TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 15, 2006) – Polesitter Philip Simms, of Orlando, Fla., caught a late-race break to win his first SCCA GT1 National Championship at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Kansas, As Big As You Think. Max Lagod, of Barrington, Ill., and Glen Jung, of Osteen, Fla., completed the top three.-30-
From the pole, Simms got a great jump in his No. 10 Jaguar XKR taking the lead in Turn One with the No. 12 Red Line/Cyclo Jaguar XKR of Michael Lewis, of Poway, Calif., in tow. The two would make fast work of the field, opening up a nearly 20-second lead by lap seven on then third-place driver Bill Gray, of Fayetteville, Ark.
On lap seven, Simms slid wide at the exit of Turn 14 and, as a result, Lewis inherited the lead. The Lewis – Simms battle would continue for the next 10 laps, when on lap 16 of the 18-lap race, Lewis’ machine sustained a flat left front tire and Simms assumed the lead. At that point, Lewis and Simms had a more than 35-second lead on then third-place Lagod. With Simms in the lead and Lewis heading to pit lane for a tire change, Lagod took over second-place – highlighting an impressive run from his 23rd starting position to finish second. Lagod would win the Sunoco Hard Charger of the race award for his efforts. Meanwhile, Simms cruised to a 15.516-second win at an average speed of 76.382 mph.
“It started out really good today, the car was good,” Simms said. “Turn eight had some mud and was sort of slippery. I was leading [Michael] Lewis, when four or five laps into the race someone ran through the mud and dropped some onto the track. I came through and hit the mud and the car just took off straight. Once I got back on the track, Mike [Lewis] got inside and passed me. I was running a little bit better than him. I was better on braking, but we were pretty well equal on power.
“Then we got into some [lapped] traffic and he got out about eight or ten cars in front of me. Then my crew chief told me that there were two laps left and I saw Mike sitting sideways in the runoff and I said, ‘Boy, here I come.’ He pulled out in front of me and I was just this far behind him (holds fingers about an inch apart). We went into Turn Four and he was smoking. I went to the inside and just ran it as hard as I could and kept it on the track. I just bought this car from Rocketsports and took delivery of it last week. I drove it last Saturday in qualifying for the Trans Am and finished third.”
Driving the No. 83 Chevrolet Camaro, Lagod had been entered in a Corvette for the Runoffs, but after losing two engines during the Trans-Am event last weekend, chose to return home in Illinois. After watching live timing and scoring for the event all week, he elected to pull out his old Camaro, with which he won the 1996 and 1997 Championships, and return to the event on Friday to start at the back of the pack.
Jung’s third-place finish in the No. 77 Mazdaspeed/Goodyear/Mandeville Mazda RX7 was the first podium finish for a non-V8 powered car since 1999, when Juan Leroux won in a V6 powered Ford Mustang.
Joey Scarallo, of Hauppage, N.Y. brought his No. 16 Toyo Tire/Group A Wheels.com Chevrolet Corvette home fourth, while Shawn Gray, of Fayetteville, Ark., finished fifth in his No. 09 Chevrolet Camaro.
Now in its 43rd year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Kansas, As Big As You Think annually crowns the best amateur road racers in North America as Champions. More than 750 competitors have gathered this year to battle for 25 class titles, with nine races on Friday and eight Saturday and Sunday. This marks the first year that the Runoffs is held at Heartland Park Topeka.
Celebrating its 62nd anniversary, Sports Car Club of America is a 55,000 member organization that sanctions and promotes grassroots and professional motorsports events in a variety of disciplines, including road racing, Solo, road rally and rallycross.