The best reason to race is to test yourself – but testing yourself doesn’t always mean winning the race. That’s why, once again, the Sunoco Hard Charger Award was presented during each and every race of the SCCA® National Championship Runoffs® at VIRginia International Raceway, which took place Sept. 23-Oct. 1, 2023.
The Sunoco Hard Charger goes to the driver in each race who gains the most positions from the start to the finish. And it’s no slouch of an award – a crisp $100 bill (in check form) goes to each of the finishers, assuming they signed up for the contingency program and ran the required Sunoco stickers. (As a side note, always sign up for every contingency program you may be eligible for, no matter if you expect to win it or not. You never know!)
Fill Up and Go!
There are as many stories behind the Sunoco Hard Charger winners at the 2023 Runoffs as there were races.
Matt Wolfe’s B-Spec week didn’t start the way he had hoped, and qualifying became a struggle. Though he took the green 19th on the grid, the race turned much differently, and a couple of well-timed yellow flags helped him get all the way to sixth at the finish, where he led a pack of B-Spec cars across the stripe.
Or take young Jase Petty, for instance. This 14-year-old high school freshman had to change cars after the first qualifying session, leaving him just two sessions to get comfortable behind the wheel of the replacement Spec Racer® Ford Gen3. He landed 21st on the grid, which is not too shabby in a field as deep as SRF3. But he made the most of it in the race, rocketing around two-time National Champion Clay Russell on the final lap to finish an incredible fifth.
And the Sunoco Hard Charger award isn’t all about top finishes. In Touring 4, John McClendon made his second Runoffs start and earned his second 18th-place finish – but at the 2023 Runoffs, that was a six-place improvement from his grid position, earning him the Sunoco Hard Charger title. Similarly, Craig Haltom made up eight places in Formula Enterprises® 2, finishing 17th and grabbing his share of the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
It’s an award that’s open to anybody – except, most of the time, the Tire Rack Pole Award winner.
Following is the full list of Sunoco Hard Charger award winners from the 2023 National Championship Runoffs, listed by class, driver, car, start position, and finishing position.
- American Sedan®: Amy Aquilante, Pontiac Firebird, Started 7th, Finished 3rd
- B-Spec: Matt Wolfe, Mazda2, Started 19th, Finished 6th
- E Production: Steve Eckerich, Mazda RX-8, Started 20th, Finished 11th
- F Production: Richard Gallup, Mazda Miata, Started 16th, Finished 8th
- H Production: Edward Werry, Honda Fit, Started 22nd, Finished 13th
- Formula 600: Jason Martin, Novakar J10/Suzuki, Started 3rd, Finished 2nd
- Formula Continental®: Glenn Cordova, Van Diemen RF04, Started 8th, Finished 4th
- Formula Enterprises® 2: Craig Haltom, Formula Enterprises/Mazda, Started 25th, Finished 17th
- Formula F: Robert Perona, Piper DF3D/Honda, Started 6th, Finished 3rd
- Formula Vee®: Stuart Delaney, Caracal C/Volkswagen, Started 24th, Finished 13th
- GT-2: Al Rowland, Chevrolet Camaro, Started 11th, Finished 7th
- GT-3: Zachary Hollingshead, Mazda Miata, Started 6th, Finished 4th
- GT-Lite: Chris Kopley, Mini Cooper, Started 8th, Finished 5th
- Prototype 1: John Manfroy, Stohr WF1/Suzuki, Started 10th, Finished 5th
- Prototype 2: AJ Snyder, Stohr WF1/Suzuki, Started 12th, Finished 8th
- Spec Miata: Jordan Rick Segrini, Mazda Miata, Started 26th, Finished 12th
- Spec Racer Ford® Gen3: Jase Petty, Spec Racer Ford, Started 21st, Finished 5th
- Super Touring® Lite: Brad Williams, Mazda Miata, Started 20th Finished 16th
- Super Touring Under: David Fiorelli, Ford Mustang, Started 10th, Finished 4th
- Touring 1: Dustin Cornell, Ford Mustang GT, Started 10th, Finished 7th
- Touring 2: Joe Boden, Porsche Carrera S, Started 8th, Finished 7th
- Touring 3: Travis Washay, Volkswagen GTI, Started 9th, Finished 3rd
- Touring 4: John McLendon, Mazda MX-5, Started 24th, Finished 18th
Photo caption: Jase Petty fought his way from 21st on the grid to fifth in SRF3 to claim the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
Photo by Jay Bonvouloir
(Editor's note: This article was updated to correct Jase Petty's age and school information.)