Podium finishers get the love, but not everyone can win at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs – there’s something to be said for perseverance, and in many cases that’s exactly what the event’s Sunoco Hard Charger award represents. So while the 2022 SCCA Runoffs, held Sept. 24-Oct. 2 at VIRginia International Raceway, is long over, we want to take a moment to recognize those who gained the most, so to speak, during this year’s winner-take-all event.
The Sunoco Hard Charger award winner in each SCCA Runoffs race is the person who made up the most positions from the start; any ties go to the highest placing finisher. Each Sunoco Hard Charger winner earns $100 from Sunoco, assuming they signed up for the contingency program ahead of time and ran the required decals on their car.
Gaining The Most
Maybe their qualifying sessions weren’t the greatest; maybe it was a tough week mechanically; maybe there was slow improvement throughout qualifying and it culminated in a spectacular race. Whatever the reason for a driver’s run through the field, earning the Sunoco Hard Charger award at the Runoffs is nothing to sneeze at – here are a few of the most notable drives.
One item that aided in some drivers picking up the Sunoco Hard Charger award was Hurricane Ian, which passed through the Virginia area during the event’s Hagerty Race Days. Take Chip Herr, for example. Mechanical issues in his planned Audi forced him to switch cars and start from the rear of the STU field in his all-wheel-drive No. 9 Carbotech/Hoosier/MCS/Warwick Audi Subaru WRX STi. Despite just a three-lap STU race, Herr ran from 22nd on the grid to the silver medal.
Herr wasn’t the only one who rode a Sunoco Hard Charger award to a 2022 Runoffs podium finish. Thomas Herb did it, too, driving his No. 16 Fall-Line Motorsports Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 from fifth on the GT-1 grid all the way to the win in the rain. Rod Rice did it in Formula Atlantic, starting sixth in his No. 77 JDR Ford and finishing second. Alex Mayer used the rain and his front-wheel-drive No. 77 Audi RS3 LMS to run from ninth to second in GT-3 in impressive fashion. Trevor Russell did it twice, going from sixth to second in Formula F in his No. 32 RiceRace/Hoosier/Primus/Red Arrow Mygale SJ14 Honda during the Friday race, then fifth to second in Formula Continental in Sunday’s race in his No. 32 Red Arrow Racing/Inde Motorsports Van Diemen RF99.
The most impressive feats arguably came in the largest fields, and the cream of that crop fell in the largest class at the 2022 Runoffs: Spec Miata. Theodore Cahall rolled off the Spec Miata grid sitting 48th, turned on his wipers, and crossed the stripe 15 laps later in 14th place in his No. 78 Cahall Racing 2003 Mazda Miata. That means anyone who wanted to best him for the Sunoco Hard Charger award needed to improve more than 34 places – not an easy task.
That drive makes Cahall the hardest Sunoco Hard Charger of the 26 Runoffs races during the 2022 Runoffs at VIR. (Admittedly, the “hardest Hard Charger” is not an official award, but it is a very notable achievement we would like to applaud.)
The Sunoco Hard Chargers
Following is the full list of Sunoco Hard Charger winners, with class: Name, Hometown, Car, start position, finish position:
- American Sedan: Kyle Gilbert, Janesville, Wisconsin, Chevrolet Camaro, started 11, finish 7.
- B-Spec: Blair Deffenbaugh, Sylva, North Carolina, Honda Fit, started 21, finish 14.
- E Production: James Lindenthal, Morgantown, West Virginia, Mazda RX-7, started 11, finish 7.
- F Production: David Colbey, Utica, New York, Acura Integra, started 17, finish 8.
- H Production: Jack Schulz, Monett, Missouri, MG Midget, started 20, finish 11.
- Formula 500: Russell Strate, Jr., Alden, New York, Red Devil/Suzuki, started 10, finish 6.
- Formula Atlantic: Rod Rice, Austin, Texas, Stohr F1000/Honda, started 6, finish 2.
- Formula Continental: Trevor Russell, Tucson, Arizona, Van Diemen RF99, started 5, finish 2.
- Formula Enterprises 2: Alastair McEwan, Miami, Florida, Formula Enterprises/Mazda, started 22, finish 11.
- Formula F: Trevor Russell, Tucson, Arizona, Mygale SJ14/Honda, started 6, finish 2.
- Formula Vee: Russell Fredericks, Northport, New York, Caracal D/Volkswagen, started 27, finish 9.
- Formula X: no Sunoco Hard Charger award given
- GT-1: Thomas Herb, Barrington, Illinois, Mercedes-AMG GT3, started 5, finish 1.
- GT-2: Javier Vento, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, started 15, finish 7.
- GT-3: Alex Mayer, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, Audi RS3 LMS, started 9, finish 2.
- GT-Lite: Chris Kopley, Easton, Connecticut, Mini Cooper, started 12, finish 7.
- Prototype 1: Greg Case, Peoria, Illinois, Stohr WF1/Suzuki, started 8, finish 5.
- Prototype 2: Robert Iverson, Gulf Breeze, Florida, Radical SR3/Suzuki, started 13, finish 6.
- Spec Miata: Ted Cahall, Christiansburg, Virginia, Mazda Miata, started 48, finish 14.
- Spec Racer Ford Gen3: Whitney Strickland, League City, Texas, Spec Racer Ford, started 26, finish 9.
- Super Touring Lite: Steve Wickersham, Mooresville, North Carolina, Mazda Miata, started 23, finish 12.
- Super Touring Under: Chip Herr, Lilitz, Pennsylvania, Subaru WRX STI, started 22, finish 2.
- Touring 1: Sandy Satullo, Hillsboro Beach, Florida, BMW M3, stated 6, finish 3.
- Touring 2: Gregory Schermer, Davenport, Iowa, Porsche 911, started 13, finish 10.
- Touring 3: Jared Lendrum, Queensbury, New York, Subaru WRX STi, started 13, finish 7.
- Touring 4: Kevin Fryer, Bloomington, Illinois, Mazda MX-5, started 11, finish 6.
Sunoco, the largest manufacturer of racing gasoline in the world and the Official Fuel of SCCA, has a long track record of winning performance. Recognized as the leader in the race fuel industry, Sunoco sets the standard with every gallon of every blend. More engine builders, racers, tracks, and sanctioning bodies choose Sunoco than all other racing gasoline combined. Sunoco's track-proven fuels are designed to provide exceptional performance, quality and consistency keeping you "Ahead of the Pack." Sunoco's 100 Octane street legal race fuel is available at the pump. Go to www.racegas.com to locate a station near you.
Photo caption: Starting the Spec Miata 2022 Runoffs race in the 48th position, Theodore Cahall had his work cut out for him. Fifteen laps later, Cahall took the checker in 14th place and earned that race’s Sunoco Hard Charger award.
Photo by Jeff Loewe