Calvin Stewart led the Formula 600 (F600) race to the green from the Tire Rack Pole at the 60th running of the SCCA® National Championship Runoffs® at VIRginia International Raceway in his No. 07 SabbathTruth.com/Hoosier Novakar J10 Suzuki. Stewart’s qualifying time was fast, but it wasn’t head-and-shoulders above the nine-car field, as James Weida started in second with a qualifying time only 0.116sec off Stewart’s; third place starter Jason Martin had logged a qualifying time another 0.338sec slower. But after 15 laps and a seemingly uncountable number of lead changes, an elated Stewart clinched his second Runoffs gold medal.
The green flag flew on Sunday, Oct. 1, on the final of three Hagerty Race Days, and it showed how hooked up the front pack were as they pulled from the rest of the field. Stewart held the point with Weida on the inside and Keith Joslyn perched outside. But Martin showed how relentless he was going to be, driving to the lead by Turn 4.
Through Roller Coaster and onto the front straight, it was Martin with a slight gap on Stewart and Weida. Joslyn, meanwhile, was holding on right behind.
Come lap three, Stewart made a move for the lead into Roller Coaster, with him and Martin running side-by-side nearly through Hog Pen – that battle, which continued to VIR’s Turn 5, opened the door for Weida to reel in the leaders. Meanwhile, Joslyn, who had seemingly been sitting in the catbird seat, began to fade.
“The car was a rocket ship at the start – we had a great start,” Joslyn said of the early laps in his No. 55 ASI Signage Innovations Scorpion S1 Rotax, adding that the car’s setup didn’t stay perfect for long. “We started overheating the left rear, making me slow down for all the right turns – which is most of them. I had an off at Oak Tree, and then I had an off in the Esses, which I’ve never had any problem there before.”
George Bugg high centered in Turn 1 on lap six, forcing the race’s only full-course caution.
The green flew once more to start lap eight, with Martin leading Stewart, Weida, and Joslyn –Stewart quickly launched back into the lead followed by Martin in hot pursuit, with Weida in the mix, passing for second into Turn 6. Then by Oak Tree, Weida slipped into the lead for the first time.
Back and forth the battle went, with the front pack dicing for the top spot. Then on lap 12, Weida made the pass for the lead into Turn 3 – but that was short lived as he spun on corner exit of Oak Tree, allowing Martin and Stewart to rocket into the distance, and handing the third position to Joslyn.
Martin’s driving style in his No. 78 Novakar J10 Suzuki differed greatly from Stewart’s, with Martin tossing the car with confidence and using fast hands to keep it under him.
“That’s just how the car is – it slides everywhere,” Martin said. “It’s a lot like a go-kart, you just hang the back end out and catch it. It’s just the fast way around with the car.”
With two to go, Stewart passed on the front, with the multi-turn battle resolving by Turn 5 and with Martin up front. On the final go-round, Stewart went for the pass into Roller Coaster on the outside with the two touching. Martin held the lead, but Stewart pulled out for the pass on the front straight, taking the win and the National Championship title by 0.112sec.
“I had [Stewart] everywhere except that straightaway, and he took advantage of it and he got his elbows out,” Martin said on his way to victory circle to spray Mazza Sparkling Wine with the rest of the podium finishers. “But we tried hard and I’m just happy to finish – happy to get the podium.”
Stewart said he knew he was quicker than Martin in certain sections. “I knew there were a couple sectors that he was quicker,” Stewart said. “If I could just run down the middle and make it harder for him to get by – he would get by, and I would give him just enough room to get by, but he would get by. And I would say, ‘Well OK, good job!’ I had to hand it to [him]. We’ll try next lap and see what happens. But [Martin and Weida] put on an awesome fight – it was fun.”
Joslyn took advantage of Weida’s spin to finish third, with H. Cory McLeod and David Lapham rounding out the top five. Martin, meanwhile, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award with his run from third on the grid to second.
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 Sunday's Formula 600 race at the 2023 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (1), Calvin Stewart, Novi, MI, Novakar J10 Suzuki, 15.
2, (3), Jason Martin, River Grove, IL, Novakar J10 Suzuki, 15.
3, (4), Keith Joslyn, Grand Island, NY, Scorpion S1 Rotax, 15.
4, (5), H Cory McLeod, Charlotte, NC, Red Devil Aero Rotax, 15.
5, (6), David Lapham, Commerce Twp, MI, Novakar J10 Suzuki, 15.
6, (9), Jack Walbran, Saint Louis, MO, Scorpion S1 Suzuki, 15.
7, (8), Robert Gray, Yorktown Hts, NY, Novakar J9 Suzuki, 15.
8, (2), James Weida, West Lafayette, IN, Scorpion S1 Rotax, 13.
DNF, (7), George Bugg, Toney, AL, Novakar J10 Rakavon Suzuki, 6.
Length of Race: 49.05 miles
Overall Time of Race: 33:13.917 (avg. 88.559 mph)
Margin of Victory: 0.112 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: #07 Calvin Stewart, 1:58.816 (99.078mph)
Lap Leaders: #78 laps 1-2, 6, 9-12; #07 laps 3-5, 7, 13-15; #22 lap 8
Sunoco Hard Charger: #78 Jason Martin
Photo caption: Following an intense 15-lap battle, Calvin Stewart clinched his second SCCA National Championship title.
Photo by: Jay Bonvouloir