SCCA National Championship Runoffs Thursday Notebook

Three days of qualifying have concluded, and while not all grids are yet official, the polesitters for each of the 26 National Championship Runoffs have been provisionally determined.

If there’s an award for least likely polesitter, it’s Troy Ermish in GT-3. In fact, it’s impressive that the driver isn’t on his way back home to Tracy, CA, after a pre-event testing crash that could have easily ended his hopes for the week.

On Sunday, Ermish’s Nissan 350Z made tire-to-tire contact with another car, launching Ermish’s car into the air, upside down on top of the other car, and eventually barrel rolling through the grass. Amazingly, the car was mostly intact except for a broken A-pillar bar of the tubeframe chassis. Off it went to a local shop to have that bar replaced, and it was back at the track on Monday afternoon. Ermish then proceeded to set the quick time in Tuesday’s session before lowering it by nearly two seconds on Wednesday with a time that stood for pole for the first race on Sunday.

Eighteen new records were set in qualifying, including Formula X, which did not exist the last time the Runoffs visited IMS. Andrew Aquilante will start from pole in two races, GT-2 on Saturday and Touring 1 on Sunday.

Here are the provisional polesitters, in race order:

Friday Races

Touring 4: Stephen Blethen; Bow, N.H.; RST Performance Racing/KONI Shock Mazda RX-8; 1m54.397s

H Production: Steve Sargis; Frankfort, Ill.; BVR Carbotech/Hoosier Triumph Spitfire; 1m54.417s

Formula Enterprises 2: Max Grau; Indianapolis, Ind.; Rennkraft Motorworks SCCA Mazda FE2; 1m36.395s

Spec Miata: Brian Henderson; Fredericksburg, Va; BDL Motorsports Mazda Miata; 1m57.695s

Formula Vee: Andrew Whitston; Neenah, Wis.; Hoosier/Subway Protoform P2 1m57.479s

Touring 2: Kurt Rezzetano; Phoenixville Pa.; Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk Ford Mustang GT; 1m47.509s

GT-Lite: Christopher Bovis; Overland Park, Kan.; Hart Marx Advisors/Schroth/Goodyear Honda CRX; 1m51.819s

B-Spec: John Phillips; Sealy, Texas; PRP/G-Loc/CARS Mini Cooper; 2m03.121s

Prototype 1: Lee Alexander; Springfield, Tenn.; One Motorsports/Factory48 Stohr WF1 Suzuki; 1m29.011s

Saturday Races

Super Touring Under: Joe Moser; Wilmette, Ill.; DET King Motorsports/Hoosier/Carbotech Honda CRX Si; 1m47.078s

American Sedan: Drew Cattell; Ferndale, Mich.; SpaceMonkeyRacing/Engines by JB Cadillac CTS-V; 1m50.427s

Formula Atlantic: James French; Sheboygan, Wis.; Ralt RT41 Toyota; 1m29.701s

GT-2: Andrew Aquilante; Chester Springs, Pa.; Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk Chevrolet Corvette; 1m39.665s

Super Touring Lite: Danny Steyn; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Mazda MX-5; 1m51.665s

Formula F: Jonathan Kotyk; Oviedo Fla.; Mygale SJ14 Honda; 1m44.359s

F Production: Craig Chima; Akron, Ohio; MidwestMtrsprts/Hoosier/Carbotech Lotus Super Seven; 1m51.082s

Prototype 2: Tim Day Jr.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; GDRE/Summit/Avon Stohr WF1 Suzuki; 1m33.835s

Formula Continental: Trent Walko; Trafford, Pa.; Global Racing Team Van Diemen RF08;  1m36.787s

Sunday Races

GT-3: Troy Ermish; Tracy, Calif.; Rebello Racing Engines/Goodyear Nissan 350Z; 1m44.758s

Touring 1: Andrew Aquilante; Chester Springs, Penn.; PHL Phoenix Performance/Hoosier/Hawk 2014 Ford Mustang; 1m42.292s

E Production: Jesse Prather; Topeka, Kan.; JPM/Hoosier/Carbotech/Sunoco/Amsoil BMW Z3; 1m48.181s

