Tom Wickersham, of San Ramon, Calif., took home his first SCCA National Championship Runoffs title Friday at Road America, winning the Gumout GT2 National Championship by nearly 20 seconds over Jim Goughary, of Houston, Texas. Mark Boden, of Winnetka, Ill., finished third.
At the start, Gumout polesitter Pete Peterson led the field through Turn 1 in his No. 98 Goodyear/Toyota/Valvoline Toyota Celica, followed closely by Wickersham's No. 0 Main Straight Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. The two were so close, in fact, they actually made nose-to-tail contact, causing damage to the hood of Wickersham's No. 0 Main Straight Racing Porsche GT3 Cup.
“In the first turn, Pete went underneath me,” Wickersham recalled. “Then he got loose coming out of One and I got into the back of him. We both kept going and it was pretty much ‘follow the leader' for the rest of the race.”
Peterson and Wickersham slowly pulled away from the rest of the GT2 field for the next eight laps; the gap between them hovering around one second. Both drivers turned laps under the previous Runoffs GT2 race lap record, but Peterson ultimately claimed the Hawk Fastest Race Lap with a time of 2:16.581 (105.432 mph).
On lap nine, Wickersham was noticeably closing the gap to Peterson. Feeling the pressure, Peterson first dropped a wheel coming out of Canada Corner and then spun into the gravel trap at Turn 14, handing the lead to Wickersham.
“The last couple of turns, [Peterson] appeared to be getting loose, like the tires were going away,” Wickersham recalled. “When I saw him go off in Turn 14, I was pretty ecstatic.”
It took a lap for the GT2 rookie to regain his focus, but Wickersham held on and crossed the line with a 19.657-second victory over Goughary.
“It's great to be here and a relief to have it done and behind me,” smiled Wickersham who admitted he thought he only had a “second-place car.”
Goughary's race was the quietest of them all. Starting third in the No. 46 Hoosier Tire/Redline Oil Nissan 350Z, the four-time Runoffs Champion let the race come to him, inheriting the runner-up spot when Peterson spun on lap nine.
“I had a pretty good start and with things going on behind me, I wasn't really threatened from behind. I was just hoping that once I got my tires up to temperature, I could stick with these two guys [Peterson and Wickersham]. They definitely got up to temperature, but they [Peterson and Wickersham] were just a little bit quicker and inched out a bit every lap. By that time, the fourth-place car was far enough back that he wasn't a threat. I ended up just trying to hit my marks and not make any mistakes.
“Our car worked well. We qualified a second faster than last year's pole. I think we just weren't quite quick enough to pull off a win this year.”
Starting fourth, Boden made contact with the No. 55 Porsche GT3 Cup of Scott Tucker, from Overland Park, Kan., on the opening lap.
“It was cold weather and not having much heat in the tires,” Boden said of the Turn One contact. “I locked up the rears a little bit and I have to apologize to the 55 car for that. It was my error. I didn't have tire warmers and that makes it tough on days like this to get heat in them.”
The incident dropped Boden's No. 48 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup back to seventh, but only a few laps later, he capitalized on a pass gone bad between Tucker and Jeff Dernehl, of Woodstock, Ga., in Turn Five to advance from sixth-place to fourth. Boden's quick thinking in Turn Five earned him the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
“When Scott locked up his tires in Turn Five it gave me the opportunity to make up a few positions,” Boden said. “The first thing going through my mind was ‘I hope there's not oil there!' I just took a good position to the inside where I knew he wasn't going to come across the track or be in the way. I took advantage, got down to the apex and tried to get up the hill.
“I worked as hard as I could to track down Mr. Goughary, but he was running very well and I knew I was a ways back from the top positions.”
Boden crossed the line in third, 4.86 seconds behind Goughary.
David Finch, of Ann Arbor, Mich., finished fourth in the No. 66 Raetech Motorsports/DAF Consulting/Hoosier/Red Line Oil Porsche 944. Tom Patton, of Hamilton, Ohio, completed the top five in his No. 50 Tire Discounters/Red Line Oil/Hoosier Sunbeam Tiger.
The Sunoco Hard Charger Award went to Tim Gray, who advanced four positions (from 12th to eighth) in his No. 60 Ryan Companies US, Inc. Porsche GT3 Cup.
The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available through Sunday at www.SpeedcastTV.com/scca and later available on demand from the same site.
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Provisional Results from Friday's GT-2 National Championship Race with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (2), Tom Wickersham, San Ramon, CA, Porsche GT3 Cup, 13.
2, (3), Jim Goughary, Houston, TX, Nissan 350Z, 13.
3, (4), Mark Boden, Winnetka, IL, Porsche GT3 Cup, 13.
4, (6), David Finch, Ann Arbor, MI, Porsche 944, 13.
5, (8), Tom Patton, Hamilton, OH, Sunbeam Tiger, 13.
6, (9), Jeff Gainsborough, Houston, TX, Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, 13.
7, (10), James Burke, Suwanee, GA, Porsche GT3 Cup, 13.
8, (12), Tim Gray, Eden Prairie, MN, Porsche GT3 Cup, 13.
9, (11), Gus Rosenberg, Lebanon, PA, Porsche 911, 13.
10, (7), Jeff Dernehl, Woodstock, GA, Mazda RX-7, 9.
11, (1), Pete Peterson, Lumberton, NC, Toyota Celica, 8.
DNF, (5), Scott Tucker, Overland Park, KS, Porsche GT3 Cup, 5.
Overall Time of Race: 29:55.608
Average Race Speed: 104.254 mph
Margin of Victory: 19.657 seconds
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: 2:16.581
Fastest Race Lap Average Speed: 105.432 mph
Sunoco Hard Charger: #60 Tim Gray
Lap Leaders: #98 - laps 1-8, #0 - laps 9-13