Three days of qualifying have come to a close at the 60th running of SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs® taking place Sept. 23-Oct. 1, 2023, along the central border of Virginia and North Carolina at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).
Thursday was Tire Rack Pole Award day, which means 24 drivers have now been identified as the competitors who will lead their respective classes to the green flag over the next three Hagerty Race Days.
Each Tire Rack Pole Award winner receives some nifty swag and $500 to spend at Tire Rack. Equally important is the competitive and psychological advantage they gain by starting out front, and perhaps reaching the checkered flag first on their way to victory podium celebrations and a bottle from Mazza Vineyards, the Runoffs’ “Official Sparkling Wine” supplier for eight years running.
Some items of note include Nolan Allaer, who last year earned the fastest qualifier and turned the fastest lap on his way to his first Formula Continental National Championship. One year later, Allaer has built on that success with a pair of Tire Rack Pole Awards in both Formula Continental and Formula F. His Tuesday lap of 1:50.281 in the No. 11 Martini/Chandon/LTD Motorsports Van Diemen RF02/Ford held for his second consecutive top spot in Formula Continental by more than a second, while his No. 11 Martini/Chandon/Evan Williams Van Diemen RF00/Ford topped Formula F with a Tuesday time of 1:59.249. He’ll lead the FC field to the green on Saturday afternoon, and repeat the process in FF on Sunday.
Speaking of doubling up, Danny Steyn earned two Tire Rack Pole Awards Thursday by being fastest in both Spec Miata and Super Touring Lite (STL). In the No. 9 Ocean Machinery/OPM/Nelson Mazda MX-5, Steyn earned his sixth top qualifier in STL and seventh in his career when his Tuesday lap of 2:05.779 held through the week. Then in the No. 39 OPM/Rossini/G-Loc/Planet Miata Mazda Miata, Steyn was fastest in Spec Miata, which made for his second Runoffs pole in SM, and his eighth Tire Rack Pole Award overall.
A couple Runoffs qualifying lap records have now also been reset. For instance, Thursday was the quick day in Formula Enterprises 2, as the top four drivers posted their best times. At the end, Charles Russell Turner earned his second consecutive pole in the class with a time of 1:50.665 in the No. 32 Formula Enterprises/Mazda. Turner’s lap fell under the previous Runoffs track record on his way to the Tire Rack Pole Award.
Andrew Aquilante earned his 21st Tire Rack Pole Award, second all-time and just four behind Jerry Hansen’s record of 25, with a lap of 1:54.540 in the No. 33 Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk Ford Mustang in Touring 1, which was a new qualifying lap record. It’s the seventh consecutive year that Aquilante has led the T1 field to the green flag at the Runoffs.
GTs Ready to Go
GT-3 saw a change for the top spot over three days of qualifying. It was Jeff Dernehl who led the pack as of Tuesday evening. Then on Wednesday, reigning GT-3 champ Tony Ave came out in his No. 44 Acura RSX and stole the pole. Ave didn’t post a qualifying time on Thursday, but what he produced the day before was good enough for his first Tire Rack Pole Award in the class, and third Runoffs pole overall.
Peter Shadowen, driving the No. 72 Road N Race/Goodyear Honda CRX in GT-Lite (GTL), was quickest in class all three days of qualifying. The defending GTL National Champion also managed to get faster each day on his way to a fourth Tire Rack Pole Award. GT-2 driver Barry Boes, in the No. 32 Accio Data/Data Facts Ford Mustang, did the same – except this was his very first Tire Rack Pole Award.
Touring on to Pole
Devin Anderson started his rookie Runoffs race second a year ago on his way to a podium finish, but this year he’ll start one step further up in the Touring 4 field after putting his No. 11 TechSport Racing/Red Line Oil Subaru BRZ on the Tire Rack pole with a lap of 2:10.514.
For the eighth time in his career, Kurt Rezzetano will start a Runoffs race from the Tire Rack Pole. His lap of 1:59.504 in the No. 37 Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk Ford Mustang GT marks the sixth overall, and third consecutive time at the front of the Touring 2 field.
The brothers Ott led the Touring 3 field and will start alongside each other on the front row, with Steve and his No. 26 Hoosier/Alpine Motorsports BMW Z4 just 0.01-second ahead of older brother and defending champion Jason at the end of qualifying. It is the first career Tire Rack Pole Award for Steve Ott.
