Every year, the Sports Car Club of America’s top Club Racers gather at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs to prove who is the best of the best. The 50th edition took place this past weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., with a near-record entry of more than 700 cars. Out of 28 SCCA National classes of racing, three are all-Mazda or Mazda-powered (Spec Miata, Formula Mazda and Formula Enterprises) and Mazdas are eligible to compete in another 10. Out of those 10, two of the 2013 National Championships went to Mazda drivers.
In a record field of 69 cars, Jim Drago of Memphis, Tenn., started on the Spec Miata pole in his East Street Racing second-generation Miata. A missed shift in Turn 3 on the first lap saw him lose the lead to Craig Berry. Berry led until the second lap, when Steve Gorriaran took the point before the race was interrupted by a full-course caution. Berry retook the lead on lap nine, but that was ended with a mechanical problem, promoting Matt Reynolds to the front.
That lead was short-lived, however, because Erik Stearns moved to the front with a push from Drago. The two teammates built a lead over the rest of the field, but accidental contact between Drago and Stearns ended Stearns’s day and put Voytek Burdzy into the lead as a caution bunched up the field.
On the final lap, Drago, Reynolds and Elivan Goulart teamed up to draft past Burdzy, and Goulart took the lead under braking in Turn 5. Drago came right back at him, retaking first in Turn 6. That was enough to allow Drago to become the first person in the history of Spec Miata at the National Championship Runoffs to repeat as champion.
Burdzy finished second and Danny Steyn, who had missed the fast Tuesday qualifying session where most of fast times in the SM field (and every pole position for the Runoffs) were set. As a result, Steyn started 26th to set up an impressive run to the podium that earned him the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
Rob Warkocki of Frankfort, Ill., earned his second GT-3 National Championship, beating a field of 17 starters in his third-generation RX-7. Warkocki started third but quickly moved into the lead on the first lap. However, by the end of lap two he was back in second behind Joe Kristensen. He stayed in second, chasing Kristensen, until two laps from the end when he made his move. Warkocki took the lead under braking in Turn 8, and earned the GoPro Hero Move of the Race in the process. Polesitter and fellow RX-7 driver Mike Henderson of Alpine, Calif., finished third.
In Super Touring Lite, Rob Huffmaster of Clarkston, Mich., won his third National Championship in the same RX-8 in which his father, Ray, won the STL race last year. However, in 2012 the class was supplemental, so with the win, Huffmaster becomes the first official STL champ.
Starting from pole, Huffmaster drove away from the rest of the STL field, averaging 93.362mph for the 13 laps of the four-mile circuit. It was Huffmaster’s third title, having won Touring 3 in 2007 (RX-8) and Super Touring Under in 2012. Jim Drago brought his Miata home in third for his second medal of the weekend.
Scott Rettich dominated the all-Mazda MZR-powered Formula Enterprises field to win his third FE championship. The Camden, Ohio, driver also won the Super Sweep Award, which requires a U.S. Majors Tour Conference championship; a win in a key, designated Majors race; and the nationwide points championship in addition to the Runoffs victory – all in the same class. Rettich has won the Super Sweep each year he has won at the Runoffs. He also set the fastest lap in his Alliance Autosport/PDI Communications FE. Reece Everard was second and Brandon Kennedy finished third.
Darryl Wills started third in Formula Mazda, but had no intention of letting that stop him from earning his third National Championship in four years. Wills, of Houston, Texas, made his charge on the third lap and never looked back as he drove his Hillenburg Motorsports/Hoosier Tire Star Formula Mazda to a 14.363-second margin of victory over Brian Lift in second. Robert Noell finished third.
The 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs will be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.
Dean takes MX-5 win at Coronado
In other Mazda racing action over the weekend, John Dean of Sebring, Fla., took his first SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup win of the season on the temporary course at Coronado in San Diego, Calif., in his Projections Research/Sick Sideways MX-5. Polesitter Christian Szymczak finished second and Elliot Skeer was third. Szymczak now holds a 12-point lead in the championship over Skeer.
Kenton Koch extended his lead in the MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge with another victory in the class. The Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup is in action again in two weeks at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.