RACE: National Runoffs crown nine champions on Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 10, 2008) -- Heartland Park Topeka was blessed with beautiful weather and nine thrilling contests to open the first day of racing at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs. In addition to crowning nine champions, three ...

RACE: National Runoffs crown nine champions on Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 10, 2008) -- Heartland Park Topeka was blessed with beautiful weather and nine thrilling contests to open the first day of racing at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs. In addition to crowning nine champions, three drivers earned the coveted SCCA Chicago Region Triple Crown®.

Race One: Ziegler Wins Wild Touring 2 National Championship

William Ziegler, of Stamford, Conn., won his first SCCA National Championship in dramatic fashion, as contact on the last lap sent then-leader Don Knowles, of Pittsboro, N.C., spinning across Ziegler's nose and into the wall. Ziegler kept his cool to take the checkered flag, followed by Andy Wolverton, of Papillion, Neb., and Michael Pettiford, of Louisville, Colo., at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs, at Heartland Park Topeka.

Starting from the pole, Knowles had a perfect start and immediately began to pull a gap on the rest of the field in his No. 35 Phoenix/Hoosier/Hawk/iRacing.com Pontiac Solstice GXP, but Zielger and his team had prepared for this, putting a setup on the car that enabled him to catch up in the second half of the 18-lap race.

As the white flag flew in the starter's stand, Ziegler pulled to the inside of Knowles heading into Turn Alpha. Contact between the two sent Knowles into a spin and into the wall.

"We came up onto the front straight and I got up inside him. I had a really good run going on the left side. We got to the kink where Alpha is. I was pressed right against the wall. I was to his door and he started coming across and I thought 'I've got no where to go here.' He came across the front of my car and I spun him. It's not a good view at 100 mph seeing another car go across the front of your's.

"I really hate for the race to go that way," Ziegler said. "It was a really unfortunate incident. I'm sure Don thought he had me cleared and everything was okay. He doesn't drive like that and I don't either. When the wall is this far away on the left, you've got nowhere to go.

Ziegler was followed across the finish line by two first-time podium finishers who had an exciting battle of their own: Andy Wolverton and Michael Pettiford.

William Moore, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, put four Solstices in the top four, finishing just off the podium in his No. 3 Msports/Swift/Backstreet/Hoosier Pontiac Solstice.

Completing the top five in the No. 34 AMSPerformance/VIP/TRE Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, Marty Grand, of Manassas Park, Va., also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing six positions in the race.

Race Two: Futrelle Wins Formula Mazda SCCA National Championship at Heartland Park Topeka

Franklin Futrelle, of Augusta, Ga., led all 18 laps en route to winning his first Formula Mazda National Championship at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Mike Anderson, of Anza, Calif., finished second, and Juan Marchand, of South Haven, Mich., was third.

Starting third in the No. 97 Meco Inc. of Augusta Star Formula Mazda, Futrelle made an aggressive move at the start going three-wide into Turn One and made it stick. When polesitter James Slone spun from second, Anderson took over the spot, but was more than six seconds behind Futrelle.

"Mike [Anderson] and Jamie [Slone] both had a couple of tenths on me all week," Futrelle said. "The crew and I talked, and we knew I was going to have to get it done in the beginning. I saw Jamie was concentrating on Mike a lot at the start and he just left the door open. I had to take advantage of it.

"I had to concentrate on putting in consistent laps. I knew we were all so close in qualifying, so I knew whoever had the lead after the first lap would probably win if they could run consistent laps throughout the race."

After the Sloan spin, Futrelle was never seriously challenged, winning by 7.071-seconds over Anderson. Futrelle turned the race's fastest lap with a 1:33.290. and captured the Chicago Region SCCA Triple Crown.

Marchand was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing four positions throughout the race, starting seventh and finishing third. Though Marchand finished third, the eventual fourth-place finisher, Russell Lindemann, of Longmont, Colo., did not make it easy for him. In the final laps, Lindemann made several attempts to pass Marchand but Marchand was able to hold him off. Matthew Pombo, of Duluth, Ga., finished fifth.

Race Three: Prather Captures E Production SCCA National Championship at Home in Topeka

Jesse Prather, of Topeka, Kan., captured his third consecutive title and first in E Production on Friday at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Defending class champion Tom Thrash, of Houston, Texas, and Greg Ira, of Plantation, Fla., finished second and third.

