TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 11, 2008) - Jason Knuteson, of Danville, Ind., captured what had been an elusive Formula 500 title on Saturday morning at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Aaron Ellis, of Farmington, Minn., and David Lapham, of Irvington, N.Y., outlasted the field to join Knuteson on the podium.
Knuteson had sat on pole for the Formula 500 class for three years, but bad luck and other misfortune kept him from claiming the class crown. This year, Knuteson clinched his title by 15.512 seconds and led all 18 laps in the No. 92 Hoosier/Mitchell Racing Scorpion S1/Rotax.
“I knew the first couple of laps would be my biggest challenge because at the end of the day, this is the best field in the country,” Knuteson said after the race. “I knew they would all push hard. A lot of guys are on lighter setups than I am, since we run the 493s (engine). I figured if I could stay in the top two or three, we would be in good shape.”
Once Knuteson grabbed the checkered flag, the feeling was almost one of relief.
“It feels good,” said an elated Knuteson. “I would trade all three poles [for a win]. I stopped trying to get poles two years ago. But, the car has just been really fast. That car literally came out of that trailer [fast]. We've been here since last Thursday and I've made one air pressure adjustment and lowered it a quarter of a turn. That car has been a rocket from the first day we got here. A win at this level is really big.”
While Knuteson stretched away from the field, Ellis made a steady climb from his ninth place starting position in his No. 43 Carlisle/CFF/Ellis Motorsports Eillis AE06/Rotax. Methodically picking off competitors, Ellis began a battle with Steven Thompson on lap two, and together the pair worked their way to fourth place.
That battle became a fight for the podium when 2006 Champion Bryan Golay, running in second, had a mechanical issue on Lap 12. One lap later, Thompson spun and Ellis was all alone in third position. Ellis took the runner-up position on lap 17 from Robert Giesen as Giesen’s tires began to fade.
Lapham may have been the most surprised to find himself on the podium at the end of the race. Starting fourth on the grid, Lapham battled a tough handling car from the start and was consumed by the Ellis-Thompson duel on lap three. From there, he followed the same path as Ellis’ race, including moving past Giesen on the final lap and found himself on the podium.
Giesen, of Sherwood, Wisc., held on for fourth place. Kenny Price, of Dewey, Ill., started seventh and improved to fifth place. The Sunoco Hard Charger award was earned by James Libecco, of Solon, Ohio, who began the race in 24th and ended in 12th.
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs® The Pinnacle of American Motorsports, will crown Sports Car Club of America's Club Racing National Champions for the 45th-consecutive year in 2008. The best amateur drivers from across North America will compete on Heartland Park Topeka's 2.5-mile road course in what is considered the "Olympics" of motorsports. This year's event began with four days of qualifying, Oct. 6-9, and is in the middle of three days of National Championship racing, Oct. 10-12. Live timing, lap notes, results and photos are all available at www.scca.com/runoffs.