Eyes on Road America for June Sprints
Late June signals the beginning of summer and the time for the largest SafeRacer SCCA National Racing Series event of the year, the Chicago Region SCCA WeatherTech June Sprints at Road America.
More than 400 cars are entered for the 55th consecutive June Sprints, which not only represents the largest field of the 65 races making up the Club Racing National regular season, but, since the move of the National Championship Runoffs to Road America in 2009, also offers a sneak-preview of what to expect for that event in September. In fact, 10 defending National Champions and 22 other former National Champions are among the 425 entries in 29 classes.
Each race group will have a Friday practice, followed by two qualifying sessions, of which a driver's best lap will form the starting lineup. Races one through four will be held Saturday afternoon, with the remaining six contests held on Sunday.
Race Group 1: ST, T1, T2, STO, STU, AS
Race Group One features the big bore Touring, Super Touring® and American Sedan® classes.
The Touring 1 class features 11-time SCCA National Champion John Heinricy, of Holly, Mich., back in action. Heinricy, who has focused on professional racing endeavors in recent years, is back in his familiar No. 35 Torvec/Hoosier/Hawk/Phoenix Performance Chevrolet Corvette and instantly becomes the man to beat this year. Newbury, Ohio's Tom Sloe is the defending American Sedan National Champion, but changes to T1 for 2010 and will be running the No. 99 Hoosier/Hutter Performance Center Corvette. While defending class National Champ Scott Tucker is still recovering from jet lag after competing at Le Mans a fortnight back, Ferrari will be represented, with David MacNeil driving the No. 79 WeatherTech.com Ferrari F430 Challenge.
Touring 2 features BMWs, Camaros and turbocharged Pontiac Solstice GXPs. Nationwide points leader Cooper MacNeil hopes to join his father, David, in Victory Lane Saturday in his No. 76 WeatherTech BMW M3. It won't be easy though, as he'll have to beat 2008 National Champion Andy Wolverton, of Papillion, Neb., and his No. 86 Pontiac Solstice GXP.
A relatively new category in SCCA, Super Touring features cars similar to Touring, but with more modifications, similar to the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge series. A trio of STO cars took the overall win in this group in 2009, with GT-2 National Champion Mark Boden (No. 45 Fall Line Porsche 911 GT3) and part-time World Challenge driver Kip Olson (No. 49 Driving Ambition Acura NSX) expect to be front-runners.
In STU, many drivers pulling double duty make up a 15-car field. Defending race winner Ron Pawley is expected to be the favorite in his No. 01 J Pawley Toyota/Scion Lexus IS300. Look for a strong challenge from Joel Weinberger and his No. 3 Continental Audi of Naperville Audi A4.
Four-time American Sedan National Champion Andy McDermid looks to score another June Sprints crown in his No. 24 Felice Performance/T&A Shocks/Lane Automotive Ford Mustang. Other drivers to watch include Nation-wide points leader Tom Ellis, of Sunrise, Fla., in his No. 51 Steeda/Averitt/Palm Express Ford Mustang and Kansas City's Jim Wheeler in the No. 0 Hoosier/Rollcamera.net Pontiac Trans Am.
Race Group 2: CSR, DSR, S2000
Race Two for sports racing cars is stocked with former National Champions.
In C Sports Racing, a pair of local father-son teams and another Wisconsinite should battle for overall race win honors. Six-time National Jeff Miller (No. 0 Kohler/Millenium/Goodyear Lola Wynnfurst), of Elkhart Lake, and son Jason (No. 8 Kohler/Millenium/Goodyear West Wynnfurst), of Sheboygan Falls, put their team against 2009 Runoffs polesitter and former FA National Champion Brian French and his son, James (No. 45 and No. 46 Motorsports Enterprises Ralt RT-41s), both of Sheboygan. The wild card in the family feud could be two-time Formula Atlantic National Champion Steve Forrer, of Fox Point, and his No. 84 Forrer Supply/K-Hill Motorsports Ralt RT-41.
The past two D Sports Racing Runoffs polesitters and the current Nation-wide point leader lead a 18-car DSR field. Former E Production National Champion and current Nation-wide point leader Lawrence Loshak, of Milwaukee, hopes to win his big hometown event in the No. 02 ETE Reman/KWS/BRD/Goodyear/Valley Graphix Stohr. He'll face stiff competition, though, with 2008 polesitter and current Nation-wide runner-up Chris Farrell, of Salt Lake City, Utah, in his No. 58 C&M Mfg/GDR Engines/Hoosier Tire Stohr and the No. 85 TG&C Racing Stohr of defending Runoffs polesitter Charles Dempsey, of Brooksville, Fla., also on the entry list.
Like CSR, Sports 2000 could come down to a battle between father and son, as six-time National Champion John Fergus, of Powell, Ohio and son Corey, the 2009 Runoffs polesitter, should battle it out in their Hoosier/Carbotech Carbir CS2s. Local hero Bart Wolf, of Elkhart Lake, may have something to say about it in his No. 28 Goodyear/Obama Care Carbir CS2.8. He was third at the 2009 Runoffs.
