The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) returned to the world center of speed, Daytona International Speedway, for the first time in 46 years for the 52nd annual SCCA National Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB. With 591 qualified entrants, this year’s edition was expected to produce close competition and fast speeds. Throughout the week-long event SCCA officials witnessed speeds greater than anticipated with the fastest speeds recorded by the Grand Touring 1 cars with an average speed around the 3.56-mile road course of nearly 200 mph.
For many of these drivers, this would be the first time inside the gates of this hallowed mecca of speed, known as Daytona, and would also be the first time they would experience driving their race cars at terminal velocity, as they traversed the 31-degree banking of the speedway. With few exceptions, these club racers from across the United States were quickly educated on the fine art of drafting, a skill that most had never acquired during regional qualifying to secure their invitation for the runoffs. The qualifying procedure assures that only the best in the nation are eligible to vie for a national championship medal. To better understand this procedure, a quick history lesson is in order.
During the early years, dating as far back as 1951, the SCCA determined its amateur road racing National Champions from a nationwide point system based on a select series of national races throughout the country. At the conclusion of the final race, the national champion was awarded to the driver with the most accumulated points. In 1964, officials decided that bringing the best amateur road racers together at one venue to compete against each other offered a more equitable way of determining a national champion.
In 1966, the first SCCA National Runoffs took place at the now defunct Riverside International Raceway in California. Over the years, the name and qualifying procedures have changed, but the concept has remained the same; gather the best amateur road racers in one place and let them compete against each other to determine national champions. Today, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs is a pinnacle of American motorsports, and is known as one of the Top 10 events in the world. To compete at this national level, drivers must qualify through a rigorous procedure.
There are two ways that a driver can score an invitation to the 2015 Runoffs — through the U.S. Majors Tour, or through their divisional championship. With minimum participation requirements, a driver qualifies for the Runoffs by finishing in the Top 10 of their class in their conference championship, finish in the top half of the coast-to-coast national point standings, or reach or exceed a minimum number of points for a given class in the national point standings. To enter through the divisional path, a driver must ray in four Runoffs — qualifying weekends within a single division and must finish in the top three, in class, within that division. Okay, enough of the history already, bottom line is this; to be part of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, you have got to be good, it’s that simple.
The 52nd edition of the SCCA National Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB saw starting grids with as many as 61 cars, fast, side-by-side, nose-to-tail, three- and four-wide action were commonplace. There were dominating performances where the margin of victory exceeded 50 seconds, and a number of victories was determined by less than one second — the closest being in the H Production class, where the margin of victory was just 00.001 seconds. With 29 National Championships awarded throughout the event, it’s easy to understand that every class competing at the Runoffs provided its own highlights and stars. With this in mind, let’s look at a few of these highlights.
Charging behind were the No. 37 Hoosier Tires/LINNspeed/Hussey Honda CRX of Linn and the No. 137 Hoosier/App. Race Tire/Linfert Perf. Volkswagen Cabriolet of Hulse, who went three wide just shy of the start/finish line. Linn and Hulse made contact sending Hulse, on the outside, toward the wall in the tri-oval, and Linn to the inside , toward Isley. Linn spun across the bumper of Isley, sitting almost perpendicular to the Toyota as he was pushed across the line. Hulse, after contacting the safer barrier, crossed the line backward in third place. Linn’s official margin of victory was a scant 00.001 seconds.
The most dominating performance of the Runoffs was turned in by Michael Lewis of Poway, California, driving his Goodyear/Pegslist.com Jaguar XJR in the Grand Touring 1 division. Lewis started on the pole and never looked back, after leading all 14 laps Lewis was awarded his eighth National Championship. He finished the race with a 50.488 second lead over second place finisher Stewart Bachmann of San Antonio, Florida.
The American Sedan race was one of the most popular of the Runoffs, this class is comprised of slightly modified, production-based vehicles seen on American roads everywhere. Chevrolet Camaros, Pontiac Firebirds, GTO’s and the Ford Mustang are staples of this class. Andrew McDermid of Howell, Michigan checked out from the field in his Weather Tech/Lane Automotive/Hoosier Ford Mustang, for a drama free, 20.459 second victory, and his seventh SCCA National Championship.
