Who Will Win the Runoffs?

Mazda road racers are favorites in several classes to win an SCCA National Championship

Each year, SportsCar magazine, the Sports Car Club of America’s official member magazine, attempts to predict the winners of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. In a good year, the magazine’s writers get about a third right – after all, there’s a lot preventing accuracy with such predictions, like mechanical troubles, first-turn crashes or even a driver just having a bad day.

This week, some 600 racers are descending on VIRginia International Raceway to compete for an SCCA road racing national championship title, with more of those racing Mazdas or Mazda-powered cars than any other make. So, naturally, Mazda drivers feature heavily in SportsCar’s predictions, and that goes well beyond the classes where Mazda is the only marque – Spec Miata, Formula Enterprises, FE2, and Formula Mazda. In several classes with open competition, Mazda drivers are expected to get the job done, or at least figure into the podium fight.

Starting with the Production classes, SportsCar has picked three-time E Production champ Matt Reynolds to once again take that title in his NB Miata. He’ll have plenty of competition, though, including RX-7 driver John Hainsworth. In F Production, 2017 champ and Miata driver Eric Prill is expected to make the podium, if not necessarily the top step.

Like they do with Reynolds, SportsCar expects a repeat champion from 2018 to win STL at VIR this year. Danny Steyn took his first Super Touring Lite title last year at Sonoma Raceway, and he and his NC MX-5 are looking very strong this year for an encore performance. Steyn, a Southeast Conference driver, has a lot of experience at VIR. 

In Touring, a Mazda driver is picked for the podium in Touring 4: Owen Schefer has been very quick in his RX-8, especially at VIR, and could be a contender. SportsCar didn’t mention any Mazdas in Touring 3, but it’s tough to ignore Danny Bender’s determination with his ND2 Mazda MX-5 Cup car in which he won the June Sprints.

Although SportsCar didn’t pick a Mazda driver to win GT3, Jeff Dernehl and Rob Warcocki will certainly play a part in their third-generation RX-7s, while Stacy Wilson will undoubtedly also factor into the equation with his second-gen car. In fact, Mazdas will battle for numerous positions in this class, as the majority of the 17-car field is made up of Mazdas.

GT3 has been recently bolstered by Mazda’s efforts in the class via its GT3 Challenge presented by MPI race series, in addition to its expanded parts program for GT3 racers. The GT3 Challenge series, which kicked off at the 2018 ARRC at Road Atlanta, concludes its 2019 competition season at the Runoffs, where GT3 Challenge race winners Derhnel, Warcocki and Wilson will battle for the overall 2019 GT3 Challenge title. The GT3 Challenge takes place thanks to support from not only GT3 racers, but also Penske Racing Shocks, Hoosier Racing Tires, AiM Sports and Max Papis Innovations (MPI).

The Formula Atlantic field is small, but Mazda power dominates, including the picks for the podium. Keith Grant, Flinn Lazier and Lee Alexander are the top three picks, and all are in Mazda-powered Swifts. In Prototype 1, Mazda-powered Elan DP02s are picked for the second and third steps of the podium, in the hands of Jean-Luc Liverato and Todd Slusher.

Former champions are picked in Formula Mazda, including Bryce Cornet and Mel Kemper. In Formula Enterprises, James Libecco is predicted to win, with defending champion Mark Snyder demoted to second and Justin Huffman picked for third. Mark’s brother Liam, who finished second last year, is picked to win Formula Enterprises 2, with six-time SCCA National Champion Scott Rettich second and Paul Schneider third.

Finally, in the 60-plus Spec Miata field, Southeast Conference drivers are expected to sweep the podium. SportsCar thinks Danny Steyn will pick up his first SCCA Spec Miata national championship title, with two former champs, Preston Pardus and Jim Drago, joining him on the podium. Others likely to figure are Todd Buras, Chris Haldeman, Tyler Kicera, Matt Reynolds and Jared Thomas.

Mazda fans headed to VIR for the SCCA Runoffs should check out the Mazda paddock and hospitality area, which will be located on the skidpad. Mazda racers are invited to enjoy lunch each day, and Mazda Motorsports support staff will be on hand to assist racers with technical expertise and parts.