RACE 4: Showroom Stock B | Thursday, 11:25 a.m.
1 Toby Grahovec Texas BMW Z4
2 Mike Scornavacchi Florida Ford Mustang
3 Lee Niffenegger Cal Club Honda Civic Si
SSB is a great class. You'll always find a bevy of different manufacturers and, in the past, the win has been anyone's to claim. But there are a number of folks who always seem to find themselves at the front of the field.
“My plans are still a bit up in the air,” says 2008 SSB Champ Lee Niffenegger, who is also the Senior Engineer Business Development for Honda. “I have been able to run three races so far [this year]. I borrowed Luke Wilwert's car from our Ohio-based Team Honda Research to do these, but had to send the car back to Ohio in early May for Luke to start his season. Team Honda Research-West [based in Torrance, Calif.] is trying to get a 2012 Civic Si completed so I can take that to the Runoffs. This is exactly the kind of development work we like as Honda associates, but it is not matching up well with the race schedules right now! It might not make its race debut until the Sept. 1 Double National at Buttonwillow. In the meantime, I'm trying to find another car to complete my required races prior to the Runoffs.”
Niffenegger's Honda teammate Wilwert gave Toby Grahovec a good run at the Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints, and if he and Niffenegger work together in the Honda camp it could put the two of them on the podium above Grahovec's BMW.
Toby Grahovec was smooth and fast in his Z4 at the June Sprints, and a home track advantage may give him just a small nod over last year's winner Mike Scornavacchi. Scornavacchi is always tough, but sometimes his Runoffs luck tends to bite him in the shorts. You could see the genuine emotion on Scornavacchi's face last year when he took the title, so you know he's planning to repeat.
Other fast guys in the Mustang camp include Andrew Charboneau, 2010 Champ Ed Zabinski and Tim Meyers, any of them could figure into the medals as well.
RACE 5: Showroom Stock C | Thursday, 11:25 a.m.
1 Mark McCaughey Central Florida Toyota Celica GTS
2 Ali Naimi Oregon Mazda 3
3 Tom Daly Land O' Lakes Volkswagen Rabbit
Mark McCaughey is looking to claim his third Showroom Stock C championship in a row, and there's every reason to think he can do it. McCaughey is known for clean and fast driving, and his Toyota Celica is always competitive.
“We'll be back with the defending champion car,” he says. “Right now, the Toyota has been restricted quite a lot from last year. We have raced in a few events this season, including the [BFGoodrich Tires] Super Tour event at Sebring, and we won there. It will be a challenge going for three in a row, and as this is possibly the last year of SSC I would be delighted to close the book on the class with such an accomplishment.”
But before he can claim his third title, McCaughey will have to deal with a strong group of contenders. Tom Daly won the SSC race at this year's June Sprints. Brian Husting ran a strong race at last year's Runoffs in his Chevy Cobalt before being taken out in a crash. Finally, Ali Naimi took second-place honors last year, and has been improving his finishes for the better part of a decade.
“As always, in an SSC race, I think tires will play the biggest part,” says McCaughey. “Who will have the best brand and be able to manage them for the entire race distance?”
Past Champion Joel Lipperini, a perennial frontrunner, is registered in a B-Spec Honda this year, so for the first time in a long time he'll get to see what the middle of the pack looks like – that is, unless he swaps cars at the last minute.
Dark horse contenders include Jonathan Start, who has been racing a B-Spec car in World Challenge this year, or anyone in a 2001-'05 Mazda Miata, which has just been moved into the class.
RACE 6: American Sedan | Thursday, 1:00 p.m.
1 Andy McDermid Milwaukee Ford Mustang
2 John Heinricy Philadelphia Pontiac Firebird
3 Michael Lavigne New England Ford Mustang
This is not fair! How can you choose a winner between two of the most decorated drivers in SCCA Club Racing? Between John Heinricy and Andy McDermid, you're looking at 17 titles!
“I look forward to racing with Andy [McDermid] every year,” says Heinricy. “I can always count on a great race. We will be back in a Tom Aquilante-prepared Firebird.”
Last year, McDermid and Heinricy put on a driving clinic in the wet while both of them were on dry weather tires, thus proving that nothing will slow these guys down.
Andy McDermid reportedly drove away from the rest of the field at the June Sprints, notching a nice margin of victory in the process – and the rumor is he's building a brand-new Mustang for the Runoffs. Hopefully, he'll have all the bugs worked out in time for the main event in September.
It's really a toss-up as to which of these fantastic drivers will stand on the top step of the podium, but we have to give the nod to McDermid.
The third step is by no means a lock, either. We have a list of choices for that one. Michael Lavigne had a great race at last year's race and was in a spectacular battle most of the race with some of the stalwarts of American Sedan until his day unceremoniously ended in the gravel trap at Turn 5. We're giving him the nod for the podium this year. But that's not to say there aren't others who could upset this perfectly planned prediction. Tom Sloe (Mustang), Jeff Werth (Camaro), Tom Ellis (Mustang), Daniel Richardson (Camaro), Jim Wheeler (Trans-Am), and last year's bronze medalist David Venhaus (Mustang) are just some of the candidates.