The 2018 SCCA Runoffs are underway at Sonoma Raceway. Follow the action live by clicking here.
Here’s what’s happening:
Eddie Nakato’s long journey to the Runoffs
People travel from all over America to attend the SCCA Runoffs, but Eddie Nakato had a longer trip than most. Although he’s based fairly close to Sonoma in Portland, Oregon, Nakato had a chance to race in Europe just prior to the Runoffs, and he took it.
“We were running at Spa in Belgium in the Creventic 24 Hour Series,” he says. “We were in a class called Cup 1. All the cars in our class are BMW M235i racing cars. They’re spec race cars built by BMW. And even though they call it a 24 Hour series, the event at Spa was just a 12-hour race.”
The opportunity was too good to pass up, even though the race was the weekend before the Runoffs.
“It was my first time racing in Europe, and it was as much of an adventure as I ever expected it to be,” Nakato admits. “Unfortunately, about seven hours into the race, one of our drivers lost control at the top of Raidillon, which is the fast hill at the top after going down Eau Rouge, and he ended up hitting the wall hard enough that it ended our plans.”
That race was over, but Nakato’s journey was just getting started.
“I had my friends tow my car down to Sonoma on Sunday,” he recounts. “I got up at 4:30 in the morning and drove three and a half hours from Spa to Frankfurt, caught a plane to Seattle, and then flew to Sacramento and drove straight to the track. It was a 26-hour trip. My body still doesn’t know what time it is.”
Nakato is currently sitting in fifth position on grid for Sunday’s 8:30 a.m. Touring 3 race. His No. 28 AR Auto Service BMW 330Ci is a couple seconds off the leader’s pace, but he plans to conserve his tires and hopes to make a good show.
“We’re a little bit farther down the field than I’d like,” he says, “but my car’s really good on tires and some of the other cars are heavier, so we’re hoping to stay towards the front and be in position to be competitive at the end.”
Spec Miata drivers get a look at their new shock package
A new shock absorber package was announced for SCCA’s Spec Miata class in August, and drivers can drop by the tech trailer at the Runoffs and get a look at the new product. The new shocks are sealed, tamper-proof, and offer a substantial performance upgrade from the existing spec shock package for the class.
“It’s a non-adjustable Penske shock,” explains SCCA’s Manager of Technical Services Rick Harris. “It’s got spherical bearings top and bottom, and that’s a big help with how the car moves. It’s sealed and tamper-proof, but the shock is serviceable by Penske. They’ll give you a new shock body and bearing cap, along with new oil and shims as needed.”
One way the shocks will be kept equal is that they are individually identifiable.
“Each shock has got a serial number on it,” Harris explains. “We will have access to the database and we can see when it was sold, who it was sold to, and we’ll have the dyno graph for that particular shock. If we have a question we can put it on our shock dyno and match the dyno graph.”
The new shock package will be sold to Spec Miata competitors for $1,045 for a full set of four shocks, springs, and hats. Rebuild services from Penske will cost $100 per shock. The package will be available to SCCA and NASA drivers alike. The new package is optional for SCCA Majors racing in 2019, but will be required at the 2019 Runoffs and from the 2020 season onwards.
Gresham Wagner overcomes challenges, leads Touring 4 qualifying
Gresham Wagner of Williamsburg, Virginia has been racing since he was five years old. By age nine, he was karting on the national level and battling severe scoliosis as well.
“After I moved into senior karting at age 15, I had to get surgery for my scoliosis because it had gotten so bad,” Wagner says. “I did all the physical therapy for a year, until I thought I was at the point where I could try it again.”
Wagner got back into his kart, but it wasn’t the same.
“It hurt a lot but that wasn’t the main thing,” he says. “I couldn’t do the weight transfer at the level I wanted to. It didn’t work because I can’t bend my back at all. I figured that was it, so I sold all my stuff and went off to college. I didn’t think I would race again.”
With encouragement from his parents, Wagner tried racing cars in the Skip Barber series.
“My dad convinced me to do the Skip Barber school and give it one more try in cars,” Wagner says. “It wasn’t too painful and I was pretty good at it! This year is my first full year in cars. I did two events in Global MX-5 Cup and then raced to get here to the Runoffs.”
Wagner is currently leading the field in Touring 4 qualifying, besting veteran champions Don Knowles and John Heinricy in the class. Yet Wagner has enough experience to know that they don’t hand out the championship after the first qualifying session.
“It’s a pretty close race in the top 5,” Wagner says. “It’s hard to say what the next qualifying sessions will bring, but for the race my car is light and good on tires.”
You can follow Gresham Wagner’s No. 105 Sick Sideways/Mazda Motorsports/GreshamWagner.com Mazda Miata in the Touring 4/B-Spec race at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, October 20. Full coverage is accessible at SCCA.com.