SCCA Runoffs® Preview
Mid-Ohio Swan Song
Lexington, Ohio, September 22, 2005 —This is the 12th year the SCCA Runoffs are being held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It is also the last. The next three-year contract for this event has been awarded to Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas. Whether the event ever returns to the middle of Ohio is open to speculation. But, for now, consider this to be the final year. So, if you are in the vicinity of this track, don't miss it. It is still one of the greatest bargains in racing -- $30 for three days of nonstop racing, or $15 a day if you can't do the whole weekend.
The local drivers will also not want to miss this last year at Mid-Ohio. One of the most technically challenging driver circuits in the country, the twisty, hilly, narrow pavement has always been a huge home track advantage for the Central Division drivers. Despite the local advantage, this is the type of track that a national championship should be decided on.
Minus One Race. This year, the Runoffs goes from 24 races to 23. Due to declining entries, the SCCA combined the GT-4 and GT-5 classes into a class called GT-Lite. Next year, a new national class will compete -- Spec Miata -- bringing the total back up to 24. That race alone will be worth the price of admission at Topeka, but for now, we'll have to settle for 23 races.
Of course, "settling" is not exactly a hardship when you are talking about the Runoffs. Personally, I have a number of favorites amongst that bunch. In the open wheel classes, my two favorites are Formula Vee (with 44 cars!) and Formula Ford. Sure, the winged formula classes are thrilling races onto themselves, and I'm sure not going to miss them, but the basic formula cars don't bring all that aerodynamic baggage to the table. It's all out, hard nosed, fling the car into the corners driving with too many passes to count.
Amongst the Sports Racers, obviously my bias selects Spec Racer Ford as the best choice because I drive one of them. Nonetheless, the race should be a dandy with a possible fiberglass shower while the ever growing D Sports Racing field should also provide pack racing.
Some of the production and showroom stock classes can produce runaway races, such as Touring 1 where if John Heinricy does not win, it will be the biggest shock of the weekend. He has led every single lap from the pole for the past three years. (He will have to fight for this year's victory as Scotty B. White took the pole position with Heinricy sharing the front row.) However, Showroom Stock B and Showroom Stock C have produced races in the past that would embarrass NASCAR. And some of the production classes, though containing thin fields in races during the season, always bring full fields to the Runoffs often times producing heart wrenching finishes.
Ending Fast. It doesn't matter when the races are scheduled. Each has a defined start time no matter what happens in the previous race (well, not including massive delays). However, how quickly the last race goes by does determine how soon you can hit the road afterwards. It just so happens that the fastest cars of each particular day are last.
For Friday, it's the fastest race of the weekend -- Formula Atlantic. All eyes will be on Graham Rahal who tries to follow his father's footsteps and take a national championship. Graham has shown great talent wherever he has raced and would love to nab a Runoffs title before heading off full time to the pro series. He's off to a great start grabbing pole position by a large margin.
Saturday's finale is GT-1. This fight may come down to the two Northeast Division rivals -- Trevor Hopwood and Amy Ruman. Ruman, the daughter of Trans-Am veteran Bob Ruman, made her Trans-Am debut at Cleveland, but otherwise has concentrated on the National circuit. She finished just two points behind Hopwood in the Division and hopes to reverse that at Mid-Ohio. However, Lew Larimer plans on stealing the show. The defending champion starts first followed by Hopwood, Ruman, and another Trans-Am driver, Michael Lewis.
The last race on Sunday, the last race of the weekend, and the last race for Mid-Ohio (sniff, sniff) is GT-2. Duane Davis, who will start from the pole, will be going for his 13th title overall.
Stay With Deep Throttle. If you really cannot make it to Mid-Ohio (and we just don't understand why you wouldn't), make sure to stay with Deep Throttle for daily notebooks highlighting the action. You can also "watch" the races live on the SCCA website which will have live timing and scoring. 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.
Copyright © 2005 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.