David Pintaric will happily admit that he wants to be a race car driver when he grows up, and still pictures himself winning the Indianapolis 500 before reality sets in. So, when he won the GT-1 National Championship at the Brickyard in 2017, it was a true dream come true.
It’s hard to argue with the power of dreams, and because of that – along with a brand-new Tony Ave/Bob Riley collaborative Trans-Am car that will run for the first time at this year’s Runoffs – Pintaric is our choice in GT-1 this year.
The track is special to him, and his memories of the last win are bittersweet. Pintaric’s father passed away less than 30 days after his win, and there would be nothing sweeter than picking up a second win in 2021.
But it won’t be easy. Mike Lewis is always a contender, though the question is whether the old Jaguar XKR has enough legs in the motor to hold on. Jordan Bupp has been quick all year long and won in Trans Am 2 at Indianapolis in 2018. Dave Ruehlow comes with Ave Motorsports power, and James McAleese is sneaky good when overlooked. All will be contenders.
Oh, but there’s a wild card: Rain. If that happens, keep an eye out for Thomas Herb and his Porsche 911.
No one is foolish enough to bet against Andrew Aquilante in GT-2, especially with Kevin Allen sitting out Indianapolis to prep his tube-framed Nissan for his home track of VIR next year. Yet Aquilante’s biggest concern is the weight of his Corvette and how that might affect both the green flag start and the end of the race.
If tire management becomes an issue on the Phoenix Performance Corvette, watch out for the Fall-Line crew. Tim Kezman and Mark Boden are our podium selections in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, which should be good to the end.
Of course, a GT-2 wild card is the Trans-Am 2 cars. Also, could Pete Peterson have a resurgence? Almost anything can happen in this wild class.
Like always, to win GT-3 you must finish in GT-3. As we’ve seen in these highly stressed cars, reliability can be more important than speed.
Our best indicator may well be the finishes from Mazda’s GT-3 Challenge, which has provided a “regular season” of sorts for these cars. Taz Harvey leads the points, but our pick this year is Mike Lewis in his Mazda. Lewis is the defending champ, and his team has seemingly dialed in that car over the past couple of seasons as he’s made a return to his younger days.
But it’s tight beyond that – the GT-3 field at this year’s Runoffs is full of talent. Lewis’ quickest West Coast rival, Troy Ermish, is next in line for us this year. And then there’s Tony Ave who will certainly be a contender.
At press time, there are 21 GT-3 cars on the entry list and almost any of them could win. Take your pick – former champ Stacy Wilson or newcomer and son Blake Wilson? Harvey or Paul Young or Joe Kristensen? Rob Warkocki could be right there. Take your pick.
Although Chris Bovis points out that Runoffs performance is difficult to predict, his appearance at the Indianapolis Runoffs in 2017 makes him an easy choice for the gold. Plus, Peter Shadowen, arguably Bovis’ top competitor, is taking this year off. Plus, Bovis just had a very successful weekend at Road America, where he says the car felt normal. “I think we’re well prepared,” he says, adding, “But I thought that last year, also.”
Super consistent Joe Huffaker will do everything he can to make sure Bovis’ preparation isn’t enough, but it will be a challenge, especially with the likes of Michael Lewis. Lewis was the meat in an ugly three-car sandwich last year, but his car is back together and as gorgeous as ever, so we expect him to be in the hunt.
However, that hunt will also involve a few others, including Brian Linn and Scott Twomey. So, while we don’t anticipate Bovis having any issues with the win this year, the remaining two steps are anyone’s guess.
Spec Racer Ford 3
Attempting to predict a winner in the SRF3 Runoffs race is risky business. Any given Runoffs field in SRF3 is bound to feature at least half a dozen racers of top-notch caliber, with often more than 10 prior National Champions. That said, our pick to take gold this year is Mike Miserendino, which is about as safe as any choice can be.
With five prior SCCA National Championships and seven more podium finishes in SRF and SRF3 to his credit, Miserendino is often the man to beat. “I don’t think I have delivered the last few times I have been picked, but maybe I can straighten that out this year,” Miserendino jokes. “I expect the field to be absolutely stacked, with John Black, Brian Schofield, Scott Rettich, Bobby Sak, Denny Stripling, T.J. Acker, Franklin Futrelle, Clay Russell, and others. I could go on and on. If you add up the National Championships on the entry list, I bet the number is over 20, and I bet the podium count is over 50.”
He’s not far off with that. Glancing down the standings for the Hoosier Super Tour and the various Conference Majors results, the list of names is familiar to anyone who follows the class. Past Runoffs Champion James Goughary is first in the Hoosier Super Tour and Northeast Conference. The balance of Super Tour standings is a gaggle of talented SRF drivers, including Schofield, Turner, and Black. Bobby Sak is atop the Northern Conference point standings, and Denny Stripling leads in the Mid-States Conference. Caleb Shrader, meanwhile, is leading the Western Conference and could be a dark horse contender at Indy.
But back to Miserendino… The last time the Runoffs took place at Indy, Miserendino claimed the championship in SRF and took second in SRF3. “The SRF3 race at Indy in 2017 turned into a two-car race between me and Tray Ayers,” Miserendino recalls. “I don’t expect that to happen this year. I bet we have a five to seven car race for the lead the whole time.”
When the bench is that deep, every driver has to have a plan, and the smart ones are a little bit cagey about exactly what that plan might be.
“There’s no new approach for me,” Miserendino insists. “I just try and make sure my car is handling well over practice and qualifying, and then drive mistake-free for the race and hope for the best.
“It is an honor to be able to race at Indy again, and I really appreciate all the folks at SCCA who make it happen.”