RACE 18 GT-Lite | Saturday, 2:35 p.m.
1 Kent Prather Kansas Mazda Miata
2 Steve Sargis Blackhawk Valley Triumph Spitfire
3 Peter Shadowen Florida Honda CRX
Changes in GT-Lite rules have caused problems for a few of the fast runners in the past. Jim Dentici (five championships), Chris Bovis (one championship), and Bob Clark, all in Honda CRXs, are probably going to pass on this year's race. That's a shame, because even before the rules changes their cars would have had a challenge from some of the new cars recently developed. Kent Prather proved that his Miata was fast last year, adding a GT-Lite championship to his resume. This year, Steve Sargis has campaigned his Spitfire successfully in the class, too. Together with Peter Shadowen, whose Honda is very fast, they will put on a very exciting race. These three have a total of 14 championships – they know how to race and how to win. Barring mechanical problems, these three will put on a fight to the finish.
They will be chased by Bob Lentz (Nissan Sentra), Jim Hargrove (Honda Civic), and 2011 bronze medalist Brian Downey (Nissan 200SX). All three qualified well last year and we expect something similar this year. If the top three mix it up and slow each other, these three will be there to pounce.
Kyle Disque (Toyota Tercel) ran well last year and could certainly be a factor in this race. Former Champion Peter Zekert (Nissan 200SX) will be looking to do better this year and is not someone to count out.
The changes in GT-Lite rules have resulted in some visual changes at the front of the race field. Open cars have been allowed for several years, but Prather and Sargis really seem to have gotten their topless GT cars competitive.
- J. Michael Hemsley
RACE 19: Touring 3 | Saturday, 3:35 p.m.
1 Richard Fisher Chicago Volkswagen GTI
2 Kevin Fandozzi Philadelphia Chevrolet Cobalt SS
3 Chad Gilsinger Ohio Valley Honda S2000
Touring 3 is a tough battleground with some very fun cars. Last year's Runoffs pitted some of the best front-wheel-drive sports cars in the world – such as the VW GTI – against rear-wheel-drive cars like the Honda S2000. The race was run in the rain and, at the end, it was Kevin Fandozzi who took home the title with the front-wheel-drive Chevy Cobalt SS.
Richard Fisher thinks he should have had a shot in his Volkswagen GTI, but he bet the wrong way on the weather last fall and found himself on dry tires in the deluge.
“We think we have a reasonable chance if we don't make a stupid tire mistake like last year,” Fisher says. The evidence is strong to back up that statement – Fisher took the win at the June Sprints with a 25-second margin of victory, and set a new lap record of 2:36.057.
But, before we award him the championship, Fisher has some strong contenders to beat, including last year's Champion Kevin Fandozzi. The Cobalt SS is fast and powerful on Road America's long straights, and Fandozzi is a veteran of the Runoffs and knows what he has to bring to win.
The Honda S2000 has always been a potent machine in T3, and Chad Gilsinger took second place at the June Sprints in one. Chris Puskar took second at last year's Runoffs in another S2000, and he could contend for the win again this year. As a dark horse, Cheyne Daggett could surprise everyone with his Ford Mustang. Bill Steinhoff or Rob Hines driving a Nissan 350Z and Mike Kramer in a Saturn Ion could also be in the hunt.
RACE 20: H Production | Sunday, 8:30 a.m.
1 Mike Moser Milwaukee Honda CRX
2 Chris Albin Southern Illinois Volkswagen Golf
3 Matt Brannon Ohio Valley Fiat X1/9
H Production often produces surprises. This year, however, Mike Moser's CRX will hold everything together for the win. Chris Albin will be bent on making this prediction wrong, and he's been very fast in the past, but luck has never been on his side. Matt Brannon's Fiat has gotten quicker and quicker, and it's time for him to be in the running at the front.
The surprises this year will be who is chasing these guys for the win. Two former champions will be doing their best to upset these predictions. Greg Gauper (Honda Civic) won last year and, together with two-time Champion Ron Bartell (MG Midget), will make things very hot for the three podium picks. They will be chased by 2011 bronze medalist Jason Isley (Toyota Yaris), who intends to bring good wet-weather tires this year to help turn that third-place finish into a National Championship.
Four-time HP Champion Tom Feller (Triumph Spitfire) said he probably won't attend the Runoffs this year, while Dick Gagliardi (VW Scirocco), last year's silver medalist, has not run as of the deadline for this prediction. If either of these guys shows up, there will be more surprises.
HP is known as a mechanically fragile class, so all predictions are a bit shaky. With only a few exceptions, however, these drivers have run good races in the past with great results. It could be a very good year for HP.
- J. Michael Hemsley