RACE: National Runoffs: Friday races report

Veteran Sets Record, Rookie Rolls on First Race Day of 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs LEXINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 23, 2005) -- The weather at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had been nearly perfect since Monday, so, of course, the skies on ...

RACE: National Runoffs: Friday races report
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Veteran Sets Record, Rookie Rolls on First Race Day of 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs

LEXINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 23, 2005) -- The weather at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course had been nearly perfect since Monday, so, of course, the skies on Friday -- the first day of racing at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler -- were overcast and damp with fog and the 2.258-mile course wet with early morning rains.

A little water didn't stop the Runoffs, however, and the first eight champions were crowned, led by veterans Kent Prather, of Wakarusa, Kan., who won a record sixth Production class title when he won G Production, and John Heinricy, of Holly, Mich., who won his fifth-consecutive Touring 1 Runoffs championship -- a streak not seen since Warren Stilwell won seven Spec Racer Ford titles from 1994-2000. It was Heinricy's eight title overall, which moves him to third all-time in SCCA Runoffs history.

Not to be outdone, Runoffs rookie Graham Rahal, set a new race lap record and took top honors in Formula Atlantic -- exactly 30 years after his father, Bobby, won the Formula B Championship in 1975.

Eight more races are on tap for Saturday, with Formula 500 set to wave the green flag at 10:05 a.m. (EDT) following warm-up sessions that begin at 8 a.m. To watch all race action via live timing and scoring, visit www.scca.com, where complete schedule information and results are located.

Recaps of all eight races from Friday:

Race 1: H Production

Tom Feller, of Clarkston, Mich., became the first SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Champion of 2005 Friday morning, taking the H Production race by more than six seconds.

Chris Crisenbery, of Parma, Mich., and Dan Collishaw, of East Orleans, Mass., finished second and third, respectively.

Feller began the race on the pole in his West Michigan Imports/DJ Race Triumph Spitfire, but Crisenbery, in his Rascal Racing Triumph Spitfire, jumped past him to open a sizable lead on the wet 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. As the course dried, however, Feller's speed continued to climb, eventually wiping out Crisebery's nine-second advantage and catching him on Lap 12 of the 20-lap race.

The two battled each other while dodging lapped traffic for the next three laps, before Feller made his move on the inside of Crisenbery at Turn 9 on Lap 15. From there, Feller drove away, winning his second-consecutive H Production Championship and the second Runoffs title of his career.

"I dropped back to fourth in the first turn and spent the first few laps just learning the rain line," Feller said. "I figured it out where my car was loose and where it was pushing. Then I stayed with the same line and followed Chris (Crisenbery). I followed his line through the water to keep my tires cool. The track dried quickly and I was sliding around quite a bit. I caught Chris and we were side by side. It was very clean racing."

Matt Brannon, of Columbus, Ohio, started 10th and finished fourth on the strength of turning the race's fast lap (1:49.175) on Lap 21. Greg Feller, of Sylvania, Ohio, completed the top five.

Race 2: C Sports Racing

Arnie Loyning, of Portland, Ore., captured his first National Championship Friday, taking the C Sports Racing class win at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Eric Vassian, of Atlanta, Ga., and Bill Goldkind, of Holbrook, N.Y., completed the top-three.

Driving the No. 27 Loyning Engine Service Swift Viking, Loyning and polesitter Jacek Mucha went side-by-side into the opening turn. Making contact, Loyning continued, holding the lead ahead of Jeremy Treadway, who moved up from his seventh place starting position. Battling for position, the duo ran nose-to-tail for several laps, before Treadway took the lead on lap four. After briefly falling back, Loyning closed the gap and began looking for a way past Treadway. Entering the esses on lap 10, Loyning got alongside Treadway and retook the lead. Immediately after relinquishing the lead, Treadway slowed and pulled off-course. With a lead of over the 20 seconds, the best battle on course was for second between Mike McGinley and Richard Cottrill. Having secured the position, McGinley spun off-course on lap 17 and making contact with the tire barrier. Unchallenged to the checkered flag, Loyning crossed the start/finish winning by 37.969.

"I think that I left enough room for him and then I looked in my mirrors and saw cars all over the place," said Loyning discussing the first turn incident. "I was chasing Jeremy Treadway and I knew I could get past him. He was all over the track. He was strong on the straightaway, but I was faster in the corners. He was using all the road. My engine cut out a couple times during the race, but it always restarted. I don't know what was wrong. There were some lights on my dash, but I don't know what they meant! I hoped that my engine would not blow up it a ball of fire----I would have to say that my gearbox broke! It would not have been good for business." (Note: Loyning builds and sells race engines.)

Cottrill, of Longmont, Colo., finished fourth, and Jim Downing, of Atlanta, Ga., completed the top-five.

Race 3: Showroom Stock B

Starting on the pole for the second time in three years, Toby Grahovec managed to finally put together a full weekend as he won his first SCCA National Championship Showroom Stock B Championship Friday morning at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Jack Tippens, of Woodstock, Ill., finished second, 6.691 seconds behind Grahovec, and 2003 SSB Champion Harry Manning, of Racine, Wis., finished third.

