ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Thursday evening brought an end to qualifying for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America.
With that, 26 Tire Rack Pole Award winners are slated to lead their respective classes to the green flag over the next three days as nearly 600 competitors do their best to earn a Summit Racing Equipment SCCA Road Racing National Championship on Road America’s 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit.
The Tire Rack Pole Award winners each receive a commemorative sign and lapel pin, a certificate of achievement, and $500 to spend at Tire Rack.
The largest field at this year’s 57th Runoffs is Spec Miata at just short of 80 entries. Chris Haldeman had the top qualifying time early in the week, only to be bested by Preston Pardus. It wasn’t until Thursday that the Spec Miata pole was sealed when Kyle Greenhill turned a 2:42.209 to earn his very first Tire Rack Pole Award in only his second Runoffs appearance.
With one entry short of 60 competitors, Spec Racer Ford Gen3 is the second largest race classes this year at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. Tuesday’s top qualifier was Franklin Futrelle, who was then supplanted Wednesday by Brian Schofield. When qualifying was complete Thursday evening, the fastest time turned was a 2:29.786 – and that belonged to T.J. Acker his first Tire Rack Pole Award.
Dan Meller’s lone Runoffs championship came in 2009 at Road America, but his lap of 2:39.695 earned the Tire Rack Pole Award in H Production and gave him a leg up on a second title at his home track.
Jesse Prather’s third career pole sets the stage for him to lower the E Production track record, qualifying at a blazing 2:27.332 on Thursday. Prather will lead a full field of Mazdas and BMWs, which comprise the first 11 spots on the grid, to the green flag on Saturday.
Ethan Shippert held the F Production Tire Rack pole provisionally on Tuesday and Wednesday, saw it fall to Kevin Ruck midway through Thursday’s session, and then regained the top spot on his fourth of six laps completed. Shippert’s 2:31.414 places him first, with two-time champion Ruck’s Acura alongside him.
Jeffrey Bartz had the Formula F pole after day one of qualifying. On day two it was Simon Sikes who went fastest. Sikes then went out on Thursday and lowered his time to a 2:22.916, which earned him a Tire Rack Pole Award on his first trip to the Runoffs.
In Formula 500, Calvin Stewart claimed his second Tire Rack Pole Award. James Weida made things interesting Wednesday by setting the fastest lap, but Stewart came back and turned a 2:20.954 on Thursday, which is a new qualifying record for Formula 500 at Road America.
Formula Vee saw reigning champion Andrew Whitston set the fastest time Tuesday. Hunter Phelps-Barron then turned a lap of 2:43.994 on Wednesday, which nobody bested Thursday, thus earning Phelps-Barron a Tire Rack Pole Award in only his second Runoffs start.
After Charles Russell Turner set the fastest time Tuesday in Formula Enterprises 2, Scott Rettich came along and ultimately claimed his ninth Tire Rack Pole Award overall by posting an Formula Enterprises 2 lap time Thursday of 2:12.806 around Road America.
Andrew Aquilante earned the 15th and 16th Tire Rack poles of his Runoffs career on Thursday, taking the top spot in both GT-2, driving the No. 33 Phoenix Performance Chevrolet Corvette, and Touring 1 behind the wheel of the No. 33 Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang. With the fast qualifying sessions, Aquilante broke a tie with Joe Huffaker to move into second place on the career Runoffs pole position leaders list, still nine behind Jerry Hansen’s all-time lead.
Hot on his heels on the all-time charts is Mike Lewis, who scored his 12th career Tire Rack pole with a Runoffs record lap of 2:21.882. In GT-1, defending Runoffs champion Ernie Francis Jr. grabbed his first Tire Rack Pole Award based on a 2:02.936 qualifying lap Thursday, which is a new qualifying record for GT-1 at Road America.
Joe Moser was atop the leaderboard in Super Touring Lite the first two days of qualifying. But on Thursday, defending Super Touring Lite champion Danny Steyn put down an Super Touring Lite qualifying record lap of 2:31.420 to claim his third straight Tire Rack Pole Award while Moser sat parked with engine difficulties.
In Touring 2, Alan Kossof controlled the top spot all week, resulting in his first Tire Rack Pole Award and a Runoffs qualifying record at Road America for the class. Marshall Mast was in control of the Touring 3 class all week. He earned his second Tire Rack Pole Award with a time of 2:29.757, which is another Runoffs qualifying record at Road America. Touring 4 was led all week by John Heinricy, who grabbed his second consecutive Tire Rack Pole Award in that class with a lap time of 2:37.403, resulting in one more Runoffs qualifying record at Road America.
James French is no stranger to Road America, living just down the road in Sheboygan. He’ll lead the Prototype 1 field to the green flag after a lap of 2:01.101 jumped him to the Tire Rack Pole Award during Thursday’s final qualifying session. It’s French’s first pole. Then in Prototype 2, Robert Iverson’s time of 2:08.514 from Wednesday’s qualifying session held up during Thursday’s 22-minute session to give Iverson his second career Tire Rack Pole Award.