Nick and each other while getting on the ground to help install the new clutch. Some friendly folks a few paddock spots down felt sorry for our plight, and after having watched Nick toil on the ground all those hours, brought us the absolute best chicken I’ve ever tasted. Support came from everywhere.
For our final day and final runs, Nick was on a hunt for a trophy spot with the new clutch, hanging on for the last trophy spot from the previous day. In spite of the long hours he’d put in the previous night, the sweltering heat of the day, and a timing scare, Nick not only earned a trophy, but moved up in the standings.
Watching the friends we had built along the way in our E Street gang applaud as Nick accepted his hard-earned trophy was the perfect ending to my first trip (of what will become many) to the Solo Nationals. Well, the trophy and the return eight hours of Miata white noise. Regardless, I knew the moment our times were finalized that people either never show up again or they’re hooked.
See you in 2022, Lincoln. There is nothing else like it.
Photo by Rupert Berrington