The SCCA® Road Racing department helped kick off the 2024 SCCA National Convention on Thursday evening, Jan. 18, with a celebration of some of SCCA Road Racing’s highest honors. Included in those awards are the President’s Cup, Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year award, Kimberly Cup, John McGill Award, David Morrell Award, and Mechanic of the Year.
The celebration, hosted by SCCA President and CEO Mike Cobb, SCCA’s Vice President of Road Racing Eric Prill, and Director of Road Racing Deanna Flanagan, was presented online in a live broadcast, with award recipients joining the streaming event to accept their awards.
Mechanic of the Year
Drivers often get the glory, but it’s those in the paddock doing the wrenching that make the magic happen. SCCA’s Mechanic of the Year award recognizes those who put in hours of work behind the scenes to ensure their driver (or drivers) has the best possible race car and the fans get the show they deserve. The 2023 Mechanic of the Year award was presented to Mike Hern.
A member of Mid-South Region since 2017, Hern is part of the East Street Racing crew who helps prep numerous championship-caliber Spec Miatas throughout the racing season. Described as “Mr. Automatic,” Hern is committed to knowing his cars inside and out, taking time to ensure everything is set the way it’s supposed to be.
The results of his hard work and dedication show in on-track successes by team principal and National Championship winner Jim Drago, Todd Buras, and the Club’s first Co-National Champions Nicholas Bruni and Preston Pardus, to name a few.
David Morrell Award
Recognizing an active Steward in the Stewards Program who has exhibited an outstanding performance and dedication to the sport and its highest principles and selected by the Chairman of the Stewards and the Executive Stewards, the David Morrell Award is bestowed upon the best. This year, that honor went to Atlanta Region member Paul Gauzens.
Gauzens began his journey with the Club in 2003, first autocrossing and later in road racing. He joined the Stewards program as an SIT in 2009, served as Executive Steward from 2014-’16, and recently concluded another term from 2022-’23.
One of his most notable contributions is making a series of webinars for the Stewards Ground School Training. Launched in 2012 while on the Stewards Training Development Committee, the Ground School was a way to effectively speed up the training of stewards. That concept evolved into immersion training during race weekends, maximizing the time and resources spent through focused and hands-on experience. Through the expanded use of video conferencing tools, Gauzens is now able to reach SITs from across the country and provide ground school training through a series of online sessions, providing a more consistent delivery of the training information.
This isn’t the first time Gauzens has been celebrated as a Steward on the National level, winning the Steward Worker of the Year award in both 2012 and 2014.
John McGill Award
A 44-year member hailing from the Houston Region, Bill Skibbe was presented with the John McGill Award. This award is presented annually in recognition for significant contributions to the SCCA Road Racing program. The winner is chosen by the Club Racing Board (CRB) and the head of the SCCA Road Racing department.
An expert in the field of Timing & Scoring, Skibbe has been the Timing & Scoring lead for CART/Champ Car, USAC, IMSA, IndyCar, Red Bull, SCCA Pro Racing series including World Challenge and Trans Am, as well as various motocross and cycling series. He’s been SCCA’s Runoffs Timing & Scoring chief since 2013 and the Club’s Hoosier Super Tour Timing lead along with Carol Reber.
While working for MyLaps, Skibbe provided SCCA Regions a bridge between the timing software and the Club’s Timing & Scoring functions and was integral in the program-wide implementation of the transponder. He was instrumental in building the SCCA Live Timing system, developing the ability to provide a portable, multi-segment timing data system so it could be used at each of the Hoosier Super Tour events. Skibbe has also worked to train T&S workers across the country and share best practices to build consistency.
This isn’t the first time Skibbe’s hard work has been recognized – the Club last celebrated his contributions when he was presented as the T&S Worker of the Year presented by Mazda in 2017.
Recognizing outstanding improvement and achievements during the SCCA Road Racing season, picking the Kimberley Cup winner each year is rarely an easy feat, but with his performance at the 2023 Runoffs, Jared Odrick was a first-round pick.
Joining the SCCA as a Susquehanna Region member in 2022, Odrick – who was formerly a first-round NFL draft pick for the Miami Dolphins before playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and appearing in several films – wasted no time competing in the Runoffs. In 2022, Odrick started the Runoffs 13th and ran to a 16th place finish.
He returned for the 2023 season with a vengeance, adding Spec Miata and Super Touring® Lite to his GT-2 on-track regimen. By the time the 2023 Runoffs rolled around, he’d wrapped the Hoosier Super Tour GT-2 standings in second, as well as finished second in the Northeast U.S. Majors Tour Point Standings.
At the 2023 Runoffs, Odrick qualified P3 in GT-2 to face off with polesitter Barry Boes – Odrick claimed that victory in an epic battle, but with only 0.348sec to spare.
Odrick’s drive, poise, and post-race Runoffs interview combined to earn him the 2023 Kimberly Cup.
Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year
Selected by the Club Racing Board based on nominations submitted by the Executive Stewards, the Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year award is presented to the SCCA Road Racing driver showing the greatest promise as evidenced by their driving performance during their first season of National competition. This year’s winner, Washington DC Region’s Morgan Burkhard, didn’t leave the 2023 Runoffs with a trophy, but his performance showed award-winning potential.
Burkhard obtained his competition license in 2022 at the age of 16, and then became a Runoffs rookie in 2023, leading the Spec Racer Ford Gen3 (SRF3) field to the green flag from the Tire Rack Pole, outqualifying perennial frontrunners Charles Russell Turner, David Ogburn, Franklin Futrelle, Brian Schofield, Bobby Sak, S. Sandy Satullo III, and more. Burkhard got the jump at the green, but dropped back to third into the first corner.
As the race progressed, only four cars broke away from the pack. It was no surprise that Futrelle, Turner, Ogburn, and Denny Stripling constituted that lead pack – but Burkhard, the rookie, was there too. Then on lap 12 as he exited the Oak Tree turn, he pulled off track with a flat tire.
While Burkhard didn’t end his Runoffs race on the podium, his on-track skills earned him the 2023 Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year award.
Calvin Stewart has been to the Runoffs 14 times, but thanks to his performance at the 2023 Runoffs, this Detroit Region member now owns a third SCCA National Championship title. His most recent battle for the top step was the stuff of legends, with Stewart, Jason Martin, and James Weida battling at VIR in Formula 600 cars that all handled very differently. Stewart’s margin of victory over Martin was a sly 0.112sec, with the winning pass achieved within sight of the finish line.
That battle was one for the ages – and it got the attention of the Stewards of the Meet, Runoffs Race Director, head of Road Racing, and the President of SCCA to earn Stewart this year’s President’s Cup.
Originally presented by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and now presented by current and past SCCA presidents, the President’s Cup recognizes the driver demonstrating ability, competitiveness, and success at the National Championship Runoffs. Beyond that, Stewart is rarely seen without a smile on his face, making him a champion of the sport in more ways than one.
Putting an exclamation point on Stewart’s award is his persistence to succeed. His first Runoffs appearance came in 1993, although that race was met with a “DNS” next to his name on the results sheet. The following year, he finished fourth. He took a break until 2001, where he picked up where he left off, finishing third and earning his first Runoffs podium finish. Taking another break from the Runoffs beginning in 2004, Stewart returned in 2014, landing on the top step of the Runoffs podium for the first time in 2015 at Daytona International Speedway. That performance earned him the Kimberly Cup for most improved driver.
And now, Stewart adds the 2023 President’s Cup to his trophy case.