Race 15 | Touring 1 | Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
1 | John Buttermore | Detroit | Chevrolet Corvette
2 | Lance Knupp | Milwaukee | Dodge Viper | n1
3 | Mike Tracy | Chicago | Chevrolet Corvette
Road America is confusing for high-horsepower, low-downforce cars. A glance at a track map shows long straights connected by low-to-medium-speed, 90-degree corners. The uphill front straight and the downhill run to Turn 5 seem to call for horsepower to trump handling. This part of Road America would seem to favor the V-10 Dodge Viper and the 6-plus liter V-8 Corvettes – but the sections from Turn 7 through the Carrousel and the Kink, and then from Canada Corner to Turn 14 require handling.
John M. Buttermore knows Road America and Corvettes. As a General Motors Vehicle Dynamics engineer, he has the ability to analyze racecar potential and performance, and he also has the ability to drive his C6. He dominated qualifying at the June Sprints only to suffer an engine failure. He has second-place finishes at Heartland Park Topeka, but racing at Elkhart Lake should produce gold.
Buttermore has performed lap time simulations of Road America (using Bosch software, not GM's). He describes the four-mile Wisconsin track as a “horsepower and handling” track. His Corvette is not the most powerful car out there, but less mass means less wear and tear on brakes and driveline components.
Lance Knupp won the June Sprints in a Dodge Viper – this is a brand change from when he claimed the 2006 T1 National Championship piloting a Corvette. After taking 2008 off he is back, but says the Viper is his choice because of the great brakes and the immense torque – but it still weighs 3,600lbs.
For third place we're selecting Mike Tracy. This is a trick entry because it includes Michael P. and Michael A., with membership numbers just three apart. Both are in Corvettes.
The wild card is anyone racing a Ferrari, as defending Champion Edward Zabinski did last year. Scott Tucker is a possibility in a Ferrari. The Modena models seem to race rarely, so it is difficult to assess their potential.
Wm. C. Mitchell
Race 16 | Formula Continental | Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
1 | Niki Coello | Milwaukee | Van Diemen | n3
2 | Justin Pritchard | Lake Superior | Van Diemen | n3
3 | Brian Belardi | Milwaukee | Van Diemen
SportsCar has picked Niki Coello to win FC for the last four years, and except for a mechanical difficulty two years ago, we would be four for four. There seems to be little reason to change the pattern this year.
One reason for concern, though, is Coello's decision to park his FC car until the Runoffs in order to work on a new Formula 1000 mount. The three-month layoff just may be the chink in the armor sought by his pursuers. Coello claims not, and his record tends to bear him out. Look for Coello to be on the top step once again, especially since Road America is his home track.
Justin Pritchard, a three-time winner himself, could be his strongest threat. Pritchard raced to a dominant June Sprints win and, beyond that, is battle tested at the Runoffs. Any slip or rustiness on Coello's part could very well see Pritchard on the top step.
Another local driver, Brian Belardi, looks good for a high finish. Belardi was third last year at Topeka and is preparing for the long Road America straights. He ran his Van Diemen with a low down-force setup at the June Sprints and reports that there are more tweaks to come. Do not discount his chances.
As is usual with FC, there are a host of fine drivers who will be in the mix. Any slip can mean a multi-place position change, so look for another half dozen or so to contend. Revere Griest and Brian Tomasi will be right there. Blink and you will find Bill Johnson, Mark Defer, John Larue, Chris Fahan, Cole Morgan and 2007 Champion Chas Shaffer in the heat of the fight, as well. As stated earlier, anything can happen here, with the podium being a mix of any of these at any given time.
Race 17 | GT-3 | Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
1 | Pete Peterson | Central Carolina
| Toyota Celica | n7
2 | Rob Warkocki | Milwaukee | Mazda RX-7
3 | Wolfgang Maike | Cal Club | Toyota Paseo
This is a tough class, and very difficult to call. Mazda RX-7 pilot Rob Warkocki grabbed the pole position and finished atop the results at this year's June Sprints. That said, Warkocki didn't make the podium at last year's Runoffs, finishing fifth. Running a strong second in qualifying and the race at the June Sprints was the defending Champ Pete Peterson – and no matter where Peterson finishes throughout the season, it's never a good idea to count the seven-time National Champion out when it comes to the Runoffs.
“I raced faster than I qualified, and set a track record during the race,” Peterson says. “But those Mazdas are fast and have a lot of horsepower. Rob Warkocki, Mike Henderson and Jeff Dernehl are all fast in Mazdas this year.”
Last year's podium finishers include Wolfgang Maike, who took second place in his Toyota Paseo, and last year's third-place finisher Steven Spiers in his Nissan – both are capable of grabbing the win should Peterson or Warkocki falter. Two dark horse contenders in Toyotas are two-time Champion Michael Cyphert and last year's fourth-place finisher Milton Grant.
One driver whose year it may be is John Black. Black has held the pole position for the past two years, but in 2007 fell victim to a self-induced first-corner wreck. In 2008, he was sidelined on the second lap by mechanical failure. “He's fast, and he knows the Road America track,” Peterson says.
Next time: Day 3