The most anticipated event of the Runoffs was the Spec Miata Championship race. For the first time in Runoffs history the Spec Miata’s would compete under the lights in what was billed as “Friday Night Lights.” Just prior to the forming of the grid, a heavy rain shower moved across the speedway leaving the track wet and slick. Drivers and teams were forced to make a decision on whether to run a wet setup, or stay with a dry setup in anticipation of the track drying throughout the 14 lap event. Jonathan Goring of Norfolk, Connecticut made what would prove to be the right decision by staying with his dry setup. Falling back early in the wet conditions, Goring came back through the field as the track began to dry, he was able to take the lead in turn six on lap 14, and finished just 1.794 seconds ahead of second place finisher Andrew Carbonell of Miami, Florida, for his first ever National Championship.
Mazda Motorsports led the way at the 2015 SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Garmin VIRB. With 144 entries, Mazda topped the entry charts. With 61 starters in Spec Miata, Mazda had the largest class among the 27 races held over three days at Daytona International Speedway. And, working with the SCCA, Mazda made history with the first ever night race in the 52 year history of the Runoffs—the Spec Miata race was held under the lights on Friday night.
All in all, the 52nd Annual SCCA National Championship Runoffs was an overwhelming success. The staff and race organizers of the SCCA and Daytona International Speedway should all be commended for working to produce a safe and memorable event for all involved.
Congratulations to all of the 2015 SCCA National Champions, they are, by class;
- Grand Touring 2: John Kachadurian of Denver. Kachadurian Group/Fall-line Porsche 911
- Formula Mazda: Joseph Burton-Harris of Birmingham, Alabama. Sydney Sports/GMG Mazda
- Touring 4: Phillip Royle of Winnetka, California. HMS/Lucas Oil Honda Civic SI
- Grand Touring 1: Michael Lewis of Poway, California. Goodyear/Pegslist.com Jaguar XJR
- H Production: Brian Linn of Hermosa Beach, California. Hoosier/Hussey Honda CRX
- Prototype 2: Chris Farrell of Salt Lake City. Hoosier/Geartronics Stohr WF1
- Formula 500: Calvin Stewart of Novi, Michigan. Novarace NovaKar Blade F600 Suzuki
- Super Touring Under: John Schmitt of Sunbury, Ohio. Hoosier/Red Line Honda
- B Spec: John Heinricy of Clarkston, Michigan. Hoosier/Hawk/Mobil Chevrolet Sonic
- Spec Miata: Jonathan Goring of Norfolk, Connecticut. Dixon/Rossini Mazda Miata
- American Sedan: Andy McDermid of Howell, Michigan. Weather Tech Ford Mustang
- Formula Atlantic: Tyler Hunter of Denver. Swift 014a Toyota
- Super Touring Light: Kevin Boehm of Marysville, Ohio. BF Goodrich/HPD Honda Civic
- Formula 1000: JR Osborne of Englewood, Colorado. Geartronics Firman RFR F1000
- Spec Racer Ford 3: Kerry Jacobson of Deland, Florida. Comprent/Tactical Machining Ford
- F Production: Kevin Ruck of Altascosa, Texas. Hoosier/HPD Acura Integra
- Touring 1: Andrew Aquilante of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang
- Formula Vee: Michael Varacins of Burlington,Wisconsin. Speed Sport/Veetech AM-5
- Grand Touring Lite: Jim Dentici of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. JDM Group Honda CRX
- Touring 2: Kurt Rezzetano / Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Phoenix performance Ford Mustang
- Touring 3: Bob Schader of Lafayette, Colorado. Hoosier tire Nissan 350z
- Formula Contenential: Yufeng Lou of Arcadia, California. Pabst Racing Van Diemen DP08
- Grand Touring 3: Joe Kristensen of London, Ontario, Canada. Kristensen/Hoosier Acura RSX
- Spec Racer Ford: Cliff White of Huntsville, Alabama. Valvoline/Prism SRF
- Formuls F: Rick Payne of Mission, British Columbia, Canada PaytonPools Van Diemen RF99
- E Production: Greg Ira of Plantation, Florida. Trix/Cu Charters Datsun 240Z
- Formula Enterprises: Scott Rettich of Columbus, Ohio. Alliance Autosport/Pdiarm FE
- Prototype 1: Gianpaolo Ciancimino of Coral Springs, Florida. GC &G Services Stohr WF1