2023 50th Solo Nationals: Thursday Evening Notebook

The third of four competition days has come to a close at the 50th running of the Tire Rack SCCA® Solo® National Championships. Will Thursday’s class leaders hold on to earn victory Friday during the event being held Sept. 5-8, 2023, at Lincoln Airpark in Nebraska’s capital city? Only time will tell.

Drivers switch courses Friday to traverse entirely new layouts. Stay abreast of developments through @SoloMatters and @sccaofficial, SCCA’s online social media pages. Take a look at The Racing Network YouTube page, too, for Solo Nats slice-of-life stories uncovered by Brian Bielanski through special “Inside the SCCA Presented by Mazda Motorsports” pieces.

West Course Action

CAM-T is a large and lively field, but Neil Britton wasted no time setting fire to the class in his 1981 Chevrolet Camaro, being the only one in the 29-car field dipping into the 54s. His closest competition, Matthew Ramirez in a comparatively new 2004 Ford Mustang, sits 1.079sec back.

The opposite is true in Street Touring Ultra. Mack Tsang has put his 2006 Subaru STI up front of the 29-car field, but one second spans the top six positions in class. Mack’s co-driver Justin Tsang is presently in second, a scant 0.197sec back.

CAM-C boasts 48 entries, and a tight competition – although Dave Schotz is doing his best to drive away from the field in his 2022 Chevrolet Camaro SS. By the end of Thursday’s third runs, he holds just over a half-second lead over John Ward and Ryan Otis, both also piloting Camaros.

In C Modified, Ben Martinez is showing why he’s defending the last two C Mod titles; he has logged a 0.516sec lead in his 1984 Van Diemen RF84 over Eric Clements in a 1994 Van Diemen RF94. Clements came up 2.2sec short of the CM win last year, so he’s certainly got unfinished business to take care of on Friday.

Theresa Walton finished second last year in E Street Ladies, and this year she’s on target to correct that, as she has positioned her 1999 Mazda Miata with a 1.165sec advantage going into day two in the 10-car class. Dawn Danton, Karen Babb, and Janet Bauman, all also driving 1999 Miatas, currently sit in the trophy spots and have their work cut out for them on Friday.

In the Xtreme A class, the 37-driver field is led by a 2006 Mitsubishi driven by Chris Bartley, followed by the 2004 Subaru STI of Simon Gagnon, just 0.091sec back. If you think that’s a close margin, consider that Christopher Mayfield’s 2011 Lotus Evora will enter day two competition in third, just 0.001sec behind Gagnon.

And in the final heat of the day, A Street and E Street sported a similar number of competitors, as well as a similar leading margin heading into day two. In A Street, Dan Simms placed his 2009 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 0.486sec ahead of a similar Corvette driven by Dan Bullis, while in E Street, Bartek Boroski in a 1999 Mazda Miata holds a 0.501sec lead over Joseph Cote’s 2003 Toyota MR2.

Meanwhile, on the East Course …

Street Prepared was among the largest fields of Heat 1, with 20 drivers on tap – but only half of that field would post a clean first run during the first day of competition. Of those, Matt Zyskowski shot out of the gate in a nearly all-Miata field with the only clean sub-60 first-run time of 59.778sec. Second passes brought more clean runs and increasingly faster times; then it was a flier of a final (and his only clean) run that put Ian Baker on top by 0.156sec over Raymod Dsouza, trailed by Austin Clark, Erik Strelnieks, and Michael Willman heading into day two. (Strelnieks and Willman, it should be noted, are part of the limited non-Mazda crowd in this field, as they co-drive a Honda S2000.)

SSM competition witnessed similar cone clobbering, but not at the hands of Matt Waldbaum, who was the only one in the class to run three clean runs. Sitting second by the end of the day, and co-driving the 1996 Mazda Miata with Waldbaum, is Deana Kelley, who has a 1.426sec deficit to overcome.

