After today's second day of racing at Road America, 17 of 25 national champions have been crowned at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. Unlike the American Le Mans Series' Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, rain was not a factor in a state where the weather is usually notoriously fickle.
National champions today are: Bob Boileau (Touring 3, Monument, Co.) Toby Grahovec (Showroom Stock B, Chicago), Juan Marchand (Formula Mazda, South Haven, Mich.), Steven Gorriaran (Spec Miata, Providence, R.I.), Mike Miserendino (Spec Racer Ford, Los Angeles, Calif.), Michael Varacins (Formula Vee, Burlington, Wis.), Scott Tucker (Touring 1, Overland Park, Kan.), Nicholas Coello (Formula Continental, East Troy, Wis.) and Richard Bushey (GT3, Virginia Beach, Va.).
There were incredible back-to-back barnburners in Spec Miata and Spec Racer Ford going into the lunch break. Although Gorriaran led flag-to-flag from pole in Spec Miata, the battle for second between Jim Drago, Matthew Pombo and Todd Lamb was intense.
It changed hands nearly every lap. On lap 5, Lamb passed Drago while they both trailed Pombo, and on the next Pombo had fallen back to fourth. Drago repassed Lamb, Pombo also got around Lamb at the same time.
On the final lap Pombo and Lamb exchanged the final podium position three times, the final time when Pombo emerged ahead from the outside of the Carousel ahead of Lamb.
Lamb, who also races in the Mazda MX-5 Cup where he has won the last seven races, finished just shy of the Runoffs rostrum. Pombo acknowledged a good fight.
"I gave him room, he gave me room, and I got it done on the outside," Pombo said.
Spec Racer Ford saw pole sitter Brian Schofield and Miserendino run absolutely nose-to-tail the entire race, never separated by more than a tenth of a second. It was a gripping fight and it all came to a head on the 13th and final lap.
Miserendino tried a pass to Schofield's outside going into turn 1. The pair stayed side-by-side through the next couple turns, though Miserendino fell back behind out of turn 3.
That's when the fun started. Miserendino, seeking his fourth consecutive SRF title, went to Schofield's inside and dropped his left side wheels on the grass on the run to turn 5. However, he didn't lose too much momentum and was able to carry it up the hill into turn 6 to complete the pass.
Miserendino explained his perspective, trailing Schofield for the entire race and then pulling off the last-lap stunner to complete his quartet of Runoffs victories.
"I had to do qualifying laps every time to keep up with him," he explained. "I was definitely not sandbagging, because I tried everything I could to keep up. I was better out of turn 3 but that was the only one I was better onto a long straight. I couldn't do it into Canada. The best chance to hold on was making a move into turn 5."
Schofield made one final attempt into turn 14 but was unable to pull it off. Despite leading 12 of 13 laps, cliche as it is, he didn't lead the one that counted.
"We just missed it," Schofield said. "I didn't know where he came from and I didn't expect the move into turn 5. "I knew he was quicker at the end of the long straights but my car handled better."
Varacins checked into another zip code during the Formula Vee race, leading by as much as 31 seconds before a late-race accident that dropped the gap to 25.306 seconds. Richard Shields, Bruce Livermore and Dennis Andrade all collided going into Canada Corner in a battle for second, Andrade's car flipping. The drivers involved were not injured.
John Buttermore made a quick start in the Touring 1 race but only held the lead for a couple laps before Tucker emerged ahead in his Ferrari 430 Challenge. Tucker, who also races a BMW/Riley Daytona Prototype for Level 5 Motorsports in Grand-Am's Rolex Series, secured his first SCCA national title.
The Formula Continental field was placed under a black flag after two laps. The 16 cars that survived the first lap out of 25 that started headed for the pit lane after an accident at the Kink caused a track blockage and significant amount of damage to both cars and the barriers.
Because of the accident, FC was the first class that did not run to its scheduled distance of 13 laps but was instead halted due to the 40-minute time limit. Nicholas Coello was out in front when the checkered flag waved.
Saturday Spotlight: Super Sweeps and first Runoff wins for two drivers
Two drivers that stood out from today's events were Michael Varacins and Juan Marchand, who each dominated their respective classes en route to their first Runoffs victories.
Both drivers also secured the prestigious SCCA Super Sweep award. That involves winning the nationwide points standings, Divisional and National Championships, and a key National Club race all in a single class in a given year.
In Formula Vee's only Speed Sport AM-5, Varacins' fastest lap was 1.1 seconds quicker than anyone else, a rare accomplishment in a class that is usually very close. His official margin of victory, 25.306 seconds under caution, is the second largest in class history only behind 1972's 63.8 second gap by Dave Weitzenhof.
"I can't even begin to describe it, and I don't think it will sink in for a while," he said. "It's been a dream season, we can't do anything better than we did it. Part of me wished I was part of the battle for second, but part of me is glad I didn't have to be."
Marchand, Formula Mazda champion, was just as humbled with his first title.
"I had to endure a lot of things, and I just now got a brand new engine," he said. "This is the first year I've had a single crew member to share information with. I'd share anything, there are no secrets."
During the FC race, driver Thomas Gaffney was injured in the accident at the Kink. Gaffney, from Birmingham, Mich., was transported to Froedert Hospital via helicopter after the injuries that were sustained. He was reported awake and alert.
Earlier in the week, Touring 1 driver Michael P. Tracy of Morton Grove, Ill. was injured and transported to Froedert Hospital. Driving a Corvette C6, Tracy contacted the wall at turn 3 during Tuesday's first round of qualifying that was held in rain. On Wednesday, Tracy was reported awake and responsive.
There will be more information as it becomes available.