RACE: Valvoline Runoffs Sunday morning report

The final day of the 40th running of the Valvoline Runoffs was favored with the same sunny and warm conditions that made day two so pleasant. The SCCA's premier Club Race also celebrated its 10th visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a change...

The final day of the 40th running of the Valvoline Runoffs was favored with the same sunny and warm conditions that made day two so pleasant. The SCCA's premier Club Race also celebrated its 10th visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a change to the "pro" circuit configuration. The benefit of that is the removal of the chicane that is turn two of the "club" course causes the addition of an extra passing opportunity each lap at the Keyhole.

For the first race of Sunday, D Sports Racing, that passing zone didn't affect the outcome of the race. No one could pass Mark Jaremko! Jaremko, the defending DSR National Champion, was two full seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field in qualifying, and when the green flag dropped, he took off to a lead he never relinquished.

The only challenge Jaremko faced was a full course yellow period early in the race that let the rest of the front runners have another shot at getting around his Stohr on a restart. That didn't help either. There was great racing behind him for the rest of the podium spots, however.

Mark Bakhit made a good start to gain a position and get 5th place, then gained even more on the lap 5 restart - all the way to second place. That set up a great battle between Bakhit and Matt Direnzo for that position. Jason Miller was part of their battle for a while, but by mid-race Miller had fallen away and was fending off a challenge from Jay Lovett for fourth place.

Lovett got around Miller and set off to join the second place fight, a task made easier by Bakhit and Direnzo having an entertaining dice for that spot. On lap 10, Direnzo took second under braking for the esses, but Bakhit stayed glued to his bumper and returned the pass seven laps later. On the final lap, Direnzo made the last pass and made it stick to the finish.

Race two of the day (and number 18 of the weekend for those keeping count), was for Formula Vee. FV, of course, is a class that can take full advantage of the added passing zone because passing is the name of the game for the little open wheel cars. To prove the point, Steve Oseth and Brad Stout did a lot of passing for the race lead. Oseth got the first lead from the pole position, but Stout used the new approach to the Keyhole to take the lead away on the 3rd lap. Oseth didn't wait too long to correct that and took back the point at the other end of the back straight.

Two laps later, Stout made the same pass but kept it for a few laps this time. On lap 7, Oseth took the lead; lap 8 it was Stout's turn. On lap 10 Oseth passed again, this time in the first turn, then at the Keyhole, Stout and Roger Siebenaler put Oseth down to third place. Before that lap was over, though, Siebenaler and Oseth drafted past Stout!

These three drivers swapped the first three spots for two more laps, when Stout made a mistake and spun in the fast first turn. Siebenaler lost momentum avoiding Stout's car, and Oseth had all the lead he needed to win his first National Championship.

Race nineteen, for Sports 2000, was interesting more for the new cars to the class this year than for a lot of passing. There were new chassis from Van Dieman for David Ferguson and Nik Johnson, and class regulars Hans Peter and Mark Hardymon were behind the wheel of two of five new Carbir chassis in the race, all hoping to duplicate the success of Carbir-mounted John Fergus, winner of three of the last four S2000 championship medals.

It was an old chassis that got the headline, however. Steve Johnson so thoroughly re-engineered a Lola chassis, that he renamed it "SR-71". But he did that a dozen years ago! The car won the Runoffs pole in 1991 with Chris Simmons driving, in 1992 with Michael Gnazzo behind the wheel, and in 1993 with Johnson driving it himself. Only Simmons was able to win the race from the pole in the Atlanta races, but Johnson fixed that omission this year. He took the pole and the win this time around. Fergus got the lead at the start, but Johnson took the lead on lap 3 and Fergus could only follow and settle for second place. Mark Mercer started third and finished there, but he lost the place to Peter on lap 15 and only got it back when Peter's car quit just two laps from the end.

The final five races of the 2003 Runoffs will be run after lunch, starting with the big bore GT1 cars.

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Series SCCA
Drivers Brad Stout , Roger Siebenaler , John Fergus , Hans Peter , Mark Hardymon , Mark Jaremko , Jay Lovett , David Ferguson , Steve Johnson