Denny Stripling will have about an hour between his two races on Saturday. The first one is in a car he’s very familiar with; in Spec Racer Ford Gen 3 and its previous iterations, he has two Silver medals at the Runoffs. The second, though, is an entirely new animal to him. It’s a story that began as somewhat of a lark, got kind of serious, and took a big turn right before the Runoffs.
“Several of my friends – we’re all Spec Racer guys – we do lots of sprint racing and we’re reasonably quick, we’ve all been successful, and we said, ‘Let’s do some endurance racing.’” Stripling explains, adding that he looked at several options before X-Factor Racing owner Chris Haldeman came up with something. “Chris said, ‘Come take a look at what I’ve got in the back of my shop.’ He had this 2012 Civic that was raced in the Continental series. It was in about 3000 pieces and covered in dust. He gave me a really good deal on the car, and he said he’d put it together for me and we’ll make that our endurance car.”
Then Stripling decided to do some SCCA races with it in order to get familiar with front-wheel drive. He tried it in Super Touring Lite, but decided the car wasn’t a good fit in the class. So, a week-and-a-half before the Runoffs, he decided to switch it to the more powerful Super Touring Under, where most of the cars are highly-developed performance cars. Still, despite building an engine right before the event, getting to Road America to find out the variable valve timing solenoid was bad, and running a car that’s probably way down on power and way overweight, he qualified fifth. Thankfully in previous races he had adjusted to the bigger heft and front-wheel drive of the Civic compared to his Spec Racer Ford.
“It is not as wildly different as I expected it to be, because at the end of the day, you live on the G-circle. It’s micro corrections around the G-circle. The biggest thing that is different is it’s 100-percent resource management, and that is 100-percent two front tires. Nothing else matters in this car. It’s pretty spectacular how definitive that is when you’re on track. It’s really difficult for me to get the car to rotate, so you have to do some interesting mechanical things you would never do in a rear-wheel drive car. Crazy amounts of toe-out, crazy pressures in the rear tires. Stuff that you never think of, but I’ve adjusted to it more quickly than I thought I would,” he says.
Stripling will start third in the SRF Gen 3 race at 1 p.m. Central, then there is one championship race between SRF and STU, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Central.
Volunteers make it happen
Stewards, flaggers, emergency service personal, tech crew, and many other specialties make the SCCA National Championship Runoffs and every other SCCA Road Race happen, and they’re all volunteers. Each year the SCCA honors the best in their field from all over the country, announcing the Workers of the Year at the Runoffs. For 2020, the Worker of the Year award in Timing & Scoring is Diane Carter of Houston Region.
While Timing & Scoring used to involve a small army of people with stopwatches and clipboards, now it’s all done with transponders and computers. But somebody still needs to manage it all.
“The technology has changed,” explains Carter, who was not working at the Runoffs but instead helping husband and B-Spec racer Kent – although she did offer her services should they be needed. “So a combination what the drivers use with their transponders and the importance of making sure those work and that they have that information correct associated with their drivers record, which is usually our biggest problem. And obviously making sure the information gets sent to the computer. But we always have a team of people in the background, writing the numbers down as they go by, so making sure those numbers are visible is key for helping us get the drivers the most accurate time and results. I didn’t work in Timing & Scoring back in the day, but I’ve heard stories about 30 people with stopwatches and writing down numbers, and I can’t even imagine. The technology and computer advancements have made the job much easier.”
Carter, who also races Spec Miata and sometimes both races and works T&S in the same weekend at her home track of MotorSport Ranch Houston, says she volunteers because it helps make the racing happen.
“I like the technology, and obviously making sure the results are correct,” she says. “I feel like it’s a direct impact to the drivers. We have to work in coordination, that they get me the right information and then I can give them accurate results. And I like the teamwork.”