LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Sept. 8, 2008) – In what is believed to be a unique first in Sports Car Club of America Club Racing history, Michael Pettiford, of Louisville, Colo., has earned the Rocky Mountain Division Champion title in three different classes.
Though he has won two classes in the same year several times, Pettiford finally achieved his goal of winning the Touring 1, Touring 2 and Showroom Stock B Championships, after a solid performance at the recent Last Chance Double National at Heartland Park Topeka.
“I’ve been trying to win three classes for probably seven years,” Pettiford said. “Last year I thought I had it done. I was all set, but then I got beat in Showroom Stock B at the very end.
“This year, we bought two new cars. We got Showroom Stock B so nobody could beat me in that class, nobody could beat me in T2, but in T1 I was still behind. If I didn’t finish both races [at Heartland Park Topeka], then I wouldn’t win and I wouldn’t qualify for the Runoffs. So we went down there and took a T2 Pontiac Solstice GXP too for fun.”
Finishing second both days in T1 with his Chevrolet Corvette, Pettiford finally attained his goal of three Championships in a single season. He also took the overall and T2 win in Saturday’s race with his new Pontiac Solstice GXP and finished second in Sunday’s race.
“It wasn’t a surprise, because that’s been the mission for the past seven years,” reflected Pettiford. “It was more of a surprise last year that I didn’t do it, than a relief this year when I finally did do it. Every place we went this year we won and either set a lap record, or was under the lap record and someone else set the record. Whenever we go out to a track, that’s what we do, because we’re out to win races. It wasn’t a surprise, because I knew I could do it, but it’s very difficult to do. You have to win a lot of races and not crash and not DNF.”
Pettiford’s faith in his ability to capture all three Classes was boosted this season by the addition of two Pontiac Solstices to his arsenal. The cars proved to be the missing piece of the team’s well-planned National Club Racing puzzle.
“Literally, at the end of the Runoffs, we start planning for next year. This particular year, we had to analyze, because our finishes in the V6 and V8 Camaros in the SSB and T2 classes, we really couldn’t win with those cars anymore. We had to look and see what were the best cars. We settled on the Solstices partially because of the contingency programs that GM, Kumho and Summit Racing have. If you do well, you can almost pay for the trip. It was really fortunate that the cars were competitive that we found good cars and that GM, Kumho and Summit did have contingency, otherwise, we certainly wouldn’t have been able to do the program that we did.
“We started in January and we would race two classes, because typically SSB and T1 will not be in the same run groups. So we’d try to race two races and try to catch Double Nationals out of state, so we could play the points game that we needed to do to win all three classes and qualify for the Runoffs."
After years of campaigning Camaros, the switch to the Solstices added an additional challenge to Pettiford’s hat-trick attempt this season. The speed and price tag of running T1 is always a tough balancing act, but it’s something Pettiford has acclimated to in his Corvette. Taking on T2 with a new car proved to be a bit more rewarding.
“T1 was the harder of the three just because the cars are very fast and very expensive. We don’t really have an unlimited budget. You have to be aggressive, but yet be careful and keep your nose clean so that you’re not involved, or put yourself in a position to, get hit or taken out. That’s challenging, but it’s a part of the game.
“I guess the T2 class with the Solstice GXP was probably the most dramatically different just because we’ve run Camaros for a number of years. To get two new cars this year, to figure them out, to be learning about those cars and still walk away as Champion in those classes, that was even more challenging than racing the T1 car that we knew all about.”
Now looking toward the Runoffs, Pettiford got the chance to size himself and his Phoenix Racing-built cars up against the T1 and SSB competition at Heartland Park Topeka. He was encouraged by his performance, though slightly disappointed he never got the chance to size his Corvette up against the Corvette of Midwest Division’s Mike McGinley, who unfortunately crashed in practice.
“I think we’re going to have competitive cars. The Solstices I think, on that track, should do pretty well. The Corvettes…I don’t know. I was hoping to race Mike McGinley at Topeka to see how his new 2008 C6 Corvette would compare against my 2002 C5 Z06 Corvette, but I didn’t get a chance to make that evaluation.
“We don’t have the budget to get a new motor, a new transmission and a new rear-end for all of the cars like some of the competitors do, because we’re really on a budget. We just have to do the best we can with the same motor that we’ve had as opposed to putting a fresh motor in for the Runoffs.”
Make no mistake - Pettiford’s triple-threat isn’t over. Three National Championship races remain in the season and no racer could simply settle for three Division titles. Pettiford is eager to get the trailers pointed back toward Topeka.
“We’ll be down there for 10 days with two trailers, three cars and we’re still trying to get crew.
“Wouldn’t that be great if we won all three Runoffs classes,” Pettiford said with a grin. “I wonder if that’s ever been done?”
It has in fact been done. Jerry Hansen did it in 1972 winning A Production, A Sports Racing and Formula A, but something tells us that’s not going to quell Pettiford’s enthusiasm for a Runoffs sweep in October.