RACE: Valvoline RUnoffs: Ohio drivers to defend home turf

DUBLIN, Ohio (September 12, 2002) - When the best amateur auto racers from around the United States begin their chase for National Championships, they'll have to contend with over 90 cars piloted by competitors from the state of Ohio. Many of ...

DUBLIN, Ohio (September 12, 2002) - When the best amateur auto racers from around the United States begin their chase for National Championships, they'll have to contend with over 90 cars piloted by competitors from the state of Ohio. Many of these drivers are among the favorites to capture a SCCA National Championship during the Valvoline Runoffs® at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, September 16-22.

Competitors battle in SCCA Regional and National events all summer long for their shot at qualifying for the Valvoline Runoffs®. After earning points in a minimum of six races, invitations are issued to the top ten competitors in each class of the SCCA's eight divisions across North America. Following one day of practice and three days of qualifying, eight races each will be run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to determine the 24 National Champions and cap off a week that Car and Driver has called one of the "Top Ten" events in motorsports.

Last year, drivers from the state of Ohio captured 15 podium finishes at the Runoffs, including four wins. David Roush (Shelby, OH - Showroom Stock C), Larry Connor (Centerville, OH - Formula Atlantic), Ben Beasley (Leroy, OH - C Sports Racing), and John Fergus (Powell, OH - Sports 2000) all will be on hand to defend their titles.

From club racing through the professional ranks, Ohio is known for its racing talent.

"Having Mid-Ohio located here is the start of the reason. It's one of the most competitive and challenging in the country," said Jack Ruscilli from Columbus, who is competing in the C Sports Racing class in this year's Valvoline Runoffs®. "It's like playing golf. If you get used to playing a tough course, others just seem easier. You can't run just one or two races here and say you've got it figured out."

John Fergus' Sports 2000 car is painted with number 00, but to many competitors in the class those zeros look just like two targets. Fergus won the class in 1999 and 2001, and qualified on the pole in 2000 before mechanical problems ended his weekend.

"For whatever reason, we have been the benchmark in S2000, and from our stand point that's where we want to be," said Fergus, a Powell resident. "Everyone seems to be watching us, what tires we use, what our set-up is, and that's okay. I'd rather be doing that than chasing someone else."

Mark Hardymon of Delaware finished second to Fergus in 2001 and will conpete again for the S2000 title.

Larry Connor will be among the favorites in the Formula Atlantic class in 2002. The Centerville resident has piloted his Ralt RT-41 to back-to-back National Titles and is looking to become the first Formula Atlantic driver to win three titles in the class. The list of past Atlantics champions that Connor has already passed in the title count includes Skip Barber, Bobby Rahal and Greg Ray, all of whom went on to successful careers in racing. Connor expects his experience and knowledge to serve as an advantage at this year's Runoffs.

"You understand the process. It's a long week, and you understand things don't go perfect," said Connor on his experience. "The key is to overcome diversity and any number of obstacles that you face, and not let it get you down too much."

David Roush is again among the favorites in the Showroom Stock C class after driving his Mazda Protégé ES to an 18.21 second victory after leading all 20 laps of the race. The Shelby resident, who has Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course practically in his back yard, will also compete in Showroom Stock B and Touring 2 classes in this year's runoffs.

Leroy's Ben Beasley will attempt to defend his C Sports Racing title and collect his fourth Valvoline Runoffs® title in five seasons. Beasley holds the qualifying record for the C Sports Racing class set in 1999.

Other Ohioans among Sportscar Magazine's favorites to compete for a Valvoline Runoffs® title include Tim Cowen of Ashland (competing in the GT 1 class), Tom Patton of Hamilton (GT 2), Michael Cyphert of Chagrin Falls (GT 3), and Mark Sandridge of Westfield Center (Touring 2).

Attached is a list of participating drivers from Ohio.

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is located approximately halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio off of Interstate 71. Commonly referred to as the "Most Competitive in the U.S.", the Valvoline Runoffs® is Mid-Ohio's sixth and final event held this summer. For event information or tickets, call 1-800-MID-OHIO or visit us on the web at www.midohio.com.

- mo -

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Series SCCA
Drivers Greg Ray , Ben Beasley , David Roush , Larry Connor , John Fergus , Tim Cowen , Skip Barber , Tom Patton , Mark Hardymon , Michael Cyphert , Mark Sandridge , Jack Ruscilli