Reports from Friday's first set of National Championship races from the 50th SCCA Runoffs at Road America.
Drago Survives For Back-To-Back Titles In Record Spec Miata Field At SCCA Runoffs
Jim Drago, of Memphis, Tenn., survived a record field of 69 cars to win back-to-back Spec Miata titles at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs®. Voytek Burdzy, of Algonquin, Ill., and Danny Steyn, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., completed the podium at Road America.
Drago became the first person in the eight-year history of the class to win a second National Championship, taking the checkered flag 0.15sec in front of Burdzy. Drago averaged 74.525 mph in the 13-lap, 52-mile race that was slowed by one caution for four laps.
The 69 starters was a Runoffs record, breaking the previous mark of 60 set by the same class in 2010. Unfortunately, eight of those Miatas were eliminated in a first lap crash in turn seven, after a spinning car caused a pileup mid pack.
A swarm of Miatas that stretched 16 deep were in the lead group early in the race, where Drago took the lead from the SafeRacer pole in his No. 2 East Street Racing Mazda Miata. Drago missed a shift coming through turn three, with teammate Craig Berry taking the point in the No. 29 Berry Marble and Granite/East Street Racing Miata. His lead lasted until late in lap two, when Steve Gorriaran moved his No. 44 Gorilla Racing/Driven Performance Miata to the head of the pack.
A full course caution to clean up that incident slowed the field on lap three, and 16 cars were within striking distance on the restart. Berry reclaimed the lead on lap nine, but mechanical problems forced him to pull out of the lead and off the track on lap 10.
When Berry pulled off, the No. 74 Reynolds Bros./Race Engineering Miata of Matt Reynolds moved into the lead for the first time. That lasted until just before the front straight, where Erik Stearns found his No. 97 East Street Racing/Ed's 24 Hour Service Miata back in front with a push from Drago and a chance to break away.
There was no getting away for either driver, as Stearn's day ended with one and a half laps to go following contact with his teammate and friend.
“One of my best friends in and out of racing is Erik Stearns,” Drago said. “I went down into five and the car got really squirrelly and just touched him enough to get him out of shape, then he put the car off in six. I'm just sick. It's a little bit shallow as far that goes, because you never want to see that happen to anyone – let alone one of your best friends. I've got a lot of apologizing to do for that one, because I'm sure he's upset. He's got every right to be.”
That incident moved Burdzy, who had started 10th in the No. 41 Advanced Autosport Miata, into the lead temporarily. Unfortunately, it also allowed the second scrum of cars to close on the leaders.
On the start of the final lap, Drago, Reynolds and Elivan Goulart, in the No. 70 SAC Racing/SCDA1.com Miata, freight trained past Burdzy through turn one. Goulart moved up front under braking in five, but Drago had a counter in six. Once in front, Drago had enough of a run to take the National Championship.
“I think we're all a little bit mentally exhausted. It was just a crazy, crazy race,” Drago said.
“I was fortunate enough to win, but there were 15 guys that could have won this race. Any one of these guys could have won. I think everyone tried to be fair. All of us have raced here enough that I think the mindset was to get to the front fast, because the race can be over any lap after lap seven.”
Drago pointed out just how difficult it was.
“You didn't have to tell anybody to try. I think everyone was trying on every lap, on every corner.”
Burdzy knew he was a sitting duck in the draft when he crossed the stripe in the lead with one to go.
“When Jim and Erik had contact in Turn 5, I was in the lead, but my crew guy told me there was one more lap, this wasn't the last lap,” Burdzy said. “And of course, everybody behind me decided at that moment to stop fighting so they drafted past me in the first turn on the last lap.”
Steyn had mechanical troubles during Tuesday's qualifying session, and, with rain the rest of the week, started 26th. He passed several cars on the start, was in 10th on the restart, and worked his way into contention by the finish for his first career Runoffs podium. That march through the field was enough to earn the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
“This is an event, this whole week, where it has to go right from the beginning,” Steyn said. “And unfortunately, on that very cold day on Tuesday, I lost a gear on the second lap of qualifying, and ended up 42nd place. And of course, thereafter the weather never cooperated, and the best I could do was move up into 26th place.