Getting away from the field early with a clean start in his Hoosier/Red Line/Classic BMW 2003 BMW Z4 (the same car that earned 2004 Champion Jim Leithauser his SSB title), Grahovec was never seriously challenged in any of the 20 laps on the 2.258-mile course. While he may not have needed it, he received a gift from then third-place Tippens, who was denied in his bid for the SCCA Chicago Region Triple Crown, and second-place David Nielsen, of Galena, Ohio.

Battling as they entered the Esses on Lap 9, Tippens' Dora/Fall Line Motorsports/Anderson BMW 2004 BMW Z4 briefly contacted the back end of Nielsen's Nielsen Environmental Field School 2003 BMW Z4, causing both drivers to spin. Both recovered quickly, but were well out of Grahovec's reach.

"I had a sweet start and then I just put my head down and concentrated on my lead," Grahovec said. "When the cars started bumping behind me I got a real nice lead. Then I saw Harry [Manning] in my mirrors and we were just matching lap times. Then I was happy to see a clear track in my mirrors when Harry and Jack [Tippens] had some trouble. I finally took a checker!"

After recovering from the incident with Tippens, Nielsen went on to finish fourth, while Ken Simonson, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, completed the top five.

Race 4: Sports 2000

Marc Walker, of Oldsmar, Fla., captured his first National Championship Friday, taking the Sports 2000 class win at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Bart Wolf, of Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Terrence Garrett, of Fishers, Ind., completed the top-three.

Getting the green flag on the back straight, Walker, Wolf and John Fergus went three-wide across the start/finish. Making light contact, Fergus spun across the track and was hit by fourth place starter Alexander Smith. Avoiding the incident, Walker led Wolf through the opening turns. Attacking the course on cold tires, Walker and Wolf immediately began building a gap on Garrett in third place. Despite racing in close formation, the top-five remained unchanged until lap six, when Michael Bautz passed Garrett to move into third place. Bautz maintained the position until lap nine, when Garrett retook third place. Behind the lead trio, the battle for fourth soon became a heated affair, as Fergus, who had fallen to 14th place at the start, began to challenge Mercer and Mark Hardymon for position. Making his way past the duo, Fergus quickly closed the gap on Garrett. Holding off challenges from Wolf and Fergus during final two laps, Walker and Garrett retained first and third place respectively. Leading flag-to-flag, Walker captured his first Sports 2000 National Championship by 1.128.

"The start was critical," said Walker. "The track was slick. It wasn't wet, yet it was slick. Plus there were two places where 'weepers' had water on the track. I hammered it at the green and got nudged in the back in the first turn. I looked in my mirrors and saw Fergus off on the grass and Smith up against him. Then I saw Fergus sideways behind me. I went into the next turn and saw Bart [Wolf] right behind me and thought that I had to do something about that. I had to try to run perfect laps to keep him behind me. Every now and then I would bobble a bit and he would get right up to me but then he would do the same the next lap."

Fergus, of Powell, Ohio, finished fourth, and Mercer, of Aurora, Colo., completed the top-five.

Race 5: Grand Touring Lite

Warren Montague, of Manakin Sabot, Va., capped off a fantastic GT Lite week at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler by going flag-to-flag and winning the class' inaugural title. Jimmy Burke, of Cumming, Ga., and Doug Ruthroff, of Phoenix, Ariz., finished second and third, respectively.

Montague, who won his only other Runoffs Championship in 1996 in GT-4, ran away with the win from the very start, running the race's fast lap on Lap 2 with a 1:36.770 (84.001 mph) in his TRD/Toyota Motorsports/Pella VA Toyota Tercel. Using that lap as a slingshot, Montague bolted away, building on his lead lap after lap and eventually taking the win in the 20-lap race by 19.590 seconds over Burke's Goodyear/Red Line/Moton/Motec Nissan Sentra. Burke moved up to second early on as second-qualifier Joe Kristensen, of London, Ont. (Can.), pulled into the pits after just one lap with mechanical problems in his Kristensen Racing Honda CRX.

"The car has been fast all week. It was fast out of the box and fastest in the first practice and qualifying. It got a little slower after that, but I was still on pole," Montague said. "My crew chief, Scott Ritchie, could not be here this week as he is home with an ill wife. But I called him at least twice each day and he told us over the phone how to adjust and set up the car. I lost fourth gear on the 10th lap and had to go from third to fifth after that. I drove as smooth as I could, I got lucky, and was able to maintain the lead."

Bill Davidson, of Dexter, Mich., started last in the GT Lite field, but marched his way through the field in his Goodyear/Davidson Motorsports Ford Fiesta to finish fourth. Dan Robson, of Moore, S.C., also had an impressive drive, starting 12th before finishing fifth.

Race 6: Touring 1

John Heinricy, of Holly, Mich., captured his eighth National Championship Friday, taking the Touring 1 class win for the fifth consecutive year at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Scotty B White, of Puyallup, Was., and Lance Knupp, of Fenton, Mich., completed the top-three.

