Spec Miata set to break Runoffs records

With nearly 100 Spec Miatas entered in the 2017 SCCA Runoffs, things are about to get very interesting

Spec Miata holds the all-time record for the largest number of cars to start a race at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. In 2013, 67 Miatas made the Runoffs grid at Road America. The second-place record is also held by Spec Miata with 60 cars at the 2010 Runoffs. This year, a new Spec Miata record will be set at the SCCA Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Just a few days after entries were opened in July for the September race, 92 Spec Miata drivers from all over North America declared their intention to race in this year’s national championship race.

That number poses a challenge to SCCA officials, because according to the rules, the 2.592-mile road course at Indianapolis can handle only 72 cars. SCCA officials plan to address that challenge by splitting the Spec Miata group into two segments for qualifying sessions. But it’s the race that poses the real problem.

SCCA rules state that to race in the Runoffs, you have to post a qualifying time that’s not more than 115 percent of the fastest qualifier’s time. That will potentially take out the slowest cars, but even then, the group could still be too large. SCCA officials have a plan for that, too.

If more than 72 cars post a lap time that would qualify them for the race, SCCA will take the top 60 cars as qualified. Cars from position 61 on down will have to run a qualifying race, and the top 12 finishers from that race will be gridded in positions 61 through 72.

Remember, no SCCA Runoffs race has ever been this large before. Predictions of what might happen are all just speculation.

“There doesn’t look like much to hit [at Indy], but Turn 1 is very awkward and cars will absolutely stack up there,” says two-time Spec Miata SCCA national champion Jim Drago. “The start will be hectic, and at least one full course caution is likely.”

The excitement is compounded because no one has ever raced on this configuration of the Indy road course before. It’s new ground for everyone, and each driver has to learn the track fast if they want to compete.

“I plan on watching a bunch of video and talking to the [Idemitsu MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires] guys,” says contender Danny Bender. “They were there earlier this year, and I’d like to see if any of them have some advice in terms of strategy.”

In racing, the number of cars on course will affect not only the start of the race, but track conditions and traffic throughout the entire 40-minute contest.

“It’ll be interesting to see if it’s one of those races where you want to lead from the front and control it, or is it one of those races where it’s actually better to sit second and see how it plays out,” Bender says.