RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Davis wins GT2 for his 12th title

The GT2 race at the Valvoline Runoffs is always one of the most anticipated by the fans that turn out for the National Championship races. Not necessarily is it for close competition - although that sometimes happens - nor is it for a huge or deep field of cars. It is for the beautiful and varied mix of cars that enter this race every year, and it is for the fierce battle that the six regular front-runners in this class renew year after year. The same six drivers, in the same six cars make up the top of the GT2 field every year, and four of the six are responsible for the last 11 (and 13 of the last 14) GT2 National Championships.

The start: Duane Davis leads David Finch.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Polesitter Duane Davis, supported by Toyota and driving a Celica-bodied tube-framed car, has won six previous GT2 titles (and 11 championships total), including last year's. Second qualifier Dave Finch, who races a beautiful Porsche 944 that he engineers himself, has won the GT2 Championship five times, most recently in 2000. Jim Goughary Sr. was the 1998 GT2 winner with his Nissan 300ZX, and Tom Patton won the 1999 GT2 crown with the same V8 Ford powered Sunbeam Tiger he has brought to the Runoffs since the early 80s. Add Bill Reid in a Celica and Jim Blakewell in a Porsche 914-6 and you have the regular combatants for GT2.

In today's race, Davis led away from Finch at the start and Reid passed Goughary for third under braking for the first turn. Michael Murren joined the party from seventh on the grid, passing the fifth and sixth starters Patton and Blakewell. Blakewell got back past Murren before the end of the first lap, but he spun in the Carousel and fell out of the top ten.

Jim Goughary Sr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

At the start of lap 3, Patton got fifth place from Murren, but the first four had checked out and were over ten seconds ahead. In that first group, Davis held a small advantage over Finch, but the two of them had left Reid and Goughary behind. The two of them were running in close formation, but Goughary couldn't get quite close enough to make a passing attempt.

The race order was then set and the first six - Davis, Finch, Reid, Goughary, Patton, and Murren - spent the rest of the race stretching out the spaces separating them to finish in that order. It wasn't the customary battle that fans normally expect from the GT2 field, but the podium looked very familiar as the top three added to their vast Runoffs medal collections.