Starting from the pole position, White got a great jump at start, holding lead into the first turn. Behind White, the lead group went multi-car abreast through the esses, with Philip Croyle and Chris Ingle moving into second and third respectively. Midway through the opening lap, the full-course caution was displayed for oil on the racing line in turn one. When racing resumed on lap four, White once again held the lead into the esses. Battling for third place Heinricy and Ingle made light contact, with Heinricy taking the position. Pushing his car to the limit, Heinricy quickly caught Croyle and passed for second on lap five. Within two corners, Heinricy caught White, passing for the lead as the duo crossed the start/finish to commence lap six. Once out front, the reigning National Champion steadily built a gap on the White and the 27-car field. The top-five remained unchanged until lap 16, when Croyle slowed exiting turn one and pulled off-course. Despite a late challenge by White, Heinricy led the remainder of the race to capture his fifth consecutive Touring 1 Runoffs win by 1.649 seconds.

"I was really asleep at the start," said Heinricy. "I wasn't even looking at the flag when Scotty [White] floored it. I ended up fourth by the second turn. I then had to pick them off one by one. This was the first race for this chassis. It was just built up as a brand new race car. Life is good!"

Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pa., finished fourth, and Cindi Lux, of Beaverton, Ore., completed the top-five.

Race 7: G Production

In what was perhaps the most exciting race of the day, Kent Prather, of Wakarusa, Kan., survived an action-packed G Production race at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler to win his sixth Production class title, making him the all-time leader in that category. Chuck Mathis, of Saint Jacob, Ill., finsished second, and Woody Deatherage, of Cleveland, Ohio, was third.

Prather started second on the grid in his Prather Racing/Victoria British MGA and dropped to fourth on the first lap of the race before he started his comeback over then-leader and polesitter Kevin Dennis, of Rochester, N.Y.

Dennis, in his Nissan,Goodyear/Red Line/CDA Nissan 510 appeared to be well in control of the race, running the fast lap on Lap 10 with a 1:40.412 (80.954 mph) and extending his lead over Prather, who had moved back up to second, to 1.306 seconds. It took Prather little time to make up the difference, however, as Dennis slowed on the next lap. The two jostled for position and Prather dropped to third behind Deatherage as the lead pack weaved through passed traffic.

With the leaders in front and a lapped car between them on Lap 15, Prather made a bold move to the inside of all three cars, slashing his way to the front of the field -- a move that seemed to catch everyone off-guard.

From there, Prather held his spot and earned his sixth Production class win -- all in G Production -- making him the all-time Production Class Championship leader.

"We're going down the backside, Woody got ahead of me, and I'm thinking, 'Well, huh, what am I going to do now,'" Prather said. "So I pulled into the inside, and there was a back-marker there. There was a little-bitty spot on the inside, and I dove right into it. I said 'It's now or never' and dove in there and somehow ended up in the front.

"From there, it was just a matter of running qualifying laps and keeping these guys behind me and not making any mistakes."

After the dust settled, Dennis wound up fourth, and Larry Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, was fifth.

Race 8: Formula Atlantic

Graham Rahal, of New Albany, Ohio., captured his first National Championship Friday, taking the Formula Atlantic class win at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Dan Selznick, of Phoenix, Ari., and David Wilcox, of Lake Dallas, Texas, completed the top-three.

Having led every session and set a new lap record in qualifying, Rahal entered the race as the odds on favorite to win. In what would prove to be the most difficult part of the race, Rahal's car misfired at the start, causing the 17 year-old to lose several positions entering the esses. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Selznick led Mirl Swan through the opening turns. Quickly recovering from the poor start, Rahal moved into second on the second lap, passing Swan on the back straight. Having fallen back to third, Swan's race ended later in the lap, when he spun off-course. Posting lap times up to two seconds quicker than any other driver, Rahal soon caught Selznick, passing for the lead on lap five. Steadily pulling away from Selznick, David Wilcox and Keith Lively, the battle for fifth became the most heated amongst the leaders. Having moved into fifth, Bernie Sunier went off-course on lap nine, allowing Ben Beasley to take the position. Two laps later, Beasley spun exiting Thunder Valley, becoming stuck in the grass, relinquishing fifth place to Ryan Spencer-Smith. On lap 17, the final change in top-five occurred, when Lively pulled into the pits and retired with a mechanical failure. Setting a new race lap record, Rahal crossed the start/finish 43.01 seconds ahead of Selznick, to capture his first SCCA National Championship Runoffs win, 30-years after his father, racing legend Bobby Rahal won the Formula B National Championship.

"I had a misfire at the start," said Rahal. "When I came out of the paddock the car misfired, but it cleared up right away. At the start it did it again and I thought, 'oh, no!', but it cleared up again and we were OK. I definitely had the fastest car out there and I knew that I could keep up. I took my time and caught up to Dan. I got a good run on him and passed into the Keyhole. Then I just kept careful, building my lead and trying to stay out of trouble."

Spencer-Smith, of Nappa, Calif., finished fourth, and Burke, of Rumson, N.J., completed the top-five.

-Curtis Kitchen, SCCA

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