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Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, held off second-place finisher Mike Mueller, of Plymouth, Wis., by a narrow 0.164sec to win his first-ever National Championship at the SCCA Runoffs Presented by Subway at Road America.
Gallagher started second in the No. 00 CTL Engineering Invader Rotax 494 and dropped a few spots at the start, while the pole winner Jason Knuteson pulled away. However, Knuteson's lead was short-lived as he spun in Turn Five and, when he did, he handed the lead over to Mueller in the No. 24 MJ Manufacturing Inc/Fibeco Red Devil Rotax 494. Knuteson, the two-time defending Formula 500 National Champion, only completed five laps.
By the second circuit around the 14-turn, 4.084-mile course, the battle between Gallagher and Mueller was on. Gallagher took the lead in Turn 14 from Mueller, only to have Mueller retake the lead in Turn One on the next lap. This same back-and-forth scenario would play itself out over the next 10 laps.
On the final lap, it was a virtual dead heat between Gallagher and Mueller. Gallagher led by 0.024-second at the line. Mueller passed Gallagher in Canada Corner (Turn 12) for the lead. In the next corner, Gallagher regained the lead when he passed Mueller on the inside heading into Turn 14.
Mueller tried to catch Gallagher coming up the hill, but Gallagher held on for his first SCCA National Championship. In addition to the win, Gallagher also set the fastest race lap with a time of 2:24.442 (99.694 mph).
"He [Mueller] raced me clean and I have to give him props for that," Gallagher said. "I wanted to be in second the entire race and just wait until those last couple of laps. As the race went on, I knew that I could pass him coming out of [Turn] 14. I'd been doing it all race long. I tried to see if I could do it before the stripe and what I had to do to get it done there just in case he was leading into 14. He took the lead in 12 and then I got him underneath and came through 13 in the lead. When I came out of 14, I was waiting for him to pop out of the draft, but it did not happen."
"[Winning a National Championship] this means everything to me. Since I've been alive, I think I've only missed one or two Runoffs. It is absolutely incredible."
"Patrick and I's cars were very equal," Mueller said. "The corner that either one of us had an advantage over the other was he was getting out of [Turn] 14 a little bit better than I was. So, I knew if I was going to get to the front on the last lap I had to do it before the front straightaway. I made the move in Turn 12 [for the lead]. And, he did a good job of back passing me out of the corner and took the lead back. With the draft, we could pass each other rather easily.
"It was fun race. We gave each other a lot of room. I respect his [Gallagher's] ability. He earned it."
David Lapham, of Irvington, N.Y., started 12th in the No. 5 QRE/Hoosier Tire Invader QC1 Rotax 493 and put on an impressive drive through traffic to finish third.
"It was quite exciting in the middle part of the race racing my teammate Mike Brent," Lapham said of his race. "We had some good dices back-and-forth. I think we had some attrition in front of us, which allowed us to finish third.
"It [the race and the windy conditions] was quite exciting for me and it was actually really much more exciting for Mike Brent right in front of me. We went through the kink and he was about 10 car lengths in front of me. A [wind] gust picked him up at the exit of the kink and moved him out to the grass, and it moved me over, but I was able to go through it. There were quite a few times where we'd get blown [around] at the wrong moment."
Brent, of Bethel, Conn., finished fourth in the No. 47 QRE/Hoosier Tire Invader QC1 Rotax 494, while James Weida, of West Lafayette, Ind., finished fifth in the No. 22 Weida Apartments Scorpion W1 Rotax 493.
Jeremy Morales, C.J. McAbee, Cory McLeod, Chris Huskamp, and Robert Giesen were sixth through 10th, respectively.
Carl Meier was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing 10 positions throughout the race. Meier started 24th and finished 14th.
Gallagher was initially penalized three positions for regaining his position on the pace lap after spinning off course. However, he appealed the ruling and the Appeals Court reinstated his position as the winner.
Now in its 47th year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Subway annually crowns Champions in the Sports Car Club of America's Club Racing classes. The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available throughout the weekend at www.Speedcasttv.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.
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