Here’s something we’ve never said before: today we crowned a pair of Co-National Champions at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs®. Spec Miata drivers Preston Pardus and Nicolas Bruni were crowned on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, during the first of three Hagerty Race Days, writing a new chapter in the Runoffs history books. How did we get there? That story has many twists and turns.
Setting the Stage
In qualifying, Danny Steyn earned Tire Rack Pole Awards in both Spec Miata and Super Touring® Lite – he has certainly figured out the 18-turns and 3.27-miles of VIRginia International Raceway. The time he laid down in his No. 39 OPM/Rossini/G-Loc/Planet Miata 2002 Mazda Miata was the fastest of the 50-car field, but the drivers behind him had set qualifying times mere fractions of a second slower — including Pardus, Bruni, Rob Hines, Charles Mactutus, and more. In all, one second covered the top 14 qualifiers.
The green flag waved just past 1 p.m. ET as part of the first of three Hagerty Race Days at the Runoffs – and with it, the story began to unfold.
Starting with a Twist
Steyn and Bruni hooked together to lead through Turn 1, with a little mid-pack tangling resulting in a couple of cars temporarily exiting the racing surface. As the field neared the bridge after the Turn 5-6 complex, Jeremy Butz and Chris Clark tangled, bumping Clark into the barrier, flipping his car multiple times. The race was immediately black flagged to tend to the drivers and repair the barrier.
Following a roughly 40-minute delay, the field took to the track once more for a single-file race restart, led by Steyn, Bruni, and Pardus. But rather than the originally planned 15-lap battle, the race would be a 23-minute timed sprint to the checker.
The Racing Begins
Except for a little dust in Turn 1, drivers stayed clean during the restart, with Steyn leading the charge. Into Roller Coaster, Pardus popped to the front in his No. 42 Danus Utilities/East Street Racing 2003 Mazda Miata followed by Bruni, Mactutus, and Jim Drago. Steyn was now in fifth, trailed by Raiden Nicol and Elivan Goulart.
The front pack fanned four wide starting lap five, with Nicol diving into Turn 1 and emerging in the lead, putting Pardus in hot pursuit.
Two laps later, the front five had broken from the field, with Nicol being chased by Pardus and more. Pardus soon made his move, passing for the lead, placing Nicol in second, followed by Steyn, Mactutus, and Bruni. That lead pack bravely headed four wide into South Bend and Oak Tree, with Steyn and Nicol discovering their piece of racetrack was the corner exit’s dirt.
This scrap broke the pack slightly, and by lap 10, the frontrunners were Bruni, Pardus, Drago, Brian Henderson (who was up from sixth), and Mactutus, followed by Steyn and Daniel Conway. It wasn’t long before there was more action up front as Mactutus went into the grass at the top of Roller Coaster and rejoined the track all the way down at Hog Pen.
When the white waved, the front grouping was made up of just Pardus and Bruni, leaving Steyn, Henderson, Drago, Conway, and Ethan Jacobs embroiled in a battle for third.
Out of Oak Tree, Pardus and Bruni went side-by-side for a photo finish.
“We were coming through those last few turns, I’d missed South Bend by a mile, and we went down into Oak Tree,” said Bruni. “Preston got a little wide I think, and I was able to get alongside of him down the back straight. We went two wide through Roller Coaster; he came out ahead, I tucked back inside.”
Bruni had one last shot in his No. 6 East Street Racing 2002 Mazda Miata. “[Pardus] got a little loose on exit and I got the run,” said Bruni. “I was like, alright, let’s see where we get to.”
Pardus thought he had Bruni beat in South Bend, although he quickly discovered that was not the case.
“I lost whatever time I had,” Pardus said. “Thankfully, I recovered enough. Going through Hog Pen I thought I had it in hand, but he had a run — I don’t know, he side-drafted me or something there and got up next to me and across the line.”
We’ll get to who crossed the finish line first in a moment.
The Battle for Third
While Pardus and Bruni were battling, Drago, Steyn, and Henderson were embroiled in their own scrum – this one for third.
“Coming onto the last lap, it was Drago, Steyn, and me,” Henderson said of the race in his No. 97 BDL Motorsports/PAW 2001 Mazda Miata. “Steyn went under Drago, and I went with Steyn. That put [Steyn] in third and [me in] fourth. I followed in line with him, and then on the back stretch I was able to pass him on the driver’s side.”
But that battle wasn’t over.
“He went for a run out of Hog Pen, went to my outside, and I cut down at the last second, and I just barely beat him — I inched him out at the line.”
The race for third went in Henderson’s favor to the tune of 0.025sec.
Back to Bruni and Pardus: As they made their way to pit lane after the race, Timing & Scoring listed the margin of victory as 0.003sec — with Pardus over Bruni — beating the previous Runoffs margin-of-victory record of 0.007sec set in 2013 during the GT-Lite race. But at the Runoffs, when a race comes down to miniscule measurements of time, stewards head to the high-speed camera setup specifically for this purpose — which is exactly what happened. What did the stewards find? An absolute dead heat. So for the first time in the 60-year history of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, dual National Champions were crowned, and teammates Pardus and Bruni celebrate together.
“It’s really cool because we worked together all week, too,” Pardus said once he heard the decision had been made to crown both him and Bruni as this year’s Spec Miata co-champions. “I don’t think that we’d be in that position so far out in front of everyone if it wasn’t for both of us. The teamwork makes it gratifying, too. It took [Bruni] to get us into that spot.”
Bruni agreed, but was still taking it all in.
