TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 13, 2007) – Robert Huffmaster, of Rochester Hills, Mich., earned his first Touring 3 National Championship at the 2007 SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by AT&T at Heartland Park Topeka. Rick Gilhart, of Cincinnati, and Dwight Faitz, of Trenton, Ill., finished second and third, respectively.
Day two of the 2007 Runoffs was delayed an hour and 45 minutes due to severe lightening in the area. Once the race got underway, polesitter and 10-time Runoffs Champion John Heinricy led the first 10 laps and was pulling away from the field before being black flagged because his No. 32 Phoenix Performance/Hoosier Chevrolet Cobalt was over the sound limit.
As a result of the Heinricy black flag, Huffmaster inherited the lead in his No. 27 Huffmaster Crisis Response Mazda RX8. He would have to hold off a hard charging Gilhart for the final four laps of the 14-lap, 30-minute limited race. With Huffmaster leading the final lap, Gilhart was able to put the nose of his No. 1 Mazdaspeed/Mothers Polish/Manheim Mazda RX8 on the inside of Huffmaster and complete the pass in turn six.
From there, defending Champion Gilhart thought he had the race won, but between turns nine and 10 he missed a shift allowing Huffmaster to retake the lead for good. Huffmaster won his first National Championship by 1.831-seconds over Gilhart.
“At the start of the race, Heinricy got out pretty far and [Kevin] Fandozzi was holding us up out there on slicks,” Huffmaster said. “Once I got by Fandozzi, I knew Heinricy was too far out in front. Once I heard [Heinricy] was black flagged, I looked in my mirror and saw Gilhart coming pretty hard and I knew it was going to be a tough race to the finish.
“At the end of the race, the tires might have gotten a little hot and I was getting a little loose. Going into six, I had to start out wide or else I don’t think I could have gotten out of the corner fast. I figured maybe if I went inside, he’d go outside and get the run. I decided to go outside and he went inside and I didn’t give him too much room and we made a little contact. At that point, I was like ‘oh man, I just lost the Championship on the last lap of the race. I’m that guy!’
“But then, as we went through Eight, I saw he had a gearbox problem and I just dove inside. This is unbelievable. I can’t express this into words. I never expected to win.”
Driving the No. 78 Kumho/NUKABE/Subaru of O’Fallon Subaru Legacy GT, Faitz put together a consistent drive from his fifth starting position to earn his first-career Runoffs podium finish.
Bob Boileau, of Monument, Colo., earned a career-best fourth place Runoffs finish, while Wiley Timbrook, of Kingman, Ariz., finished fifth.
Don Istook, of Forth Worth, Texas, was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing 13 positions throughout the race. Istook started 24th and finished 11th.
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by AT&T, The Pinnacle of American Motorsports, will crown Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing National Champions for the 44th-consecutive year in 2007. The best amateur drivers from across North America convene on Heartland Park Topeka’s 2.5-mile road course each fall in what is considered the “Olympics” of motorsports. This year’s event begins with four days of qualifying, Oct. 8-11, and concludes with three days of racing, Oct. 12-14.
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