The Sports Car Club of America National Championship Runoffs is the winner-take-all title fight for SCCA Road Racing glory. For 2019, this on-track battle has wound its way to the northeast, where it will pit racers against one of the best racetracks around: VIRginia International Raceway. Who will rise to the top and claim Runoffs gold? We’ll find out for sure when the green flags fly on Oct. 11-13; for now, though, all we can do is guess. As it turns out, guessing is a specialty here at SportsCar magazine – and we will be sharing those guesses with you here throughout the week.
In Part 1 of Who Will Win the Runoffs we took a look at the ultra-competitive Spec Miata class, now we move on to the thundering machines of the Grand Touring category.
Oh, and pro tip: Log on to scca.com/runoffs on Oct. 11-13 for live timing, plus a video stream of all the racing action as it happens!
Tony Ave enters the GT-1 race as our pick to win. The 2007 GT-1 Runoffs champion has had a solid SCCA Road Racing season, and he won one day at the VIR Hoosier Super Tour, so it looks likely he’ll collect another Runoffs gold medal. That said, it won’t be easy. You see, Ernie Francis Jr. (who hold numerous Trans am titles) is looking for his first SCCA National Championship. Also, while Mike Lewis is the defending GT-1 champion and could end up on the podium, we think he’s going to have his hands full dealing with David Pintaric, and we feel Pintaric will have the advantage.
“Obviously Ernie is going to be super tough, and Mike Lewis and David Pintaric are really fast,” Ave says. “It might depend on what tires everyone is on.”
If it’s going to come down to tools like tires, it may also come down to equipment. To that end, Ave, Francis, and Pintaric all have cars built to Trans Am specs, while the GT-1 Jaguar that Lewis drives has less motor but handles the twists better. Our thought is that the straights at VIR are mighty long, so the nod goes to the Trans Am cars – but we also wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis claims his 10th Runoffs gold.
This year’s GT-2 race should be another barnburner as we expect to see Andrew Aquilante in a production-based Corvette battle head-to-head against the tube-frame Nissan 300ZX driven by Kevin Allen.
“I would mark Kevin as the favorite, to be quite honest,” the eight-time Runoffs Champ Aquilante admits. “With everything they’ve done with that car, they’ve gotten it reliable and they’ve gotten new tires for it. It’s a strong package.”
That package led to some great battles at VIR for the Super Tour in April, albeit with Aquilante in a Mustang. Andrew believes the Corvette will be better at VIR, but also that Allen’s car has gotten better as the year has progressed – bringing us back to square one.
Though Aquilante and Allen are deservedly getting plenty of attention, this is a deep race. Aquilante expects the Porsche 991 cars to be strong, bringing Mark Boden, and Tim Kezman into the mix. Scott Rettich (usually a Formula Atlantic racer), in a TA2 Camaro, could be a wildcard in this battle.
It’s anyone’s race in GT-2, but we’re predicting Aquilante, Allen, and Kezman on the podium when the dust settles.
Just like in GT-1, we’re predicting Tony Ave for the win, this time in GT-3. Ave will be behind the wheel of Joe Kristensen’s “old” Acura, as Kristensen has spent 2019 developing a new Honda Civic. Ave has his eye on a group of competitors, all with one thing in common – the engine.
“Jeff Dernehl will be tough, Stacy Wilson should be tough, my buddy Rob Warcocki is going to be fast,” Ave tells us, adding, “Anyone in a good Mazda has a chance.
“It might be the race to watch of the weekend,” Ave concludes. “I wish I could say I’d run away with it, but there’s no way.”
Would anyone in their right mind bet against Peter Shadowen or Joe Huffaker for the GT-Lite race? Shadowen has two Runoffs championships and Huffaker has a total of 10. That is to say, both know how to win, and we expect them to be wheel-to-wheel for the duration of the GT-L race.
According to Shadowen, both Ryan Kristoff and Troy Ermish (last year’s GT-L champion) are fast and will be in the hunt for a podium finish, if not a win. One other competitor to consider is Wilson Wright Jr., who has three GT-4 championships and won in the same car he’s bringing this year.
Even with the other competitors in the mix, the toughest challenge that Shadowen and Huffaker will face is probably themselves. Both are entered in two different classes, which is always a difficult task. Huffaker will compete in FP in the same Midget, which means he will be making changes to fit the class rules throughout the week. Shadowen, meanwhile, will split his weekend between GT-L and P2, a new class for him, driving a West WX10. It is likely that both are relieved that the GT-Lite race is on Saturday afternoon and their other races are not until Sunday morning.