RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Saturday evening championship races

By N. Schilke - Motorsport.com Mid-Ohio - Saturday, September 22, 2001 - Cloudy skies and cooler temperatures for the final two races of the day. SRF Race 15: A good clean start for the group of competitors with early leader Lee Fleming. ...

By N. Schilke - Motorsport.com

Mid-Ohio - Saturday, September 22, 2001 - Cloudy skies and cooler temperatures for the final two races of the day.

SRF Race 15:
A good clean start for the group of competitors with early leader Lee Fleming. Lots of battles going on during the entire race. After Fleming spun out, Richard Spicer took the lead and kept it for the rest of the race. One of the best battles was a three-way battle for second place between James Goughary Jr., John Black and Jeff Beck. With the past seven National Championships going to Warren Stilwell who has now moved to the pro-racing ranks, this year would crown a new champion. Spicer took the checker and the title.

Top three SRF: Spicer, Washington DC Region; Goughary Jr., Florida Region; Beck, Chicago Region.

"Had the lead, lost it to Jim, got it back and then lost it to Lee. Lee spun and one I took it back, kept it," said Spicer. "Had a problem earlier when I had a water bottle problem and accidently turned off the power, restarted and the went back to the battle with Jim." Coughary Jr. commented, "Car was great at the beginning but got loose as the race went on and was worse at the end. Richard was keeping me back and as the car got looser, I had to chance to catch him." Beck was on the podium for the first time. "Had a great battle with John until he got by and I knew I was not going to be able to catch him," said Beck.

FA Race 16:
One word for this one -- Wow!! What a race. The speed on the back straight was around 170 mph. and the competition was tight. Early leader was Keith Lively with a great battle with Larry Connor (2000 champion) and behind them was a four-way battle for third. Connor got the lead and took off flying as his engine was purring perfectly. Ahsen Yelkin finally secured third place with a lot of pressure behind him. Lively stayed in second keeping an eye on Yelkin behind him. But then, much of the race settled down while everyone was waiting for the last several laps to make a move. The surprise came when Connor started to slow and Lively moved in for the kill. Connor had a broken left rear hub on the final laps, Yelkin spun and the race complexity was changing. Not one spectator left as they watched the events unfold. Race came down to the last lap with Yelkin taking back third from Biangardi and Lively crawling all over the wounded Connor. Last lap, final turn -- Lively setting up for the pass and Connor doing all he could to keep the car on track -- Connor by half-car at the checker.

Top three FA: Connor, Western Ohio; Lively, San Francisco Region; Yelkin, Steel Cities.

"Lucky we made it. Told Thomas Knapp that we had a problem with the back end -- thought a wheel was loose. If this had been a regular national race, I probably would have pulled off -- but this is the National Championship," said Connor. "I had no clue where the car was going to go under braking. The car was good for the first 80-85% of the race." "Kevin Heath came on and told me that it appeared Larry was having problems and I was pushing the entire race but had developed a gear problem with third gear," said Lively. "I could see Larry has he was getting closer and coming out of the keyhole, Larry got wide and then into turn 11, I could not get the car in 3rd gear so could not make the pass. I tried to stay on him and was right on his gearbox. Just missed by a half-car length." Yelkin commented, "Spun in turn seven trying to catch Keith and got passed for third. Was able to take third back in the keyhole." "Have not raced for four years, and started back in June of this race so glad to be here and had lots of practice this past week."

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Series SCCA