TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 10, 2008) - Jesse Prather, of Topeka, Kan., captured his third consecutive title and first in E Production on Friday at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Heartland Park Topeka. Defending class champion Tom Thrash, of Houston, Texas, and Greg Ira, of Plantation, Fla., finished second and third.
Prather began the race knowing that the strength of his No. 34 Prather Racing/Moss Motors Mazda Miata would be the handling throughout the twisty 14-turn, 2.5-mile track against the power of Thrash in the No. 67 Lucas Racing/Mazda/Goodyear Mazda RX-7 and Ira’s No. 2 CU Yacht Charter Datsun 240-Z.
“At the start, these two guys [Thrash and Ira] pulled away,” Prather said. “Wayne Graham pulled up and even Aaron Downey in the RX-3 pulled up next to me. I went in as deep as I could into Turn One. And, I ended up doing alright and hanging with them. But, it was only under the brakes and in the corners that I could stay with them.”
Once Prather slipped past Ira, he and Thrash pulled away from the field and were locked in a back-and-forth battle that clearly demonstrated the distinct strengths of each Mazda model. Prather pulled ahead through the twisty portions of Heartland Park, while Thrash would close the gap or pull ahead on the straights.
Officially, Thrash led the first seven laps of the race, but within those laps the lead changed hands seemingly at every third turn.
Prather snared the lead for good on lap eight when Thrash, pushing hard and with tires fading, slid off track in Turn Eight. Thrash was able to continue, but couldn’t close the gap on Prather. Prather was then able to cruise to a 7.859-second victory which was much closer than the final margin would show. For Prather, it was his first National Championship in E Production following two consecutive F Production -- and all three at his hometown track.
“As the race went on, we were so close,” Prather continued. “I mean there couldn’t have been the width of a piece of paper between me and Greg at one time and between me at Tom another time. It was a real back-and-forth battle between power versus handling. It was really interesting. So, my strategy was to wait for these guys’ tires to go away and it worked. Eventually, Tom went off and I was able to slip by.”
Aaron Downey, of Corona Del Mar, Calif., piloted his No. 5 roundpeg.com Mazda RX-3 to fourth place. Richard Kavitski, of Freeland, Penn., spent the latter half of the race in the No. 24 RDK Engineering Inc. Mazda Miata holding off a challenge from Michael Heintzman in the No. 01 Mazda Miata for fifth place.
Tony Rivera captured the Sunoco Hard Charger award, improving 16 places to ninth at the checkered flag in the No. 75 BMR/Hoosier Mazda RX-7. Rivera recovered from contact in the back of the field into the race’s first turn to climb through the field and earn the honor.
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.