Prather began the race knowing that the strength of his No. 34 Prather Racing/Moss Motors Mazda Miata would be the handling throughout the twisty 14-turn, 2.5-mile track against the power of Thrash in the No. 67 Lucas Racing/Mazda/Goodyear Mazda RX-7 and Ira's No. 2 CU Yacht Charter Datsun 240-Z.

Once Prather slipped past Ira, he and Thrash pulled away from the field and were locked in a back-and-forth battle. Officially, Thrash led the first seven laps of the race, but within those laps the lead changed hands seemingly at every third turn.

Prather snared the lead for good on lap eight when Thrash, pushing hard and with tires fading, slid off track in Turn Eight. Prather was then able to cruise to a 7.859-second victory. For Prather, it was his first National Championship in E Production following two consecutive F Production. "There couldn't have been the width of a piece of paper between me and Greg at one time and between me at Tom another time," Prather said. "It was a real back-and-forth battle between power versus handling. It was really interesting. So, my strategy was to wait for these guys' tires to go away and it worked."

Aaron Downey, of Corona Del Mar, Calif., piloted his No. 5 roundpeg.com Mazda RX-3 to fourth place. Richard Kavitski, of Freeland, Penn., finished fifth.

Tony Rivera captured the Sunoco Hard Charger award, improving 16 places to ninth at the checkered flag in the No. 75 BMR/Hoosier Mazda RX-7.

Race Four: Touring 3 National Championship Goes to Runoffs Rookie Spaude

In his first visit to the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, Bret Spaude, of Bushnell, Fla., earned the Touring 3 title, following a race-long battle with Kevin Fandozzi, of St. Joseph, Mo. Fandozzi would finish second followed by Bob Boileau, of Monument, Colo.

Starting fourth, Spaude got a great start, rocketing to second in his No. 12 TS Racing Inc. Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Fandozzi, however, got an even better start, pulling out nearly one and half seconds on Spaude on the first lap.

Spaude made up ground quickly, catching Fandozzi on lap eight. From that point forward, it was a nose-to-tail battle for the lead between Spaude and Fandozzi's No. 34 Hoosier Tire Chevrolet Cobalt. Spaude pulled alongside Fandozzi numerous times exiting Turn 14, but it wasn't until the second-to-last lap that Spaude was able to make it stick all the way through Turn Two.

Spaude would then sail to the checkered flag unchallenged, taking his first National Championship by 2.743 seconds over Fandozzi, who was able to set a new Runoffs race lap record of 1:49.765 during the 18-lap race.

"We worked all year and had some problems at the beginning with the car,

figured out the problems, raced the car, and had a good feeling coming into

here," Saude said. "Practice was good, the whole week just turned out to be really good, and it feels great to do something that not many people get to do on their first try."

After getting caught up in some early battles, Boileau clawed his way through the field to take the final podium spot in the No. 43 Hoosier/1-800-FIGHT-MS Honda S2000.

Chad Gilsinger, of Marysville, Ohio, finished fourth in the No. 07 BFGoodrich/H&R/Traqmate Honda S2000. He was followed by the No. 4 Old Dominion Metals/Kumho/Red Line Honda S2000 of Rob Hines, from Arlington, Va.

Eric Van Cleef, of Huntsville, Ala., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award in the No. 84 Kumho Tires/Mazda Motorsports Mazda RX-8. Van Cleff advanced five positions in the race.

Race Five: Miserendino Wins thrilling Spec Racer Ford SCCA National Championship

Mike Miserendino, of Los Angeles, made a thrilling late race pass to capture his third straight Spec Racer Ford National Championship today at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Brian Schofield, of Lakeland, Fla., and Jordan Gore, of Vero Beach, Fla., completed the top three.

Piloting the No. 11 MBI Racing Spec Racer Ford, Miserendino began his quest for a third National Championship from the pole and led the first seven laps, before Schofield drove through the Turn One grass to take the lead.

On lap 14, Gore passed Miserendino for third, but only because Miserendino's car shut off and he had to cycle it. Once Miserendino made the adjustment, he retook second place and set his sights on the then leader Schofield. After trading paint for three laps, Schofield left the door open in Turn Five and Miserendino capitalized. He drove his No. 11 machine deep into Turn Five, came out with the lead and never looked back, winning by 1.955-seconds.

