SCCA Valvoline Runoffs® Preview
40/10 And No Chicane
Lexington, OH, September 18, 2003 —
40/10. This is the 40th running of the SCCA Valvoline Runoffs® and the 10th time they have been held at Mid-Ohio. The first time they were held they were called the American Road Race of Champions and the venue was the now extinct Riverside Raceway in California. The original title is now used for an event at Road Atlanta, the former home of the Runoffs from 1970-1993, which crowns unofficial national champions in non-national classes (i.e., regional only classes) such as the various Improved Touring classes, Spec Miata, Club Ford, etc. The 1964 event consisted of 17 classes, five of which still exist today -- E through H Production and Formula Vee. Now there are 24 classes, 8 races a day from Friday through Sunday.
No Chicanery. For the first time at Mid-Ohio, the Runoffs will use the same configuration that CART and other pro series use, bypassing the chicane between Turn 1 and the Keyhole. The bypass was originally put in to give CART some more passing opportunities, and now the club racers get to try it out. It will provide an outbraking opportunity, however, with the peculiar layout of the Keyhole coupled with the elevation change, it will probably also produce a lot of ill-advised moves. More passing and more crashing can be expected with this new configuration.
Amateur? The SCCA loves to hype up this event as the Olympics of Racing, a gathering of everyday Joe's and Jane's slugging it out as weekend warriors in the largest amateur racing event in the world. But, is it really an amateur event anymore? The SCCA itself brags that there are over $875,000 of contingency cash and prizes up for grabs. In the Spec Racer Ford class alone, Yokohama is putting up a $26,000 purse with $7,000 going to the winner. Add in a brand new engine from SCCA Enterprises worth $3,640, $1,500 from Valvoline, $1,000 from Hawk Performance Brake Pads, and another $800 or so from others, and the winner of the SRF race will go home with the equivalent of about $13,000. There is nothing wrong with that, as the racers certainly deserve to get something back for all their expenses throughout the year, and if people are willing to put up the money, that's super. It's just that it seems a bit silly to keep calling the Runoffs an amateur event.
Streaks. Speaking of Spec Racer Ford, it never ceases to amaze us that in such a closely contested class, there have been only three different winners in ten years it has existed (not counting it's predecessor, Sports Renault/Spec Racer), and only two winners at Mid-Ohio. Keith Scharf won the first year (which was the last year at Road Atlanta), then Warren Stilwell produced his amazing seven year winning streak followed by back-to-back titles by Richard Spicer. Hardly any of those races were easy, as they produced breathtaking battles to the end. It's just that the same guys kept winning. Spicer is back this year, and sits second on the grid, but the rest of the field will once again try to prevent another long streak.
Numerous Plots. As is always the case with the Runoffs, there are so many plots -- and subplots -- that we can't keep track of them all. They include the Corvette vs. Viper battle in Touring 1, Chevy vs. Ford in American Sedan, the tin tops going up against the traditional British roadsters in H Production, family feuds such as Mark Sandridge against his son, Jordan, in Touring 2, the drafting battles of Formula Vee, the door banging battles of Showroom Stock, and Mike Pinney trying to win a title, 25 years after his last one, in F Production before he retires at the end of the season.
Best Day. Every year we preach that this is not only the best weekend of road racing in the world, but the best bargain, too. If you had bought your ticket in advance, it would have cost you just $24 for all three days. That's a buck a race, each of which will have huge fields, passes galore throughout the field, and just plain great driving. Try getting that anywhere else. If you don't have your ticket, it will now cost you $30. Still a great deal at $1.25 a race. Or, if you can only go one day, it's $15. Which day should you pick? Well, that's like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. They just can't do it, as they love each one equally. However, if you really forced us, we would go with Sunday. There you could watch the Formula "Flying" Vees, the Spec "Rambo" Racer Fords, a full sized D Sports Racer field, the ground pounding GT1 race, and the home of future CART stars in Formula Continental. Then again, if you picked Sunday, you would miss the ultra fast Formula Atlantics, thrilling Showroom Stock B and C, the always exciting Formula Fords, many of the production races which guarantee heartbreaking endings ... forget trying to pick a day. Just go all the whole long weekend. You won't regret it.
Stay With Deep Throttle. If you really cannot make it to Mid-Ohio, make sure to stay with Deep Throttle for daily notebooks highlighting the action. For individual race coverage, catch all the action at motorsport.com. And, if you want to "watch" the races live, the SCCA website will have live timing and scoring done by the same company that does the live timing and scoring for cart.com. And, when it's all over, make sure to keep your eye on the listings for SPEED Channel which will air each race starting in November.
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Copyright © 2003 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.