Eric Sienkiewicz scored his first Solo National Championship with a win
in STF. (Rupert Berrington photo)
30 National Championships were awarded on the final day of competition at the 41st Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships at the Lincoln (Neb.) Airpark on Friday. Seven drivers completed the requirements for the prestigious Triad Award during the week, and an additional six non-championship classes declared winners during Friday's competition.
The Elliott Spiedell-designed West Course decided half of Friday's winners on a course that became known for its transitions and slalom sections, as opposed to the longer Sam Strano-designed East Course that seemed to favor horsepower.
The largest class of the week was Street Touring X, and, as expected, the competition was intense. Andrew Pallotta, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, held the overnight lead in the Stranoparts/Moto-East Scion FR-S, but the difference between courses allowed different makes of cars to shine.
That held true in STX, as both Jeff Hurst, of Hicksville, N.Y., and Clint Child, of Glendale, Ariz., turned times 0.6-second quicker in their Mazda RX-8 and Acura Integra, respectively, than Pallotta on Friday's West Course runs. For Hurst's ANZE Suspension RX-8, that time was enough to leap into his first National Championship. Pallotta finished second, just 0.226-second behind, while Child's Bhatch Racing/Pro Parts USA Integra moved to third for the second-consecutive year.
D Stock looked for a while like a runaway for three-time defending champion Mark Smith, of Denver, Colo., as the 3Zero3ms.com/SPE-ED/Customcraft Audi TT opened up a lead of 1.8 seconds after his second of three runs. When Smith lowered his time by an additional two-tenths of a second, it seemed the sure thing was cemented.
As it turned out, Smith needed that last run after all. After cone penalties on his first two runs, James Feinberg, of Fuquay Varina, N.C., cranked out a final run in his BFGoodrich Tires-shod SoloPro Driving School Audi TT that sat him ahead of Smith's second time and the quickest class time of the day, but 0.114-second shy of the aggregate time needed to dethrone Smith.
Heat three on the West Course only had two classes running, but both were packed full of drama.
Jeff Cashmore, of New Berlin, Wis., led the opening day of D Modified by a half second, but trouble struck in the form of a broken steering arm midway through the day's runs. With a crowd of people and a furious exchange of tools around the front right of the King Motorsports Lotus Honda, Cashman rolled to the starting line 1.7 seconds behind Mark Huffman's Lotus Elan.
Cashmore's car was back together, completing the circuit in 50.132 seconds, slower than Huffman's Friday time but quick enough to take a 0.4-second lead in the all-important aggregate time. With one run to go, Huffman needed a time of 49.5 seconds to win his first National Championship.
Huffman weaved through the cones in what looked like flawless fashion, whipping his head to the scoreboard as he crossed the stripe. Huffman slapped his steering wheel as the timing board displayed a 49.820 – an improvement, but still 0.270-second shy of Cashmore. The win moved Cashmore into double-digit career National Championships, with 10.
C Stock was just as dramatic. Ryan Buetzer, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., had overcome an opening day 0.7-second disadvantage on the twisty West Course to take a lead of over a second in the ChaseCam/Albin Bowling Supply/The Dent Guy Pontiac Solstice.
On the final runs of the heat, Buetzer followed the JFA Racing/Track Time Performance Nissan 370Z driven by opening day leader Daniel McCelvey, of Houston, onto the circuit. When McCelvey crossed the stripe more than a second quicker than his previous best, he moved back into the lead by 0.122-second. Buetzer, already more than half way through his run when McCelvey finished, failed to improve on what was the class fast time of the day, and McCelvey had earned his first National Championship.
Eric Sienkiewicz, of Charlotte, N.C., proved Friday that a good driver doesn't need a specialty car to compete for a title. Using his Discount Tire Co./Kiwi Garage Mazda3 that doubles as his daily driver, Sienkiewicz drove to his first National Championship on a set of BFGoodrich Tires g-Force Rival tires with 10,000 miles already on them for the Street Touring FWD crown.
Yet another 50 car class capped the week on the West Course, when overnight Street Touring R leader Brian Peters, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., laid down his best time of the day with the first run he took on Friday in the ProParts USA Nissan 350Z. Peters never bettered that opening time, but he sat and watched as no one else did, either. He escaped with his fourth career National Championship.
Jordan Townes, of Birmingham, Ala., was more than a second behind in the Street Touring Xtreme Ladies class after the opening day, but was 1.7 seconds quicker than anyone else around the West Course on Friday in her Dixie Audacity Mazda RX-8. When the dust settled, Townes had earned her first National Championship by 0.609-second.
