Every SCCA National Championship Runoffs event is historic in its own way, but this year marks the SCCA’s return to one of the tracks that started the event (BELOW, Mark Weber photo). The first Runoffs were held at Riverside International Raceway in 1964, and the second event was held at Daytona International Speedway in 1965. SCCA alternated between the two tracks until 1969, and then moved the Runoffs to Atlanta for the next 24 years.
Among drivers at this year’s Runoffs, only Jim Downing (LEFT) was a participant at the first Runoffs in 1964, driving a Formula Vee. Downing will compete in this year’s races in a Mazda-powered prototype sports racer.
An entire generation of drivers will face each other on this track for the first time this week. Because the Runoffs are the only point in the SCCA calendar where all divisions and regions of the SCCA come together, many of this year’s drivers will never have raced together before.
Qualifying begins today, and the challenges ahead of each driver include navigating Daytona’s long high-banked curves and straights, and managing the tight road course in the track’s huge infield. The advantage will go to drivers who can effectively draft on the speedway, and race hard in the road course sections.
We’ll follow Runoffs qualifying through Thursday of this week, and then through the races on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Runoffs by the numbers
This year’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Garmin VIRB features 591 entries, 55 qualifying sessions, and 27 race groups. The logistics behind an event of this magnitude require a small army of supporting staff and businesses.
Over the course of the week, the average driver will bring three crew members to the event, use at least two sets of tires, and burn several dozen gallons of gasoline. Add to that number several hundred SCCA and track officials, and the businesses that arrive to supply everything from brake pads to engine dyno services and you have a mid-size town that springs up for a week.
Sunoco is the official fuel of the Runoffs, and all drivers are required to run the chemically-marked fuel for sale at the track. Approximately 24,000 gallons of fuel have been made up for delivery to the track, and the Sunoco dealer expects to sell virtually all of that fuel by Sunday.
Spectators who are not SCCA members can purchase admission for any of the four qualifying days for $10. The price of a single race-day ticket is $20, while an all-event pass is $40. Each of these tickets grant general admission access to the event, which are good for admission to spectator viewing areas and other cold pass access areas.
How to earn a Runoffs Invitation
Each of the 591 entries to the 2015 SCCA Runoffs Presented by Garmin VIRB had to earn his or her chance for the championship by competing successfully with other SCCA drivers. As SCCA transitions from the old National/Divisional structure to the new Conference Majors structure, the process of qualifying for the Runoffs is changing.
The quickest way to a Runoffs invitation is to win the championship. All champions are automatically invited to defend their titles the following year.
But for other hopeful racers, there were two ways to get to Daytona this year. The first is through SCCA’s relatively new Majors program. All geographic Conferences (Western, Mid-States, Southeast, Northeast, and North) run events under virtually identical formats. A driver must compete in at least three Majors events in the same class and finish in the top 10 in one of the Conferences.
Alternatively, a driver may compete in one of the older geographic divisions, completing at least four Divisional races and finishing in the top 3 (top 5 for Spec Miata and Spec Racer Ford) in their divisional championship for the year.
Limiting entries to proven competitive drivers is one way the SCCA keeps the size of the Runoffs under control and keeps the level of competition high.