Julian Garfield: A Rookie at the Runoffs

The winner of the Solo Advancement Scholarship shares his thoughts on his first season of road racing and first SCCA Runoffs

A racer may set simple goals for his or her rookie season of national SCCA road racing. Maybe it’s to finish every race or perhaps earn a podium finish – seldom is it, “Finish in the top 20 in the biggest Spec Miata field to compete at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.” But that’s exactly the goal Julian Garfield set.

“I had come off a couple of really great finishes at the Grattan Last Chance Majors with a third and a second,” says Garfield, the recipient of the Mazda Solo Advancement Scholarship. “So going in [to the Runoffs], I felt I was really confident in the car, and feeling good about being able to put together a respectable finish.

“I felt really good after the first couple of [Runoffs] sessions. I did enjoy the track, and running a track the scale of Indianapolis was really neat. It made the cars feel slow when you look at how big and grand the main straightaway was.”

Garfield moved closer to the front of the large and deep-with-talent field in each qualifying session. He says he ended up a little down when he hit traffic in the Thursday qualifying session when the track conditions were the best, the day most ended up setting their best times. “I knew I had more time out there, and I was a little disappointed starting further back. But I knew I had further room for improvement to move up.”

With Spec Miata racing mid-day on Friday, Sept. 29, at the Runoffs, the fourth race group, Garfield didn’t have much opportunity to watch race starts. It’s probably just as well, because he was nervous about the start anyway.

“I was definitely kind of anxious about the start of the race with such a wide straightaway entering into such a narrow Turn 1,” he admits. “I was definitely a little paranoid and, after watching the video, more paranoid than I knew I should have been. I knew I wasn’t going to do anything crazy in Turn 1; it was more important to continue and finish the race than try to make up a couple of spots right away. So I lost a couple of positions on the start. I ran in a pack of several cars for the entire race and slowly started picking off cars and battled my way back to 20th.” Garfield lost a position on the track after that, but gained it back after post-race technical inspections were done.

Although he certainly would have liked to finish higher, he was really happy with a top-20 finish. He says he feels he made the best of his situation. Most of all, he thought the Runoffs experience was incredible.

Garfield says he thinks that given another season or two, he’d be able to run up front. Unfortunately he doesn’t have any road racing plans cemented for 2018, and driving and working for the University of Kansas Jayhawk Formula SAE team will take a big chunk of his time. He might even switch up his Solo competition, perhaps running something other than C Street in an ND Miata like he has for the past couple of years, winning in 2016 and finishing second this past September at the SCCA Solo National Championships. One thing is certain: He learned a lot in his rookie season of road racing, and we’ll hear about some of those lessons in the near future.