It’s an accepted fact that Virginia International Raceway is not an easy track to master. It’s a track that requires a big dose of commitment to turn a quick lap, and cunning racecraft to move past another driver. With its fast, flowing Esses and a tricky turn that exits off-camber leading onto the longest straight on the track, it’s a demanding circuit on which to be fast and competitive. That’s why it may be the perfect place to hold the SCCA National Championship Runoffs — which is exactly what’s set to happen in the races this Friday through Sunday.
Challenging tracks like VIR allow the cream to rise to the top. It’s not a place where throwing money at a car is going to make you fast enough to win. And it’s a place that demands perfection – you can be the fastest driver by a mile on any given lap, but one mistake in the race can cost you victory in an instant, as we witnessed during the 2019 E Production race.
Hence it’s striking the things that jumped out as we at SportsCar compiled these predictions for who we think will win this year’s Runoffs. Primarily it’s the repetition. It’s natural that the same names keep popping up year after year. Sure, some drivers have certain track-specific strengths and weaknesses that may keep them out of the hunt for a year as the Runoffs rotates through its various hosts, but fast drivers are fast drivers. Until they quit, change classes, or just don’t keep up with the progression of machinery, they’re going to keep appearing in these pages.
But the other repetition we’ve noticed is how often some names appear in the same set of predictions. This year there are two drivers picked to win two different classes: Andrew Aquilante in GT-2 and Touring 1, and Marshall Mast in Touring 3 and 4. Still more, such as C. Russell Turner and Joe Moser, are picked to win one class and earn a podium in another. And Michael Lewis is our pick to podium in three different GT classes, while Kurt Rezzetano is our choice for two.
Add in the people mentioned as contenders, such as Danny Steyn, picked to win STL and certainly a serious threat in Spec Miata, and the repetition list grows further.
What does all that indicate? Well, that some people have the means, the dedication and the talent to be contenders in multiple classes. But also, taking into account the repetition year after year, that the cream rises to the top, no matter the track hosting the Runoffs. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is kind of the point, isn’t it?
So read on and enjoy our – mostly wrong? – predictions for who might win this year’s Runoffs in the spirit in which they are offered. And whether you are racing, crewing, spectating or watching from afar, enjoy this incredible week at VIR. Good luck to all – we’ll happily enjoy a great, safe race in which we’re wrong about the result than a race that runs 30 minutes under yellow and we get to say we were right…
Click here for the full event schedule and live stream link for this year’s SCCA Runoffs.
American Sedan, B-Spec, STU & STL
Words: Richard S. James and Jeff Zurschmeide
Image: Jeff Loewe
There are a lot of National Championships at the sharp end of this field, but we’re going with the holder of the most recent Runoffs American Sedan victory to repeat. James Jost’s results in Hoosier Super Tours this year don’t stand out compared to some of the others, but he always shows up at the Runoffs ready to fight for victory. He was second last time at VIR, and we expect him to better than that this year.
Kurt Rezzetano is making his AS debut after years of competing in Touring 2, where he won three championships. The Mustangs he’ll drive during the Runoffs this year in T2 and AS aren’t too far removed, and he’s proven he knows how to wheel one, so we’re betting he makes the podium.
It feels a little weird to put Gregory Eaton in third, given that he won in 2019 at VIR, and again the following year. But this class seems to be stepping up in terms of driving and equipment. Eaton did win one of the races at the Spring Sprints Super Tour at VIR, so he’s a threat for victory, and certainly for the podium.
Of course, that also goes for Andy McDermid and John Heinricy, two former champions in the class who are always in the hunt, and Daniel Richardson could be there as well. And whether he has a shot at the podium or not, we’re glad to see a little more variety in the form of Clark Cambern’s Dodge Challenger.
With 30 entries on the books by mid-August, B-Spec is shaping up to be one of the larger groups at VIR this year. With its mix of affordable, lower-power cars, B-Spec is known for its “full send” philosophy of driving. In any year, veteran B-Spec champion David Daughtery is a good bet to win, and he’s our choice this time around, but the list of drivers who could challenge for the top step of the podium seems to get longer every year.
“The players are John Phillips, Brandon Vivian, Stewart Black, Tony Roma, and myself,” Daughtery says. “The Ford Fiesta of Matt Giuffre is crazy fast, but I believe John Phillips is my pick, and he’s obviously very good there. Steve Introne should lead the MINI camp.”
Daughtery believes there are cars with a distinct advantage at VIR.
“If there are no [rule] changes between now and the race, the Sonic and the Yaris sedan seem to be in a class of their own, along with Matt Giuffre’s Fiesta,” he says.
One prominent B-Spec driver who will not be in the field this time is Frank Schwartz. He’s chairing the B-Spec advisory committee this year and believes it would be inappropriate to compete.
If there’s a class with a more fun variety of machinery in SCCA Club Racing than STU, we don’t know what it is. Our picks for the podium include a Honda, a Porsche and an Audi, but drivers of Subarus, Lotuses, or even a Mustang, could find themselves there as well. However, we’re not expecting too much variety from last year’s results.
That means Joe Moser repeating as champion. Last year, Moser, Chip Herr and Axel Cabrera had a great fight on track, but Moser and his new Honda CRX just proved too strong. There’s no reason to believe anything has changed, so look for Moser to do it again.
For Herr, who ran the Runoffs last year for the first time in his ex-World Challenge Audi A4, missing out on victory after such a strong performance last time around might have spurred him to step up some things in driving and preparation. But with the way this class progresses, that’s job one in just keeping up. Still, a podium is likely.
Up there with Moser and Herr is a new name who’ll be making his Runoffs debut. But Johan Schwartz should be no stranger – he’s a Touring Car America champ and a BMW test driver who holds the record for the world’s longest drift. He can wheel, and his ride is potent – Kip van Steenburg’s Porsche 944 that carried him to two E Production titles and within a shout of the STU podium. It’s a pretty good combination.
But then there’s all that variety we mentioned. Anthony Geraci and his Lotus Exige have been on the STU podium before. Anthony Piselli has had some good results in his Subaru – and if it rains, will the Subarus or Herr’s Audi be untouchable? Then there’s Cabrera and his Honda, David Fiorelli in a Mustang, and Jose Osiris Pena’s Toyota 86. Anything can happen, but we’re betting on some combination of Moser, Schwartz and Herr on the podium.
Danny Steyn has won three of the last four Super Touring Lite National Championships, including 2019 at VIR. He even won with his rear-wheel-drive Mazda in the rain at Indy last year over Joe Moser’s FWD Honda. So how do we not pick him to win?
Well, the way Steyn himself explains it, we shouldn’t…
“I will be in contention for the second-place finish,” he says. “I don’t think any of us have got a chance against the Moser CRX.”
Then again, he’s said similar things before. There’s no doubt Moser has kept a low profile this season, may not have shown his hand, and could go on to obliterate the field at VIR – but until he does, we’re sticking with Steyn.
There’s no reason to believe those two won’t be the fight for victory, but there’s a host of others who could end up with bronze.
“STL is pretty solid this year. Max Gee could be a contender, and I think Greg Maloy will be,” notes Steyn. “Alan Cross in his Mazda will be a contender, as will David Palfenier in his beautiful ND Mazda. Jose Pena, one of the Caribbean contingent, I think he’s going to be a contender. There’s six or seven guys that are going to be within a half-second spread at VIR, but that will be about one-and-a-half to two seconds behind Moser…”
Of the list that Steyn rattled off – and adding 2019 Spec Miata champ Todd Buras to the roster, too – we’re going with Maloy, despite the fact that he’s also kept a low profile and isn’t entered as of press time.