This week, the Sports Car Club of America’s premier winner-take-all road race, the National Championship Runoffs, kicked into high gear at Road America. There, some 600 drivers will battle in 26 classes in the hopes of becoming one of the select few who can call themselves an SCCA National Champion. Most will fall short. However, thanks to SportsCar magazine, SCCA’s official publication, and its annual Runoffs predictions, it’s possible to get some insight into who to watch in each class when the races take the green this weekend, running from Friday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Oct. 11.
The Runoffs event schedule can be found here, and SCCA will stream all 26 races live on SCCA.com.
In this installment of our multi-part Runoffs preview, we take an inside look at Spec Miata, Spec Racer Ford 3, and Formula Enterprises 2 to see who could become SCCA’s next national champions.
Picking the winner of a Spec Miata race is like picking the winner of a bar fight before it happens. Honestly, it depends on who’s the first to get hit with a chair. That being said, the man of the moment seems to be Preston Pardus. The Florida-based driver picked up second place at VIRginia last year and won the Spec Miata title at Indy two years before.
“I think it’s going to be hard,” Pardus admits. “I mean, it makes me feel good to be selected [as the possible winner], but I think it’s going to be anybody’s race. There are several good drivers who have a shot at winning, just like every year. I think Jim Drago, Chris Haldeman, or Danny Steyn could win. Or last year’s winner, Todd Buras. Any of us, on any given day, can get the job done.”
There are currently 75 entries in the Spec Miata Runoffs field. Pardus believes that 20 of those have the ability to run up front. “I think recent years’ results and qualifying show that usually the top 20 are all within a second or so,” he says. We checked, and he’s right. In fact, early 2020 Runoffs qualifying sessions show the top four positions all running within a tenth of a second of each other.
Others to keep an eye on this year include Voytek Burdzy, Kyle Greenhill, Konrad Czaczyk, Michael Gagliardo, and, well, the list keeps going…
Spec Racer Ford 3
SRF3 entries are neck and neck with Spec Miata, so as usual, the class will be one of the biggest races at the Runoffs. Also, as usual, the field will be packed with prior champions and top contenders from every part of the SCCA. “The pressure is on,” says SportsCar‘s top pick Brian Schofield. “It’s Road America, so it’s always a crapshoot.”
One of the drivers who’s sure to be at the front is five-time SRF National Champion Mike Miserendino, and he doesn’t race for second place.
“There are a lot of guys in the field who have a ton of racing experience at Road America,” Miserendino points out. “The lead pack is usually eight to 10 cars. Schofield always runs well at Road America, and he’s a real master of the draft. He won the June Sprints this year for what seems like the 50th time. I say that with the utmost respect, because his record there is incredible. I also expect my teammate T.J. Acker to be very strong; he led a lot of laps at the Sprints. I am sure Clay Russell will want to keep his title streak alive too. I’ve yet to win a Gen3 title, so maybe this year.”
Others to watch include Franklin Futrelle, Charles Russell Turner, Bobby Sak and, well, at least 15 more drivers.
One final thought from Schofield, which is echoed by drivers from around the country: “I’m really grateful to SCCA for all the work they’ve done to let us go racing this year.”
Formula Enterprises 2
“At the Runoffs, I think Paul Schneider, Russell Turner, Ray Mason, and Max Grau will be the front-runners,” says multi-time Formula Enterprises champion Scott Rettich. We anticipate Rettich to be leading the field, and we think this fast group will be joined by the likes of Owen McAllister and T.J. Acker.
With six prior Formula Enterprises championships to his credit, and half of them earned at Road America, Rettich clearly understands both the platform and the track. One factor that will be different this time is that FE2 no longer allows the use of tire warming blankets. In the often-chilly Wisconsin weather, Rettich believes that could make a difference in the opening laps of the race.
“It was 60 degrees F at VIR, and it certainly helped the drivers who had them in the first few laps,” Rettich says. “But at Road America where it can be colder, it would make a huge difference – but it’s been eliminated. With it being colder, we’ll probably race on scuffs rather than sticker tires.”
Other new factors for the spec class include a new choice of springs and a weight change. “We have two different spring combinations we can put on the front and on the rear,” Rettich explains. “That adds a variable, but I’m not sure how much of a difference it’s really going to make. We have some of our cars on one spring package and some on the other. Then they added 20 pounds to our weight. I think most of the contenders were making weight anyway, but it could certainly help out.”