A field of 24 drivers in the Formula Enterprises 2 (FE2) class made their way on to a very wet track Sunday afternoon for the penultimate Hagerty Race Days event during the 59th SCCA National Championship Runoffs taking place Sept. 24-Oct. 2 at Virginia International Raceway.
Charles Russell Turner, driving the No. 32 SCCA Mazda FE2, was the Tire Rack Pole Award winner after setting a new qualifying lap record around VIR’s 3.27-mile, 18-turn circuit earlier in the week. Lined up next to him at the start was TJ Acker, who came all the way from California to take part in the Runoffs and wheel the No. 62 Bulldog Motorsports SCCA Mazda FE2.
At the start, the field filed into Turn 1 with a plume of spray billowing into the gray sky. Jason Conzo, in the No. 04 Motion Dynamics SCCA Mazda FE2, managed to move from fourth starting position to first within a couple corners. He led the first lap, which ended with a full-course yellow after Whitney Strickland and polesitter Turner tangled at the upper portion of Roller Coaster and came to rest in an unsafe spot.
The restart saw Conzo get a nice jump, and the No. 5 Optech Monette LLC SCCA Mazda FE2 of Bailey Monette slotted into second, followed by Acker. But before things could heat up, Adam Jennerjahn spun and stranded his car in the first turn, which caused another full-course yellow.
The second restart occurred on lap six, and Conzo again controlled things. Monette soon found himself 2.9s behind, and Acker was another second back in third with the No. 99 SCCA Mazda FE2 of Caleb Shrader sitting fourth, within striking distance.
Things took a twist on lap 10 when Conzo went off track in the first turn. He was able to get back on course quick, but the mistake dropped him to third behind Monette and Acker. With two laps left in the race, Conzo had delicately danced his car around Acker for second, and was right on Monette’s rear-wing. A few corners later, however, a third full-course yellow came out, and the race ended a little early behind the pace car after 14 laps.
That finish gave Monette, of Milton, GA, his very first Runoffs National Championship in four tries.
“We came with the goal of winning the Runoffs this year,” a grinning Monette said while holding his commemorative bottle of Mazza sparkling wine received during victory podium celebrations. “That was probably the toughest race I’ve been in. The conditions were treacherous. Being a racecar driver, I love racing. But this race was not one of my favorites.”
For Conzo, of Great River, NY, this was his very first Runoffs race ever. So, finishing up in second and landing on the podium was pretty great.
“This is a huge pleasure,” noted Conzo about his Runoffs experience. “I got some gorgeous sparkling wine, and a nice trophy. I’m through the roof. To be on the second step of the podium, what’s not to love about that?”
Now in his 16th Runoffs race appearance, Acker has earned fourth third-place finish thanks to the skill displayed in Sunday’s FE2 rain race.
“Didn’t do too bad for an old man,” said Acker, who is from Saugus, CA. “I didn’t do too bad being from the West Coast. We don’t get to drive in these conditions too often. Frankly, it was more terrifying than fun for me – not knowing what I was getting myself in to.”
Shrader stayed put for a fourth-place finish, and Paul Schneider fought to a fifth-place result in the No. 73 Comprent Motorsports/Intimate Care SCCA Mazda FE2. The Sunoco Hard Charger award went to Sam Harrington for starting 19th and finishing ninth in the No. 33 Harper Home Services of MI SCCA Mazda FE2.
The 59th SCCA National Championship Runoffs, the Pinnacle of American Amateur Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at VIR during Hagerty Race Days, Friday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 2.
Live, online video coverage of Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition at SCCA.com/live, and at SCCA’s official YouTube and Facebook social media channels. Live timing and scoring for each race is also available at SCCA.com, along with an audio-only feed from the Super Tour Radio presented by Hoosier Racing Tire broadcast team.
Below are provisional results for Sunday’s FE2 race at the 2022 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (3), Bailey Monette, Milton, GA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
2, (4), Jason Conzo, Great River, NY, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
3, (2), TJ Acker, Saugus, CA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
4, (5), Caleb Shrader, Tigard, OR, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
5, (8), Paul Schneider, Charlotte, NC, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
6, (10), Todd Vanacore, Ormond Beach, FL, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
7, (7), Adam Jennerjahn, Valencia, CA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
8, (11), John Yeatman, Cave Creek, AZ, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
9, (19), Sam Harrington, Finksburg, MD, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
10, (13), Lee Rackley, Clinton, NC, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
11, (12), Sterling Hamilton, Seneca, SC, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
12, (22), Alastair McEwan, Miami, FL, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
13, (21), James Regan, Longmeadow, MA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
14, (23), Colin Rackley, Clinton, NC, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
15, (15), Kelton Jago, Alexandria, VA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
16, (20), Bryan Yates, Kernersville, NC, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
17, (18), Dean Oppermann, Plainfield, IL, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
18, (17), Eric Cruz, Barhamsville, VA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
19, (25), Keith McDonald, Ranson, WV, SCCA Mazda FE2, 14.
20, (14), Thomas Green, Sorrento, FL, SCCA Mazda FE2, 13.
21, (24), Roy Hillenburg, Friendswood, TX, SCCA Mazda FE2, 8.
DNF, (16), Tom Burt, Woodway, WA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 6.
DNF, (1), Charles Russell Turner, Montpelier, VA, SCCA Mazda FE2, 0.
DNF, (6), Whitney Strickland, League City, TX, SCCA Mazda FE2, 0.
DNS, (9), Owen McAllister, Mooresville, NC, SCCA Mazda FE2.
Length of Race: 46 Miles
Overall Time of Race: 38:55.750 (avg. 70.559 mph)
Margin of Victory: 00.342 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 2:12.045 (89.151 mph)
Lap Leaders: #04 – laps 1-9, #5 – laps 10-14
Sunoco Hard Charger: #33 Sam Harrington