Steven Gorriaran, of Providence, R.I., took advantage of his top qualifying position and a fierce battle in his mirrors to capture the Spec Miata crown on Saturday at the 46th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Jim Drago, of Memphis, Tenn., finished second while Mathew Pombo, of Atlanta, Ga., earned third place.
Gorriaran led the field to the green flag and through Turn One in the No. 44 SyncSave/Driven Perf/Gorilla Racing Mazda Miata with a train of Spec Miata machines behind him, including Drago, Pombo, Todd Lamb and Matthew Reynolds. Those five stayed in line through the 13-lap, 52-mile race's opening stage, gapping the rest of the field.
After shaking Reynolds to make the lead pack a four-car challenge, Gorriaran was able to ease ahead, as the three remaining contenders launched into a scrap for second place.
"That first move probably hurt the three of them [Drago, Pombo and Lamb] a lot," Gorriaran said. "That gave us the gap and it never really changed. It was pretty intense, it was a good battle, and I was just trying to stay cool, run consistent times, and hit my marks.
"It's been a long, painful road. Two years ago, I was fourth and walked down to the podium just to see what it was like. Last year, I finished second. It makes you want to work even harder to get here, and it makes you get really, really hungry."
Drago, Pombo and Lamb battled through most of the race for second position. Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., was the first to make a move, passing Drago in the No. 2 East Street Racing/Saferacer Mazda Miata for third on lap four. Lamb then pushed Pombo in the No. 01 Pombo Racing/Rossini Race Products Mazda Miata, pulling alongside on lap five and moving into second when Pombo ran wide in Turn 14 on lap six.
Pombo gathered himself and rejoined the chase. Both Pombo and Drago drove past Lamb under braking in Turn Five on lap 11. From there, Drago was able to pull away from the battle between Lamb and Pombo, but didn't have enough time to chase down Gorriaran.
Drago would end the race as the runner-up.
Pombo had one last challenge from Lamb to secure his final spot on the podium. Pombo ducked inside Lamb going into Turn One on the final lap, only to give up the position again in Turn Five. Pombo claimed third place for the final time in Turn Eight, and would hold on despite numerous attempts by Lamb on a very physical last lap.
Drago also turned the fastest lap of the race on lap 11, running a lap of 2:44.487 (87.545 mph) around the 14-turn, four-mile circuit.
Lamb, driving the No. 84 OPM/Traqmate/SafeRacer/East Street Mazda Miata, would cross the finish line in fourth place.
Matthew Reynolds, of Boerne, Texas, finished fifth behind the wheel of the No. 74 Reynolds Brothers Racing Mazda Miata.
Tomas Kraft, of Des Moines, Iowa, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award in the No. 46 Kraft Imports/Maximum Promotions Mazda Miata after improving 17 positions to finish in 16th place.
The Spec Miata National Championship race will be available on demand at ww.speedcasttv.com/scca shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 SCCA National Championship Runoffs.