TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 11, 2008) – Chicago Region SCCA Triple Crown® winner Joe McClughan, of New Braunfels, Texas, won a well-fought battle with two-time Runoffs Champion Joel Lipperini, of Pittston, Pa., to win his first Showroom Stock C National Championship at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Lipperini finished second and Bill Hagerty, of Escondido, Calif., finished third.
McClughan started from the pole in the No. 36 Madzaspeed/Hoosier Tires/mr/MREe Mazda 3s and led the first two laps until Lipperini passed McClughan in Turn Three for the lead. From there, McClughan spent the next 14 laps glued to the back of Lipperini’s No. 81 RaceLabz.com/Hankook/RaceShopper Honda Civic Si.
After going through several turns side-to-side on lap 15, McClughan finally made a gutsy move in Turn Eight, passing Lipperini for the race lead. Undaunted, Lipperini made one last attempt in Turn Nine to retake the lead, but did not have enough. McClughan won by 8.434-seconds.
“I knew Joel was running out of tires, because I was able to chase him down,” McClughan said. “My Hoosiers had come in and were perfect. The car came right back to me where I wanted it. The lap before Joel feigned me on the right and I went outside on the left going through Turn Eight. Then, the next lap, I realized that if I could get inside of him going out of that last one, then it was going to change. I had a little more speed through there than he did.
“It was incredibly close, side-by-side racing. It’s like Joel said, if it’s with someone you trust, with someone you’ve run with before, it’s not an issue. You know what’s going to happen. You never turn your back on Joel Lipperini. Never. He will chase you down even with no tires on the car. I was driving as hard as I could the last two laps.
“‘Wow’ is all I can say. The Triple Crown is incredible, but to win the National Championship [that’s great]. I’ve been wanting to do this since I was eight years-old. My dad finished second in D Sports Racer at Road Atlanta in 1972 and I’ve been trying to do this for him ever since, so this one’s for my dad.”
“When you trust the person next to you, you can run side-by-side,” Lipperini said of McClughan’s pass on him. “A little bit of banging here and there is all a part of racing. I knew he wasn’t going to take me out and I certainly wasn’t going to take him out. It was just good, hard racing.”
Hagerty, driver of the No. 7 Hoosier Phoenix Performance Chevrolet Cobalt SS Coupe, challenged for the lead early in the race. In fact, he was within striking distance if McClughan and Lipperini had taken each other out. Unfortunately, halfway through the race, the race leaders put a considerable distance between themselves and Hagerty and he finished third.
“I was waiting for [Lipperini and McClughan] to hit each other and maybe take each other out,” Hagerty said. “They out-qualified me and I think they had stronger cars then I did, so I was just biding my time.
“I probably had the best spotter that you could possibly have. John Heinricy was on my earphones. He was on the hill, telling me to bide my time and that they [Lipperini and McClughan] might take each other out. He kept saying ‘keep your position, keep your line,’ so that’s what I was trying to do.”
Two-time Runoffs Champion John Saucier, of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Ian Stewart, of Orlando, Fla., finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Jeff Jensen, of Monument, Colo., was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing two positions throughout the race. The Showroom Stock C race will air at 1 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, Dec. 17 on SPEED.
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 has now commenced three days of National Championship racing, Oct. 10-12. Live timing, lap notes, results and photos are all available at www.scca.com/runoffs.