TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 11, 2008) – Pete Peterson, of Lumberton, N.C., captured his seventh SCCA National Championship Saturday, winning the Sunoco GT-3 race at Heartland Park Topeka, part of the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs®. Wolfgang Maike, of Santa Barbara, Calif., and Steve Spiers, of Marietta, Ga., completed the top three.
Starting fifth in the No. 98 Toyota/Goodyear/Valvoline/Penske Toyota Celica, Peterson gradually moved through the field to take the lead from Spiers on lap 13 and never looked back, taking his second-straight GT-3 National Championship by 3.457 seconds, averaging 88.388 mph.
“It was a good day,” Peterson said. “My big plan was the pick off a couple at the start, but that didn’t happen so I just sort of fell into line. [Mike] Cyphert spun in front of me, and then [John] Black fell out and we settled down with the three of us into a pretty darn good race. It was pretty amazing how everyone was right there. I can’t think of two people I’d rather share the podium with.”
The race started with polesitter John Black getting a good jump on the field in his No. 17 Nissan 350Z. Black’s race would be short-lived, though, as a mechanical problem slowed him on lap two, handing the lead to second-starting Spiers. Spiers led the next 10 laps in his No. 91 St. Clair Data Systems/RRE Nissan 200-SX, but Maike and Peterson were in tow.
Once Peterson was past, Spiers was desperately attempting to hold off Maike’s No. 13 Toyota/Goodyear/Red Line Oil Toyota Paseo for second, but as Maike looked to the inside at Turn 10 on lap 16, Spiers went too deep in his braking and slid off course. Spiers was able to re-enter and hold on to third.
The win for Peterson came in a new car after moving his 2007 Championship-winning car to the GT-Lite class. It also came in the celebration of his 20th year racing Toyotas.
“We turned a wheel the first time with this car on Labor Day,” Peterson, who also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing four positions in the race, said. “We picked it up, came here on the Wednesday test day, went out and did three laps and said we’ve got to go back to work on it. Went out the next day and broke a camshaft, so we were done until last week. We’ve had problems with the gear box, problems with the brakes, but we got both of those problems cured for the race.”
Peterson also dedicated his win to former SCCA National Champion Paul Newman, who passed away last month.
Milton Grant, of Germantown, Tenn., finished fourth after a last-lap spin by Rob Warkocki, of Frankfort, Ill., dropped him to fifth.
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.