Seven-time National Champion Kent Prather, of Wakarusa, Kan., cruised to victory in the GT-Lite race during the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Peter Shadowen, of Riviera Beach, Fla., and Brian Downey, of Bristow, Va., joined Prather on the podium, respectively.
Prather started from the Gumout pole in the No. 26 Prather Racing/Mazdaspeed/Moss Motorsports/Goodyear Mazda Miata and was side-by-side with Bobby Lentz, of Chantilly, Va., in the No. 60 FGR/Auto Expectations/Goodyear Nissan Sentra SER in Turn One at the race start. Coming out of Turn One, Lentz had the lead and held it for the first lap. Lentz had a transmission issue on lap two, which forced him out of the race.
When Lentz pulled into pit lane, Prather inherited the race lead and continued to string together fast race laps. Prather turned the Hawk Fastest Race Lap of the race with a 2:35.100 (92.843 mph), opening up a lead of more than eight seconds over the field by lap six of the 13-lap race. Prather was never seriously challenge over the remaining seven laps and cruised to a 3.398-second win over the defending GT-Lite National Champion Shadowen.
“My kid, Jesse, three-time National Champion, told me, ‘Dad make sure you beat him [Lentz] into Turn One,'” Prather said. “So, I did. Then, Bobby got right up next to me. We went down into Turn Three and he was right next to me. We went down the straight into [Turn] 5 and I could see he was going to outbrake me. So, I let him go. Then, I decided this might not be so bad. I was drafting him on the back side and I thought I would just back off here and see what happens on the front straight.
“I pulled up on him on the front straight. I knew I could draft by. So I said, ‘why don't we just get away from the other cars.' I saw that big black wide car holding them all up [behind us]. I said, ‘I'm going to use Bobby and we're going to get away from these guys and we're going to duke it out later on.'
“We got going and then, I think it was the third lap, all of a sudden going into the Carousel, he missed a shift. Apparently, he broke his gear box. He pulled off, like the gentleman he is and I just took off. Then, that was that. I just started hitting my marks. It started to rain a little bit and I knew Peter [Shadowen] was coming because I could see the yellow [car] back there. My wife kept giving me my gap. It would be six [seconds], then it would be seven, then it would be six, then it would be five. I decided to stay off the paint, get down in the brake areas properly, hit my marks, and make sure he didn't catch me.”
Prather's car, which was a 185,000-mile street car before being converted into a racecar, has now won Championships in three different classes. Son Jesse Prather won three titles with the car – F Production in 2006 and 2007, E Production in 2008 and now GT-Lite with Kent behind the wheel in 2011.
Driving the No. 72 Road N Race Auto/Goodyear/HPD/Redline Honda CRX Si, Shadowen dropped from third to fifth on the race's first lap. On lap two, he passed Luis Rivera, of Angelton, Texas, for fourth and was in second by the end of the lap after Lentz and Jim Hargrove, of Surrey, British Columbia, pulled into pit lane with mechanical issues.
“I fell back a few positions on the start,” Shadowen said of his start. “I didn't quite have the gear I needed for that slow of a start. Unfortunately, a few cars went by at that point. I spent a few laps trying to get around them. Once I did, I was able to pull away. But, by that point, Kent had gotten a pretty decent lead.
“I hoped that he [Kent] and Bobby [Lentz] would duke it out and slow themselves down and let me get back up to their bumpers. I think I could have turned similar lap times to what they were doing. But, Bobby had a failure early. Then, I could see Kent in the distance. I think I was gaining on him slowly, but then we got some sprinkles and I had to back off in the Carousel a little bit, which is one of my strong points here. At that point, I figured I was not going to push it too hard, but I'm not going to give up either. I don't want to end up in a gravel pit somewhere. I'd rather be second to someone like Kent than not on the podium at all.”
Downey started fifth in the No. 63 FGR/Auto Expectations Nissan 200SX, spending eight laps locked in a back-and-forth battle with Rivera. On lap nine, Downey passed Rivera for the final time. Two laps later, Rivera spun and Downey no longer had to worry about pressure from Rivera, but had his hands full with a hard charging Chris Bovis, of Lawrence, Kan., who was now in the mix for the final podium spot. In the final laps, Downey fended off Bovis to finish third. This was a career-best Runoffs finish for Downey.
“I think I slipped back to sixth on the start,” Downey said. “I just started working people and it just kept getting harder and harder. I would catch Luis [Rivera] going into Canada Corner. Then, we'd get to the straight away and he'd go right back by me. I would have to work at catching him again. It was like this lap after lap. I finally decided I had to get by him. So I got by him in [Turn] 5 and pulled him through the Carousel and the Kink.
“Then, Chris Bovis was there. He was coming hard. I didn't look behind me. I just kept driving. I kept concentrating on the Carousel and the Kink because my car was really good down through there. I tried to get as many car lengths as I could on him. I didn't really look until the last corner on the last lap. Then, I knew I had him. It was a good feeling.”
Bovis finished fourth in the No. 78 JDM Motorsport/Late Braking Marketing/Honda Honda CRX Si. Rivera finished fifth in the No. 12 Hoosier Tires/RPM Mazda RX-7.
Jon Goodale, of Conifer, Colo., was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing six 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 GT-Lite 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), Kent Prather, Wakarusa, KS, Mazda Miata, 13.
2, (3), Peter Shadowen, Riviera Beach, FL, Honda CRX Si, 13.
3, (5), Brian Downey, Bristow, VA, Nissan 200SX, 13.
4, (8), Christopher Bovis, Lawrence, KS, Honda CRX Si, 13.
5, (6), Luis Rivera, Angleton, TX, Mazda RX-7, 13.
6, (7), Kyle Disque, Philadelphia, PA, Toyota Tercel, 13.
7, (13), Jonathan Goodale, Conifer, CO, Mazda MX-5 Miata, 13.
8, (11), Roy Lopshire Jr, Blue Springs, MO, Toyota Tercel, 13.
9, (12), Jim Stinehelfer, Tecumseh, KS, Mazda Miata, 13.
10, (14), Jim Speights, San Antonio, TX, Mazda Miata, 12.
11, (10), Bob Clark, Glendale, WI, Honda CRX Si, 10.
12, (9), Peter Zekert, Maryland Heights, MO, Nissan 200SX, 7.
DNF, (2), Robert Lentz, Chantilly, VA, Nissan Sentra SER, 2.
DNF, (4), Jim Hargrove, Surrey, BC, Honda Civic, 2.
Overall Time of Race: 34:01.797
Average Race Speed: 91.684 mph
Margin of Victory: 3.398 seconds
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: #26 Kent Prather, 2:35.100 (92.843 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #04 John Goodale
Lap Leaders: #60 Laps 1, #26 Laps 2 – 13