Race Group 3: FC, FF
Four-time SCCA National Champion Niki Coello leads a huge, 25-car field in Formula Continental and is the favorite in his No. 81 Ralph Firman Racing/Hoosier Tire Van Diemen. Current nationwide points leader Revere Greist, of Madison, will also be a factor in his No. 56 Waypoint Health Innovations/ArmsUp Motorsports Van Diemen, as will former National Champions John LaRue (No. 3 Goodyear/ICP/Hyperco Citation) and Brian Tomasi (AlligatorBoard.com/Hoosier/Subway/RMX/Nova Van Diemen).
The 22-car Formula F field features defending National Champion Scott Rubenzer, of Brookfield, in his No. 1 Storage Battery Systems Citation as well as 2009 polesitter Jeremy Treadway (No. 12 Goodyear/Loynings Engines Swift DB-6) and 2009 June Sprints winner Tim Kautz (No. 88 Braeburn/Hoosier/Boyce Body Works Piper), who looked like a possible Runoffs winner in 2009 before a final-corner accident ended his run.
Race Group 4: FB, FE
Formula 1000 and Formula Enterprises will make up Race Group Four, the first race of Sunday morning.
Formula 1000, a relatively new class and a class in its first year of National Championship Runoffs eligibility, features eight entries, three of which are former National Champions in other classes. Niki Coello will pull double duty in F 1000 and FC, driving the No. 81 Firman Race Cars/Hoosier/PouredFoundations.com RFR-09. Three-time Sports Racing National Champion J.R. Osborne (No. 1 Stohr/Goodyear/C3 Construction Stohr F1000) and four-time National Champion Tom Schweitz (No. 72 Steel Services Citation F1000) will undoubtedly factor into the run, as will current nationwide points leader Brandon Dixon (No. 77 Citation Engineering/Hoosier Tire Citation F1000).
Formula Enterprises will be a close battle of spec winged open-wheel racers, featuring 2009 Runoffs polesitter Scott Rettich in the No. 97 Springboro Car Wash/Hippi Racing/PDI Communications entry. Another 2009 Runoffs polesitter, although in Formula 500, Patrick Gallagher makes his FE debut at Road America in his No. 00 Jay Motorsports/CTL Engineering entry.
Race Group 5: SM, SSB, SSC, T3
The small-bore Touring and Showroom Stock classes join Spec Miata in Group Five, which will surely provide some of the closest battles of the weekend.
Forty-five Spec Miatas appear on the entry list, including current nationwide points leader Chip Van Vurst (No. 03 Autotechnik/fdiesel.com Mazda Miata). In fact, the top three in nationwide points are entered, with second place Andrew Charbonneau (No. 67 Miata) and third-place Voytek Burdzy (No. 4 Advanced Autosports Miata) making the trip to Road America. Former SSB National Champion Harry Manning (No. 92 Hawk Brake/Rosen Mazda/Red Line Miata) will also be in the field.
Both Showroom Stock classes welcome defending National Champions back to Road America. Two-time National Champion Toby Grahovec highlights the SSB field in his No. 84 Classic BMW BMW Z4, while three-time Champion Joel Lipperini will be part of the SSC field in his No. 1 RaceLabz/BFGoodrich/RaceShopper Acura Integra.
Rory MacNeil gives the MacNeil family a third member (joining father David and brother Cooper) going for a June Sprints crown, racing the No. 16 WeatherTech.com MINI Cooper S. He'll have to contend with the Volkswagen GTIs of Richard Fisher (No. 24 Autobarn Volkswagen) and Aaron Stehly (No. 68 Westside VW/APR Motorsport/Kumho Tire) as well as the No. 22 Racelabz/King Motorsports/Hoosier/Red Line/Chasecam Honda S2000 of John Costello.
Race Group 6: EP, FP, HP, GT-L
The small-bore Production and GT cars make up Group Six, including E, F and H Production and GT-Lite.
Jon Brakke won the pole for the 2009 National Championship race, but spun in Turn One in the rain. He hopes to have better results in his No. 89 Margaret Peterson Bars Mazda Miata this weekend. He'll have to beat 2008 Runoffs polesitter Greg Ira if he expects to win. Ira set the fastest race lap in the 2009 Runoffs event after switching to rain tires in his No. 2 First Coast Auto Sales Datsun 240Z, proving he'll be fast rain or shine.
F Production is up for grabs this year, with defending June Sprints and Runoffs winner Mark Carpenter having moved to the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup and perennial Road America ace Steve Sargis has moved to H Production for the weekend. Current nationwide points leader Kevin Ruck looks to be a favorite in his No. 73 Hoosier/Engineering Performance Acura Integra. He will have to contend with two-time National Champion John Saurino, who comes off of a three-year hiatus with his No. 56 Goodyear/Red Line Oil MG Midget. Saurino's son, karting ace Nigel Saurino, obtained his National license earlier this month, and has been fast in his No. 57 Goodyear/Red Line Oil MG Midget. Other cars expected to contend in F Production include Ken Kannard (No. 51 Northwest Cable Construction/Hoosier Mazda Miata) and Larry Funk (No. 22 Moto-Tec Honda CRX Si).
