On Sept. 3-6, 2019, some 1,300 competitors will gather in Lincoln, Neb., for the ultimate autocross showdown: the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships. Each year SportsCar magazine’s crack team of prognosticators take shots in the dark in a futile attempt to predict who will win this storied event.
After previewing the Prepared classes we move to the machines of the Modified category, which span from home-built specials with massive wings, to formula cars that look racetrack ready, and high revving shifter karts – all of which are among the quickest of autocross vehicles.
A Modified epitomizes the “we don’t see them during the year” and the “we don’t know if they are going to make the trip in September” situations. Given that, we are going to let this one be a surprise.
B Modified is a lot like A Modified. We have not seen them much this year, but the Ellams are just too quick not to pick. Tom Ellam will be chasing son Matt Ellam. Zach Moore was quick at Spring Nationals, and Brad Fish could make us wrong.
C Modified at least gives us a list of names to choose from, and we don’t get to see them running head-to-head much except when it really matters. Eric Clements and new co-driver Anthony Porta will certainly contend. Ben Martinez will be trying to make it two wins in a row. Barry Ott and co-driver David Fauth are always a serious threat. Greg Maloy and last year’s runner-up Brandon Lavender will also be in the mix. CML should have a class, and Sue Eckles is fast in anything she drives. Krystal Lavendar has wins to her name, so don’t inscribe the trophies just yet.
D Modified has several fast drivers to watch. Brian Garfield has a super-secret Stalker project he will be driving with Shane Chinnon-Rhoden. Jeremy and Jeff Ellerby, Chris Kunkel, and Bob Tunnell in the ex-Cashmore car are all capable. But our money is on Mark Huffman with a strong new motor. We’ll hope Patty Tunnell has a DML class to run against.
Jason Minehart and Mark Sawatsky have been chasing the E Modified championship for years. Jeff Kiesel just keeps tweaking his KFR Sprite, and we don’t expect to ever see a repeat of last year’s perfect storm that ended his streak of 11 wins. There’s a chance that Bob Tunnell will install a bigger engine in his car and try EM, but with no development time, we don’t think it’s time to pick against Kiesel just yet, even if we were sure about the change. EML continues the Kiesel tradition: Shawn Kiesel should make it 10 in a row.
We get to say Kiesel again for F Modified, as Zak Kiesel has not let college interfere with being fast. Jason Hobbs has been in second place a lot recently, and that seems likely to continue in September. Andie Albin took the championship in FML last year and we see no reason why she can’t repeat.
Kart Modified had a long streak of Paul Russell wins, but Larry MacLeod seems to have taken over. He’s had a great year, wet or dry, so we expect him to make it two in a row. Dan Wendel and Tom Harrington may make the top three a repeat. And, for Kart Mod Ladies, we have to pick the ever-quick Dana Gill in KML. But if Kate Regannie shows up, this will be a race.
And don’t miss the Solo National Championship action as it happens via SCCA’s live timing and scoring plus video streams, both of which can be found here.
This content appeared in the September 2019 issue of SportsCar magazine.