All 15 laps in Friday’s Prototype 1 race at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs counted, but a first lap incident went a long way in determining the winner as Todd Vanacore, of Ormond Beach, Florida, was elevated to his first career National Championship in 17 tries in the final race of Friday’s Hagerty Race Day this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway.
Vanacore started the race on the Tire Rack Pole, while Jim Devenport roared from fifth on the grid to the battle for the lead at the end of the backstraight on the opening lap, where the two touched fenders. Vanacore’s No. 19 Elan DP02/Mazda spun off track and dropped out of the lead, while Devenport was able to continue moving forward.
The eventual champion dropped back to ninth after the spin, rejoining the field well in back of the race lead. A full course caution on lap six bunched the field. That meant, while Vanacore remained in sixth place, a large portion of the gap had been erased.
Using the restart as a springboard, Vanacore moved through the field and got to third behind Devenport and Chip Romer with 10 to go. When Romer’s car started to lose oil, Vanacore had a new challenge and oil on his windscreen.
At the end of 15 laps, Devenport would cross the finish line first in his No. 23 Cranbrook Group Inc Elan DP02 with Vanacore 9.106 seconds behind. But a review of the first lap incident by the stewards penalized Devenport one position and elevated Vanacore to the gold medal.
“Once I get the trophy in my hand, it will be a good moment,” Vanacore said. “I’d rather have crossed the line first, but there’s no doubt I had the car to beat. I had no problem running those guys down. When Chip started to lose his motor and put oil all over my windshield, I made the mistake of trying to wipe it off with my glove and made a real mess of it. I couldn’t see anything at that point and had to back out of it.”
Devenport didn’t get away scot-free after the first lap incident. Lee Alexander took over the lead on lap two but spun in the Oak Tree turn on lap three. When the full course caution came out, Devenport found himself in a battle with Romer, which lasted until Romer’s motor issues ended his day with two laps to go.
The eventual result was Devenport’s sixth career podium, and came after his team rebuilt his car following a crash at the Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints early in the season.
“We struggled (in qualifying), actually,” Devenport said. “The setup we’ve been running for two years didn’t work here so we’ve been scrambling trying to figure out why. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we hoped we could get a good start. It was better than expected.”
Standing outside the drama and happy with his third place finish was Jason Miller, who ran his No. 3 Kohler/Millenium/Hoosier Wynnfurst WF1/Kohler to his fifth career podium and second in a row.
“It’s really not me, it’s my entire team collectively. I know I have the hardest working team here, and I’m so thankful to have them. Just to be here and put the car on the podium is just fantastic. We’re real happy today.”
Todd Parks and John Manfroy completed the top five as the final two cars on the lead lap, with Manfroy also claiming the Sunoco Hard Charger for improving from his 10th place on the starting grid.
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 provisional results for Friday's Prototype 1 race at the 2023 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (1), Todd Vanacore, Ormond Beach, FL, Elan DP02 Mazda, 15.
2, (5), Jim Devenport, Alamo, CA, Elan DP02 Mazda, 15.
3, (6), Jason Miller, Plymouth, WI, Wynnfurst WF1 Kohler, 15.
4, (8), Todd Parks, Winchendon, MA, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
5, (10), John Manfroy, San Jose, CA, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
6, (2), Chip Romer, Lake Havasu City, AZ, Elan DP02 Mazda, 13.
7, (4), John Mcaleer, Roswell, GA, Elan DP02 Mazda, 11.
8, (3), Lee Alexander, Springfield, TN, Stohr WF-Z Kawasaki, 8.
DNF, (9), Greg Case, Peoria, IL, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 3.
DNS, (7), Matthew Gendron, Monson, MA, Downing Atlanta Peach Mazda, .
Length of Race: 49.05 miles
Overall Time of Race: 30:33.367 (96.315 mph)
Fastest Race Lap: 1:44.329 (112.835 mph)
Lap Leaders: #23, Laps 1, 3-5,10-15; #48, Lap 2; #29, Laps 6-9
Sunoco Hard Charger: #22 Jon Manfroy
Photo caption: Todd Vanacore leads a line of P1 cars.
Photo by: Jay Bonvouloir