RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Sunday morning championship races

By N. Schilke - Motorsport.com Mid-Ohio - Saturday, September 22, 2001 - Sunshine and warming temperatures greeted the Mid-Ohio race track today, with the best morning of the week-long activities. Today is the final day of the 24 races for the...

By N. Schilke - Motorsport.com

Mid-Ohio - Saturday, September 22, 2001 - Sunshine and warming temperatures greeted the Mid-Ohio race track today, with the best morning of the week-long activities. Today is the final day of the 24 races for the SCCA National Championships. Several teams from the past two days completed races have already packed up and gone home -- some close by and some all the way to the west coast.

The mood here even during the rain and cold temps has been on a high notes all week. All the drivers came with the hope of being on the podium. Some left with blown engines, broken parts, damaged bodywork, and dissappointment, but all left with the knowledge of being one of the best in the SCCA.

S2 Race 17:
Mr. Ohio, John Fergus, wasted no time running out front of the competition. The rest of the field had great passing and close racing. David Ferguson moved from sixth to third by carefully picking his place to pass and usually made the move on the inside. Marc Walker appeared to have a slight handling problem in the beginning as he dropped from third to sixth. Hans Peter started in the final position due to not having qualifying time and moved to the fourth position before the midway point.

Fergus and Mark Hardymon were out for a Sunday morning drive and continued to pull away from the rest of the field as they picked their way throught the slower traffic. Ferguson slowed and became quite slippery just past the halfway mark and Peter moved into third and then Walker and Jack Banha took a position from him as well. Ferguson gave up the race due to a left front hub nut and pitted after an earlier spectacular driver. Banha lost the backend and made a nice recovery but gave up fifth position. Checkered flag came out on the second time National Champion Fergus.

Top three S2: Fergus, Ohio Valley Region; Hardymon, Ohio Valley Region; Peter, Kansas City Region.

Fergus won here in 1999 and between his multiple wins in Pro-Racing and champinships, he wanted another SCCA National Championship. His comments on the win, "Came out of the box swinging -- the goal was to maintain position in the first few turns. Got hooked-up right away and the race stabilized. It is hard to lead because you have to concentrate on not making a mistake; especially with Mark behind me. The traffic and the flaggers helped as no one got in the way of our battle. Mark and I are good pals and run together a couple of times -- glad we finished 1-2." Hardymon agreed with Fergus and added, "John has been of great help to me. It was a great driver. Kept checking to see if I was losing time or gaining on John. Goal was to get a good start and see if I could get John."

First time at the runoffs and starting last after a stay in the hospital and at home for a virus was the Mid-Div Champion, Peter. "Thought I would get a few places during the race. Just wanted to stay out of trouble and stay in the race -- had one moment at the carousel but came out unscathed and picked up another position. Was estatic to find out I finished thrid," said Peter.

GT5 Race 18:
Will Joe Huffaker win his second race of the weekend? At the start, Jimmy Burke squeeze-played Huffaker and Huffaker did a good job of holding his position in second even though it cost him some time. Several laps later, Huffaker made a move on Burke who was lapping slower traffic and took the lead. Peterson followed and picked up second place. Jim Rauck and Burke went side-by-side for serval laps until in the last half of the race, Rauck made a great pass -- one lap later, Rauck had a mechanical problem and pulled into the pits so Burke got third position back again. Race took it's toll on the competitors as mechanical woes set in. Huffaker took the checker for second time this weekend and back-to-back for GT5.

Top three GT5: Huffaker, San Francisco Region; Peterson, California Region; Burke, Atlanta Region.

The twelth driver in runoff history to win two SCCA National Championships in the same year, Huffaker commented, "Feels great! After winning yesterday, I had more confidence going in to this race. This one was a lot different than yesterday -- got nervous sometimes and made minor mistakes and knew Doug was right behind me."

Former five-time National Champion, Peterson said, "I kept the pressure on Joe and drove hard the entire race. No, I could not have caught him unless he left the door open, tried several times. We had evenly matched cars and were close the entire race." Burke commented about his battle with Rauck during the race and the lost of the early lead. "Lost momentum when going around a slower car and had contact. The battle with Rauck was a good one and when my car got real loose, Rauck got by. Then, I saw him slow and got the position back," said Burke.

HP Race 19:
Ron Bartell wasted no time taking the lead and, with the demise of Brian Linn, and Chester Niemczycki, the field was wide open. Dan Collishaw got on the tail of Bartell and challenged him for the first position. Race came down to who stayed out of trouble and on track. The drive of the day belonged to Phil Chiles who came from 15th to third. Corner workers saluted the top two for an excellent close race after Barlell and Collishaw took the checkered flag -- exactly the same as last year!

Top three HP: Bartell, New England Region; Collishaw, California Region; Phil Chiles, St. Louis Region.

The back-to-back winner, Bartell said, "Dan was there the whole time filling up my mirrors. I was fortunate to keep him behind me. Traffic was not bad and left room for me to go through. Dan's could catch me in some spots but I had a great motor -- it held together -- and great horsepower. Thanks go to Ken Fahrbach."

Collishaw commented on the race, "Ron had an easier time getting past traffic. He was faster on the straights and in order for me to pass him, he had to make a mistake or break. My car was beautiful, tires were good right to the end and I ran them hard all race long." Chiles said, "This was a long race but the FP race was an inspiration to me -- patience and keep plugging to work my way up. Couple of times I made passes in turn one that were a bit close but they were clean. Toward the end, my tires feld greasy but they held up for the duration -- that was good. No, I did not wave to my son as I passed him for position -- he got me involved in race and we are competitors on the track."

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