Sonoma Raceway in Northern California is steeped with racing history, all of which started with an SCCA enduro on Dec. 1, 1968. And this year, from Oct. 16-21, the facility will continue the tradition when it plays host to the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
As is the case every year, our crack team of prognosticators took up the task of trying to predict who might win this year’s Runoffs. So, who will stand on the podium on race weekend? Honestly, we haven’t the faintest idea, but that has never stopped us from guessing. Sometimes we even strike gold with our predictions.
So keep checking RACER throughout the week as we present our predictions for who will win in each of SCCA’s 28 national racing classes.
Super Touring Lite
Super Touring Lite has played host to a friendly rivalry between the Honda and Mazda drivers for years, and that shows no signs of diminishing this year.
“[Sonoma Raceway] ought to play into a Mazda style of chassis,” racer Danny Steyn believes, “and the Hondas have recently had a restrictor plate size decrease, so their performance might not be exactly what it was.”
For those reasons, plus the fact that Steyn was super quick last year but ended his STL race early with a bout of bad luck, he’s our pick to win STL this year.
“I’m 60 years old and competing against guys who are 18,” Steyn says with a laugh. “But I think my driving style is built for this track. It’s just one of those things where you’re always working it, trying to finesse a little bit more grip out of the car and not overdo it and not destroy the tires. I’m optimistic about my ability to drive well at this track.”
Asked who he thinks will be filling his mirrors, Steyn knows exactly what the landscape looks like — and he knows it’s full of friends. “I want to emphasize that we’re all good friends in this game,” he says. “There’s a lot of people who make way too much of the rivalry. It’s a friendly rivalry.”
Super Touring Under
When Kevin Boehm belts into his car for the first qualifying session of the Runoffs, it will be his first lap at Sonoma Raceway. Yet we have confidence that when the checkered flag falls on Saturday morning, Boehm will be the STU champion.
“I’m looking forward to the race for sure,” Boehm says. “I’m going to have to learn the track pretty quick! I’ve put a ton of time into my car since Indy to try to make it as fast as possible and reliable this year, so I feel really good about that.”
As with many classes, Boehm doesn’t know who will be making the trip to Sonoma, but he has a general plan. “It’s hard to say who’s going to be fast, so I’m planning to be ready for everyone,” he says. “I’m taking everybody seriously, and that’s just what I’ve been doing the whole season to prepare for the Runoffs.”
Among the drivers waiting for Boehm at Sonoma will be San Francisco Region’s Andrie Hartanto. “It seems to me the competition is tough,” Hartanto says. “Kevin Boehm looks to be a strong contender, and Sonoma is a great track. I love the elevation changes, blind turns, and interconnecting turns. You basically never have your steering [wheel] straight. I think the chips will just fall where they fall.”
Other STU drivers we wouldn’t count out for a podium finish are Kevin Koelemeyer, Nathan Pope, Rylan Hazelton, Ian Barberi, and Max Gee.
American Sedan will have a battle at Sonoma, as both 13-time champion John Heinricy and eight-time champion Andy McDermid have both declared their intention to race. Heinricy finished second last year at Indy with a gap of just 0.359 seconds, so he’s certainly looking for a 14th notch in his belt this year. McDermid, meanwhile, is looking for a better result than last year, when he utterly wrecked his car in the first qualifying session and undertook a heroic rebuild through Runoffs week, barely making it back for the race.
What’s uncertain is how many other leading American Sedan drivers will make the trip to Sonoma. Defending champion Brian Long could show up, and we know last year’s fourth-place contender Daniel Richardson plans on being there, and both are fast. Two-time champion and last year’s third-place finisher Kevin Fandozzi could also make a credible run for the front — one so credible that we think he’ll finish on the podium.
“Looking at the possible field, it’s more about who’s going to drive that far,” McDermid surmises. “John Heinricy will be there and I’m hoping Beth and Amy Aquilante come too. I think Jim Wheeler, the Aquilantes, and John Heinricy are the top contenders.”
The B-Spec race is open for new contenders because the race we’re used to seeing up front won’t be repeated this year — John Heinricy is focusing his attention on American Sedan exclusively this year, and last year’s B-Spec winner David Daughtery has decided not to make the trip to Sonoma. But when asked to pick a class winner, Daughtery has to scratch his head. “It is really tough to say, but it should be interesting,” Daughtery says.
With the class wide open for a new winner, our pick is Jake Pipal, a young contender based in the San Francisco Region. Pipal won both Majors races at Sonoma Raceway this year, so he’s got the speed and clearly knows the track. But close on his bumper was Robert Rodriguez Jr., also a San Francisco Region member, and John Philips, towing in from Texas. Philips finished third at last year’s Runoffs, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be his year.
“I brought my secondary car for the Majors and it did not go very well,” Philips admits of the June Sonoma Majors. “But I learned a lot about the track and the local competitors. I don’t think there is just one person who’s a standout. I have done well in the east and central areas and Jake has done well on the West Coast. Good luck with [picking] this one!”