Bill Hagerty of San Diego California won the Showroom Stock C race that opened the second day of the 2002 SCCA Valvoline RunoffsÂ®. Hagerty won his first Sports Car Club of America National Championship in more than twenty tries after putting his...
Bill Hagerty of San Diego California won the Showroom Stock C race that opened the second day of the 2002 SCCA Valvoline Runoffs®. Hagerty won his first Sports Car Club of America National Championship in more than twenty tries after putting his Honda Civic into the lead in the first turn and keeping it until the end. Erich Heuschele went to second place in his older Dodge Neon on lap two and kept Hagerty on his toes, but neither was closely challenged again.
The lack of a battle for the lead did not mean that the race was not exciting, and the excitement started early. The polesitter, John Fernandez, missed a shift on the start, which caused the field to spread out to four and five wide as they approached the esses. Fernandez had more trouble as his 2001 Dodge Neon was bumped from behind in the second turn and spun into the grass. He would continue in about 15th place.
Hagerty, who started outside of Fernandez, took the lead cleanly, followed closely by the Mazda Protege of David Roush. Even with the wild start, the pack made it through the first series of turns without major incident. That wouldn't last, though. As the SSC cars went through the Carousel turn for the first time, Larry Delude bumped Juergen Baumann's Honda Civic as they fought over 7th place. Baumann spun in the center of the track and was hit by Ralph Porter. Baumann's car could not move, so the pace car was called out so a wrecker could remove his car. Porter continued with visible damage to the left side of his Neon.
Just before the caution waved, Heuschele passed the defending champion Roush. When the green flew again on lap 4, Bob Beede and Joel Lipperini tried to get ahead of Roush by splitting around either side of him into the esses. Neither was successful, and Beede lost 5th position to Gene Harrington due to the momentum he lost in the pass attempt.
The battle for the third position allowed Hagerty and Heuschele to pull out to an advantage they would never lose. After the restart, Fernandez was on the move, passing one or two cars per lap until he reached the back of the four car battle for fourth place between Lipperini, Harrington, Beede and Michael Kramer. That battle became a fight for third when Roush slid off the outside of the Carousel and lost about a dozen positions.
On lap 8, Kramer fell out of that fight when he drove off the outside of the Keyhole turn, and Fernandez got past Beede as the pack braked for the esses. Fernandez then passed Harrington as the cars went up the pit straight at the end of that lap. One lap later, Fernandez tried the same pass on Lipperini, but Lipperini fought back and stayed side-by-side with Fernandez all the way to the Keyhole and kept the position. Fernandez drafted past on the following straight to take third place for good.
Like Fernandez before him, Roush was trying to work his way back up to the front of the race, but he was having less success. He shoved his way past Ali Naimi in the Carousel to get 11th place, but drove off again at the end of the back straight to lose that position and a couple more.
As the last few laps wound away, Heuschele was running the race's fastest laps trying to catch Hagerty, but Hagerty responded to keep a 1-2 seconds advantage. Fernandez pulled away from the group battling for 4th, but couldn't match the pace of the two leaders. That 4th place scrap was some of the best racing on the track. Lipperini had 4th place and Harrington was trying everything to get by. Kramer stayed right behind them, hoping to capitalize if they made a mistake, but they finished in that order.