The 2023 Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA® Super Tour (HST) “regular season” comes to a close this weekend, June 23-25, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI, during the 68th consecutive running of the WeatherTech Chicago Region® June Sprints®.
After qualifying sessions were held Friday and early Saturday morning, competitors across all nine run groups again took to the recently resurfaced 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit for what were supposed to be 25-minute contests. The weather was warm and sunny, with temperatures in the upper 80s and blue skies all around.
Road America’s totally new track surface is an unknown wildcard this year. Some drivers surmised the fantastically smooth road could produce a load of new track records, but only laps and time would tell. By day’s end, many questions still remained. Some drivers proclaimed the new surface had amazing grip; others said the surface hasn’t been used enough as of yet, so it’s actually fairly slippery. One thing is for certain, it was a challenge that kept drivers on their toes all day.
A Kink in Plans: For whatever reason, several drivers have had issues with the daunting Kink portion of the circuit during Friday and Saturday. While there are no official statistics, many competitors agreed there have been a lot more “offs” in the Kink over the past two days than in previous years. In some cases, drivers managed to get back underway after going off at the Kink. In a few instances Saturday, races were ended early to clean up multi-car incidents at that bend.
The layout at America’s National Park of Speed is exactly the same as it has always been for years, but it’s also completely different according to driver Danny Steyn. All the notes drivers have meticulously amassed about the circuit over the years, they may be mostly useless moving forward.
Why does Steyn’s insight matter? Well, he won the Spec Miata race Saturday in the No. 39 Rossini Engines/OPM Autosports/G-LOC Brakes Mazda Miata, and also took the Super Touring Lite (STL) victory driving the No. 19 Ocean Machinery/Nelson Engines/OPM Autosports/G-LOC Brakes/Hoosier Mazda MX-5 car. On top of that, he turned a lap of 2:41.937 on Saturday to reset the Spec Miata track record.
Late Saturday after winning his second race of the day, Steyn shared some thoughts on Road America’s new surface. In summation, it’s hard to decipher exactly what is going on.
“I think if we start doing some segment analysis, we’ll figure things out. But today was the first time in my STL career that I’ve not been able to ‘flat’ the Kink for every single lap,” Steyn said. “I’ve had to ‘breath’ the Kink. It was getting away from me and there was a real chance I was going to put it in the grass, and the grass is never fun in the Kink.
“In Spec Miata, things were a bit sketchy. However, we ran lap record times considerably under the previous lap record. So, obviously, something is good about the new surface,” Steyn added. “There is going to be a lot of analysis going on, and a lot of theories coming out as well.”
Changing Leaders for Strong Start: Saturday racing got off to a fantastic start with a fabulous opening event. In particular, the drivers up front in Touring 4 (T4) and Touring 3 (T3) put on one heck of a show.
Sergio Zlobin started on pole in T4 and held the lead early. He was followed by Christopher Windsor and Kevin Fryer, with all three drivers in Mazda MX-5 cars. Fryer, however, quickly moved to second, and midway through the race took the lead from Zlobin. Ryan Heishman, in another MX-5, also joined the lead pack by that point.
Working lap seven, Zlobin regained the lead with Fryer second, followed by Heishman in third. Then with only a couple laps remaining, Fryer was back up front with Zlobin, Heishman and Windsor all in the hunt. An exciting four-car battle ensued, which was ultimately won by Fryer in the No. 98 Apex Branding/Carbotech Mazda MX-5 racecar. Zlobin finished second, and Windsor was third.
“It was an awesome race,” Fryer said afterwards. “We were changing it up at the front, and we didn’t really have anyone break away. That’s a little bit how T4 racing can be, and how I like to do it.
“It was all about leading onto the straightaways,” Fryer continued. “That could’ve been anybody’s race. There are a lot of fast guys. I was just trying to stay in the lead.”
In T3, Derek Wagner started on pole and Gamaliel Aguilar-Gamez was second, with both men driving BMW 330i racecars. But at the start it was Aguilar-Gamez who moved to the lead. At the halfway point, however, Derek Chan and his Nissan 350Z had the top spot with Aguilar-Gamez and Wagner giving chase.
That rundown remained unchanged until only a couple laps remained. It was then that Aguilar-Gamez retook the lead in his No. 136 Racer on Rails machine and held on for victory. Wagner came home second, and Chan third.
“I had to work my butt off to get to the front and stay in front,” Aguilar-Gamez said. “Luckily, the other drivers started battling against each other … and that allowed me to create some space.”
Production Shuffle-Up: The day’s fourth run group contained E, F and H Production cars, as well as GT-Lite and B-Spec racers. What came to pass was an event with multiple lead swaps across many of those car classes.
In E Production, Jon Brakke was on pole in the No. 89 BMW Z3, but it was Tim Schreyer in a BMW 325is who dashed away early only to be reeled back in by Brakke on the second lap. On lap five while working through a lot of traffic, Schreyer got by Brakke for the lead once again.
From there, spectators trackside got to watch Brakke hustle and slide his car around the circuit, again drawing closer to Schreyer. On lap eight, Brakke was back around Schreyer and went on to victory.
“I kept missing shifts, and that’s my fault,” a sweaty Brakke admitted with a giant grin on his face afterwards. “But we had the car this time.”
