On a rain-soaked track, Mark Boden, of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, proved that the race isn’t over until the checkered flag flies, as he made up more than a half-a-second deficit on the final lap to take the win in the Touring 1 Runoffs event Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR). His first national victory in 10 years added to the collection of second- and third-place hardware that Boden claimed earlier in the weekend. The Fall-Line Motorsports pilot was the only driver at the 56th SCCA National Championship to earn one of every medal.
Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, finished second, his second podium visit of the weekend, as Hugh Stewart, of Milford, Connecticut, finished third.
“It’s always race to the very end, there is no giving up no matter what,” Boden said. “Everybody works so hard, every member of the crew puts in so much effort into it, including all the corner workers and all the staff to put this thing on, to not put the equal effort in all the way to the end would be wrong. I hate to win on someone else’s demise, but I’ll take it where I can get it. It’s been 10 years!”
Right from the drop of the green, Aquilante put space between himself and the rest of the field, and by the end of lap one, the No. 33 Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk Ford Mustang driver built more than a five-second gap over Boden. By lap 14, he was 34-seconds ahead of Boden’s No. 47 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW E92 M3. Then disaster struck for the nine-time national champion.
Leading 14 of the 15 laps in the all-green race, Aquilante started to lose power on the white flag lap due to an engine failure. Struggling through the 130-feet of elevation change, the huge lead Aquilante built all race faded, along with his engine. Boden caught Aquilante four turns before the finish line in Oak Tree Curve. Aquilante held on with just enough power from the downhill coast to take second.
“It is what it is, that’s why the races are 15 laps and not 14,” said Aquilante. “We’ve had a lot of practice in the rain this season, and we knew Mark would be strong. You can’t back off in these types of conditions because you lose your concentration. So, we kept pounding. All of a sudden on the white flag, things started to get rough. I started flipping through the gauges on the dash and realized it was the engine. I tried to reset it a few times, but it didn’t work. I asked how big my gap was and I thought we could hold on so I went flat out the entire way, but just couldn’t hang on to first.”
Starting from sixth place, Stewart, in the No. 29 Hi Speed Motorsports BMW E46 M3, had arguably the best start in the 19-car field, making up three positions before exiting turn one. After a short battle with Boden for second, Stewart pulled back to conserve gas as the rest of the field started to fall into place. In the end, the decision to pull back was a good one as Stewart crossed the line in third for his first Runoffs podium visit.
“The start was a little chaotic,” explained Stewart. “When we got the green, I was just trying to pick spots where I could see because the rain was coming off the lead cars and things were getting a bit hairy. Once we cleared the rain train, we settled into rhythm. When I realized that the race was going to go longer than 20 minutes, I started short shifting and babied it all the way to the end.”
Zachary Kelly, of Milford, Massachusetts, finished fourth with Bill Baten, of Carmel, Indiana, rounding out the top five. Chris Edens, of Sherwood, Arizona, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award, improving eight positions from 14th on the grid to finish sixth.
Provisional results for Sunday’s Touring 1 finale 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), Mark Boden, Buffalo Grove, IL, BMW E92 M3, 15.
2, (1), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, PA, Ford Mustang, 15.
3, (6), Hugh Stewart, Milford, CT, BMW E46 M3, 15.
4, (10), Zachary Kelly, Milford, MA, BMW E46 M3, 15.
5, (11), Bill Baten, Carmel, IN, Chevrolet Camaro, 15.
6, (14), Chris Edens, Sherwood, AR, Mazda Miata, 15.
7, (8), Jonathan Vasquez, Port Washington, NY, BMW E46 M3, 15.
8, (5), James Candelaria, Hillsborough, NJ, Chevrolet Corvette, 15.
9, (3), Kristofer Olson, Shingle Springs, CA, Acura NSX Turbo, 15.
10, (9), Ross Murray, Marina del Rey, CA, Ford Mustang, 15.
11, (12), Timothy Rubright, Kutztown, PA, Ford Mustang, 15.
12, (13), Christina Lam, Springfield, VA, BMW E46 M3, 15.
13, (18), Eric Thompson, Aberdeen, NJ, Toyota Celica, 15.
14, (16), Paolo Salvatore, San Antonio, TX, Ford Mustang, 14.
15, (19), Cheyne Daggett, Culpeper, VA, Ford Mustang, 14.
16, (4), Tim Myers, San Antonio, TX, Dodge Viper ACR-X, 0.
DNS, (7), Joseph Gaudette, Manassas, VA, Chevrolet Corvette, .
DNS, (15), Bill Collins, Saint Paul, MN, Chevrolet Corvette, .
DNS, (17), Joe Aquilante, Chester Springs, PA, Chevrolet Corvette, .
Length of Race: 49 Miles
Overall Time of Race: 34:44.829 (avg. 84.698 mph)
Margin of Victory: 18.998 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 2:14.413 (87.581 mph)
Lap Leaders: #33 laps 1-14, #47 lap 15
Sunoco Hard Charger: #26 Chris Edens