Tom Bootz, of Evansville, Ind., raced away from the field to his first National title on Saturday at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs in D Sports Racing. Gumout polesitter Lee Alexander, of Pahrump, Nev., and Jake Latham, of Broomfield, Colo., each earned podium finishes for the first time.
Bootz qualified third in his No. 36 Bootz Industries Stohr WF1 Suzuki and moved to the front at the green flag, leading the field into the first corner and growing the gap throughout the 13-lap, 52-mile race.
As cars battled for position and fell out of the race because of mechanical difficulties, Bootz ticked off lap after lap toward the checkered flag, including a Hawk Fast Lap of the race at 2:02.656 (117.402 mph), a new Runoffs record for the class.
“Being back on the podium is clearly special,” Bootz said. “The odd thing is that earlier in the year the car was a mess. At one point, we just through our hands up and took the car back to the shop and took it apart because something wasn't right. We kept working on it and working on it, finally got up here and turned some competitive laps. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it isn't, and I think we've all been on that side of the equation.
“It was a hard drive, but we got a jump at the start and kept watching the mirrors and watching the mirrors. I was hoping there'd be some battling behind me, trying for consistent laps. I just kept going around, watching the mirrors. I had a clear track until about halfway through the last lap, and there wasn't any point in taking any chances. I stayed behind them until we went across the line.”
The battle for second involved Alexander's polesitting No. 48 Factory 48 Motorsports/APE Race Parts Stohr WF-0 Suzuki mixing it up with defending champion Lawrence Loshak's No. 1 ETE Reman/Moon Supercycle/Goodyear Stohr WF1 Suzuki, with the pair swapping positions several times – first for third place, then second when Chris Farrell's No. 58 C&M Manufacturing/GDR Engines/Hoosier/Red Line Stohr WF1 Suzuki fell out with mechanical difficulties.
Greg Bell, from Metcalfe, Ontario, also inserted himself into that mix, putting his No. 33 Stohr WF1 Suzuki on lap six into second place. Bell fell out of the race on lap seven, and when Loshak pulled to pit lane on lap nine, Alexander was alone in second place and on his way to his first Runoffs podium in just his second attempt.
“I thought I got a pretty good jump at the start and all of these guys just came flying around me and before I knew it, I was in fourth place,” Alexander said. “I was trying to gather myself up and tried to be patient, and try not to be too hard on the equipment. Lawrence is so fast in one, I just couldn't get around him there. Finally, I got a good run in the kink and had to stuff it down there in Canada. By then, [Bootz] was already gone. I just had to keep the car together and drive consistent lap and hope that I'd see him off the side of the road somewhere.”
Attrition moved Latham's No. 5 SCR Performance/Rocky Soft/Sticky Vinyl Graphics Stohr 01D Suzuki up the field, making his pass on Henry Botkin's No. 82 ReenWerks/Factory 48 Motorsports/C2 Racers Stohr WF1 Suzuki on lap 10 for what would become third place and the final podium spot. Botkin finished fourth.
“The start was pretty bad for me, I think I went from fourth to eighth or ninth and pretty much everyone just sort of streamed by on the way to three,” Latham said. “After that it was just trying to find and catch who I could. After that cars started to drop out, I saw someone go off at the end of five and I knew I was up a spot. I spent the whole race chasing after Michael Crowe and we passed and repassed each other, and that was great fun. Finally I got a good tow from him and stuffed it down in Canada Corner and made my way by. He pulled off with some kind of mechanical trouble, and I just kept my gap to the car behind me.”
David Locke finished fifth in the No. 18 Stohr WF1 Suzuki.
Richard Colburn earned the Sunoco Hard Charger, improving from 15th to eighth in his No. 97 Amari Metals/Sunshine Metals NosTendo Suzuki.
Provisional Results from Saturday's D Sports Racing National Championship Race, part of the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (3), Tom Bootz, Evansville, IN, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
2, (1), Lee Alexander, Pahrump, NV, Stohr WF-0 Suzuki, 13.
3, (4), Jake Latham, Broomfield, CO, Stohr 01D Suzuki, 13.
4, (6), Henry Botkin, Jamul, CA, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
5, (10), David Locke, Lafayette, IN, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
6, (11), Jim Hallman, Kitchener, ON, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
7, (13), Steve Nicklin, Henderson, NV, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
8, (15), Richard Colburn, Northbrook, IL, NosTendo Suzuki, 13.
9, (14), Jim Vogel, Madison, WI, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
10, (7), Lawrence Loshak, Grafton, WI, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 9.
11, (8), Michael Crowe, Jamestown, KY, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 8.
12, (9), Greg Bell, Metcalfe, ON, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 6.
13, (12), Dave Knaack, Neenah, WI, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 6.
DNF, (2), Chris Farrell, Salt Lake City, UT, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 5.
DNF, (16), Brian Lindstrand, Lake Villa, IL, Prince LSR Suzuki, 2.
DNS, (5), Garrett Kletjian, Hingham, MA, West WX-10 Suzuki, 0.
Time of Race: 26:47.133
Winner's average speed: 116.481 mph
Hawk Fastest race lap: #36 Tom Bootz 2:02.656 (117.402 mph)
Lap Leaders: 1-13, #36 Tom Bootz.