Race 6 | Showroom Stock C | Friday, 2:30 p.m.
1 | Joe McClughan | Houston | Mazda3 | n1
2 | Joel Lipperini | NE Pennsylvania | Honda Civic | n2
3 | Bill Hagerty | San Diego | Chevrolet Cobalt
Showroom Stock has always been a manufacturer's battleground, though rarely have the players been as lively as this year's Showroom Stock C field. Between the Chevy Cobalt, Mazda3, Toyota Celica and Honda Civic, the stage is set for a battle royal for the top honors.
“I would love to put three Mazda3s on the podium,” says last year's Champion Joe McClughan.” Winning
it for Mazda last year was good, but now it's time to put three Mazdas on the podium.”
Aiming to thwart that plan is Joel Lipperini, who has won every SSC race he's entered this year, including besting McClughan at the June Sprints. Second at the Sprints was 2008 T3 Hard Charger winner Eric Van Cleef in a Toyota Celica. Also looking for top honors will be Bill Hagerty. Hagerty has set several lap records this year in his Cobalt.
“Joel is always fast, and I'm sure Hagerty will be wicked fast,” says McClughan. “I think Joel and I will go hammer and tongs.”
With the change from Heartland Park Topeka to Road America, drivers must change their strategies. “It's not going to be like Topeka where it was the guy who could keep tires under the car,” McClughan says. “It's going to be the car and driver who can keep their wits together and drive as hard as possible. Road America has a lot of fear factor. I'm excited about moving up there.”
Other contenders include Ali Naimi (Mazda3), Mark McCaughey (Toyota Corolla) and Runoffs veteran John Saucier (Mazda3). Another driver to watch will be John Philips, who has been competing in Spec Miata but will return to SSC in a Mazda3 for the Runoffs. New cars in the class that could be wild cards include the Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, Honda Accord and Acura GSR.
Race 7 | F Production | Friday, 3:30 p.m.
1 | Mark Carpenter | Central Carolina | Acura Integra
2 | Steve Sargis | Blackhawk Vlly | Triumph Spitfire | n4
3 | Kevin Ruck | Ohio Valley | Acura Integra
This will be a close race. It won't be an easy win for Mark Carpenter in his Integra because Steve Sargis and his Spitfire won't allow it to be. Both drivers are very smooth and precise. Runoffs new guy Kevin Ruck will also be in the mix. Ruck has driven an Integra in ITA for years and won the ARRC in 2008. He contended for the pole at the June Sprints and finished second to Carpenter. Sargis would normally be an easy choice, but he's suffered some challenges this year and has not decided which Spitfire to bring.
Brian Linn came to the Sprints for track time in an MGB but got very little. He will probably be at the Runoffs in a Miata and will face a steep learning curve, but he is fast. Two other Miatas that will be challenging for the top steps are those of Rick Harris, the 2008 FP Champion, and Mason Workman.
Eric Prill had a fine finish at the Sprints in his Lotus Super 7 and is a contender, as are Bill Wessel (Datsun SPL311) and Harold Flescher (MK2 Sprite) – both are experienced drivers, and Flescher knows how to win championships. David Bryson and Bob Bramlage are leading their divisions in Mazdas, so they are potential challengers. And Donald Kraftson arrived at the Sprints late and started with his Elva Courier in the group's 30th position after an abbreviated qualifying session – he finished fifth in FP, 13th overall in a field of 57 starters. Keep an eye on him.
J. Michael Hemsley
Race 8 | Formula Atlantic | Friday, 4:30 p.m.
1 | Mirl Swan | Mahoning Valley | Swift 014.a | n1
2 | David Grant | Mid South | Swift 014.a | n1
3 | Keith Grant | Atlanta | Swift 014.a | n1
Mirl Swan has been hard to predict. He won the Runoffs in 2006, put together Hans Peters' winning effort in 2007, and then spent most of 2008 building his race team. He did not race most of last season, but closed with a rush, doing a couple late-season Nationals, qualified on the pole and came within a whisker of winning his second gold medal at the Runoffs.
Swan has been racing steadily and winning steadily. As of late June he has notched six wins, including a dominant run in the June Sprints. Further, when asked his intentions, he replied emphatically “I am running the season and, yes, I will be at the Runoffs!” The speed he has shown this year, coupled with his past record, leads to but one conclusion: Mirl Swan will win his second National Championship this year.
Behind Swan there will be a group of drivers, any of who can win should Swan falter. This group is headed by the Grant brothers, David and Keith – both are fast and either can win the Runoffs. In fact, David did just that last year, getting the jump on Swan at the green and withstanding a furious race-long charge. Both are winners at Road America, David last year and Keith in 2006, so seeing a redhead on the top step of the podium is not far fetched at all. The question is who to pick ahead of the other, David or Keith? This is a toss up, but since David won last year we are picking him ahead of Keith for that reason.
Sedat Yelkin is very fast, having a good year, and easily can be on the podium. Others to consider include Ken Davis, Bernie Sunier, Lewis Cooper and Steve Forrer. J.R. Osborne is a very capable dark horse, working on a Stohr modified Swift of which little is known.
Tomorrow: Predictions for Day 2