“To get to the podium from 26th place was not something that I was expecting, dreaming of, but the race was very aggressive. A lot of people were making a lot of very significant moves, trying to make up track position, because I think a lot of people feared a lot of laps would be done under yellow. And as that kept on happening in front of me, I kept on moving up. And slowly but surely, I got closer and closer to the front, and eventually challenging for a spot on the podium.”
Goulart, who won the Super Touring Under race earlier on Friday, crossed the stripe in fourth. Nick Leverone finished fifth in the No. 90 Flatout Motorsports Miata and turned the Hawk Hot Lap with a lap of 2:44.204 (87.696 mph).
Joey Jordan, Reynolds, Alex Bolanos, Justin Elder, and Jeff Luckritz all cracked the top 10 in the race.
Brian Wisler earned the Sunoco Hard Charger after improving from 59th on the grid to 18th, a 41 position improvement in the No. 59 X Factor Racing/Philips Race Prep Miata.
Provisional results for Friday's SCCA Spec Miata national championship at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America, with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (1), Jim Drago, Memphis, TN, Mazda Miata, 13.
2, (10), Voytek Burdzy, Algonquin, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
3, (26), Danny Steyn, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Mazda Miata, 13.
4, (11), Elivan Goulart, Shelton, CT, Mazda Miata, 13.
5, (16), Nick Leverone, Bellingham, MA, Mazda Miata, 13.
6, (23), Joey Jordan, Fallbrook, CA, Mazda Miata, 13.
7, (8), Matt Reynolds, Boerne, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
8, (20), Alex Bolanos, Miami, FL, Mazda Miata, 13.
9, (29), Justin Elder, Lakeville, MN, Mazda Miata, 13.
10, (28), Jeff Luckritz, Saint Joseph, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
11, (40), Mark Drennan, San Jose, CA, Mazda Miata, 13.
12, (6), L. Patrick Sandlin, Cordova, TN, Mazda Miata, 13.
13, (38), Peter Arthur John Tonelli, Westborough, MA, Mazda Miata, 13.
14, (12), Matthew Ferris, Pawling, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
15, (22), Jerret Gerber, Dodgeville, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
16, (34), Scott Brunk, Harpers Ferry, WV, Mazda Miata, 13.
17, (50), Henry Van Vurst, Pompano Beach, FL, Mazda Miata, 13.
18, (59), Brian Wisler, Grapevine, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
19, (30), Anthony Geraci, Glen Head, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
20, (44), Marc Cefalo, Swoyersville, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
21, (36), Michael Novak, Highland, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
22, (14), Ted Cahall, Clyde Hill, WA, Mazda Miata, 13.
23, (31), Michael Ross, Friendswood, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
24, (9), Tom Brown, Muskego, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
25, (45), Amy Mills, New York, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
26, (42), Brett Fenske, Charlotte, NC, Mazda Miata, 13.
27, (24), Jamey Randall, Watertown, MN, Mazda Miata, 13.
28, (43), Whitfield Gregg, New York, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
29, (64), Keith Mellen, Joliet, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
30, (67), Kyle Watkins, Broomfield, CO, Mazda Miata, 13.
31, (48), Richard Mooney, Madison, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
32, (49), John Costello, Dallas, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
33, (47), Peter Naumburg, Albuquerque, NM, Mazda Miata, 13.
34, (39), Josh Bilicki, Richfield, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
35, (51), Jeff Van Bendegom, Middleton, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
36, (58), Domenico Leuci, Binghamton, NY, Mazda Miata, 13.
37, (54), Douglas Spencer, Livonia, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
38, (52), Michael Crawford, Pittston, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
39, (57), David Cox, Pleasant Prairie, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
40, (61), Michael Makus, Oshkosh, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
41, (62), David Schroeder, Des Moines, IA, Mazda Miata, 13.
42, (46), Greg Blaser, Eau Claire, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
43, (63), Roger Pogorzelski, Mount Prospect, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
44, (55), Lon Blaser, Eau Claire, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
45, (69), Spencer Patterson, Pittsburgh, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
46, (4), Daniel Bender, Glencoe, IL, Mazda Miata, 13.
47, (65), Greg Kasprzyk, Yatesville, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
48, (66), Kristen Novak, Highland, MI, Mazda Miata, 13.
