Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, solidified his hold on third all-time in SCCA road racing National Championships with a flag-to-flag win in Touring 1 on Saturday at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
The now 14-time Champion launched from the Tire Rack pole at the Virginia International Raceway green flag with a singular goal to put as large of a gap between his No. 33 Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk Ford Mustang and the rest of the field as possible. Aquilante successfully executed that plan, opening up a gap and marching to a 13.359-second win. He turned the quickest lap of the race in 1:55.488 on lap five, which gave him the gap to Mark Boden – himself a four-time Champion and 20-time podium finisher – he needed to get to the end.
“I pounded out a qualifying lap that was in the lead, but that car is bigger and heavier than everyone else comparatively,” Aquilante said. “Race pace is always a concern in that regard. You have to hit your marks on every lap. The first few laps were ok, but I was looking back and he was still there. About lap five, all of a sudden I think the tire pressure came in… and I kept cranking them out.”
Boden knew Aquilante was going to do his best to “run away and hide,” as Aquilante said on the podium. He cleared second-starting James Candelaria’s No. 134 Candelaria Racing Products Chevrolet Corvette on the opening lap and could see the rear of Aquilante’s Mustang. While Boden was able to get his No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 clear of Candelaria, he couldn’t close the gap to Aquilante and finished in second.
“Andrew is so good, and he’s got that car dialed,” Boden said. “It puts the power down so well, and it gets later in the race and you see him put the power down and it’s just lifting the tire and going and it’s really pretty cool. It’s just great to be here, and I think this Runoffs showed everybody not to be afraid of the GT4 cars and that they’re a good addition to the class. I’m looking forward to next year and seeing some new, fun cars in the class and being able to retire this poor car after about 18 years.”
Candelaria earned his second career podium, and first since 2020 at Road America. While hoping for more, he left pleased with the company he had kept.
“It was a great opportunity,” Candelaria said. “This is always an amazing event. We got in a position where we out qualified Mark by the slimmest of margins and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I managed to keep him behind me up until I made a small error on the back straight, and he was able to capitalize like the pro that he is. I’ve been battling Mark and Andrew for years, and you have to be perfect. Today I wasn’t perfect. I still managed to drive a clean race, bring it home on third, and I’m super happy with that. You can’t be too disappointed when you’re standing on the podium, can you?”
Behind the podium battle was one of those GT4 cars referenced by Boden, battling with the traditional T1 BMW M3 of Hugh Stewart. Tony Ave, running his fourth race of the weekend, went back and forth for all 15 laps in his Mercedes-AMG GT4, eventually getting the best of Stewart’s BMW for fourth and fifth respectively. Dustin Cornell improved from 10th on the grid to seventh to earn the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
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 Saturday's Touring 1race at the 2023 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (1), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, PA, Ford Mustang, 15.
2, (3), Mark Boden, Winnetka, IL, BMW E92 M3, 15.
3, (2), James Candelaria, Boca Raton, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 15.
4, (4), Tony Ave, Maiden, NC, Mercedes Benz AMG GT4, 15.
5, (5), Hugh Stewart, Milford, CT, BMW E46 M3, 15.
6, (8), Scotty B White, Auburn, WA, Dodge Viper SRT RT-10, 15.
7, (10), Dustin Cornell, Powhatan, VA, Ford Mustang GT, 15.
8, (11), Paolo Salvatore, San Antonio, TX, Ford Mustang FP350S, 15.
9, (7), Thad Berger, Redmond, WA, Porsche Cayman, 15.
10, (12), Robert Korzen, Fredericksburg, VA, Ford Mustang, 15.
11, (9), Brian Goodman, Fairfield, CT, BMW E46 M3, 14.
12, (6), Ann Doherty, Daniel Island, SC, Porsche Cayman, 9.
Length of Race: 49.05 miles
Overall Time of Race: 29:05.593 (101.158 mph)
Margin of Victory: 13.359 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 1:55.488 (101.933 mph)
Lap Leaders: #33, Laps 1-15
Sunoco Hard Charger: #07 Dustin Cornell
Photo caption: Contrary to this, Aquilante used all four tires on his way to a win.
Photo by: Jeff Loewe