Michael Mueller, of Plymouth, Wis., drove flag to flag in a dominant performance to win his first-career Formula 500 National Championship at the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Jeremy Morales, of Glen Head, N.Y., and C.J. McAbee, of Topeka, Kan., finished second and third, respectively.
Under semi-wet track conditions, Mueller started from the Gumout pole driving the No. 24 MJ Manufacturing/Fibeco/HRP Red Devil and opened up a more that 11-second lead by the end of the first lap. Though the track was wet, the sun was out and it looked like it might not take long for the track to dry. Teams had to make a tough tire decision. Given Mueller's start, it was obvious that the rain tire was the correct choice.
By lap nine of the 13-lap race, Mueller led by nearly 55 seconds over McAbee in the No. 15 AJ's Import Garage KBS Cyclone, who was second at that point. When the track started to dry significantly, Morales, who started with intermediate tires on the No. 10 JWR Mitchell Racing Services Scorpion, started turning lap times five and six seconds faster than Mueller and McAbee.
As the track dried, Mueller's overall lead dwindled at bit. But, he still had enough to dominate the F 500 race, winning by 31.533 seconds over Morales.
“It wasn't easy,” Mueller said of his race win. “These conditions were treacherous at best. But, I've got some laps around here in the wet. So, I know where it puddles, where the rivers run across the track and I had a useful advantage of that knowledge today. We made the right call on the tire. I was a little nervous about it because I saw it starting to dry up a little bit. But, I knew the back side of the course was not going to be dry enough for intermediates. If it did start to get a dry line, I could feather the throttle and keep the tires underneath me for just 13-laps, which is not long enough to burn them up. Hoosier builds a good rain tire. I can tell you that.
“I don't have the words [to describe what it means to win a National Championship]. Growing up here, I started karting at 12 years old in town. We came here and won four championships at the motorplex down in the Carousel. We've been building to this. It's a phenomenal feeling. To win a National Championship at home, I can't imagine anything better than that.”
Morales, who started seventh on the F 500 grid, dropped to 10th by the end of the first lap due to a spin. By the second lap, he was up to sixth, and to third by lap five. From there, he started to catch McAbee for second. He set the Hawk Fastest Race Lap of the race with a 2:43.550 (88.046 mph) when he caught and passed McAbee for second – which is where he finished.
“We got onto the back straight and I got on the throttle a little too early,” Morales said of his race start. “The clutch kicked in and the car spun me right around. I was able to keep it off the wall. I got back in the line and [started to] regain some ground.
“The tire choice absolutely helped towards the end of the race when we started to get a dry line. Some of the sections had turned [dry]. The other half of the race track was still wet. It was a little slippery getting back on the gas and having the clutch kick in on us. I knew the rear end was going to come around right away, so I just feathered the throttle. I was able to regain some ground.
“I had a feeling I was in second because I saw Jason [Knuteson] spin off in Canada [Corner]. So, I did not know who was in front of me. But, then I caught C.J. [McAbee].
“It means so much to me [this second-place finish]. We had such a frustrating year. It was a really tough year. We made the minimum amount of races to get here.”
McAbee was supposed to start fifth, but he was late to the grid so he had to start farther back in the field. Undaunted by his starting position, he drove his way to third by the end of the first lap. He held that position until he inherited second when Knuteson went off in Turn 12. On lap nine, Morales caught and passed McAbee, who finished third.
“I was supposed to start fifth, not like 25th. We were late to grid trying to make a tire choice,” McAbee said of his move through the field in the early going. “It all worked out because I got a good run and everyone was just spinning everywhere. It was a pretty busy first lap.
“I only saw Mueller on the first lap. I was up to third and then I saw Jason [Knuteson] go off. I figured I was second. I had guys on the radio telling me to, ‘keep it clean.' Jeremy [Morales] was coming. He got to me in [Turn] 13 going to [Turn] 14 and I could stay with him. I figured I'd try to outbrake him going in there. But, I didn't really want to do anything stupid. It was still slick out there. I didn't want to take us both out. Once he got to the front straight, and took off, I figured I'd cruise from there.”
Michael Brent, of Bethel, Conn., finished fourth in the No. 47 Hoosier Tire/QRE Invader QC-1, and Steven Jondal, of Somerset, Wis., finished fifth in the No. 38 Milltronics/Jondal Machine Red Devil JS08.
Herb Noble, of Marion, Iowa, was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing 10 spots to finish seventh.
Now in its 48th year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs 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.
Follow the action on Twitter @SCCAOfficial or the SCCA, Inc. Official Facebook page at facebook.com/sccaofficial. More information is available at www.scca.com.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Provisional Results from Saturday's Formula 500 National Championship Race, part of the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (1), Michael Mueller, Plymouth, WI, Red Devil, 13.
2, (7), Jeremy Morales, Glen Head, NY, Scorpion Scorpion, 13.
3, (5), Charles McAbee, Topeka, KS, KBS Cyclone, 13.
4, (2), Michael Brent, Bethel, CT, Invader QC-1, 13.
5, (9), Steven A Jondal, Somerset, WI, Red Devil JS08, 13.
6, (6), James Weida, West Lafayette, IN, Scorpion W1, 13.
7, (17), Herb Noble, Marion, IA, Scorpion , 13.
8, (16), Brian Brothers, Lake Orion, MI, TR1 Stinger, 13.
9, (12), William B Cobb, Cambridge, WI, CNB Milton Bana, 13.
10, (15), Keith Joslyn, Grand Island, NY, QRE Invader QC-1, 13.
11, (11), Kris Larsen, Kewaunee, WI, Scorpion KRL07, 13.
12, (4), Aaron Ellis, Farmington, MN, Ellis AE06, 12.
13, (18), Jeff Blumenthal, Independence, OH, QRE Invader QC-1, 12.
14, (23), Timothy Friest, Leavenworth, KS, KBS MK VII, 12.
15, (24), David Vincent, Leavenworth, KS, KBS MK VII, 12.
16, (8), Michael Vacek, Itasca, IL, QRE Invader QC-1, 12.
17, (27), Darrel Greening, Fond Du Lac, WI, Red Devil BR-2K2, 12.
18, (21), Joseph Palmer, Coppell, TX, NovaKar J9, 12.
19, (14), Jack Walbran, Saint Louis, MO, Scorpion , 11.
20, (25), Glen Smeal, San Marcos, TX, Red Devil T-2001, 11.
21, (19), Charlie Schlismann, Homewood, IL, KBS MK VII, 11.
22, (20), Chuck McAbee, Jacksonville, FL, QRE Invader, 11.
23, (10), David Lapham, Irvington, NY, QRE Invader, 10.
DNF, (3), Jason Knuteson, Danville, IN, Scorpion S1, 5.
DNF, (13), H Cory McLeod, Charlotte, NC, Red Devil F500, 0.
DNF, (22), Chris Hodde, McKinney, TX, KBS MK VII, 0.
DNS, (26), Carl Maier, Grand Prairie, TX, Maverick F500, 0.
Overall Time of Race: 37:30.849
Average Race Speed: 83.169 mph
Margin of Victory: 31.533 seconds
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: #10 Jeremy Morales, 2:43.550 (88.046 mph)
Lap Leaders: #24 Laps 1 – 13