49, (56), Jim Kettelkamp, Bettendorf, IA, Mazda Miata, 13.
50, (68), J Jay Simaras, Waukesha, WI, Mazda Miata, 13.
51, (5), Steven Gorriaran, Providence, RI, Mazda Miata, 12.
52, (3), Erik Stearns, Van Buren, OH, Mazda Miata, 11.
53, (13), Jason Knuteson, Danville, IN, Mazda Miata, 11.
54, (19), David Bednarz, Ann Arbor, MI, Mazda Miata, 10.
55, (2), Craig Berry, Tyler, TX, Mazda Miata, 10.
56, (17), Tom Sager, Naperville, IL, Mazda Miata, 8.
57, (7), Andrew von Charbonneau, Boca Raton, FL, Mazda Miata, 7.
DNF, (60), James Suhr, Springboro, OH, Mazda Miata, 3.
DNF, (27), Luke Bickham, Dallas, TX, Mazda Miata, 1.
DNF, (37), Steven Powers, Mesa, AZ, Mazda Miata, 1.
DNF, (15), Todd Lamb, Atlanta, GA, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (21), Thomas Roberts, Naperville, IL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (18), Chris Haldeman, Anna, TX, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (32), Brian Schofield, Lakeland, FL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (33), Michael Collins, Mount Airy, MD, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (41), Charlie Campbell, Corry, PA, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNF, (53), Matthew Van Vurst, Pompano Beach, FL, Mazda Miata, 0.
DNS, (25), Andrew Carbonell, Miami, FL, Mazda Miata.
DNS, (35), Jeff LaBounty, Cape Coral, FL, Mazda Miata.
Overall Time of Race: 41:51.923
Average Race Speed: 74.525 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.150 second
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: 2:44.204
Fastest Race Lap Average Speed: 87.696 mph
Sunoco Hard Charger: #59 Brian Wisler
Lap Leaders: #29, laps 1, 8-9; #44, laps 2-7; #97, lap 10; #2, laps 11, 13; #74, lap 12
Yelkin Captures First-Career Formula Atlantic Crown at SCCA Runoffs
SafeRacer polesitter Sedat Yelkin, of Canfield, Ohio, drove flag-to-flag to capture his first-career Formula Atlantic national title at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Keith Grant, of Germantown, Tenn., finished second, while Michael Mallinen, of Liberty Lake, Wash., finished third.
Starting from the pole, Yelkin got a great start in the No. 75 Everclear Swift 014a Toyota. Early on, Grant challenged Yelkin for the top spot riding just behind Yelkin's rear wing for the first seven laps. But, Yelkin kept Grant behind him for the entire 13-lap race, winning by 8.3777 seconds.
“The beginning was pretty much reminiscent of most of the races that Keith and I drive,” Yelkin said. “He's one of the best drivers I've ever driven with in my life. From the start, just like every time we come to Road America, he and I duke it out lap after lap. But, because of that, we have kind of learned each other's tendencies. Through the years, we we're able to learn how to drive a very clean race. He [Grant] keeps me honest. I want to thank him for driving a clean race.
“That being said, I knew all I had to do was to break the draft in the beginning. Our cars are so similar. The chassis are similar. They create similar amounts of drag. I knew I had a good motor. But, when you're stuck in the draft, it's another story. When Michael and Keith started getting together, I knew I could get away and that was my chance. So, I seized the opportunity and was able to put some distance on them. ”
For his winning effort, Yelkin was awarded the Go Pro Hero Move of the Race and he also turned the Hawk Hot Lap with a time of 2:03.222 (116.862 mph).
Grant started second in the No. 40 Polestar/Hoosier Swift 014a Toyota and battled Yelkin for position. But after Yelkin began to pull away, Grant was soon under siege from Mallinen. In fact, the Mallinen briefly moved into second on lap nine, while Grant fell to third. On lap 10, Grant regained second place, which is where he finished. This was Grant's sixth-career Runoffs podium finish and his 12th career top-five.
