Andrew Whitston clinched the gold medal running in Formula Vee (FV) at the 60th running of the SCCA® National Championship Runoffs® at VIRginia International Raceway, and in the process locked in much more than his third SCCA National Championship title.
His road to victory began in qualifying, where he earned the Tire Rack Pole in his No. 12 RocketMotors/LOA Const/InfamousBrew Protoform P3. But while his qualifying time of 2:15.639 led the 27-car field, it didn’t do so by much – the top four qualifiers of Alex Scaler, Brian Farnham, and one of Andrew’s brother’s Steve Whitston all set times within 0.673sec of the pole.
The green flag flew a few minutes past 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, the second of three Hagerty Race days, with Andrew Whitston taking the point into Turn 1, followed by Farnham and Scaler.
A few mid-pack tangles built opening lap excitement, but there was also shuffling up front, with Farnham leading the pack into lap two; Scaler, Steve Whitston, and Andrew Whitston were in the small breakaway group. Andrew Abbott, Zachary Whitston, and a few others made up the second grouping – but the race was forced to hit pause as double yellows emerged to allow crews to clean up those opening-lap incidents.
During the caution, Abbott gave up his fifth-place position by pulling into the pits, his dad acting fast to replace a flat tire.
“I have zero idea [why the tire went flat],” Abbott said. “It was a fresh set, and on the first race lap coming down Roller Coaster, it just didn’t turn, and I was like, that’s weird. Through Hog Pen it was fine, and then in Turn 1 it locked up. I looked at it in the braking zone and I could see it and it was down.
“I was trying to get out of everybody’s way, and it was kind of a hard spot to do that,” he explained. “A full-course caution came out, and I was on the radio [with my dad, telling him] go get a tire, go get a tire, go get a tire!”
Abbott limped his No. 25 Hoosier/Autowerks/LDC Equipment Vector AM-1 around the circuit until the tire was ready, his dad changed the tire, and Abbott rejoined the field – which was still under caution – in last place.
The field restarted on lap four, with a seven pack quickly separating themselves up front. Two pairs of those Vees went for passes into Roller Coaster, with that motion shuffling Farnham back and Andrew Whitston forward. But into Turn 1, Steve Whitston locked his front tires and slid into Farnham, dropping them from contention. Zachary Whitston then had a quick spin in the Oak Tree sequence to fall out of the lead battle himself.
Up front, Andrew Whitston and Scaler had formed a two-car train several seconds ahead of the next pack of three Vees, while Abbott used the laps after the restart to climb back through the field.
“[At the restart] I got on it and passed a bunch of people on the front straightaway, luckily not getting caught in bad spots and just picking people off,” Abbott said. “And the next thing I know, I’m like holy crap, this is for the podium – we’re here, let’s go!”
With six laps remaining, Andrew Whitston and Scaler had an insurmountable lead on VIR’s 3.27-mile, 18-turn full course, to the tune of a nearly six-second advantage over Abbott in third. Abbot was running solo, as the next-fastest pack of Phelps-Barron, Jonathan Weisheit, and Jeffrey Valeo were another seven seconds back.
On lap 11 – and with nine minutes remaining – a full-course caution was called due to Zachary Whitston hitting the tire barrier into Roller Coaster while battling in a four-car pack for sixth. The barrier repair dictated the race end under yellow.
“We were trying to save enough tires and just let the draft make up the difference, that way we had enough at the end,” Scaler said after finishing in second place under caution in his No. 79 Advantage Motorsports/Autowerks Scaler Mk1. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. But we wouldn’t even be this far up if it weren’t for everyone who helps us out … there’s so many people. We’re just happy to be here. We’ll keep fighting.”
Andrew Whitston also would have preferred a green-flag race for the gold. “I really wanted a green flag the whole race,” he said right before spraying the Mazza Sparkling Wine on the podium. “We had the early caution, and it was OK [because] we had enough time to get going, and then that second one came out and they threw the checker. It was really disappointing, honestly, that we didn’t finish that under green. I felt horrible for Alex [Scaler] because he drove just a brilliant race the whole time and I was really looking forward to battling it out at the end.”
