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SCCA Runoffs® Notebook:
Day One
Not Missing The Last Year

Lexington, Ohio, September 23, 2005 An Outstanding Showing. The drive very early Friday morning from Rochester, N.Y. to Mid-Ohio was mostly in the rain, at times heavy. When I arrived at the track just as the second race got underway, the sky was dark, the ground was muddy, and the air was cool. Yet, what greeted me was a shock. Despite the threatening weather and a workday, the crowd was the largest Friday crowd I've ever seen at the Runoffs. In fact, it was larger than many of the weekend crowds in the past. By the end of the day, the grandstands were nearly filled and the best infield viewing areas were packed. It appeared to be a larger crowd than the American Le Mans Series Sunday attendance! The car count is also outstanding -- an all time Runoffs record of 753 cars showed up shattering the record set last year of 704. Needless to say, participants and spectators don't want to miss the last year the Runoffs are held in Mid-Ohio. Neither should you. The weather is expected to be beautiful on Saturday, so arrive early as the crowds will most likely be overflowing.

Breaking Up The Brotherly Act. The Dennis brothers have a unique arrangement. They each alternate years driving their G Production Nissan 510. Each year they slowly improved their finishes until Mark Dennis won the gold medal in 2004. This year was Kevin's turn in the car, and it appeared he would keep the GP championship in the Rochester, N.Y. family. Dennis became the first GP driver ever to crack the 1:40 mark at Mid-Ohio, posting a 1:39.630 in qualifying en route to the pole position.

However, Kent Prather and his MGA had no desire to allow the Dennis family to alternate championships amongst the brothers in what was, no question, the best race of the day. The top four drivers -- Dennis, Prather, Woody Deatherage, and Chuck Mathis -- fought tooth and nail, side by side, back and forth. At one point, three drivers considered going through turn 11 together. Sending two cars through there at the same time is crazy enough. Three is downright insane.

Dennis held the lead early, even pulling away. But brake problems and lapped traffic eventually cost him, and then a bump by Deatherage on the last lap left him off the podium all together. Prather won his sixth GP title spread over three decades including three of the last four years.

Drives Of The Day. The top drives of the day were put in by John Fergus in Sports 2000 and Bill Davidson in GT-Lite. Both went from last place to fourth, though due to differing circumstances. Fergus qualified third in his Carbir CS2, but a tangle at the start put him off. He returned in last place about half a lap behind. Fergus stormed his way through the field grabbing fourth place and nearly getting third on the last lap. Marc Walker won the race in a Lola 89/90 while being watched very closely for most of the race by Bart Wolf.

Davidson barely qualified his Ford Fiesta at all and started last in a field of 28. It took him only three laps to get up to 9th. By the ninth lap, he was fourth. He held that position the rest of the way. Warren Montague won the race in a Toyota Tercel, easily leading from start to finish to eventually win by nearly 20 seconds. One interesting no-show in the race was Tonis Kasemets. Yes, the same driver who finished second in this year's Toyota Atlantic Championship was competing in a small bore GT event. He qualified his Alfa Romeo Alfa in seventh, but never made the start for unknown reasons.

As Expected. The two most predictable races were just that, though they didn't start out as dominating as they finished. In Touring 1, John Heinricy won his fifth straight T1 championship. He started second and was beaten at the start, dropping all the way down to fourth place. He worked his way back up to the front by lap six, and though Scotty B. White kept Heinricy honest, Heinricy led the rest of the way in his Chevrolet Corvette. Heinricy now moves out of a tie for fourth place on the all time Runoffs wins list and into a tie for third place with Joe Huffaker, Jr. with 8 championships. Huffaker is not competing in this year's Runoffs while Heinricy has another race to go. He also competes in the American Sedan event. Naturally, he's on the pole for that one.

Graham Rahal easily won the Formula Atlantic race as expected, despite a lousy start. He immediately fell to fourth place, but his superior speed jumped him into second without a problem. He had to be patient before taking over the lead because his best passing opportunities were stymied by local yellows. He eventually got by Dan Selznick (the C2 Class runnerup in the Toyota Atlantic Championship) and motored away for a huge margin of victory in a Swift 014. Graham now follows his father's footsteps. Bobby Rahal won the 1975 Formula B (which is what Formula Atlantic was called on the club level back then) title in a March 75B. The Atlantic field was larger than normal thanks to about one-third of the field being made up of Star Pro Mazda and Formula SCCA classed cars which do not have a National home, so they are allowed to compete in the Atlantic class. However, they were no match for the "real" Formula Atlantic cars.

The Other Winners. Tom Feller got things going in the first race winning in H Production in a Triumph Spitfire. Though he started on the pole, he didn't lead the race until the 15th lap and then eventually pulled out a 6.772 second lead. Arnie Loyning won in C Sports Racing in a Swift Viking powered by one of his Loyning motors ... which subsequently died on the victory lap. In Showroom Stock B, Toby Grahovec won in a 2003 BMW Z4. However, those results are still provisional, and you know how often showroom stock race results change in the tech shed.

Quote of the Day. Came from Chuck Mathis, the GP runnerup, after an amazing race, "Holy crap, that was fun!"


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Copyright © 2005 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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