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.
RACER presents our predictions for who will win in each of SCCA’s 28 national racing classes.
Spec Racer Ford 3
“Mike Miserendino is going to win and there’s not a damn thing the rest of us can do about it,” declares 2016 SRF champion Todd Harris. That statement might make Miserendino laugh, but he doesn’t deny it either.
“This year it will just be run hard and hope for the best,” says Miserendino, a five-time SRF champion. “I think Sonoma is a great Runoffs track. It is technical and has a nice mix of high-speed and low-speed turns, so car setup is very critical. It is a real challenge to get right, so it’s the perfect type of track for a winner-take-all championship event.”
Last year at Indy, Miserendino earned the final SRF championship and finished second to Tray Ayres in SRF3. This year, we think he’s going to win SRF3 in spectacular fashion – by a mile or by an inch, it’ll be spectacular. But it won’t necessarily be a cruise to the checker, as the fast end of the SRF3 grid is a who’s-who of past champions and serious contenders.
Miserendino anticipates a number of tough competitors this year, including John Black. “John and I have battled all year at a few different tracks,” says Miserendino. “My MBI teammates T.J. Acker and Steve Fogg ran second and fourth, respectively, at the Sonoma Majors [in June]. I know Bobby Sak, Scott Rettich, and Clay Russell are making the trip. Clay has been tearing up the super strong Southeast this year.”
Black has been working to keep up with Miserendino, and four-time champion Black might be the only driver who can do that.
“In our last race, I thought I’d be at least somewhat decent, [but] Miserendino was so far above everybody else that it was almost a joke,” Black says. “So I went back a week later and I put some new shocks on my car and did some alignment stuff and got myself into the same times he was doing.”
The man to beat is Jim Devenport in his Honda-powered Norma. This is one car that has shown it can beat the center seat Stohrs, and it promises to do so again.
Devenport is quick to explain a Sonoma Raceway circuit he’s very familiar with.
“Sonoma is a very demanding technical track that also takes a fair amount of courage and bravery to go fast around it as the run from Turn 7 down to Turn 11 is quite thrilling. In a perfectly set-up P1 car, the throttle is flat to the floor all the way through that section,” he says. “The best passing areas are the two monster brake zones that lead into and end that same section of track, one at Turn 7 and the other at Turn 11.”
Who is his main competition? Devenport believes he has a good idea.
“Todd Slusher, in his Elan DP-02, and I had a really good battle at the Sonoma Majors race weekend with me barely hanging on for the win in Race 2. Todd hit some debris on track in race one while leading that took him out with a punctured radiator; so I got an easy win in that one. [But] our qualifying times were within a tenth of each other, so I would say he is the toughest competition.
“Another driver who has been running well this year is Darryl Shoff, also in an Elan DP-02 — in fact, he has the most highly developed DP-02 in the country,” Devenport continues. “The key for Darryl is whether or not he can learn the track quickly enough as he hasn’t run here before to my knowledge.”
We think Chip Romer might figure into the results as well, and last year’s runner-up Tim Day Jr. is itching for the top step.
Jeff Shafer has won the past two years in P2 and we think he’ll make it three in a row. As before, he is playing with two cars, a Stohr and a Radical, and will choose the best horse for the course. He is from California and has good knowledge of the track, which will serve him well.
Tim Day Jr. finished second at last year’s Runoffs and could be Shafer’s toughest foe. Regardless, a West Coast driver to watch is David Ferguson who, while driving a rather elderly converted Van Diemen S-2000, has made it go very fast with a proper Mazda engine in it.
Greg Gyann will also figure into the equation. Others to watch in what will be a large field include Sherman Chao and dark horse Armin Megregian, who is driving a Ligier JS-51 two-seater.
–Jeff Zurschmeide and Tom Schultz