Mark Snyder, of Southlake, Texas, and James Libecco, of Solon, Ohio, put an exclamation point on Friday’s Formula Enterprise Runoffs finale at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), with Libecco literally winning by a nose over Snyder. Libecco sealed up his maiden SCCA Runoffs title in style with a photo finish, claiming the checkered by the closest margin of victory in SCCA National Championship Runoffs history (0.000 seconds).
Ray Mason, of Blacklick, Ohio, finished in a distant third to complete the podium.
“I’m elated and a little bit heartbroken at the same time knowing how it all came down in the end, but I couldn’t have predicted a better finish to our season,” Libecco said. “It was really good, clean racing and that’s what it’s come down to all season. Being able to race side-by-side with Mark, two inches apart from each other, on the ragged edge of braking, and come out clean every time, there’s not a lot of racers out there that will do that. This is an up-and-comer who has it.”
Starting from row two in fourth, Libecco, in the No. 98 Allied Dermatology Alliance Autosport SCCA FE2 Mazda, used a drafting move to slingshot to the outside of turn one, taking the early lead from polesitter Snyder. Snyder paid back the favor in lap two to reclaim the lead.
Following a four-lap shootout after an extended caution period, Snyder lost his nose cap, mirrors, wing and all the surrounding fiberglass after making incidental contact on the last lap with frontrunner Charles Russell Turner on the Oak Tree Curve. The incident sent Snyder airborne and Turner spinning, forcing Turner to retire the race after taking the lead on the restart.
As Snyder nursed a damaged front end, Libecco chased down the defending champion, sliding to the inside of Snyder’s No. 1 Snyder Brother’s Racing car. Racing through Hog Pen down the front straight with wheels nearly touching the pair crossed the finish line simultaneously, but it was Libecco’s fully intact nose that crossed the stripe first.
“I was in the air, then I wasn’t but my car had nothing left on the front,” explained Snyder. “I knew since I didn’t have a nose that I needed to brake early. I went through Hog Pen completely sideways, and there was James right beside me. We were racing down to the finish line and I guess James pulled a Lightning McQueen on me, sticking his tongue out for the win. It was a great race and James has been a great competitor all season. James just gets really good starts. I’ll be working on that in the off season for sure.”
Falling to the back of the field on the start, Mason, in the No. 2 Alliance Autosport car, kept digging, making up lost ground lap after lap. Bunched up with several cars on the restart, Mason maintained his composure throughout the 15-lap finale, rounding out the podium in third.
“I kept pushing, trying not to make mistakes, and here we are,” said Mason. “We caught that FE2 traffic after the yellow, that was a bit problematic because I had to go wide off course to miss cars. It all worked out in the end.”
Lee Rackley, of Clinton, North Carolina, took fourth with Matthew Cuttler, of Sterling, Illinois, rounding out the top five.
Libecco also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger, improving three positions from fourth on the grid to first.
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.
Provisional results for Friday’s Formula Enterprises 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, (4), James Libecco, Solon, OH, SCCA Mazda FE, 15.
2, (1), Mark Snyder, Southlake, TX, SCCA Mazda FE, 15.
3, (5), Ray Mason, Blacklick, OH, SCCA Mazda FE, 15.
4, (7), Lee Rackley, Clinton, NC, SCCA Mazda FE, 15.
5, (6), Matthew Cutter, Sterling, IL, SCCA Mazda FE, 15.
6, (2), Charles Russell Turner, Montpelier, VA, SCCA Mazda FE, 14.
7, (8), Bailey Monette, Milton, GA, SCCA Mazda FE, 14.
8, (9), Samuel Harrington, Brooklyn Park, MD, SCCA Mazda FE, 14.
9, (3), Justin Huffman, Herndon, VA, SCCA Mazda FE, 12.
Time of Day Start: 5:06 PM
Number of Starters: 9
Length of Race: 49 Miles
Overall Time of Race: 35:45.528 (avg. 82.301 mph)
Margin of Victory: 0 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 1:55.648 (101.792 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #98 James Libecco