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SCCA Runoffs® Notebook:
Day Two
NASCAR Invades The Runoffs

Lexington, Ohio, September 24, 2005 It's Supposed To Be Road Racing. Huge fields with fendered cars produced racing more akin to NASCAR than SCCA. Touring 2 and American Sedan at times used bumping and grinding instead of skill and speed to get by cars. Then, E Production topped them all with a horrid display of road race driving. Despite that, or maybe because of it, Saturday was the best day of racing so far as another large crowd showed up at Mid-Ohio. The rain held off once again. We may not be so lucky on Sunday, the final day of the Runoffs at Mid-Ohio.

Third Greatest. Yesterday, John Heinricy won his eighth Runoffs title. Today, he made it nine by taking the American Sedan race, moving him into sole possession of third place on the all-time win list. He is now three behind Duane Davis, but still a long ways behind the all time leader, Jerry Hansen, who has a virtual unbreakable mark of 27.

With 36 American big bore cars, it's to be expected that the AS race had some slamming and banging. All the fighting occurred behind the leader, allowing Heinricy in his Pontiac Firebird to run away with the race and then have the luxury of backing off to preserve the win. Andy McDermid started fourth, made a dumb move trying to pass for second, and spun his Ford Mustang. He resumed in the middle of the field and fought his way back to second place.

Vitamin E. Usually the low budget classes such as Spec Racer Ford and Formula Vee have the largest fields. Their fields are large, but the largest of the weekend belongs to a relatively expensive and high maintenance class of E Production. A grand total of 49 cars took the green flag. A lot less took the checkered flag in what turned out to be an embarrassing display of driving for a sports car race.

It started on the first lap when pole sitter Tom Thrash was unceremoniously knocked off the track by the outside front row car of Buddy Norton. Thrash's Mazda RX-7 shot straight off the track entering the esses and smacked head-on into the tire wall with a massive hit totally destroying the front end. Luckily, he was wearing a HANS Device, and was able to actually drive the car backwards a bit to get it out of the way, and then climb out. Norton had to pit his Caterham 7, but a few laps after the restart, he tangled with cars again in the esses which caused him to pull off the track. Poetic justice.

The mayhem continued as crashes and spins were occurring at such a pace that NASCAR drivers would have had trouble keeping up. Another huge crash caused the race to be halted. Backmarker Paul Pineider spun in front of Jon Brakke coming out of the last turn. The Mazda Miata t-boned the RX-7, eliminating both cars, and spreading debris and fluids across the track. After the next restart, knowing the race was going to be cut short by the time limit, the idiotic driving continued. The leader, Lawrence Loshak, was punted from behind heading into the esses, sending both cars into the grass, and the following four cars also went off in sympathy. On the last lap, a driver finally made a good clean move. Kim Knapp in a Caterham 7 snookered the cars in front of him, making a double pass for the lead and held on.

Next time, they should take the EP field and send them to the local short track and open up space for another class that knows the proper behavior for a road race.

Not Just For Rallying. The Subaru WRX has built quite a reputation as a rally car. Lately, it is doing very well on pavement. This year, it took 1-2 in the Touring 2 national championship with Chuck Hemmingson leading the way. The start was messy and Hemmingson ended up in front but sustained a damaged exhaust. Luckily, it didn't effect his power. The 42 car field bounced off each other including a move by Kristian Skavnes, the eventual second place finisher, who bumped his way passed Dave Schotz, the pole sitter who got no respect throughout the race.

Buzzing Bodywork Battle. The Formula 500 field sounds like a bunch of buzzing bees. The top four cars in the 27-car field broke away from the pack. They paired off and battled it out that way until Wiley McMahan in a QRE Invader QC-1 had a wild off and lost his front bodywork. Amazingly, he not only returned to the race, but maintained pace. The race was stopped to clean up a number of wrecks, and when it resumed, there was McMahan at the head of the field sans the front piece. He was able to hold on till the last lap when Doug Marsh's Rocketech R2 passed for the lead. The race was called after 16 laps due to the time limit. McMahan finished second. Who needs that aerodynamic bodywork? It just adds weight...

F500 uses snowmobile engines, DSR uses motorcycle engines. Both are high rpm beasts. In DSR, Mark Jaremko checked out from the rest of the field winning by a massive 34.88 seconds. His brand new Stohr WF1 was no match for the rest of the 32-car field. There were some good battles behind Jaremko to keep the fans interested. What really got the fans on their feet was after the race when Jaremko performed donuts in front of the large crowd in the esses.

Winged Formula. The final two winged formula classes took to the track on Saturday. First up was Formula Mazda which was won by the pole sitter, David Donovan, leading the entire race. However, he did have to keep a constant eye on his mirrors as the lead ebbed and flowed with all the fighting taking place behind him.

Formula Continental was a heartbreaker for pole sitter Ricardo Vassmer. He opened an initial lead and appeared he would win the race going away. However, the pack eventually caught back up to him, and as Vassmer went to pass a lapped car, they tangled in the first turn. The lapped car, Bill Johnson, flipped. Vassmer ended up in the gravel trap. Both were unhurt, but Vassmer was furious. This enabled Niki Coello to take the lead and the win in his Van Diemen RF-01. The drive of the race was no surprise -- veteran Dave Weitzenhof once again drove the wheels off of his Citation 95SF moving up from an eighth place starting spot to finish third.

Final Fasty. The final race of the day was the ground pounding Gt-1 cars, and they simply zipped through their 20 laps. Trevor Hopwood got the jump on pole sitter Lew Larimer. However, after a few laps, the Oldsmobile cutlass passed the Chevrolet Corvette for the lead, and motored away for an easy win. Michael Lewis started last because his only qualifying time (after getting to the track late due to transporter problems from San Diego) was disallowed by the Chief Steward. Lewis methodically picked his way through the field to finish fourth in a Jaguar XKR.

Friday Tech Shed News. Friday's results did not get adjusted dramatically as a result of technical or driving infractions. A few changes to drivers outside of the front runners. The most significant changes occurred in H and G Production. In HP, third place finisher Dan Collishaw was penalized three positions moving Matt Brannon to the podium. GP also saw the third place finisher penalized, but this time by a whole lap most likely for his bump on Kevin Dennis that caused Dennis to spin on the last lap. This penalty moved Dennis into third place. One key note from Friday's result -- Showroom Stock B is still provisional. No surprise there for that class.

Quote of the Day. Wiley McMahan, the Formula 500 runnerup, said what was on most people's minds, "It's such a shame to see this event go away from Mid-Ohio."


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

 
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