LEXINGTON, Ohio (September 22, 2001) - Day two concluded today at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 38th running of the Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline Runoffs. Unlike the previous day, skies were clear for all eight SCCA National ...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (September 22, 2001) - Day two concluded today at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 38th running of the Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline Runoffs. Unlike the previous day, skies were clear for all eight SCCA National Championship races. The racing was fierce and the thousands of spectators that poured in Saturday got their money's worth.
The GT2 class was the first to take the course. Tom Patton, in a Sunbeam Tiger, immediately shot to the point upon the drop of the green flag. Bill Reid, who started third in a Toyota Celica, made a spirited pass of Patton on lap six, but the two got together and Reid never recovered. Finally, after numerous attempts, polesitter Duane Davis drove his Celica around Patton and held on for the checkered.
"When I was fighting with Patton I was being very patient, but kept the pressure on him," said Davis. "He got a little loose in the carousel and had to lift for a moment. That gave me the opening to get alongside him going down the straight, and I was on the inside going into turn one. Tom was very polite and we never touched."
Race two featured the T2 class. At the start, Douglas Gamble, who started third in a BMW M3, got into the back of the front row qualifiers, including polesitter Thomas Oate's Chevrolet Camaro, resulting in the removal of the top-two. Brian Kelm was the beneficiary of the melee and took the point. Gamble eventually tracked down Kelm's Ford Mustang and took the lead on lap five. Oates recovered from the early incident and was determined to reel in Gamble. With just under three laps to go, he had powered his machine up to second and it looked as though he would give Gamble a challenge for the Runoffs win, but it wasn't to be. He was forced to pull off with mechanical difficulties when the white flag flew, only seconds behind the race leader.
"(On the incident at the start) The first car and second car got together," said Gamble. "I did run into the back of [Mark] Sandridge, and I do feel bad. After that, they both split and Brian [Kelm] and I went through the seam."
The third SCCA National Championship battle featured Formula Mazda action. The No. 46 and No. 45 machines of twin bothers, Keith and Kevin Roberts, checked-out early and were never seriously challenged to the checkered. Kevin never had an opportunity to close in on brother Keith, as they ran an identical race. The win was Keith's second in Runoffs competition.
"What can I say," said Roberts. "When I made it through in front of Kevin I knew I was in good shape. I was worried a bit in the middle of the race when he caught up to me, but then his tires went off and I was home."
The American Sedan class put on a show in the fourth race of the day. After a wild start, highlighted by spinning cars and flying grass, the stylish, white Ford Mustang of Andy McDermid ran away from what was left of the field. Pit lane was occupied for the majority of the race due to numerous cars smoking profusely on the track. The win notched McDermid's second Runoffs title in as many years.
"It was really pretty easy," said McDermid. "I kept an eye out behind me, but didn't have any pressure after [Kent] Biddinger went out. It was nasty out there. Guys were popping motors and there was a lot of oil on the track. There was a lot of debris. I just had to drive the car."
38 machines from the Showroom Stock B class took to the course shortly after American Sedan. The gigantic field of agile cars managed to weave their way through the opening lap without a major incident and a classic battle developed soon after. David Roush and Eric Morehouse, both in Mazda Miatas, dueled T.C. Kline in his BMW Z3 for second position for the majority of the sprint. The three-car gang produced countless episodes that involved side-to-side contact. The three drivers were fighting for second because polesitter Randolph Saucier (Mazda Miata) put the hammer down early, en route to his second straight Runoffs crown.
"I was driving as hard as I ever have because I knew that if I let up one ounce, they'd be by me," said Saucier. "The start was good, I was right next to David [Roush] and then I got hit fairly hard from behind. The boost I got pushed me past David and from then on I didn't look back."
The highly developed and tightly wound machines of F production followed the SSB class. Talent up front was the story in this shootout. 10 Runoffs titles have been won among the top-seven drivers on the grid. Polesitter Steve Sargis maneuvered his Triumph Spitfire to the point at the start, in pursuit of his fourth SCCA National Championship, but threw this hand up and signaled his demise with mechanical problems on lap nine. That opened the door for Rick Haynes. Haynes' MG Midget inherited the lead, but promptly spun on his own on lap 12. With that, SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup team owner Joe Huffaker was promoted to the top spot and held on for his sixth Runoffs win.
"The whole plan was to catch the leaders," said Huffaker. "I didn't expect to catch them the way I did, but it was good."
Coming into the Spec Racer Ford contest, competitors knew that this was the year for a title shot. Warren Stilwell, commonly known in Spec Racer Ford circles as "Mr. Mid-Ohio," did not show this year after seven-straight Runoffs titles at Mid-Ohio. The race featured several SCCA Pro Racing Pro Spec Racer contenders up front. Lead changes occurred between PSR regular Jim Goughary Jr. and polesitter Richard Spicer early and often in this SRF war. But Spicer kept his composure and notched his first SCCA National Championship.
"Early in the race my water bottle fell down in the cockpit and killed the engine," said Spicer. "I had to restart it and fortunately did not lose too much time. It seemed that everyone who got past me got loose and I was able to re-pass. My car just got better as the race went on."
John Black, of Tahoe City, Calif., started the race seventh and slowed on lap three. Once Black recovered, he clawed his way to third in the closing laps, but apparently had an 18-lap car for a 20-lap race, as Mid-Ohio track announcer Walter Scott put it.
Day two of racing culminated with the Formula Atlantic class- the CART-style machines that turn the fastest laps around the 2.4-mile, 15-turn road course at Mid-Ohio. Larry Conner, in a Ralt RT-41, blew by polesitter Keith Lively on lap one and led flag-to-flag. But with three laps to go, Conner's sizable lead diminished due to a damaged left-rear hub. Lively quickly reeled him in the last few corners leading up to the checkered, but Conner held on by a nose to capture his second consecutive title.
"I knew about three laps from the end that I had a problem with the rear end," said Conner. "I radioed in to my crew and told them that I had a big problem. As I started the last lap I made the conscious decision to go for it. If I threw it into the fence, well, this is for the National Championship. We were lucky that we made it. It got progressively worse and I had no idea which way the car would go. If this had not been for the National Championship I would have pulled off. The car was really good until it broke. We were very fortunate to hang on."
Tune in again tomorrow as the Mid-Ohio track announcers call the final eight Championship races at www.peavey.com, during Peavey Electronics' live audio web broadcasting of the 2001 Runoffs.
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