Niffenegger's SSB Crown Highlights Strong Honda Showing at SCCA Runoffs TOPEKA, Kan. (October 31, 2008) Lee Niffenegger's thrilling title run aboard his Team Honda Research Honda Civic Si led a 1-2 finish for the manufacturer in the ...
Niffenegger's SSB Crown Highlights Strong Honda Showing at SCCA Runoffs
TOPEKA, Kan. (October 31, 2008) Lee Niffenegger's thrilling title run aboard his Team Honda Research Honda Civic Si led a 1-2 finish for the manufacturer in the ultra-competitive Showroom Stock B category; and highlighted a weekend of competitive runs by Honda and Acura drivers in the 45th annual Sports Car Club of America National Championship Runoffs.
Niffenegger's championship run came only after a fierce mid-race duel with the Pontiac Solstice of Michael Scornavacchi. The pair traded the lead several times between Laps 11-15, the fight ending only when Scornavacchi suffered a flat tire after briefly running off course on Lap 16. Niffenegger then cruised to his first SCCA Runoffs victory, leading his THR teammate Chad Gilsinger across the line by 8.129 seconds.
"Mike [Scornavacchi] was strong, but I played to the strengths of the Honda, we definitely had an advantage in power. We were both sliding wide, but never touched," Niffenegger said. "Then he went off and blew a tire and that was that. It was a pretty good feeling! I think this really shows what a great sport compact car we have with the Civic Si, and we didn't need to add any special race-only packages to our car to achieve this performance, just the Honda Factory Performance suspension kit that you can buy at any Honda dealer for your Civic Si. That small change really evened out the performance with the ZOK-equipped Solstice."
Gilsinger had his own battle for what became second place with defending former champion Ken Flory, but held off repeated challenges from the Solstice driver, who finished third. Other Honda/Acura drivers finished fourth through seventh, led by Richard Cullen, up from ninth on the starting grid. Chase Lin, in the third THR Honda Civic, nursed home a damaged left-front tire to finish fifth, followed by Jeff Jensen's Acura RSX in sixth. Canada's John Sherk rounded out the top seven in his DC Sports Civic.
"I made my car very `wide' against Ken [Flory]," Gilsinger said. "I knew the strengths of the Civic and the strengths of Ken's car. Fortunately, when you have power in the straight it makes it a bit easier because you can drive a defensive line in the areas where his car is strong. It certainly worked for us today."
In all, 32 Honda and Acura drivers took part in the SCCA's annual National Championship event, held at Kansas' Heartland Park-Topeka Raceway, running in six of the 25 races. Eleven Honda/Acura drivers finished in the top five of their respective events, with seven winding up on the championship podium of their respective class races with a top-three finish.
In addition to the SSB championship, Honda drivers finished on the podium in Showroom Stock C, Touring 3, GT Lite, and H Production, five of the six races with Honda/Acura entries. In the final class, F Production, Mark Carpenter finished fourth in his Acura Integra.
A total of 10 Honda S2000 drivers took part in the Touring 3 championship race, with long-time Honda racer and former national champion Bob Boileau finishing second, followed by Gilsinger in his THR Honda S2000 and pole qualifier Rob Hines rounding out the top four.
In Showroom Stock C another former Honda champion, Joel Lipperini had a race-long battle with the Mazda of Joe McClughan, with the pair swapping the lead repeatedly throughout the 18-lap contest. Lipperini set the fastest race lap, but came up just short at the finish.
Florida's Peter Shadowlen also set fastest race lap in the GT Lite event in his Honda CRX enroute to his second-place finish. Pole qualifier and defending class champion Chris Bovis was an unfortunate DNF [did not finish], after debris lodged in the intake of his Dentici Racing CRX on the pace lap. Finally, in H Production, Greg Gauper finished third in his Rana Mort Racing Honda Civic.
"This was another great year for Honda and Acura at the Runoffs," said T.E. McHale, manager, motorsports PR for American Honda. "The pressure at the runoffs, where an entire season's work comes down to a single, 18-lap race for the title, is intense, and I'm proud of the effort put forth by our Honda and Acura drivers this weekend."
While a relative newcomer to SCCA Club Racing when compared to the likes of Nissan, Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet, Honda drivers have scored 27 National Championship victories to date.