Mazda Shootout Qualifiers
Anyone who wins a national championship in a Mazda or Mazda-powered vehicle is eligible for the MAZDASPEED Shootout.
The biggest prize in amateur racing is the MAZDASPEED Shootout. The event is open to any driver who wins a national championship in NASA or SCCA Club Racing, or the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge.
The Shootout begins with semi-finals in which each participant submits a business plan for a year in SCCA Pro Racing's Playboy MX-5 Cup series. A panel of judges including motorsports professionals and several veteran pro racers evaluate the proposals and select three finalists for the finals.
In the finals, the drivers are asked to turn some hot laps in a prepared car, and they are judged on their lap times, consistency, and the ability to talk to a professional race crew about what they're doing. Additionally, there's a media interview to gauge how the driver presents him or herself.
From all this, the judges select the Shootout winner – who receives a fully funded year with a professional team in the MX-5 Cup series. The value of the package is about $75,000 – and it's a first class ticket into the world of professional racing. Similarly, the champion of the MX-5 Cup series is awarded a free ride in the following year's SCCA Pro Racing's Pirelli World Challenge series.
Eligible drivers from this year's SCCA Runoffs include Patrick Gallagher in the Formula Enterprises class, who said, “I've already started working on my business plan.”
The young driver is depending on winning the shootout to take the next step in his racing career. Alan McCallum, winner of the Formula Mazda class, also plans to compete for the prize. Ray Huffmaster (Super Touring Lite) and Kent Prather (GT-Lite) each said “Maybe.” Both Jon Brakke (E Production) and Jim Drago (Spec Miata) stated that they did not plan to compete.
Huffmaster father and son victories in the same race
Ray Huffmaster (L) and his son Rob celebrated dual victories in the same race group on Sunday.
Ray and Rob Huffmaster set a new Runoffs record on Sunday as the only father and son to claim victories in the same race group. This year's Super Touring Under race was divided into STU and a new Super Touring Lite class. Rob Huffmaster won the STU race from the overall pole position, while his father Ray won the STL race from the class pole.
“It's fantastic. We've got 10-12 years in go-karts, and him getting his competition license before he got his driver's license. It's always been fun. It's great to be able to run with your son,” Ray Huffmaster said.
Oldest and newest in HP
Some of the oldest cars running at the Runoffs this year are the Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprites – made from 1958-1961. Rob Horrell, Jr. raced this Bugeye in HP against a 2012 Toyota Yaris.
One of the beauties of SCCA Club Racing is that older cars are rarely obsoleted as new cars are classified. SCCA maintains a serious commitment to its longtime competitors, and keeps the classic machines eligible for current competition.
At this year's Runoffs, the most drastic age difference was on display in the small-bore H Production race, where vintage-eligible Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprites driven by Michael Miller and Rob Horrell, Jr. were competing head to head with the 2012 Toyota Yaris of Jamie Bestwick.
For the record, the Sprites beat Bestwick, but fell far short of the 2008 Yaris of SportsCar
magazine associate editor Jason Isley, who finished fifth.
Next year's Runoffs dates
The 2013 Runoffs will be held at Road America – the SCCA Board of Directors has not yet announced the location of the 2014 Runoffs.
The SCCA has announced the dates for the 2013 National Championship Runoffs. The event will once again be held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and the event will begin with practice on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, and run through Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013.
• Jeff Zurschmeide is a regular contributor to SportsCar magazine.