Matt Reynolds, Danny Steyn and Mirl Swan take titles on the final day of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs
On the final day of the 2018 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, held Oct. 16-21 at the 2.52-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway in Northern California, three more Mazda drivers claimed SCCA club racing national championships. Titles were earned in E Production, Super Touring Lite and Formula Atlantic. In total, seven Mazda drivers won championships and Mazda drivers filled 17 other podium positions in 11 different classes.
The E Production race was expected to be a battle between Matt Reynolds and his second-generation MX-5 and Northern Californian Glen McCready’s third-gen MX-5. Indeed, McCready scored the pole and Reynolds provided the Mazda lockout of the front row. But when the green flag dropped, Reynolds, of Fair Oaks, Texas, reminded everyone why he was already a two-time champion in the class, jumping into the lead and racing to a 23-second margin of victory in his No. 71 Reynolds Bros. Racing/Hoosier/JPM Mazda Miata. Reynolds continues his pattern of scoring championships in even-numbered years, having previously won in 2014 and ’16. Aaron Downey finished third in his RX-3, with Joe Moser splitting the Mazda drivers and McCready ending up fourth.
“It feels great,” Reynolds said. “These are two great guys to share the podium with. Joe and I had a great race back at Mid-Ohio, and Aaron and I have been racing for years. He’s always right there, especially at the start of the race.
“We came out here [to Sonoma Raceway] in the summer to learn some things, and it’s definitely more technical than a lot of the stuff we have down in the south. [Texas is] all pretty flat, and this has a lot of off-camber, blind-apex turns. You have to suck it up and just go sometimes.”
Downey moved from third on the grid to just behind Reynolds at the start, trying to keep pace. As Reynolds slowly ticked off laps to creep away, Downey and Tire Rack Pole Award winner Glen McCready went side-by-side in a battle for second. The pair made door-to-door contact coming out of Sonoma’s Turn 7, breaking momentum but keeping the battle moving forward.
McCready appeared to get the worst of the altercation, slowing his pace due to a damaged transmission. Moser passed McCready and caught Downey, whom he passed on lap seven.
“There wasn’t much more left in the car,” Downey said, who now has seven career Runoffs podium finishes. “I don’t think this is necessarily the perfect track for my car, so I’m extremely happy with third place.”
In Super Touring Lite, Danny Steyn, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., overcame a blown engine early in the week and utilized a risky tire strategy to lead flag-to-flag and win in the No. 9 Ocean Machinery/OPM/Nelson/G-Loc Mazda MX-5. This was Steyn’s first Runoffs win after two podium finishes, and a special redemption after a heartbreaking 2017 result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’m so fortunate to come and redeem myself here at a track that I’ve never been to,” Steyn said. “I had a feeling my car would be perfectly suited for this type of track. It’s twisty and windy and I do like to throw things around and I like the tail to drive the car.”
With that in mind, Steyn opted for the softer “A” compound Hoosier tires on his Mazda instead of the more consistent “R” compound.
“I felt like I could get two hero laps out of them and put enough of a dent between me and anyone else behind that they wouldn’t ever sniff on my tail,” Steyn said. “My idea was to break their back in the first two laps.”
Craig McHaffie, in the No. 68 MX-5 Miata, came home in second place, 13.6 seconds behind Steyn.
“I tried to throw a tow strap onto Danny’s car so he could pull me around the track with him, but it didn’t pan out,” McHaffie said. “I’m not quite the cowboy, I guess.”
In the final race of the 2018 Runoffs, Mirl Swan, from Brownsburg, Ind., took the lead in Formula Atlantic at the start, held off the field on two restarts, and drove his No. 66 Swan Motorsports/Hoosier Swift 016a Mazda to victory.
“I focused on getting a really good start – and it was a really good start,” Swan said about the lead he built up before a full-course yellow brought the field back to his mirrors.
Swan had engine trouble early in the week and it looked like the racing gods might be conspiring against him each time the full course yellow came out, but the eventual winner wasn’t upset at all.
“I was actually really happy because this was the most physically demanding racetrack I’ve ever raced on,” Swan said. “I could use the break.”
All results are provisional pending post-race technical inspection.
SCCA National Championship Runoffs
Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
Oct. 16-21, 2018
2018 Mazda SCCA National Champions
Class: Driver; Hometown; Car
E Production: Matt Reynolds; Fair Oaks, Texas; Miata
Formula Atlantic: Mirl Swan; Brownsburg, Ind.; Swift 016a Mazda
Formula Enterprises 2: Flinn Lazier; Vail, Colo.; Van Diemen FE2 Mazda
Formula Enterprises: Mark Snyder; Southlake, Texas; Van Diemen FE Mazda
Formula Mazda: Bryce Cornet; Norman, Okla.; Star Formula Mazda
Super Touring Lite: Dany Steyn; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; NC MX-5
Spec Miata: Mark Drennan; San Jose, Calif.; Miata
Other Mazda Podium Finishers
Class, place: Driver; Hometown; Car
EP, third: Aaron Downey; Rossmore, Calif.; RX-3
FP, third: Charlie Campbell; Corry, Penn.; Miata
GT-3, second: Michael Lewis; Poway, Calif.; RX-7
GT-3, third: Taz Harvey: Danville, Calif.; RX-7
GTL, third: Jonathan Goodale; Conifer, Colo.; MX-5
FE2, second: Liam Snyder, Southlake, Texas; SCCA Mazda FE2
FE2, third: Scott Rettich, Columbus, Ohio; SCCA Mazda FE2
FE, second: Justin Huffman; Herndon, Va.; SCCA Mazda FE
FE, third: John Yeatman; Newcastle, Calif.; SCCA Mazda FE
FM, second: Mike Anderson; Temecula, Calif.; Star Formula Mazda
FM, third: Jarret Voorhies; Fort Worth, Texas; Star Formula Mazda
STL, second: Craig McHaffie; Walpole, Mass.; NC MX-5
SM, second: Tristan Littlehale; Saratoga, Calif.; Miata
SM, third: Chris Haldeman; McKinney, Texas; Miata
T4, second: Gresham Wagner; Williamsburg, Va.; NC MX-5
T4, third: Ross Murray; Marina del Rey, Calif.; RX-8
BS, second: Jake Pipal; Oakdale, Calif.; Mazda 2