“When we took off, Sedat was able to pull over ahead of me going into Turn One ,” Grant said. “I tried to stay there for seven laps. I did everything I could to get up into his draft. He continued to drive a consistent, clean race. He was just dead on in all of his turns. When we got to lap eight, he got to the point where he was pulling away. He had a lot more horsepower than us today. That made it really tough. Whenever we got to the straightaway, he could get off the turns really well. It made it tough for us. Congratulations to him. He did a good job today.
“Michael kept me honest the whole time. He and I always have a good time racing each other. He dove down and outbraked me going into Canada Corner and I told him I wasn't going to let him do that. I returned the favor in Turn One and continued on from there. But, he was all over my tail when I was trying to outbrake Sedat in several other turns. Sedat was able to protect the line. Shoot, I did everything I could to protect my line with Michael right there behind me. It was a good race.”
Mallinen, the 2010 Formula Atlantic National Champion, started third in the No. 71 Swan Racing/MAZDASPEED Motorsports Swift 016a and briefly dropped to fourth after the first lap. On lap two, Mallinen passed Jason Byers, of Livonia, Mich., for third. From there, Mallinen had his sights set on second and battled Grant late – swapping the second spot a couple of times before the checkered flag. Mallinen's third place finish gave him four-career Runoffs podium finishes.
“At the start, the front row rolled away a little bit quicker than I did,” Mallinen said. “So, the start was not great. But, we got back into it. After lap one, I passed Byers to take third. Then, I got into a chase with these two [Yelkin and Grant]. The three of us were running very close for the first five or six laps. It was good fight. I felt like I had the faster car during that period of time. I backed off a bit in Turn One and a couple of other places. Sedat gapped us around lap seven. Then, Keith and I had a good fight – traded some spots. The car ran great. I switched from a Toyota to a Mazda this year. I think it made a real good run. It showed that it's an equal car and that it's just as fast as these other guys. It was a good race.”
Byers finished fourth in the No. 28 Swan/Hoosier/TRD Swith 014a Toyota. Ethan Ringel, of Windermere, Fla., finished fifth in the No. 7 One Formula Racing Swift 016a.
J. R. Smart, of Fitchburg, Wis., was the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing eight positions throughout the race.
Provisional results for Friday's SCCA Formula Atlantic national championship at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America, with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (1), Sedat Yelkin, Canfield, OH, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
2, (2), Keith Grant, Germantown, TN, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
3, (3), Michael Mallinen, Liberty Lake, WA, Swift 016.a, 13.
4, (4), Jason Byers, Livonia, MI, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
5, (7), Ethan Ringel, Windermere, FL, Swift 016a, 13.
6, (9), Matt Miller, Orland Park, IL, Swift 016a Mazda, 13.
7, (5), Jean-Luc Liverato, Alpharetta, GA, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
8, (6), Tyler Hunter, Denver, CO, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
9, (10), John Burke, Rumson, NJ, Swift 014a, 13.
10, (12), Gaston Kearby, Corpus Christi, TX, Swift 016a Mazda, 13.
11, (19), J.R. Smart, Fitchburg, WI, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
12, (18), Robert Corliss, Monterey, CA, Swift 014a, 13.
13, (20), Snake Livernash, Spanaway, WA, Swift 008a, 13.
14, (21), Charles C. Duncan, Broomfield, CO, Swift 016a Mazda, 13.
15, (16), Bruce Hamilton, Monkton, MD, Swift 014a Toyota, 13.
16, (14), Fabio Castellani, Streamwood, IL, Swift 014a Toyota, 12.
17, (15), Bruce Crockett, Red Lion, PA, Swift 014a, 12.
DNF, (11), Jacek Mucha, Laval, QC, Swift JMS 016 CP Mazda, 4.
DNF, (13), Dwight Rider, Aurora, CO, Ralt RT41 Toyota, 4.
DNF, (8), Jeff Kowalik, Cape Coral, FL, Swift 016a Mazda, 1.
DNS, (17), Richard Zober, Croydon, PA, Swift 016a Mazda, .
Overall Time of Race: 27:03.594
Average Race Speed: 115.300 mph
Margin of Victory: 8.377 seconds
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: 2:03.222
Fastest Race Lap Average Speed: 116.862 mph
Sunoco Hard Charger: #09 J.R. Smart
Lap Leaders: #75 – Laps 1-13