Esteemed novelist and VM columnist Burt “BS” Levy is headed to Road America for the 2020 SCCA Runoffs this week. While gearing up for the event he took a trip down memory lane and put a few thoughts down about his experience with the storied event.
It wasn’t just the biggest race of the year, it was also, back in the day, the only so-called “amateur” race that counted. Just getting invited took some doing. You had to finish in the top three in your class in your division to get a bid. In some less well-subscribed classes in some less populated divisions, it wasn’t a tall order. But in the Northeast, Cendiv, Southeast and West Coast, it took some major doing. Just to make the cut. And then you found yourself up against the very best in the country. So you had better do your homework in the garage and bring your A game behind the wheel.
As a bush-league local racer, I knew about the SCCA Runoffs long before I ever made it down to spectate, open-mouthed and slack-jawed, as Bill Schmid’s Porsche Super 90 and Brian Fuerstenau’s Group 44 MGB came blasting over the crest of the old Road Atlanta’s daunting Bridge Turn, nose-to-tail, lap-after-lap, to settle the SCCA’s E-Prod National Championship. Or how about future Paul Newman teammate/friend Jim Fitzgerald’s Z-car coming out under the same bridge full-lock slideways and drifting well out into pit lane. That was a scary place to tread, as the divider between pit lane and the steeply downhill “asphalt waterfall” towards Turn 12 turned into a rough, lumpy gully about two-thirds of the way down, and God help you if you hadn’t made it back to the racing line. The thing you remember is that the great majority of Runoffs races were like that. Hard fought. Unbelievably competitive. Close finishes were the norm rather than the exception.
You really had to be there.
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