The same excitement could be found on the East Course.
Paul Russell, of San Diego, Calif., added one more Solo National Championship, for a career total of five, with a title in Kart Modified. After taking the lead on the tight and technical West Course during Thursday's competition, Russell sealed the deal by turning a fast time of 65.320 seconds on the East Course in his Tony Kart Honda. His was the only time to break into the 65-second rage on the East Course that allowed drivers a better chance to use the gas pedal. After three completed runs, Russell cleared the class runner-up by 2.145 seconds.
Heat Two featured three come-from-behind wins. The most significant of those was Greg McCance's dramatic win over six-time defending National Champion Mark Madarash, in E Street Prepared. McCance, of Ramona, Calif., was able to put together a heroic third run, tripping the timing beam at 72.285 seconds to put his combined time 0.615-second ahead of Madarash. McCance, who scored his second National Championship driving his Fastndrunk Subaru WRX, jumped from third after Thursday's runs. McCance finished runner-up to Madarash in the 2009 Nationals, and was third when the recently crowned Solo Driver of Eminence won in 2010.
C Modified was equally as intriguing. Nick Myers, of Danville, Ind., took home his first National Championship by taking down defending class National Champion Brandon Lavender. Driving his Swift DB1, Myers had laid down a run that put him into the top spot, with Lavender's final run remaining. On his third run, Lavender spun three-quarters of the way through the course. The error and resulting four-cone penalty left him short of Myers, who started the day in a tie for fifth, and ended as the National Champion.
Teddie Alexandrova, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was the winner of the Road Tire RWD Ladies supplemental class. Starting the day second, she was able to put in a fast time during her first run in the Blue Tourqeless Ricers Club Honda S2000. She was able to pass Elizabeth Whitworth, yesterday's leader, and hold off Brianne Green for a 0.529-second indexed win.
Dan Cyr, of Libertyville, Ill., posted a best time on his second Friday run in the Lamm Mk5 of 63.920 seconds, good enough to win the B Modified title. Defending Natioal Champion and Thursday leader Clemens Burger tried to regain his lead with two final runs, but fell 0.198-second short at the finish.
Shawn Keisel, of Poway, Calif., took home her fourth-consecutive E Modified Ladies National Championship, and sixth title overall, during heat four. She stretched her Day One-lead to a total of 11.139 seconds over Karen Eickhoff.
Michael Maier, of Livermore, Calif., went into Friday's final day of competition with a comfortable lead in C Prepared. The big lead didn't cause any lack of focus, as he was able to lay down the fastest time on his third run driving his Maier Racing Ford Mustang. Several competitors including Darrel Padberg and Todd Farris attempted to best Maier's time, with Farris capturing second a distant 2.112 seconds short of Maier in the final tabulation.
Frank Stagnero, of Petaluma, Calif., kept pace with Bill Goodale, of Milford, Mass., in their personal battle for the trophies won at the Solo Nationals. Stagnero captured his 32nd trophy in C Prepared on Friday, while Goodale took home his hardware in A Modified on Thursday. Their shared mark stands as the most trophies won in Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championship history.
Former IndyCar and Formula One pilot Eliseo Salazar participated in the National Championships as part of a team of drivers that made the trip from Chile for the event. Salazar ran in the big-iron C Prepared class, but did not register a time in the Ford Mustang he drove.
E Street Prepared Ladies was a close battle, with Mandy Owen, of Phoenix, Ariz., taking the title at the end of the day. Owen, who entered Friday's competition with a lead, did not set the quickest time on the West Course, but used Thursday's cushion to clinch the title. Lorien Feighner put the pressure on Owen, threatening the lead but unable to close the gap completely.
Seven drivers completed the requirements for the most difficult on-track Solo award, the Solo Triad Award. To be eligible for the Solo Triad, a driver must win a regular season Championship Tour event, a regular season Match Tour event, and the Solo National Championship – all in the same class. Shelly Monfort (SSL), Learic Cramer (CSL), Jason Frank (STC), Joe Tharpe (SSP), Tom O'Gorman (FP), Carter Thompson (SSM), and Nick Meyers (CM) all grabbed the trophy during the Lincoln competition.
Additionally, Trey White completed the same requirements in Junior Kart B. Though the Junior classes are not eligible for official National Championships, White will take home a McClintock-Berry Cup for Junior class drivers.