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.
When Formula Vee takes to Sonoma Raceway for its Runoffs championship race, we think home-field advantage will play a large role. While it’s hard to pick against Michael Varacins – a racer who time and time again shows he can get it done – we think he’ll be settling for second place this time around. So, who will be out front?
For the top step, we are looking to West Coast local (and Formula F standout) Skip Streets to make good use of the Formula Vee his wife bought him for Christmas. “When she found out the Runoffs was going to be at my home track, she thought I should have two chances at it,” says Streets. “We spent a lot of time waiting for one session a day last year, so she thought it would be a lot more fun if we had two cars. Out of the box the car has been great. I’m super excited about both races.”
The battle for the top step will be epic, and we expect the bronze medal position to be just as intense. Andrew Whitston showed he could hang up front at Indy in 2017, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Quinn Posner and Dennis Andrade challenging him for that spot.
Formula F is boasting a healthy field at this year’s Runoffs, with competitors coming from all across America. But chances are good that the top step on the podium will come from the West Coast. Rick Payne is fast, and we expect him to win it. But we don’t expect it to come easy. Another West Coaster, Skip Streets, will be in hot pursuit, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Tim Kautz jump in the fray.
In Formula 500, the name we hear as an almost sure thing is Jeff Jorgensen. “The only way he will lose is if he goes off track or breaks,” says 2017 Champ Wiley Clint McMahan. So, with McMahan sitting out this year and all signs indicating a smaller than usual F500 class, we don’t expect anyone to challenge his prediction.
“We did really well at the June [Sonoma Majors] race, probably one of the best races of my life,” Jorgensen says. “We don’t have a lot of F500s out here, we race with the FFs, and I was able to win overall.”
Russell Strate Jr. and John Walbran likely have the next two steps of the podium locked up, and we expect them to be battling hard for that silver medal.
Formula Continental is the Wild West this year. We expect Charles Moran and Robert Armington to be solidly in the hunt for the top step, but we also expect Mitch Enger to be nipping at their heels.
Rob Allaer, the 2014 champ and 2017 runner-up finisher, thinks West Coast racers will be well represented at the front of the pack. “They are very talented and very competitive,” Allaer says. “The advantage they have is that they are familiar with the track and each other. There is always a large number of FCs at the West Coast races….”
Last year, Mel Kemper snagged the gold after a race-long, back-and-forth tussle with Mike Anderson. Anderson came oh so close and this year intends to redress the balance. Kemper will, of course, try to make sure that he does not.
But Anderson acknowledges this won’t be a two-car battle. “Bryce Cornet, Jarrett Voorhies, and Mel will be fast there,” Anderson admits. “Bill Weaver should also be at the pointy end of the field.”
We agree, placing our bet on Anderson in the front exercising his 20 years of racing experience at Sonoma Raceway, followed closely by Kemper, Cornet, and Voorhies.
J.R. Osborne has been on a run, rolling up the wins this year. That should continue, especially since he has already won at Sonoma Raceway, breaking the track record by 2.7sec and has test days scheduled in August.
“The track is very technical, physical, and demanding, where the driver can make the difference,” he says. “I think that … Gary Hickman, Randy Cook, and Kevin Roggenbuck will be my opposition.”
Our pick to win is Spencer Brockman, but it might not be easy. Of the fast West Coast racers who will be there to challenge, we expect Jay Horak to be unrelenting. But really, this class is anyone’s guess this year.
Formula Enterprises & FE2
Formula Enterprises has divided into two classes this year with the advent of a new engine package. Cars equipped with the new Mazda 2.0L engine are designated FE2, while those running the older 2.3L engine are still FE. The FE and FE2 classes will qualify together and race together, so drivers must choose one or the other.
“There will be many drivers who can win in FE and FE2,” says six-time FE Champion Scott Rettich.
Drivers to look out for regardless of class are Quinten Nelson, Paul Schneider, Liam Snyder, Mark Snyder, Jim Devenport, Brandon Aleckson, and Flinn Lazier. Our pick to win Formula Enterprises should be no surprise: Aleckson. Our pick to win FE2, however, slightly bucks convention.
Rettich will be competing in FE2, and it’s silly to bet against him – but this year we are. Our prediction is that two-time Runoffs Champion Jim Devenport will beat Rettich to the FE2 checkered flag. And we can’t wait to see the chase.
–Jason Isley, Tom Schultz and Jeff Zurschmeide