RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Valvoline Racing - Cliff White spotlight

Alabama Senior, 17, goes for National Title in Valvoline Runoffs at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Most people would think an Alabama high school senior, who wants to pursue professional racing, might dream of following Jeff Gordon or Bill Elliott or ...

Alabama Senior, 17, goes for National Title in Valvoline Runoffs at Mid-Ohio this weekend.

Most people would think an Alabama high school senior, who wants to pursue professional racing, might dream of following Jeff Gordon or Bill Elliott or Bobby Allison as a NASCAR Winston Cup champion.

That's not the case with Cliff White.

White, 17, who attends the Randolph School in Huntsville, Ala., says Michael Andretti and Michael Schumacher are his favorite drivers and that his ultimate goal is to compete in Formula One. White will take an important step toward a pro career when he tries for a national title this weekend (Sept. 20-22) in the SCCA Valvoline Runoffs at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Lexington, Ohio.

The Valvoline Runoffs are the national championships for amateur road racing, with approximately 700 drivers and cars going for honors in 24 different classes, ranging from open-wheel formula machines to production and sports cars. Past champions of the Valvoline Runoffs include Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Scott Sharp and Paul Newman. Speed Channel will present exclusive TV coverage on a delayed basis.

White will drive in the Spec Racer Ford class, on Saturday, in a red, white and blue No. 69. He earned his place in the national championship race with a couple of third-place finishes in his SCCA region.

"I would have an interest in stock cars if the opportunity presented itself," explained White. "CART and Formula One are my favorite types of racing. Michael Schumacher or Michael Andretti would be my favorite, just because I've followed them since I started racing."

White's father is a long-time road racer "and I would go and try to help at the races," says Cliff in explaining his interest. "The only local track that we had was for quarter-midgets, so that's how I got started." Next came go-karts and two competition driving schools. His fellow SCCA Southeast Division Spec Racer Ford drivers selected White as Rookie of the Year in 2001 and SCCA Alabama region Driver of the Year for 2001-02.

What do his high-school classmates think of his unusual extra-curricular activity?

"Most of them really don't understand," White admitted. "When I tell them I'm racing, they say, 'Like NASCAR?' So, I have to explain it a little more. Generally, they think it's pretty neat, but there's a few who still don't understand. The ones who are interested in sports (in general) actually think it's more interesting" than the ones White politely describes as the "computer people."

And how is he treated by his more experienced rivals?

"The one thing that was difficult was gaining the other drivers' respect. In our class, where everything is 'spec,' it's pretty difficult to do well without a partner, and most of the older drivers wouldn't work with me because they didn't trust me, I guess. So, that's made it a little more difficult, but at my last race, the two top guys in the pro series came up and said they'd run with me any time."

White has raced on the 2.4-mile, 15-turn Mid-Ohio course twice before, including a couple of weeks ago, when he finished fourth and set fastest race lap. "So, I'm feeling better about it, but still a little nervous, because most everybody else has been there more than twice," he admitted.

SCCA Extra: The Valvoline Runoffs Explained . . .
Known as the "Olympics of amateur road racing," the Valvoline Runoffs brings together racers who have earned their berth by placing in the top 10 in their class in eight different SCCA divisions. There are 24 classes -- including showroom stock, production, GT, Formula and sports racer -- with practice and qualifying all week (Monday-Thursday). The national championship races are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, each one scheduled for a 20-lap distance.

Speed Channel will televise the Valvoline Runoffs on a delayed basis.

Valvoline is demonstrating its commitment to grassroots racing by sponsoring the Runoffs for the 18th consecutive year, offering more than $120,000 in contingency awards and a variety of products, including Valvoline VR1 Racing Motor Oil (the best-selling racing oil of all time), SynPower, Pyroil Automotive Chemicals and the Eagle One car care products line. Valvoline became the official motor oil of the SCCA earlier this year.

Informed Sources: Announcers to Race in Runoffs
Two public-address announcers at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will move from behind the microphone to behind the wheel in this weekend's SCCA Valvoline Runoffs.

Rusty Bell, of Galena, Ohio, will try for a national championship in the GT-4 class Friday afternoon. Brian Culbertson, of Columbus, Ohio, is in the G-Production event Saturday afternoon. Bell is a familiar voice to Mid-Ohio fans with his commentary from the "keyhole" and back straight, while Culbertson usually calls the action from the "Thunder Valley" portion of the 2.4-mile road-course.

Award: Eagle One Honor for Best Appearing Car
For the second consecutive year, Eagle One will present the Eagle One Best Appearing Entry Award at the SCCA Valvoline Runoffs, the national championships for amateur road racing. Eagle One, marketers of premium waxes, finishes and polishes, will present a check for $1,500 to the competitor with the best appearing and prepared vehicle. In addition, the best appearing car in each of the 24 classes will receive an Eagle One appearance products bucket containing several of the brand's most popular products.

Laura Olson, of Costa Mesa, Calif., won last year's Eagle One award for her 1999 Mazda Miata in the Showroom Stock B class.

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Series SCCA
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Michael Schumacher , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Laura Olson , Paul Newman , Cliff White , Rusty Bell , Bobby Allison