As the old racing proverb says, “to finish first, you must first finish.” Rod Rice, of Austin, Texas, proved the old adage on Sunday in Formula 1000, the last race of the 55th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Sonoma Raceway.
And getting to the finish of the 20-lap race would prove to be more difficult than it sounds.
JR Osborne started from the Tire Rack pole in the No. 83 Geartronics/WesTrack Motor Racing Ralph Firman RFR F1000 Kawasaki, pulling away to a 12-second lead before a full-course yellow erased the gap on lap four. Shortly after being led back to the green flag to start lap eight by the Official Pace Car of the SCCA Runoffs, the Trans Am 455 Super Duty, Osborne pulled into pit lane and out of the race.
That handed the lead to Rice, whose race had already been eventful. Though Rice pulled his Kawasaki-powered No. 44 Stohr F1000 off the grid in third position, he spun warming up his tires and took the green flag from the back of the field. He spun again in Turn 2 on the opening lap when he was contacted by a competitor, but worked through the field to inherit the lead after Osborne’s misfortune.
When a second full-course caution slowed the field on lap 13, Rice again made a mistake and spun for the third time, handing the lead to Gary Hickman in his No. 76 Edge Engineering Phoenix F1K.12 Suzuki.
Hickman held the lead through the second restart on lap 15 and across the stripe at speed, but Rice’s streaking red machine went back by on lap 16 and kept Hickman at bay until the checkered flag.
“If it wasn’t for the yellows, I would have never caught up,” Rice said. “I got really fortunate because Gary got caught behind some Atlantics (in the combined class race). If he didn’t get stuck behind the Atlantics, there’s no way I would have been able to catch him.
“It was a very close race, and I got very lucky and very fortunate.”
Hickman earned his second consecutive runner-up finish, and then announced that it was his last career race.
“I’ve started over 300 SCCA races in 40 years, so I’m no beginner to this sport,” Hickman said. “My Runoffs tries – which started way back in 1989 – ended with two back-to-back second places and a pole at Indy. I feel good about that. Honestly, I really don’t feel bad finishing behind Rod. I would have liked to have won, but it was a rough week. I lost my buddy Chico a week ago, so it was a tough week.”
James Michael completed the podium in the No. 37 Berlousche Engineering Stohr F1000/Suzuki, earning the Sunoco Hard Charger after starting seventh.
“I feel fantastic,” Michael said. “I just tried to run a good, clean race. I was still struggling with this track, it’s a tough one. I just kept my nose clean and tried not to make any mistakes. I wasn’t expecting this, but I’m so happy.”
The 55th SCCA National Championship Runoffs crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at Sonoma Raceway in California Friday, Oct. 19 through Sunday, Oct 21.
Live, online video coverage of Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition at SCCA.com/live. An audio race call, supplied by the Super Tour Radio broadcast team, is also available, as well as live timing and scoring for each National Championship race.
Provisional results for Sunday’s Fomula 1000 race at the 55th SCCA National Championship Runoffs from Sonoma Raceway, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (3), Rod Rice, Austin, TX, Stohr F1000 Kawasaki, 20.
2, (4), Gary Hickman, Santee, CA, Phoenix F1K.12 Suzuki, 20.
3, (7), James Michael, Fort Worth, TX, Stohr F1000 Suzuki, 19.
4, (6), Mark Nixon, Oro Valley, AZ, Stohr F1000 Kawasaki, 17.
5, (2), Randy Cook, Palo Alto, CA, JDR F1000 Suzuki, 9.
6, (1), J R Osborne, Greenwood Village, CO, Ralph Firman RFR F1000 Kawasaki, 7.
7, (5), Kevin Roggenbuck, Woodinville, WA, Ralph Firman RFR F1000 Kawasaki, 1.
Length of Race: 50 Miles
Overall Time of Race: 35:30.011 (avg. 85.183 mph)
Margin of Victory: 00.406 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 1:31.189 (99.486 mph)
Lap Leaders: #83 laps 1-7; #44 laps 8-12, 17-20; #76 laps 13-16
Sunoco Hard Charger: #37 James Michael