Ethan Shippert and his Lotus Super Seven were strong in qualifying during the days leading up to the F Production (FP) SCCA National Championship Runoffs race on Road America’s 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. And while Shippert was the Tire Rack Pole Award winner, he faced quite a fight Friday during the 13-lap FP event.
The struggle began at the very start as Kevin Ruck, who qualified second in an Acura Integra, jumped to the front immediately. Shippert worked hard and tossed his Lotus around until he got back around Ruck, but on lap two, Ruck regained the lead while Shippert coasted off in the grass, ending his race.
Ruck looked strong and developed a lead of nearly six seconds on the No. 05 Midwest Motorsports/Hoosier/Carbotech Lotus Super Seven of Craig Chima. But on lap six, a full-course yellow deleted that advantage and bunched the field back up.
At the restart a few laps later, Chima, of Akron, Ohio, put a little pressure on the leader, but Ruck confidently held the top spot and again started to develop a gap. Lap 11 brought the end of Ruck’s race with a blown motor and Chima inherited the lead, a lead he never relinquished as he went on to earn his third Runoffs victory.
“This is unbelievable. There are no words. I’m probably the most shocked person in the world right now,” Chima said about claiming the FP championship this year. “Frankly, I spent the race looking in my mirrors more than I was looking up at Kevin (Ruck). Kevin just sort of checked out. I had nothing for him.”
Behind Chima, an exciting and attrition-filled battle waged on for the final two spots on the podium. A host of characters driving Mazda Miatas took part in the battle, with defending FP champion Eric Prill in the mix for a bit until he left the race, Ken Kannard in the hunt up to the point where he pulled on to pit lane, David Bednarz who left the race after a spin in the Kink, and even Michael Hart in an older Turner 1500.
As the race neared its conclusion, the No. 137 SgfDyno/Mazda/ESR/Hoosier/Summit/Hawk Mazda Miata of Sam Henry was left fighting for second place with Mason Workman’s No. 52 Hoosier/Mazda/Carbotech Mazda Miata. The two diced it up a bit, displaying tremendous skill during close-quarter competition. But when the checkered flag waived, Henry, of Republic, Missouri, finished second and earned his third-ever Runoffs podium appearance.
“Had a good battle with Mason there right at the end, going back and forth,” Henry said. “I had kind of a soft start and I was really kind of beating myself up. So, I really had my head down those first few laps. I was starting to catch back up to the pack. I knew if I could get in the draft that race craft and strategy would come back into it for me.”
Workman, of Canal Winchester, Ohio, came home third for his second-ever podium appearance at the SCCA National Championship.
“That was a fun race. It was just about taking advantage of little mistakes that people made and try not to make too many of your own,” Workman said. “But 90 percent of the time, I was 100 percent out of control and everybody just avoided me.”
Mark Weber, a Miata racer from St. Louis, Missouri, took his 61st Runoffs start during the FP competition and kept his car together to claim a fourth-place finish, his best ever. David Strittmatter, of Akron, Ohio, finished fifth in his Acura Integra after starting in the 18th position. That earned him Sunoco Hard Charger honors.
The 57th SCCA National Championship Runoffs crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America, Friday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Oct 11.
Live, online video coverage of Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition at SCCA.com/live along with an audio race call — supplied by the Super Tour Radio presented by Hoosier Racing Tire broadcast team — and live timing and scoring for each National Championship race.
Provisional results for Friday’s F Production race at the 57th SCCA National Championship Runoffs from Road America, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (3), Craig Chima, Akron, OH, Lotus Super Seven, 13.
2, (9), Sam Henry, Republic, MO, Mazda Miata, 13.
3, (7), Mason Workman, Canal Winchester, OH, Mazda Miata, 13.
4, (15), Mark Weber, Saint Louis, MO, Mazda Miata, 13.
5, (18), David Strittmatter, Akron, OH, Acura Integra, 13.
6, (16), Michael Sturm, Grafton, WI, Mazda Miata 1.6L, 13.
7, (20), Gerald Lamb, Oswego, IL, MG B, 13.
8, (21), Scott McAllister, Brockport, NY, Volkswagen Rabbit, 13.
9, (13), Michael Hart, Mundelein, IL, Turner 1500, 12.
10, (17), Larry Funk, Oberlin, OH, Honda CRX Si, 11.
11, (2), Kevin Ruck, Marysville, OH, Acura Integra, 10.
12, (22), Weber Manning, Germantown, TN, Mazda Miata, 10.
13, (6), Eric Prill, Topeka, KS, Mazda Miata, 9.
14, (5), Ken Kannard, Sebring, FL, Mazda Miata, 8.
DNF, (11), Michael Kamalian, Marietta, GA, Mazda Miata, 5.
DNF, (4), David Bednarz, Ann Arbor, MI, Mazda Miata, 4.
DNF, (8), Charlie Campbell, Corry, PA, Mazda Miata, 3.
DNF, (10), Chuck Mathis, St Jacob, IL, Volkswagen Rabbit, 3.
DNF, (19), Mike Gnadt, Kiel, WI, MG Midget, 2.
DNF, (1), Ethan Shippert, Petaluma, CA, Lotus Super Seven, 1.
DNF, (14), Tony Machi, Hales Corners, WI, Honda CRX Si, 1.
DNF, (12), Perry Simonds, Winnsboro, TX, Mazda Miata, 0.
Length of Race: 53 miles
Overall Time of Race: 40:24.536 (avg. 78.137 mph)
Margin of Victory: 02.515 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: #73 Ruck, 2:34.033 (94.608 mph)
Lap Leaders: #73 laps 1-10, #05 laps 11-13
Sunoco Hard Charger: #92 David Strittmatter