For the second consecutive year, Johan Schwartz earned the Tire Rack Pole Award for Super Touring Under. Schwartz drove the No. 4 VanSteenburg Performance Porsche 944 to a best lap of 2:00.389 on Wednesday, which held through Thursday afternoon’s session.
John Hainsworth has come close to earning the Tire Rack Pole before, starting second, third, and fourth in the last four years. But this year, Hainsworth placed his No. 95 Turf Trade/Hoosier/Carbotech Mazda RX-7 in the coveted E Production top qualifying position, edging out Greg Ira by 0.128sec. This was no small feat, as Ira is piloting the same BMW Z3 that has won E Production every year since 2020. Hainsworth is gunning for his first Runoffs win in eight attempts.
In F Production, Cliff Ira’s history with his No. 36 Cliff Ira Motorsports/JPM Honda Civic Del Sol Si might be short, but it’s been spectacular. His first year in the car (in 2021) netted him a second-place starting position and the win, with 2022 seeing him take the green in third. This year, Ira set a time in the first of three qualifying days that nobody could touch, putting him on his first Runoffs Tire Rack Pole. But with barely one second covering the top five qualifying positions, Ira won’t have it easy while trying to earn his third Runoffs gold.
The H Production (HP) Tire Rack Pole has been a back-and-forth battle all week, with defending HP champ Chris Schaafsma on top in Q1 in his No. 1 Hoosier/Race-Keeper/G-Loc/NGP Volkswagen Golf with a time of 2:14.844. Q2 saw nine-time Runoffs champ Steve Sargis raise the bar by 0.279sec when he laid down a lap time of 2:14.565. But Schaafsma wasn’t to be outdone, using the third and final qualifying session to earn his first Runoffs pole with an impressive qualifying time of 2:14.029.
For the third time, Calvin Stewart will start the Formula 600 race from the Tire Rack Pole after a lap of 1:57.437 in the No. 07 SabbathTruth.com/Hoosier Novakar J10. Stewart posted his lap on the opening day of qualifying, and watched it hold despite James Weida closing the gap on Thursday to just 0.116 to start on the outside of row one.
In bad news for the rest of the Formula Vee field, Andrew Whitston is on the Tire Rack pole for Saturday’s race. In each of the other two times Whitston led qualifying in his No. 12 Rocket Motors/LOA Construction Protoform P3/Volkswagen, he went on to win the race – and his lap of 2:15.639 led the 27-car field at the conclusion of qualifying.
And Let’s Not Forget …
B-Spec saw a new class leader each day during qualifying. On Tuesday, Conner Kelleher was fastest of the 25-car field. Then Richard Hromin took the reigns Wednesday. However, Riley Salyer was ultimately the fastest after all three days, and now has his first Tire Rack Pole Award.
The second-largest field at this year’s Runoffs is Spec Racer Ford Gen3 (SRF3), where 40 drivers posted qualifying times. Charles Russell Turner was at the top of the charts the first two days of qualifying, but Thursday saw 17-year-old Morgan Burkhard go even faster in the No. 02 Dog Gone Racing/Kids Sea Camp/OG car. That earned Burkhard his first Tire Rack Pole Award.
Both Tire Rack Pole Awards in the Prototype category were claimed with Thursday runs, and both Todd Vanacore in Prototype 1 and Greg Gyann in Prototype 2 will lead their respective classes on the grid for the first time each. Vanacore turned a lap of 1:42.602 in the No. 19 Elan DP02 Mazda, while Gyann in the same session completed a lap at VIR in 1:48.590 in his No. 83 Gycor International Stohr WF1 Suzuki.
Tire Rack Pole Award Rundown
Below are provisional polesitters across the 24 different classes with driver name, hometown, SCCA Region, car, and fastest lap time. Entries with an asterisk (*) indicate a new Runoffs qualifying track record at VIR.
