During the week of Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2017, the Sports Car Club of America hosted its annual National Championship Runoffs – the ultimate winner-take-all road race that has, over the last half century, attracted such racers as Bobby and Graham Rahal, Mark Donohue and Chip Ganassi. The truth is, though, the Runoffs races draw more than Newmans and Andrettis (by the way, Adam Andretti competed in GT2 this year, finishing on the podium) – the Runoffs mega-event brings weekend warrior racers who give those in line for the pro ranks a run for their money. This year, nearly 1,000 such drivers descended on Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the SCCA Runoffs to run a completely unique infield course configuration, and from what I saw, everyone left with a smile.
This year was, by far, the largest SCCA Runoffs in the event’s 54-year history – the second-largest Runoffs having logged 709 entries in 2004 at Mid-Ohio. But the breathtaking experience of seeing nearly 1,000 club racers compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is only half the story, especially considering that nearly 600 workers volunteered their time to host the event – that number is arguably more impressive than the driver count.
On the track, Spec Miata and Spec Racer Ford Gen3 attracted the most competitors, both classes well exceeding the 72-car maximum allowed on track during the races. Making Runoffs history once more, both of those classes saw last chance qualifying races on Thursday, Sept. 28, for everyone qualified 61st and back, with the top 12 finishers in the LCQ races making the big show later that weekend.
SportsCar magazine, SCCA’s official publication (and sister publication to RACER and RACER.com), covers the Runoffs extensively – and that alone is a big job. The magazine brings more than a dozen writers and photographers to cover the 28 races, the results of their work appearing in the December issue of SportsCar, due to hit mailboxes in mid November.
Beyond the magazine, SportsCar‘s staff was also on hand generating content for RACER.com. In all, they posted 57 Runoffs stories on RACER.com during the Runoffs and the week prior, covering everything from on-track action to driver profiles to what goes on behind the scenes. Even Robin Miller got in on the action, interviewing a variety of notables from manufacturer bigwigs to key race winners.
As an interesting side note, the company that produces SportsCar, RACER and RACER.com has now covered the last 34 Runoffs – although this year certainly saw an increased level of commitment.
Next year, the Runoffs championship event heads to Sonoma Raceway in Northern California. It isn’t controversial to say that the competitor count for the 2018 Runoffs will not hit 2017 Indy numbers, but it will certainly draw a significant and talented crowd. In 2014, the last time the Runoffs traveled to the West Coast, 517 competitors made the journey to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, many of who were past Runoffs winners, and there’s every reason to believe the turnout at Sonoma will be just as impressive.
And finally of note is that SportsCar Associate Editor and RACER and RACER.com contributor Jason Isley (pictured above with Robin Miller) raced his H Production RACER.com/Hoosier/TRD Toyota Yaris at the Runoffs for the eighth time, claiming victory this year in dominating fashion with an 8.3sec margin of victory. This marks Jason’s fifth visit to the Runoffs podium and his first Runoffs national championship.
It’s also notable that the SportsCar staff now owns two Runoffs national championships, the other being earned by me in 2015 in Touring 4 at Daytona International Speedway. It seems the SportsCar staff is exceptionally good at rovals!