"With about five laps to go, we went through the Esses in Turn Eight and Nine and my car just shut off," Miserendino said. "I had to reach up and cycle it. It came back to life luckily. From there, I just kept my head down and tried to get by Jordan. I wanted to get back to the front as fast I could.

"This track is really tough to pass at. [Schofield] slipped a little bit. The door was open just a crack. He gave me room. But, I was half on the grass, half on the track. He didn't want me by and I don't blame him one bit. We rubbed a little bit, but like Brian said, it was good fun and good racing."

While Miserendino and Schofield battled, Gore, who started fifth in his No. 15 Spec Racer Ford, stayed within striking distance in the event either of the two leaders made a mistake. Unfortunately for Gore, neither driver did and he finished third.

Tray Ayres, of Atlanta, and Andrew Charbonneau, of Delray Beach, Fla., finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Mark Hutchins, of Lincoln, Neb., was the Sunoco Hard Charger. He advanced 10 positions throughout the race.

Race Six: Stout Captures Record-Tying Fifth SCCA National Championship in Formula Vee

In a seesaw battle that featured four official lead changes and many more that weren't measured at the start/finish line, Brad Stout, of Webster Groves, Mo., outlasted Michael Varacins, of Burlington, Wisc., for his fifth Formula Vee title at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Stephen Dreizer, of Shell Knob, Mo., finished third.

Stout and Varacins spent most of the 17-lap race exchanging leads, with Stout officially credited with leading laps eight, nine and 11 through 17 in his No. 35 Vortech FV. Varacins led the remaining eight laps in his No. 65 Speed Sport Eng/Veetech/Hoosier Speed Sport AM-5 Volkswagen.

The race seemed destined to end with a drag race down the front straight to the checkered flag. Unfortunately for Varacins, that opportunity wouldn't come after Stephen Saslow slid off-track, tracking into the path of No. 10 Eddie Cadena and the two made heavy contact. Because of the location of the two damaged cars, a full-course caution came out and ended the race, giving Stout -- who was leading at the time -- the win.

"We had a great race," Stout said. "We tested each other. We went through a few turns side-by-side and I was like 'boy, I don't want to do this on a regular basis.' But, it was nice to know who could do what and what we could get away with for that last lap. Late in the race, I could see that we were coming up on traffic. I am always worried about traffic. It can either help you or hurt you. I know that both of us wanted to lead by the time we got in there. I was lucky enough to be leading. Sure enough the yellow flag came out and that was the race."

The 0.940-second win was Stout's fifth, and first at Heartland Park, tying him with engine builder Bill Noble for most in Formula Vee history. It was Varacins' third consecutive runner-up finish at the SCCA Runoffs.

Dreizler outlasted a three-and-four car battle of his own to finish third in the No. 04 Competition Data Systems Vortech 2002, but was running almost five seconds behind the battle for the lead when the yellow flag flew.

Bob Neumeister of Pueblo, Colo., and Jeffrey Loughead, of Darien, Ill., finished fourth and fifth and were among those who battled with Dreizler at one point for the final podium position.

Phillip Holcomb, of Longmont, Colo., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after improving 11 positions to 11th place.

Race Seven: Foss is Boss in Spec Miata

After a disappointing DNF in the 2007 Spec Miata National Championship race, Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, redeemed himself at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs, holding off Steven Gorriaran, of Providence, R.I., to take the Spec Miata title. Sammy Valafar, of Las Vegas, Nev., completed the podium at Heartland Park Topeka.

Starting from pole, Foss kept the Spec Miata field at bay heading into Turn One, but it wasn't long before the No. 77 Miata Specialists/E-Bargain/Jesus Mazda Miata of Valafar pounced and took over the lead. Foss kept his No. 28 Team Saferacer Mazda Miata glued to the Valafar's bumper, however, and was able to retake the lead on lap seven as the pair headed into Turn One.

As Valafar fell back into the clutches of Gorriaran and Blake Clements, Foss pulled out a gap of nearly one and a half seconds. Gorriaran was able to break away, however, and with only three laps remaining, Foss' lead came under threat from Gorriaran's No. 44 GorillaRacing/Driven Performance Mazda Miata. Though under heavy pressure, the current MX-5 Cup point leader remained poised and crossed the finish line 0.573-second ahead of Gorriaran.

