Nick Leverone, of Mednon, Massachusetts, opened the 56th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at VIRginia International Raceway on Friday with a Touring 4 (T4) victory, the first of his career. Tyler Quance, of Cypress, Texas, and Stephen Blethen, of Allanstown, New Hampshire, completed the podium.
Leverone started second and watched 15-time and class defending National Champion John Heinricy take an early lead, but by lap eight of the 15-lap race had closed to the back of last year’s winner. On lap 10, Leverone and Heinricy were side by side for the lead through turns two through five, but it took a run down VIR’s long back straight and into Turn 14 before Leverone claimed the lead.
Once in front, Leverone’s No. 186 Flatout Motorsports Inc Subaru BRZ began to pull away. He completed the 15 laps in 33:05.327, averaging 88.943 mph around the 3.27-mile circuit and setting a new track record with the race’s fastest lap in 2:10.959 (89.891 mph).
The win was the first Runoffs podium for Leverone in 11 starts.
“It feels unbelievable,” Leverone said. “I was in the car on the last lap and I was choking up because I couldn’t believe I was going to win the National Championship. It’s just great. The field this weekend in T4, how much closer could it get? This class is unbelievable. There were 10 of us, all within a second.”
Quance started ninth in the field of 25 but began a steady climb toward the front in his No. 68 Drake Motorsports/Miata Graveyard Mazda MX-5 almost immediately. He picked up three positions on the opening lap, and was into fourth by lap six. His final two positions came on the same lap, clearing Blethen in the battle for third and shooting around Heinricy, who had begun to slow on track with mechanical issues in his Tire Rack polesitting No. 35 Toyota 86.
Alone in second but several car lengths back to Leverone, Quance crossed the finish line second in his first Runoffs appearance.
“I had an odd number starting position, so I was on the inside,” Quance said. “I tried to capitalize on the position I was in and be aggressive to stick with the top guys as best I could. After that I tried to run consistent laps and take advantage of opportunities and close the gaps. It feels awesome. I didn’t expect to be here, especially qualifying ninth.”
Blethen was right behind Leverone early, but a broken sway bar slowed his pace through the corners. That struggle slowed his No. 50 RST Performance/KONI/Precision Mazda RX-8’s lap time by at least a full second per lap, leaving him a sitting duck as Quance came marching through. Heinricy’s concurrent issues gave him a second chance, and he capitalized for a third-place finish.
“I’m super pumped to be here,” Blethen said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here with a top notch T4 field. During the race, I was right with the top guys and I was doing a little lifting because I wanted to work with Nick. I’m New England proud, and I wanted us two to be on the podium. Then I broke a sway bar and it all went out the window. With two laps to the end, I thought I had a third. But John picked it back up and passed me where I didn’t think he would. We had a fight, it was awesome.”
Owen Schefer moved into fourth on the final lap, while Heinricy hung on for fifth place. Brent Simonson earned the Sunoco Hard Charger, improving 11 positions from 17th on the grid to sixth at the finish.
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 presented by Hoosier Racing Tire broadcast team, is also available at http://www.SCCA.com/live, as well as live timing and scoring for each National Championship race.
rovisional results for Friday’s Touring 4 race at the 56th SCCA National Championship Runoffs from VIRginia International Raceway, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (2), Nick Leverone, Mendon, MA, Subaru BRZ, 15.
2, (9), Tyler Quance, Cypress, TX, Mazda MX-5, 15.
3, (3), Stephen Blethen, Allanstown, NH, Mazda RX-8, 15.
4, (4), Owen Schefer, Warrenton, VA, Mazda RX-8, 15.
5, (1), John Heinricy, Clarkston, MI, Toyota 86, 15.
6, (17), Brent Simonson, Millersville, MD, Mazda RX-8, 15.
7, (7), Raymond Blethen, Londonderry, NH, Mazda RX-8, 15.
8, (12), Kevin Fryer, Bloomington, IL, Mazda MX-5, 15.
9, (10), Steve Bertok, Lexington, SC, Mazda MX-5, 15.
10, (6), Tommy Boileau, Colorado Springs, CO, Acura RSX Type-S, 15.
11, (14), Felix Borodaty, Hallandale Beach, FL, Toyota 86, 15.
12, (16), Brian Nelson, Broadway, NC, Mazda MX-5, 15.
13, (13), Bryan Horowitz, Miami, FL, Scion FR-S, 15.
14, (20), Ron Munnerlyn, Bennettsville, SC, Mazda MX-5, 15.
15, (22), Tim Mullen, Boston, MA, Mazda RX-8, 15.
16, (18), Derrick Ambrose, Brush Prairie, WA, Mazda 3, 15.
17, (21), Sergio Zlobin, Austin, TX, Mazda RX-8, 15.
18, (23), Jonathon Collins McLendon, Raleigh, NC, Mazda MX-5, 15.
19, (19), Steve Strickland, Marion, VA, Mazda MX-5, 15.
20, (25), Christopher Collins, Germantown, MD, Mazda MX-5, 14.
21, (24), Mike Burke, Asheville, NC, Mazda MX-5, 13.
22, (8), Jared Lendrum, Queensbury, NY, Subaru BRZ, 9.
23, (11), Brian Reilly, Norwalk, CT, Mazda RX-8, 6.
24, (15), Morgan Mehler, Belville, NC, Mazda MX-5, 6.
25, (5), Thomas Fowler, Gainesville, GA, Mazda RX-8, 1.
Length of Race: 49 miles
Overall Time of Race: 33:05.327 (88.943 mph)
Margin of Victory: 4.349 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: #186 Leverone 2:10.959 mph (89.891 mph)
Lap Leaders: #35 laps 1-9; #186 laps 10-15
Sunoco Hard Charger: Brent Simonson