“I’m still in shock,” Bruni said. “It’s straight out of a Hollywood movie, in my mind. I couldn’t ask for anything better. Honestly, I’m thrilled to get to share it with Preston — to his point, we worked together all week, and we’ve worked together for a couple years now, and there’s nobody I’d prefer to share the championship with.”
Steyn crossed the line in fourth, followed by Drago. The Sunoco Hard Charger was Justin Rick Segrini, whose race saw him battle from 26th to 12th.
The 60th running of SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs®, the Pinnacle of American Amateur Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at VIRginia International Raceway — in Alton, VA — during Hagerty Race Days, Friday, Sept. 29, through Sunday, Oct. 1.
Live, online video coverage of Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition at SCCA.com/live, and at SCCA’s official YouTube and Facebook social media channels. Live timing and scoring for each race is also available at SCCA.com.
Below are official results for Friday's Spec Miata race at the 2023 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (2), Preston Pardus, New Smyrna Beach, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
1, (3), Nicholas Bruni, Arlington, VA, Mazda Miata, 12.
3, (6), Brian Henderson, Fredericksburg, VA, Mazda Miata, 12.
4, (1), Danny Steyn, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
5, (9), Jim Drago, Memphis, TN, Mazda Miata, 12.
6, (15), Daniel Conway, Ruther Glen, VA, Mazda Miata, 12.
7, (17), Ethan Jacobs, Oshkosh, WI, Mazda Miata, 12.
8, (11), Raiden Nicol, Hoschton, GA, Mazda Miata, 12.
9, (16), Julian DaCosta, Myakka City, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
10, (13), Todd Buras, Melbourne, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
11, (5), Charles Mactutus, Little Mountain, SC, Mazda Miata, 12.
12, (26), Jordan Rick Segrini, Boca Raton, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
13, (21), Brett Kowalski, Las Cruces, NM, Mazda Miata, 12.
14, (25), Boris Said Jr, Escondido, CA, Mazda Miata, 12.
15, (27), Spencer Lofton, Henderson, TN, Mazda Miata, 12.
16, (14), Logan Stretch, Arlington, TX, Mazda Miata, 12.
17, (20), Christian Sarnecki, Plymouth, MA, Mazda Miata, 12.
18, (10), Sean Noonan, Newburgh, NY, Mazda Miata, 12.
19, (22), Cam Ebben, Appleton, WI, Mazda Miata, 12.
20, (12), Nick Leverone, Mendon, MA, Mazda Miata, 12.
21, (24), Noah Harmon, Orlando, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
22, (23), Jonathan Davis, Wadsworth, OH, Mazda Miata, 12.
23, (29), Frankie Barroso, Miami Springs, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
24, (33), Joseph Tobin, Hilton Head Island, SC, Mazda Miata, 12.
25, (35), Ford Munnerlyn, Bennettsville, SC, Mazda Miata, 12.
26, (19), Eric Gerchak, Statesville, NC, Mazda Miata, 12.
27, (28), Jonathan Neudorf, Scottsdale, AZ, Mazda Miata, 12.
28, (8), Ethan Goulart, Shelton, CT, Mazda Miata, 12.
29, (37), Domenico Leuci, Binghamton, NY, Mazda Miata, 12.
30, (32), Matthew Sisson, Pelham, NY, Mazda Miata, 12.
31, (40), Jesse Singer, Miami, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
32, (38), Alfredo Zedan, Miami, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
33, (31), Bobby Gossett, Bluffton, SC, Mazda Miata, 12.
34, (45), Patrick McGovern, Richmond, KY, Mazda Miata, 12.
35, (34), Charlie Campbell, Corry, PA, Mazda Miata, 12.
36, (47), Rob Bailey, Jacksonville, FL, Mazda Miata, 12.
37, (42), David Henderson, Falmouth, VA, Mazda Miata, 12.
38, (48), Whitfield Gregg, Manson, WA, Mazda Miata, 12.
39, (44), John Jenkins, New York, NY, Mazda Miata, 12.
40, (52), Andrea King, Minneapolis, MN, Mazda Miata, 12.
41, (51), Russell King, Minneapolis, MN, Mazda Miata, 11.
42, (18), Laurin Brallier, Clemmons, NC, Mazda Miata, 10.
43, (46), Theodore Cahall, Christiansburg, VA, Mazda Miata, 8.
DNF, (7), Elivan Goulart, Shelton, CT, Mazda Miata, 4.
DNF, (43), Douglas Ahn, Brooklyn, NY, Mazda Miata, 3.
DNF, (36), Amy Mills, Manson, WA, Mazda Miata, 1.
DNF, (4), Rob Hines, Arlington, VA, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (39), Jeremy Butz, Darnestown, MD, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (41), Chris Clarke, Fort Myers, FL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (49), Bailey Sigler, Mooresville, NC, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNS, (30), Anthony Geraci, Glen Head, NY, Mazda Miata, .
DNS, (50), Marc Briley, Austin, TX, Mazda Miata, .
Length of Race: 39.24 miles
Overall Time of Race: 1:09:14:352 (avg. 34.004 mph)
Margin of Victory: 0.000 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: ##178 Junian Decosta, 2:16.229 (86.413 mph)
Lap Leaders: #39 laps 1-2; #42 laps 3-5, 7, 11-12; #193 lap 6; #6 laps 8-10
Sunoco Hard Charger: #118 Jordan Rick Segrini
Photo caption: Left: Yes, there are two cars in that photo-finish photo. Right: Bruni (left) and Pardus (right) celebrate making SCCA Runoffs history.
Photos by: Mr. Finish Camera / Jon Krolewicz