Kart Modified is a father-son battle worth watching. As the duo leads the 19-kart field into day two, dad Larry MacLeod holds a 0.172sec advantage over son Jackson, both co-driving a 2014 Tonykart Shifter.

Street Touring® Xtreme Ladies features a small class in a fierce battle. The gap between Emily Brown in first and Dee Dietz in third totals only 1.197sec, making this a three-way Scion FR-S battle for the win come Friday.

B Modified is one to watch, as five-time B Mod champ Matthew Ellam leads the field in his 1998 Omnifab Cheetah. Jason Swindle is 0.625sec back in second in his 2020 Unbalanced Eng Lynx, followed closely by Tamra Krystinik (who has never finished worse than third at Solo Nats) and Andrew Krystinik in their 2000 Legrand Dragon SR1 Mk25.

In F Prepared, Wes Houghson sits on top in his 2000 Honda S2000. This is Houghson’s fifth time at Nationals, where he’s gunning for his second FP win and his fourth trophy – but Caius Boboescu in his 2002 BMW Z3 has his own plans as he sits 0.287sec back. This is also Boboescu’s fifth time to Nationals, and while he owns a pair of Solo Nats trophies, neither of them say “first.”

The number of National Championship titles owned by the current top four in C Prepared is 17 – but it’s the person holding the fewest of those who’s leading. Defending CP Champ Robert Lewis holds a 0.836sec lead over 10-time National Champ Michael Maier, three-time CP Champ Tommy Pulliam, and three-time CP Champ Darrel Padberg. All are driving iterations of a Mustang.

Steve O’Blenes has won D Street Prepared for the last two years in his 2010 Mazda RX-8, but this year is turning into a downright battle. David Colletti – who’s hunting for his first National Championship title in a 2004 RX-8 – and O’Blenes were the only DSP drivers in the 58s on Thursday, with Colletti holding a 0.062sec advantage after second runs. But O’Blenes kept cranking with a flier of a last run to head into day two with a 0.007sec advantage.

Quality Daddy-Daughter Time

The 50th running of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships is being treated as a Homecoming this year, and that certainly holds true for Bill Stockton. This was his first visit back to the National Championships in 24 years, and he made it special by bringing along his daughter, Abby, for her very first Solo Nats experience.

Bill, now 56-years old, was a frequent Solo Nats competitor when he was younger. But it then came time to start a family, and he put his focus and time elsewhere. He tried to get Abby interested in Solo over the years, but the hobby didn’t click with her until a few years back.

Just before she turned 18-years old, Abby told her dad it was time to give autocross a go. They’ve been playing around at SCCA events for the last few seasons, then decided 2023 would be a good year to both compete at Solo Nats.

With a trailer and pickup truck borrowed from Lee Piccione, who is a fellow member of SCCA’s Washington D.C. Region, the Stocktons loaded up a 2015 Subaru BRZ in Virginia and headed to Lincoln, NE, to compete in Solo Spec Coupe Ladies and Solo Spec Coupe with Piccione as a co-driver.

“I was really worried about trekking 20 hours just to drive all of six or eight minutes on course,” admitted Abby, who is now 22-years old. “But everyone from my region said the same thing, ‘You are going to have more fun outside the car than inside.’ And they were totally right.

“I cried when we first pulled through the Solo Nats entry gate,” Abby added. “I already, genuinely can’t wait for next year.”

Where did the Stocktons place in SSC and SSCL competition at Solo Nats? Frankly, the results would never have made a difference for these two. This was a daddy-daughter opportunity that created memories worth far more than any trophy or jacket.

“I love this,” Bill said of the Solo Nats adventure shared with Abby. “It’s a great experience.”

Wendi Allen Winners at Solo Nats

For a decade, the Wendi Allen Scholarship Fund (WASF) has supported the involvement of women in SCCA’s Solo community. WASF recipients in 2023 were Emily Whitaker, Emily Skoglund, and Hailey Schmidt; each of whom received a $1,500 scholarship to assist with travel to Tire Rack SCCA National Solo events and the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. Each recipient also received free entries to National Tour and ProSolo® events of their choosing throughout the season.

