We accomplished our dream goal of winning the NASA national championship in SU and now the SCCA Runoffs national championship in P1 with the same car in the same year. The Runoffs battle was hard fought and included a whole cast of racers vying to beat us and prove Sports Car magazine wrong in picking us to win.
The initial main challenger was (as predicted), Todd Slusher, who raced me hard earlier this year at the Sonoma Majors race. In the very first qualifying session, Todd and I ran the three fastest laps of the entire event with only 54/1000’s of a second between us on our best lap—1:27.714 vs. 1:27.768, respectively—but I had another one at 1:27.902 which turned out to be a telling sign as our consistency in running hot laps was better than the competition come race day. As it turned out neither of us nor anyone else would ever duplicate these times again in Q2 or Q3 as the track was extra special that Tuesday morning in Q1. So Todd was on pole with me lined up next to him in 2nd for the race start. See my fastest two laps in Q1 here.
Sunday morning on race day turned out to be the coolest (about 50 degrees) and most overcast day of the week and the track was stone cold exiting the grid. Immediately, I could tell getting heat into the tires to achieve ultimate grip would take some time. I scrubbed the tires aggressively on the out lap and did about 20 burnouts trying to get the tires to come in as best I could. Check it out here.
The race start was clean and I got shuffled back to 4th as tire choices came very much into play. Some tires respond better than others to cold conditions and come up to full grip quicker but then may fall off near the end. Our Avon tires take longer to reach their optimum grip but then retain that peak ability better than other brands. Still, I didn’t quite plan on being 4th, but then suddenly at the start of lap 2, Todd Slusher lost control and spun immediately ahead of me. Fortunately, we missed hitting him but lost almost 4 more seconds to the new leader, Perry Richardson, due to having to slow way down. But first we had to chase down the 2nd place car driven by Parker Nicklin. Check out the wheel-to-wheel action for 2nd here.
After clearing Parker, Jason told me on the radio the leader had an 8 second lead and I just needed to dig deep and go for it. Immediately, we started closing on the leader at about 1 second per lap and after several laps the leader finally came back into our view after initially being so far ahead I couldn’t even see him. Once you can see the other car, it makes it a whole lot easier to continue to make up ground. Finally on lap 18, with just 2 more laps to go, I caught and passed Perry and then hung on for the win. See the winning pass here.
This victory was made all the sweeter after dominating all the sessions at the Indy Runoffs last year but failing to win the race and then getting penalized for our fast times with a loss of horsepower and added weight to try and slow us down this year. To win at our home track in front of friends, family, and Team Cranbrook folks was really special. Having to come back from 4th to 1st under green flag conditions felt like total vindication that we could really perform under pressure when the national championship was on the line. By most accounts, the P1 race was the best one of the entire event.
We also competed at the Runoffs in FE2. We qualified 5th and ended up finishing 6th after running most of the race in 4th. I had a really good battle with Paul Schneider that he eventually won by overtaking me for 4th. In my effort to try and get back around Paul after he passed me, I spun and lost another place. Next year, this spec car gets a new tire to replace the miserable one we had to race on this year.
Finally, I have to thank Jason Hohmann, owner of Bulldog Motorsport LLC, and Chris Garcia, his lead mechanic, for preparing both of my cars in such magnificent fashion. Bulldog has gained quite the reputation for having its cars be reliable and at the front of the pack. My stable mate, Tim Day Jr., also won the P2 title in a Bulldog prepared car. This is truly a team sport and Bulldog’s meticulous efforts play a BIG part in our successes.
Here’s a link to the official SCCA press release on the P1 victory:
Here’s a link to the excellent race day live stream footage: