With thereturning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 25-Oct. 3, all we know for sure is that anything can happen. Here’s our best guess of what could happen – although we’re probably wrong.
Four years ago, National Championship Runoffs competitors and workers had no idea what to expect. The Runoffs had begun its yearly track rotation in 2014, following a five-year stint of SCCA’s championship road racing event at Road America. But while the racetracks the Runoffs had attended from 2014-’16 were all big names – WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Daytona International Speedway, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – none drew attention like Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This is not to speak poorly of the tracks the Runoffs has competed on since 1964, but the Brickyard was special, and everyone knew it. By the time the final checker flew on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, the Runoffs entry count tallied up at 969, some 250 entries higher than the prior record. Impressive.
Since 2017, the Runoffs has traveled to Sonoma Raceway, VIRginia International Raceway, and Road America – and, this year, the Runoffs returns to Indy on Sept. 25-Oct. 3.
Nobody is expecting the entry count to beat the 2017 record, but it won’t be far off. Case in point, at the time of this writing in early August, the entry count was at a mind-bending 888, with a few classes standing above the rest.
B-Spec is a fascinating class. The slowest of the road racing classes and not always the strongest when it comes to weekend-to-weekend participation averages, as of this writing, the B-Spec entry list stood as one of the most subscribed, beating each of the three classes in the always-popular Production category. And then there’s SRF3 with 84 entries and Spec Miata sporting a 92-car field.
Granted, those numbers will remain fluid until the final green flag of the championship week, but regardless, they prove the popularity of Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a venue for SCCA’s winner-take-all National Championship event, the historic Runoffs.
However, high entry counts bring with them all kinds of logistical issues, from workers shuffling racecars on and off the track in a timely manner, to the flow of paddock traffic, to yellow-flag conditions, to potential Last Chance qualifying races for Spec Miata and SRF3. At the same time, stratospheric entries also mean winning will be that much more difficult.
And before you jump into our Runoffs predictions below, be sure to check outfor not only the latest Runoffs event schedule, but also for a link to the come the Oct. 1-3 race weekend.
And our last disclaimer: This article is adapted from the version that appeared in SportsCar magazine, SCCA’s official publication. We’ve double checked many of our predictions listed below, but there’s a chance someone has entered or cancelled since we last perused the entry list, so please forgive any oversights.
Eight-time American Sedan National Champion Andy McDermid (main image) had a rough week the last time the Runoffs was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A crash early in the week sent him home to repair his Mustang; repaired and back on track, his car broke during the race and left him sidelined. This year, he plans to correct that result, and he’s our pick to win.
“I have unfinished business at Indy,” he says. “That place sure owes me one. I’m thinking that Greg Eaton, Amy Aquilante, Danny Richardson, Phil Smith, and some others I’m sure I forgot to mention are looking like threats for the top step on the podium. AS is looking like a growing class again, and that’s exciting.”
American Sedan is racing under new rules that boost competitiveness of restricted preparation level cars, and that could affect the competition. “I think the restricted prep cars will be very fast,” McDermid predicts. “Amy Aquilante has been racing one and she was very fast in it. At the Cat National, John Heinricy was in one. They’ve leveled the playing field a lot with the rules. It’s a great thing.”
Another class with impressive growth is B-Spec. Since none of them have power to speak of, the diminutive B-Spec cars are all about handling. David Daughtery is our pick to claim his 11th career SCCA National Championship this year, but he could have his hands full with both new talent and the established drivers in the field.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting race,” he says. “B-Spec continues to grow and attract new talent. We’ve got 55 cars entered in the race. This year’s fast drivers will include Kyle Keenan, my son Chris Daughtery, John Phillips, and Steve Introne. Charlie Valdez from Texas and Frank Schwartz in his Mini Cooper will be strong. Then you’ve got Stuart Black, he’s making great progress. He could be a player. And you’ve got Tony Roma, Brandon Vivian, and Sergio Zlobin.”
One big change that could shake up the B-Spec results is a tweak to the Mazda2’s balance of performance. “I think it’s going to be kind of a stranglehold up front with Mini Coopers and maybe a couple of Mazda2s in there,” Daughtery says. “But I think it’s going to be a heck of a race. It won’t be a snoozer!”
Super Touring Lite
Our pick to win STL is Danny Steyn, who won back-to-back championships in 2018 and ’19, and finished second last year. But he’ll have a hard challenge from last year’s winner, Joe Moser.
“This is a really interesting race because you always have your known unknowns, and you always have your unknown unknowns,” Steyn says. “Joe Moser has played the greatest poker game known to man, because he has not shown his new car once – not once. He has converted his old car, which easily beat me, over to STU, and I’m sure he’s one of the favorites there. He’s built a new car for STL.”
“We just tested the new STL CRX for the first time [earlier this year] at Road America,” Moser responds, “and it was excellent – much stronger than expected.”
In addition to Steyn and Moser, the list of contenders in STL is impressive. “There are seven or eight who are capable of winning,” Steyn says. “The Honda drivers are always going to be quick. They have an engine and a weight advantage on us, so Max Gee and Greg Maloy are going to be there, and Mike Taylor will be a contender. Then, in the Mazda camp, Craig McHaffie and David Palfenier will be up front, for sure.”