"[Steve and Sammy] are some of the cleanest guys I've raced with and I'm excited for them too. I knew they'd race me clean and they did that every lap. We were nose-to-tail, side-by-side, and never once did I have a concern. Actually, the racing was a lot cleaner than what happens in MX-5 Cup sometimes!"

Though he dropped back to fourth shortly after Foss retook the lead on lap seven, Valafar successfully moved himself back to third the following lap, where he would finish.

Following an intense late-race battle, Mark Drennan, of San Jose, Calif., finished fourth, followed closely by Aaron McSpadden, of Austin, Texas.

The Sunoco Hard Charger Award went to Andrew Charbonneau, of Delray Beach, Fla., who advanced 13 positions in the race.

Race Eight: Coello Captures Third SCCA National Championship at Heartland Park Topeka

Chicago Region SCCA Triple Crown® winner Niki Coello, of East Troy, Wis., made winning his third Formula Continental National Championship look easy during the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Brian Tomasi, of Elgin, Ill., and Brian Belardi, of Grafton, Wis., finished second and third, respectively.

Coello started from the pole in the No. 81 pouredfoundations.com Van Diemen RF-01 and led flag-to-flag, winning by 16.050 seconds. The only real challenge Coello faced en route to his win was whether or not the diffuser, dragging from his machine, would break loose. The piece was knocked loose by Chas Shaffer at the start of the race. Fortunately for Coello, it stayed on the car.

"It basically felt like someone was stuck to my rear," Coello said of his race start. "I thought I had a good start, but he [Shaffer] was basically pushing on my wing. I was hoping that he wouldn't break the rear diffuser wing, but he did. The car handled pretty good without it. It was a little loose, but I think the track was dirty as well.

"It [the win] feels really good. It was nice to win the last race at Mid-Ohio and the first race and the last race here [at Heartland Park Topeka]. We'll see what happens next year at another new track."

Tomasi, who started fifth in the No. 96 Alligator Board/Hoosier/Subway/RMX Van Diemen RF-01, made a couple of early passes on Shaffer, of Catlett, Va., and Belardi to move up to second by lap three. But, unfortunately for Tomasi, Coello opened up a substantial lead that proved to be insurmountable and finished second.

Driving the No. 41 Hoosier/Liberty Motorsports Van Diemen RF-01, Belardi spent most of his race battling Shaffer and Peter LeSueur, of Saint Charles, Ill., for third. On lap 15, Belardi finally passed Shaffer and then held off a hard charging LeSueur to finish third. LeSueur and Shaffer finished fourth and fifth, respectively. John McMurray, of St. Louis, won the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing five positions during the race.

Race Nine: Goughary Races To Third GT-2 Crown at SCCA National Championship Runoffs

Jim Goughary, of Houston, Texas, grabbed the lead at the start of Friday's GT-2 race at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka and never looked back, cruising to a 1.518-second victory. Polesitter John Black, of Olympic Valley, Calif., and Wayland Joe, of South Barrington, Ill., joined Goughary on the podium.

Goughary, driving the No. 46 RedLine Oil Nissan 350Z, raced past Black's No. 17 Nissan 350Z into the first turn from the outside of the front row and immediately began to pull away from the field. Despite the 1.518-second margin of victory and the relatively few assaults on the lead, the finish could have been much closer. Black made one big push to catch Goughary near the midpoint of the race, but just didn't have enough to get around him.

"I had a little bit of understeer dialed into the car, and the front tires were starting to go off a little bit," Goughary said. "When I had a gap on John, I tried to cool it a little bit just save the front tires, and he caught right back up. I think it was two laps from the end, I went off over the curb in the fast Esses, just because they had gone away. So it was a tough race."

Defending two-time champion Wayland Joe made his first SCCA start this season, but wanted to return to Heartland Park to defend his title. With that in mind, the podium finish in the No. 1 Soakworld.com/NGT Motorsport Porsche 996 capped a successful week for Joe.

Mark Jurczyk, of Chicago, Ill., and Jim Walsh, of Redmond, Wash., completed the top five in GT-2. Andrew Foley, of Portland, Oregon, gained four positions to 11th place to earn the Sunoco Hard Charger Award

-credit: scca

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