RACE 12: GT-1 | Friday, 1:35 p.m.
1 Mike Lewis San Diego Jaguar XKR
2 Doug Peterson Buccaneer Chevrolet Corvette
3 Bryan Long Chicago Chevrolet Corvette
As the checkered flag dropped on the 2011 season, it was the Mike Lewis-piloted Jaguar that took the accolades after a hard-fought battle with local star Cliff Ebben in a Ford Mustang.
“My plan right now is to be at the Runoffs and defend my title, if business allows.” says Lewis. We expect he'll be there, and consequently, he's our pick to win.
Ebben, last year's silver medalist, continues to rehab from a freak accident in the season-opening SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am race at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where a drive shaft broke and the impact shattered his elbow. Despite the setback, Ebben is determined to make it to the Runoffs, so we wouldn't be at all surprised to see him qualifying late in the season and racing for the win.
And, speaking of that Trans-Am race in Canada, Doug Peterson took his first win at that same event, besting a strong field of almost 20 cars. He had a great showing at the June Sprints until a mechanical issue derailed the project. Peterson is also spending some time in a Formula Mazda, and the extra seat time, albeit in a completely different class, won't hurt his cause.
Simon Gregg, in his Derhaag-prepared Corvette, took the June Sprints win and with his podium finish last year at the fall classic, another podium finish is not out of the question. Gregg has come on strong of late, garnering some podium finishes in Trans-Am – and with the consistency and prep level of a car out of the Jim Derhaag stables, could easily land on the podium again.
Bryan Long also ran strong at the June Sprints and had a great race with another hometown star, Rick Dittman, until both dropped out with problems. Both know the twists and turns of the tricky Road America circuit and either of them could upset our prediction.
Amy Ruman, another of the usual suspects in GT-1, has run a handful of Nationals and her current plan is to try and make it back to the Runoffs. With her streak of Trans-Am podiums, she is sure to be a factor in September if she shows.
RACE 13: Formula F | Friday, 2:35 p.m.
1 Lewis Cooper Central Florida Van Diemen
2 Reid Hazelton Chicago Van Diemen
3 Tim Kautz Chicago Piper
The Formula F class has always been stacked with talent, and was a significant rung on the ladder to professional open-wheel racing. While the options to move up to Indy are not the same for Formula F racers as they once were, that doesn't mean the talent in the class is any less.
In 2011, Lewis Cooper won the title by more than 12sec, but that didn't tell the tale of what might have been had Reid Hazelton not had mechanical issues. Hazelton set the fastest lap of the race before having to pull in to the pits. For the 2012 running of the Runoffs nearly all of the frontrunners will be returning, and the battle should be better than ever.
We know Cooper will be back, with his eyes set on defending his championship, but Hazelton will be looking to make up for last year's disappointment.
The wild card this year will be 2011 bronze medalist Tim Kautz, who is coming back – this time with Honda power. “After three Ford engine failures at last year's event, we're looking forward to the Honda reliability,” says Kautz. “It is yet to be determined if the Honda, with its current Club Racing restrictor, will be able to match the performance of the top Fords in the country.” There is an excellent chance that Kautz could bring Honda its first Runoffs podium in FF.
Should any of the top three make the slightest slip there will be a freight train of talented competitors ready to pass them by. Cliff Johnson and Scott Rubenzer are always quick, Ethan Shippert has been flying this year, and guys like Bill Kephart and Mike Sauce will help keep the leaders on their toes.