- American Sedan®: Daniel Richardson; Derwood, MD; Washington DC Region, Chevrolet Camaro, 2:03.082
- B-Spec: Riley Salyer; Longview, TX; Houston Region, Mazda 2, 2:22.707
- E Production: John Hainsworth; Vineland, NJ; South Jersey Region, Mazda RX-7, 2:03.215
- F Production: Cliff Ira; Kansas City, MO, Kansas City Region, Honda Civic Del Sol VTEC, 2:08.248
- H Production: Chris Schaafsma; Wheaton, IL; Chicago Region, Volkswagen Golf, 2:14.029
- Formula 600: Calvin Stewart; Novi, MI; Detroit Region, Novakar J10, 1:57.437
- Formula Continental®: Nolan Allaer; Grosse Pointe, MI; Detroit Region, Van Diemen RF02, 1:50.281
- *Formula Enterprises® 2: Charles Russell Turner; Montpelier, VA; Washington DC Region, SCCA Mazda FE2, 1:50.665
- Formula F: Nolan Allaer; Grosse Pointe, MI; Detroit Region, Van Diemen RF00 Ford, 1:59.249
- Formula Vee®: Andrew Whitston; Neenah, WI; Milwaukee Region, Protoform P3, 2:15.639
- GT-1: David Pintaric; Canfield, OH; Mahoning Valley Region, Ford Mustang, 1:48.203
- GT-2: Barry Boes; Austin, TX; Lone Star Region, Ford Mustang, 1:52.004
- GT-3: Tony Ave; Maiden, NC; Central Carolinas Region, Acura RSX, 1:58.065
- GT-Lite: Peter Shadowen; West Palm Beach, FL; Florida Region, Honda CRX, 2:09.564
- Prototype 1: Todd Vanacore; Ormond Beach, FL; Central Florida Region, Elan DP02 Mazda, 1:42.602
- Prototype 2: Greg Gyann; Western Springs, IL; Chicago Region, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 1:48.590
- Spec Miata: Danny Steyn; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Florida Region, Mazda Miata, 2:14.986
- Spec Racer® Ford Gen3: Morgan Burkhard; Charles Town, WV; Washington DC Region, SCCA SRF Gen 3, 2:03.842
- Super Touring® Lite: Danny Steyn; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Florida Region, Mazda MX-5, 2:05.779
- Super Touring® Under: Johan Schwartz; Huntersville, NC; North Carolina Region, Porsche 944, 2:00.389
- *Touring 1: Andrew Aquilante; Chester Springs, PA; Philadelphia Region, Ford Mustang, 1:54.520
- Touring 2: Kurt Rezzetano; Phoenixville, PA; Philadelphia Region, Ford Mustang GT, 1:59.504
- Touring 3: Steve Ott; Houston, TX; Houston Region, BMW Z4 M, 2:04.520
- Touring 4: Devin Anderson; Mooresville, NC; North Carolina Region, Subaru BRZ, 2:10.514
Watch the ’23 Runoffs from VIR Online
All 23 Runoffs contests plus two Spec MX-5 Challenge Series championship events, all taking place over three Hagerty Race Days, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, will again include a multi-camera video broadcast, presented by Mazda. The presentation will be delivered directly to smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, or desktops and laptops around the globe. Catch all the Runoffs racing action anywhere with internet access as it happens live. Find the live race action Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in real time at SCCA.com, or at the SCCA Inc. Facebook page and the SCCA Official YouTube channel – links for which you’ll find below.
A four-man team familiar to fans will again anchor the video broadcast, and split duties across Hagerty Race Days. Greg Creamer and John Fippin will share play-by-play responsibilities, and color commentary will be added by Larry “Lefty” MacLeod and Tom O’Gorman. Heyward Wagner will add insight from grid and pit lane, as well as capture the emotion from competitors immediately after races. For those attending the VIR Runoffs in person, audio from the broadcast will air live around the circuit via the public address system.
Fans can also follow along online at the Runoffs Live Timing/Scoring webpage where current and archived Timing/Scoring data from all on-track sessions can be found.
In addition to live race coverage, Brian Bielanski and Gregg Ginsberg will be joined in 2023 by driver Laurin Brallier for a return of the Runoffs “Inside the SCCA" video podcast presented by Goodyear. On Hagerty Race Days, the trio will get things cranking with a live “Breakfast at the Runoffs” video presentation starting around 7 a.m. Eastern Time before cars head on course. Their coverage then picks up again during daily lunch breaks with the “Halftime Show.” Those presentations will later be archived at The Racing Network YouTube page.
Photo: Tire Rack Pole Award winners for the 2023 Runoffs at VIRginia International Raceway.
Photo by Kristen Poole/SCCA Staff