Whitaker, from SCCA’s Steel Cities Region, used her Wendi Allen Scholarship opportunity to the max, competing at Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Tour events in Charlotte, Bristol, Finger Lakes, and Peru. She also jumped into the fray in Bristol and Cleveland for Tire Rack SCCA ProSolo fun.

This week was Whitaker’s second visit to the Solo Nationals, and she drove a 2022 Toyota GR86 on Tuesday/Wednesday in D Street Ladies to a third-place finish in the 17-driver field.

“I can’t believe it,” Whitaker said with a giant smile. “I made myself a goal at the start of this season … I wanted to get into the trophies at Solo Nationals this year. To be on the podium is just unbelievable.

“I’m just so grateful I got the Wendi Allen Scholarship,” Whitaker continued. “It really gave me an opportunity to go to as many events as possible. Because of that, I was able to learn so much this year, which helped me get this result.”

Skoglund and Schmidt are part of the Thursday/Friday run groups at Lincoln Airpark during the 50th running of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. Skoglund is slated to drive a 2000 Mazda Miata in E Street Ladies, and Schmidt will be in C Street Prepared Ladies (CSPL) driving a 1995 Mazda Miata.

Schmidt, a dual member of the Old Dominion and North Carolina Region, has competed in numerous Solo National Tour events over the years, as well as the ‘21 and ’22 Solo Nats. In fact, she finished in the CSPL trophies last year. She comes into the 2023 Solo National Championships having run a CSPL car in the Ladies Race Tire Bump classes at the Tire Rack SCCA Charlotte National Tour and Tire Rack SCCA Bristol National Tour.

Skoglund, from SCCA’s St. Louis Region, is competing in her second Solo National Championships this year. As a warmup, she competed on the cement at Lincoln Airpark earlier this year during the Tire Rack SCCA Lincoln National Tour and Tire Rack SCCA Lincoln ProSolo events. Making the most of her scholarship, she also ran at the Tire Rack SCCA Peru National Tour and Tire Rack SCCA Chicago National Tour; as well as the National Tour and ProSolo at Bristol Motor Speedway. She also did the Tire Rack SCCA St. Louis CAM/XS Challenge, too.

The efforts of Schmidt and Skoglund can be followed online Thursday/Friday at sololive.scca.com. And if you’re so compelled, the SCCA Foundation is always accepting donations earmarked for the WASF, as well as other initiatives advancing opportunities for women's involvement in the Club. Go to SCCA Foundation’s website to discover more about the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization, and it’s there where online donations can be earmarked for the Wendi Allen Scholarship Fund.

The WASF, jointly supported by the SCCA Foundation and Mazda Motorsports, was named and established by the family of Allen to honor the multi-time National Solo Champion. Wendi loved the SCCA Solo Community, and wished to give back to the sport by helping young women become more successful drivers and contributing SCCA members. Learn more about the 2023 WASF award recipients here.

More to Come Friday

Friday is the final day of competition for the 50th running of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. By day’s end, the second set of winners for 2023 will be known. Follow the excitement online at sololive.scca.com where you’ll find live timing/scoring, as well as audio coverage from each run group throughout the day.

More Solo news can be absorbed Friday during the Solo Nationals Morning Show – a daily video presentation where hosts interview special guests and keep everyone up to speed on happenings prior to cars leaving the start line. Find that broadcast on Facebook’s @SoloMatters.

If you’re at Solo Nationals, be sure to tag your social media posts with #SoloNatsHasStarted and #funwithcars so others can enjoy the event from afar.

Photo: Abby Stockton and her father, Bill, spent some quality daddy-daughter time playing with cars at the 50th running of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships.

Photo by Kristen Poole/SCCA Staff