TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 10, 2008) – 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.
“I just wanted to stay consistent. I kept checking in my rear-view mirror to see if I was actually gapping anybody or not, because I was a little slower than I was in qualifying. It seemed like forever out there, so I was happy to run without any yellows this year. 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.
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs® The Pinnacle of American Motorsports, will crown Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing National Champions for the 45th-consecutive year in 2008. The best amateur drivers from across North America will compete on Heartland Park Topeka’s 2.5-mile road course in what is considered the “Olympics” of motorsports. This year’s event began with four days of qualifying, Oct. 6-9, and has now commenced three days of National Championship racing, Oct. 10-12. Live timing, lap notes, results and photos are all available at www.scca.com/runoffs.