GT-1: Michael Lewis; Poway, Calif.; Goodyear Jaguar XKR; 1m35.279s

Spec Racer Ford 3: Franklin Futrelle; Evans, Ga.; MecoInc ofAugusta/ComprentMtrsprts SCCA Spec Racer Ford Gen 3; 1m49.520s

Formula 500: Ryan Mayfield; Orlando, Fla.; VRS/Satellite Racing Scorpion S1 Suzuki; 1m42.619s

Touring 3: Marshall Mast; Denver, Pa.; Phoenix Performance 2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost; 1m51.591s

Formula X: Vaughn Glace; Pittsburgh Pa.; Pantera Motorsports/Wright Racing USF2000 Mazda MZR; 1m38.596s

No, not that Boris Said

There is no shortage of second- or third-generation racers at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, and several families have national champions from different generations. Few third-generation racers, though, have the name and hair recognition of Boris Said Jr.

Image by Richard James

His father is himself a second-generation driver who won three consecutive Showroom Stock GT National Championships in 1989-’91. Boris Said then went on to race… well, everything. He made his name in Trans-Am racing against Tommy Kendall and Dorsey Schroeder, raced sports cars including a 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series GT championship with Bill Auberlen, and has had a long career in the various levels of NASCAR, finding particular success as a road course ringer. Now his son is in his first season racing cars, in the Spec Miata category.

“It’s the most competitive class, the most fun. It’s the best class here in my opinion,” says Said Jr. His father adds an appreciation for the old-school nature of the cars – no ABS, no traction control and manual transmission.

Said Jr. expresses that he’s learned a lot in a short time racing Spec Miata. He qualified well within the top 60, so he didn’t need to worry about the last-chance qualifying race to determine the final 12 starters. The next goal is a top-30 finish.

“I told him if he can finish in the top 30, that’s a hundred-dollar bonus, because that’s like a win for your first time with this kind of field, this level of driving,” Dad says. “When I watched these guys at Road America, I don’t think I could run with the top guys. The way they run, people like Jim Drago and Preston Pardus… there are a bunch of guys that are really good racers.”

Despite the fact that Boris Said has raced on the IMS road course (and oval), Jr. isn’t turning to him for advice about the circuit.

“The best advice I’ve really gotten is from other people in the class, because they know more about these cars on this track than he does,” he says.

On returning to the Runoffs after 30 years since he last competed, Boris says that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Expenses may have gone up, but the attitude and atmosphere hasn’t changed.

“It’s still the same, all the people that love cars, love racing,” he explains. “I’ve raced everything from the Daytona 500 to karts to sports cars, and to me it’s all the same. It’s not any less exciting whether you’re running at the Runoffs, an SCCA Regional or the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s the same feeling when you’re driving. So to come here and see 900 people that all pretty much eat, sleep, breathe, live and love racing, it’s cool.”

Play can equal pay

SCCA Road Racing is amateur motorsports; no one is getting paid to drive at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. But some people get paid to win or finish well.

Contingencies are a big part of club racing. Companies ranging from OEM manufacturers to tire companies to suppliers of any sort of racing necessity will reward podium finishers, and sometimes as far down as 10th, with money or product for using the product and carrying the proper decals. A winning driver on the right tire could race with new tires every weekend next season and not pay for one of them.

“There are enough contingencies to pay for your entry fee and the consumables at a minimum if you’re able to take that top step on the podium,” says defending STL champion Joe Moser, citing Hoosier Tires and Carbotech brake pads specifically as products he uses that offer contingencies. And while he is also competing in STU this year, his STL entry was free thanks to winning the Super Sweep – U.S. Majors Conference title, Hoosier Super Tour points championship and the Runoffs – in 2020.

However, even when an OEM such as Mazda will pay up to $4000 for a win and adding other contingencies and tow funds, it’s unlikely that a winner can break even on the Runoffs; still, the money and product definitely help.

“When you stack up the transport, the trackside support fees, the tires and fuel, even if you win and you get the tow fund, you’re going to be a little bit short,” says Danny Steyn, who competes in Spec Miata and STL and has two STL championships. “It all depends on what you’re spending. If you factor in 10 days at a track, flights, trackside support, meals and everything, it’s going to be a loss. But we’re always figuring out smiles per dollar, so if you’re here spending your money and enjoying it, it’s all worthwhile.”