Clay Russell made a 2,666-mile tow from his home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Sonoma Raceway. The drive home will be much, much easier with the Spec Racer Ford Gen3 winner’s trophy in the passenger’s seat.
Russell’s No. 31 Angry Llama/SVN/Comprent Motorsports Spec Racer Ford and Mike Miserendino’s No. 11 MBI Racing machine trailed the Trans Am 455 Super Duty, the Official Pace Car of the SCCA Runoffs, to the green flag before Miserendino immediately streamlined to the lead. Sliding away, the pair became the story of the race up front. When John Black spun his No. 17 machine on lap five, the national championship was all but down to just two true contenders.
The pair swapped the lead four official times at the stripe and several more unofficially during the 20-lap, caution-free race, weaving through traffic and setting up a final lap showdown. With Russell in the lead, both drivers were anticipating a move in one of two key passing zones on the 12-turn, 2.52-mile circuit – either Turn 7 or the final hairpin of Turn 12. Russell held off Miserendino in the first zone, leaving the five-time champion one last run down the hill.
Russell positioned his car cleanly, defensively and perfectly, leaving Miserendino with no choice but to brake late. The challenger locked up his tires and was forced to abort the attempt with just the slightest bit of inadvertent contact. With Miserendino crossed up, Russell drove the final few hundred yards to his first Runoffs podium and National Championship.
“Since Thursday, I’ve spent 24 hours a day trying to figure out to start on the inside or outside, and I chose wrong,” Russell said. “Mike took the lead right away, but the plan was really to put down some consistent lap times and drive smooth and I didn’t listen to myself.
“There was one point that (Miserendino) was in front of me going into Turn 10 and I dropped the left side of my car into the dirt and, honestly, I thought I was going to spin out. But I kept in it and drove through it.”
Russell became the first driver of the weekend to claim the SCCA Super Sweep award, which requires a Majors Conference Championship, Hoosier Super Tour point title, and a Runoffs win – all in the same class.
For the veteran Miserendino, a standard bearer in the class, the podium finish was the 10th of his career.
“Clay tore it up this year, and he’s been coming on strong,” Miserendino said. “It’s the Runoffs, people always rise to the occasion. I had a great week. You always want to win, always want to sit on the pole, and lead all the laps. But here I am, another podium, and that’s cool. It was an incredible race, and I’m happy for him.
“In Turn 11, I thought, ‘Well, I better try.’ As I was going in there, it was either take him out or do what I did (and spin). I was never going to take him out, that’s not the way I roll. We rubbed a little bit, but that’s racing to me. He came out on top.”
Battling just as hard about three seconds behind the leaders were three cars hoping to fill the podium. Bobby Sak, TJ Acker, and Scott Rettich were left to sort out the podium finish and, identical to the leaders, Rettich’s No. 8 Alliance Autosport/Red Line Oil machine found himself with one last corner to sneak by Sak.
Rettich spun, leaving the Sak’s No. 19 Elite Autosport/The Grotto/Pita Pit Spec Racer Ford a clear run for third.
“The car was OK, and I settled into fifth place for a while,” Sak said. “John Black spun in some liquid, and TJ (Acker) had to really check up and I was just able to shoot the gap between them. Scott Rettich was able to do the same thing. It was a really tough battle with Scott and TJ.
“I’m really happy with the podium. This is my worst finish of the year. Thirteen races, nine wins, three seconds and now this third. So it was a great season.”
Acker’s No. 62 MBI Racing Spec Racer Ford, locked in that battle with Sak and Rettich, finished fourth, while Rettich recovered for a fifth-place finish. Vince Balch improved eight places from the green flag to finish 18th and earn the Sunoco Hard Charger in the No. 72 Balch Garage Spec Racer.
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 at http://www.SCCA.com/live , as well as live timing and scoring for each National Championship race.
Provisional results with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (1), Robeson Clay Russell, Spartanburg, SC, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
2, (2), Mike Miserendino, Bakersfield, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
3, (5), Bobby Sak, Mattawan, MI, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
4, (4), Tordy Acker, Saugus, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
5, (7), Scott Rettich, Columbus, OH, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
6, (6), Perry Richardson, Los Gatos, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
7, (8), Whitney Strickland, League City, TX, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
8, (3), John Black, Olympic Valley, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
9, (13), Dustin Decker, Petaluma, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
10, (9), Steve Fogg, West Linn, OR, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
11, (12), Umberto Milletti, Hillsborough, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
12, (16), Brandon Lewis, San Francisco, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
13, (14), Mark Ballengee, Shafter, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
14, (11), Paul Marino, Chatsworth, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
15, (17), Bill Booth, Cupertino, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
16, (23), Robert Breton, San Francisco, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
17, (18), Michael Boyle, Santa Clara, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
18, (26), Vince Balch, San Diego, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
19, (10), Gregory Hoff, Oakland, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
20, (25), James Chartres, San Jose, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
21, (24), Andre Perra, Portland, OR, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
22, (21), John MacIntyre, San Jose, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 20.
23, (27), Court Cardinal, Carson City, NV, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
24, (32), Glenn Woloski, Garibaldi Highlands, BC, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
25, (31), Charles Pigeon, Abilene, TX, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
26, (33), Jim Tibor, Cortland, OH, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
27, (34), Jim Tibor Jr., Silver Plume, CO, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
28, (28), Yehia Eissa, Saratoga, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
29, (29), Rick Wright Jr., Eugene, OR, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 19.
30, (35), Timothy Gray, Minneapolis, MN, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 18.
31, (36), David De Bolt, Cumberland, IN, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 17.
32, (20), Thomas W Burt, Woodway, WA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 3.
33, (19), David Dickerson, Wall, NJ, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 3.
34, (15), Dave Ogburn III, San Angelo, TX, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 2.
35, (30), Tora Bonnier, New Albany, OH, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 1.
36, (22), Tom Miserendino, Los Angeles, CA, SCCA Spec Racer Ford 3, 0.
Length of Race: 50 Miles
Overall Time of Race: 35:57.052 (avg. 84.115 mph)
Margin of Victory: 00.931 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 1:47.053 (84.743 mph)
Lap Leaders: #11 laps 1, 3-6; #31 laps 2, 7-20
Sunoco Hard Charger: #72 Vince Balch