Sargis, a four-time National Champion, went back to his old G Production package to run this weekend in H Production in the No. 18 SBS Batteries/Goodyear Tire Triumph Spitfire. Chris Albin (No. 3 Hoosier/247-parts.com/AMT Engines VW GTI), Greg Gauper (No. 15 Rana Mort Racing Honda Civic) and Bob Kelly (No. 0 TelSystems/Loop Racing VW Scirocco) will also contend for the top HP honors.
The battle in GT-Lite will once again wage between former Champions Chris Bovis (No. 4 Honda/Red Line Oil Honda CRX) and the No. 77 JDM Group/Raglin Racing Honda CRX Si of Jim Dentici. Bovis won the 2007 National Championship and was on the pole for the 2009 Runoffs, which Dentici won. Dentici is a five-time National Champion, and beat Bovis by a slim margin for the June Sprints win in 2009.
Race Group 7: FV, F500
Race Group Seven will be a display of drafting for both Formula 500 and Formula Vee.
Defending F500 National Champion Jason Knuteson will attempt to defend his June Sprints crown this weekend in his No. 92 Mitchell Racing/Hoosier Tire Scorpion S1. Patrick Gallagher may have beat him to the 2009 Runoffs title after earning the pole, but a broken chassis caused him to spin. He'll be back at the Sprints in his No. 00 CTL Engineering Invader. Other drivers to watch include Bob Giesen (No. 0 Subway Sandwiches/Hoosier Red Devil) and nationwide points leader Jack Walbran (No. 67 Mitchell Racing Services Scorpion.
In Formula Vee, everyone will be chasing runaway defending National Champion Michael Varacins and his No. 65 Speed Sport/Veetech/Hoosier Speed Sport AM-5. Varacins set a Formula Vee record for biggest margin of victory at the Runoffs.
Race Group Eight: GT-1, GT-2, GT-3
Race Group Eight features the ground-pounding GT-1 cars, a field which features several drivers who competed in last weekend's SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series race. Defending June Sprints winner and National Champion Cliff Ebben would be the odds-on favorite in his No. 36 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Lamers Ford Mustang, but Amy Ruman, off the heels of a third-place Trans-Am finish, will be tough in her No. 23 McNichols Co/Goodyear/Cenweld/RumanRacing.com Chevrolet Corvette. Road America veteran Rick Dittman (No. 24 RDE Chevrolet Corvette) finished fourth in Sunday's Trans-Am race.
In GT-2, the top two finishers from the 2009 Runoffs return and promise to continue their battle at the June Sprints. Mark Boden took the National Championship in his No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 996 GT3 Cup, while Mark Jurczyk finished second in his No. 21 Players Porsche 996 GT3 Cup.
Seven-time National Champion Pete Peterson will be racing his No. 98 Toyota/Valvoline/Goodyear Toyota Celica in GT-3. His chief competition will be from defending June Sprints winner Rob Warcocki and his No. 78 Empcor/Goodyear/Mazda/Red Line Mazda RX-7.
Race Group 9: FA, FM
The fastest race group will likely be Group Nine, featuring Formula Atlantic and Formula Mazda.
Defending Runoffs polesitter Keith Grant leads the Nation-wide points entering Road America and looks to be the one to beat in his No. 40 Hoosier Race Tire Swift 014a. The top four drivers in nationwide points are in the 18-car field, including Michael Mallinen (No. 71 Hoosier Tires/TRD Swift 014), Jeff Kowalik (No. 2 Northcentral Construction Swift 014) and Jacek Mucha (No. 07 Phoenix-Innotech JMS 014). Jeremy Treadway will pull double duty, racing the No. 08 Swift in addition to his Formula Ford.
Formula Mazda's 13-car field includes current nationwide points leader Darryl Wills (No. 02 Hillenburg Motorsports) as well as former National Champion Doug Peterson (No. 87 3 Dimensional.com), who returns to the class after several years of professional racing.
Race Group 10: SRF
Group 10 features the largest class race of the weekend, with a 48-car Spec Racer Ford field.
Brian Schofield looked to be on his way to his first National Championship at the 2009 Runoffs, but was muscled out of the way on the final lap. He looks for some redemption this weekend in his No. 61 PM Racing entry. Schofield won the 25th Spec Racer Anniversary race earlier this year.
Other drivers expected to run up front in Spec Racer Ford include Scott Rettich (No. 17 Springboro Car Wash/PDI Communications/Hippi Racing), former National Champion Jim Marinangel (No. 5 McHenry Savings Bank) and Jean-Luc Liverato (No. 8 Expanded Technologies Inc/PM Racing/8-Ball Racing).
SCCA.com will feature coverage of the event all weekend, include recaps and results.