In a surprise announcement earlier today, the Sports Car Club of America has unveiled a brand-new National Championship event, entering a growing amateur road racing market space it has (at least on the national level) long ignored. But while the details are currently few, there’s enough meat to dig into on the topic – and then there’s the ultimate question of whether the event is even a good idea.
The crux is simple: SCCA has announced an endurance-based road racing series named the SCCA Endurance Team National Championship (ETNC) with the inaugural title event set to take place March 31-April 2, 2022, at Sebring International Raceway. Competitors will battle on track for 20 hours, broken into two stints, the first coming on the Friday. The checkered flag will fly after sunset on Saturday, with team champions being named in multiple classes.
Regarding those classes, SCCA has revealed little about the actual class structure, although hints have been given. It was announced that certain GCR classes (the GCR being the heart of SCCA’s sprint-racing program) will be welcome to compete in the SCCA ETNC, although reading between the lines, class rules might be altered. Likewise, class rules from such sanctioning bodies as World Racing League, Gridlife, NASA and beyond might also be adapted.
It could be that classes like SCCA’s Super Touring Lite and Gridlife’s Touring Cup will compete head-to-head; we simply don’t know yet. It’s also highly likely that all classes will compete on 200 treadwear tires, considering that has become the defacto tire of choice among amateur endurance racing series.
What we do know is that SCCA currently has no nationally unified endurance racing initiative, thus the inaugural SCCA ETNC will be by invite only. SCCA says it will begin work on rolling out an endurance series in the future, with that presumably qualifying competitors for endurance national championship events to come.
Many of these unknowns will turn into “knowns” very soon, as SCCA plans to release technical regulations within the next six months.
Details aside, the question then becomes: Is the SCCA Endurance Team National Championship a good idea?
For decades, individual SCCA regions have largely carried the endurance flag for the nearly 80-year-old racing club. Meanwhile, new organizations like the ChampCar Endurance Series, World Racing League, Lucky Dog Racing League, and Gridlife have capitalized on amateur endurance racing across parts of the U.S.
While some could argue that these groups have already claimed the amateur endurance racing market, one thing SCCA can do that few others can is name a national champion and have that title mean something.
SCCA’s coveted National Championship Runoffs, the winner-take-all event that boasts nearly 60 years of history, has crowned such champions as Skip Barber, Bobby and Graham Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Boris Said, Paul Newman and more – including me in 2015. For those looking to move onto professional racing, like Graham Rahal, SCCA’s Runoffs is an essential step. For amateur racers like me, it’s an amazing experience when the cards somehow fall correctly and you’re first to the checker. In fact, a week after being crowned an SCCA national champion – and while the win was only just beginning to sink in – two-time Runoffs winner and pro racer Randy Pobst congratulated me and called me “champ.” I was floored.
Therein is the power of the SCCA. To win an SCCA national championship title is more than winning a race or a series. SCCA attracts the best of the best, and everyone from amateur hacks like myself to pro racers like Randy Pobst and Bobby Rahal know it.
So, is the SCCA Endurance Team National Championship a good idea? The answer isn’t just “yes” – the fact is, SCCA is the only racing organization that can make an amateur endurance championship truly mean something.