Andrew Whitston’s strategy was similar to Scaler’s – to a point. “I was trying to get rid of him, and it just wasn’t happening,” laughed Andrew. “Then I got behind him and I kind of fell under the same strategy as him and I was just going to sit and wait until the last lap, because if you’re leading, you’re in trouble. But then it was also going through my mind [that] if a full course caution comes out with a couple laps to go, it probably won’t go green again. So I was kind of weighing those back and forth, and I still hadn’t made a decision when the yellow flag came out. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
With this gold medal, Andrew Whitston also won the SCCA Super Sweep after claiming the Runoffs title, the Hoosier Racing Tire point championship, a U.S. Majors Tour point championship, and a Super Tour race win, all in the same class this season. This is his second Super Sweep title, his first coming in 2021.
Phelps-Barron and Weisheit rounded out the top five, with Stuart Delaney earning the Sunoco Hard Charger Award with his run from 24th on the grid to 13th.
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 Formula Vee race at the 2023 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (1), Andrew Whitston, Neenah, WI, Protoform P3, 13.
2, (2), Alex Scaler, Asbury, NJ, Scaler Mk1, 13.
3, (5), Andrew Abbott, Livonia, MI, Vector AM-1, 13.
4, (9), Hunter Phelps-Barron, Garland, TX, Mysterian M3, 13.
5, (10), Jonathan Weisheit, Baltimore, MD, Protoform P3, 13.
6, (13), Jeffrey Valeo, Brooklyn, NY, Mysterian M3, 13.
7, (15), Roger Siebenaler, North Hero, VT, Mysterian M3, 13.
8, (3), Brian Farnham, Medina, OH, Silver Bullet FR-S, 13.
9, (8), Brandon Abbott, Farmington Hills, MI, Vector AM-1, 13.
10, (11), Trevor Carmody, Horseheads, NY, Volkswagen Protoform, 13.
11, (19), Stevan Davis, Danielsville, GA, Vortech , 13.
12, (17), Chris Jennerjahn, Hartford City, IN, Vortech , 13.
13, (24), Stuart Delaney, Plymouth, MI, Caracal C, 13.
14, (22), Michael Hinkle, Suncook, NH, Protoform P3, 13.
15, (21), Devin Boucher, Terrell, TX, Caracal Caracal D, 13.
16, (26), Ray Qualls, Reisterstown, MD, Protoform P3, 13.
17, (23), Chase Johnson, Quakertown, PA, Mysterian M3, 13.
18, (25), Smith Jackson Ragsdale, Easley, SC, Vortech , 13.
19, (6), Zachary Whitston, Austin, TX, Protoform P3, 10.
DNF, (4), Steve Whitston, Georgetown, TX, Protoform P3, 5.
DNF, (7), Mitchell Ferguson, Moore, SC, Vortech FV, 5.
DNF, (14), Jeff Filipkowski, Mount Bethel, PA, Vorscha GB5, 2.
DNF, (18), Donnie Isley, Fletcher, NC, Vortech , 1.
DNF, (12), Gerard Owen Callaghan, Bedford, MA, Problem Child SM 01, 0.
DNF, (16), Rick Shields, Bridgeville, PA, VDF , 0.
DNF, (20), Ron Whitston, Neenah, WI, Protoform P3, 0.
DNF, (27), William Duke Ragsdale, Easley, SC, Vortech , 0.
Length of Race: 42.51 miles
Overall Time of Race: 37:21.127 (avg. 68.285 mph)
Margin of Victory: 0.560 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: ##25 Andrew Abbott, 2:16.611 (86.172 mph)
Lap Leaders: #15 laps 1-5; #12 laps 6-8, 10-13; #79 lap 9
Sunoco Hard Charger: #74 Stuart Delaney
Photo caption: Andrew Whitston claimed not only his third Runoffs National Championship but also his second Super Sweep.
Photo by: Jay Bonvouloir