The F Production race was equally interesting. Mason Workman had pole at the start, and Doug Weaver was second. But those two Mazda Miata drivers found themselves chasing Ken Kannard in his Acura Integra after a couple opening laps.
Kannard was under pressure, but looked to be holding things together. Then while working through traffic in Turn 7 on lap 10, there was contact with another car. That put Kannard into the gravel trap, and Weaver managed to slip through for the lead. But Workman was able to get by later for a win in his No. 52 Hoosier/Planet Miata/Mazda/Carbotech machine.
“Kannard and another guy got together,” Workman said. “I had to slow way down and go into the grass to get past them, and Doug slipped by. But I got back by Doug in turn one. I’ve had a wicked-fast car all weekend.”
B-Spec also didn’t skimp on the excitement. Rob Piekarczyk started on pole there, but John Phillips took the early lead followed by David Daughtery, Piekarczyk, Joe McClughan and Stephanie Andersen. Mazda 2s, a Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris all looked capable of winning the race.
Daughtery, however, fell out of the chase after a couple laps, and Phillips faded, too. By the fourth lap, Andersen was leading and actually developed a nearly four-second advantage on the rest of the B-Spec field after addressing traffic matters. But she suffered an issue soon afterwards and pulled out of the race. Chris Taylor and Stewart Black then mixed it up out front for a bit before Black finally emerged victorious in the No. 40 Bill Black Chevrolet Cadillac Sonic. McClughan finished second, and Phillips was third.
“It was a rough start. We got beat up pretty good,” Black said. “I kept my cool, gathered it up, and just drove my race. I kept my head down, and the next thing you know we’ve made some passes and won the race.”
Sunday’s Schedule: The final Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour races for 2023 take place Sunday starting at 8:15 a.m. Central Time from Road America. Drivers across eight of the nine run groups will have 13 laps to decide who gets trophies; and the thundering GT, Touring 1 and American Sedan field encapsulated within run group eight will see a 15-lap race. Scattered showers are forecast for Sunday, so things could get really interesting.
Follow Sunday’s action from Road America live, online and for free thanks to the Hoosier Super Tour enhanced video and audio broadcast. Gregg Ginsberg and Brian Bielanski will again supply play-by-play insight, and DriversEye Live will deliver video from upwards of 12 cameras positioned around the circuit.
Find the broadcast online at the SCCA YouTube channel and SCCA Facebook page. Post-race video interviews with select Saturday winners, and Sunday victory podium celebration videos, can also be found at the SCCA Road Racing Facebook page. As usual, live Timing and Scoring is available throughout the weekend at www.scca.com/live.
Saturday Race Winners: Below are provisional race winners from Saturday’s Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour WeatherTech Chicago Region® June Sprints® at Road America with Class: Name, Hometown and Car.
American Sedan®: Andrew McDermid; Howell, MI; Ford Mustang
B-Spec: Stewart Black; Greensboro, NC; Chevrolet Sonic
E Production: Jon Brakke; Milwaukee, WI; BMW Z3
F Production: Mason Workman; Canal Winchester, OH; Mazda Miata
H Production: Jesse Prather; Topeka, KS; Mazda 2
Formula 600: James Weida; West Lafayette, IN; Scorpion W1
Formula Atlantic®: Jimmy Simpson; Cicero, IN; Swift 016
Formula Continental®: Michael Varacins; Burlington, WI; Van Diemen F2000
Formula Enterprises®2: Caleb Shrader; Tigard, OR; SCCA Enterprises FE2 Mazda
Formula F: Sebastian Mateo Naranjo; Edwards, IL; Mygale SJ13
Formula Vee®: Andrew Whitston; Neenah, WI; Protoform P2
Formula X: Jacob Vinkemulder; Spring Lake, MI; Formula Mazda
GT-1: Dave Ruehlow; Hartland, WI; Chevrolet Corvette
GT-2: Daniel Bender; Northbrook, IL; Chevrolet Camaro
GT-Lite: Graham Fuller; Summit Point, WV; Honda CRX
GT-X: Ray Ramirez; Houston, TX; McLaren 570s GT4
Spec Miata: Danny Steyn; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Mazda Miata
Spec Racer® Ford Gen3: Bobby Sak; Bloomfield Hills, MI; Spec Racer Ford Gen3
Prototype 1: Chip Romer; Lake Havasu City, AZ; Elan DP02
Prototype 2: Tim Day Jr .; Scottsdale, AZ; Stohr WF-1
Super Touring® Lite: Danny Steyn; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Mazda MX-5
Super Touring® Under: Thomas Noble; Minneapolis, MN; BMW 330i
Touring 1: James Candelaria; Boca Raton, FL; Chevrolet Corvette
Touring 2: Mark Boden; Winnetka, IL; Porsche 997.1 C2
Touring 3: Gamaliel Aguilar-Gamez; Renton, WA; BMW 330i
Touring 4: Kevin Fryer; Bloomington, IL; Mazda MX-5
Photo: Jon Brakke, in the No. 89, worked hard for his E Production victory Saturday at Road America during the WeatherTech Chicago Region June Sprints, part of the 2023 Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour.
Photo by Rick Corwine