ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Gumout pole winner Jon Brakke, of Fargo, N.D., outlasted Greg Ira, of Plantation, Fla., to win his third-career E Production National Championship at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America Saturday.
Kevin Leigh, of Harrisonburg, Va., finished third.
(For more SCCA National Championship Runoffs Coverage, Click Here)
Driving the No. 89 Margaret Peterson Bars Mazda Miata, Brakke spent the first eight laps engaged in a second-place battle with Ira, while the then race leader Aaron Downey, of Rossmoor, Calif., drove away. But, just before lap nine started, Downey pulled his No. 5 roundpeg.com Mazda RX-3 to pit lane with a broken shifter. Downey’s day was done.
From there, Brakke inherited the race lead with Ira’s No. 2 First Coast Auto Sales Datsun 240-Z in tow and never looked back. The two drivers never traded positions after Downey went out. Brakke won by 2.318-seconds for this third National Crown. Brakke turned the Hawk Performance fast race lap, with a 2:28.626.
“When I saw the grid, I actually said, ‘Aaron’s going to get me. Greg’s going to get me. And, Sam’s going to get me at the start,” Brakke said. “And, I was right. At that point, it was a matter of trying not to drive their race because Greg was going to out-torque me out of the corners every time. It was necessary to get a run at him somewhere, putting together a series of corners – hope I could pass and keep it. We traded back-and-forth in corner one, seven, eight, Canada Corner, a bunch of them.
“Aaron has done such a great job with that car. He was running phenomenally. He was in the lead. That’s not the way to win a race – to have your competition fail like that. It’s just too bad. It was lucky for me. This was a hard fought win. It was very similar to 2010 when Greg and I battled in that race. I’m third time lucky.”
“My strategy developed as the race went along,” Ira said. “I think both Jon and I could have caught Aaron if we hadn’t been messing with each other. We were costing each other a little bit of time. He [Jon] made a great pass and I elected to stay back there in hopes we could catch Aaron because I was catching him for sure. I could see his [Jon] car was getting loose. It would have been a great three-way battle at the end. Jon and I were battling in a lot of the corners behind Aaron. He had his head down and was gapping us a bit.
“It’s been a while since I ran 13 laps at 10 tenths. Jon, Aaron and I all have pretty close cars in their own different ways. I was really anticipating this. I was hoping that all three could go through to the end. It was sad to see Aaron pull off. Sometimes it’s hard to catch Jon when he’s out by himself. But, we had a great race.”
Ira recorded his third-consecutive E Production runner-up finish and his fourth E Production podium.
Leigh started sixth in the No. 97 JBS Racing Hoosier BMW Z3. He was up to fourth by lap eight. On lap 10, third-running Sam Halkias, Westerville, Ohio, spun his No. 83 Catawba Island Marina/Buckeye Triumph TR6 in turn five. This allowed Leigh to inherit third and he held on for his first-career E Production National Championship podium.
“The BMW has a lot of power down the straightaways, that was obvious,” Leigh said. “It’s a struggle in the corners. After the first lap, we were fifth. Through attrition, we moved it up to third. These two guys [Brakke and Ira] kind of pulled away from us. I knew I had a lot of good competition behind me. They really kept me more than honest. It was a handful. I am just happy to be here at the podium.”
Austin Snader, of Brookshire, Texas, finished fourth in the No. 64 Snader Racing/Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8. Snader earned the GoPro Move of the Race for his last lap efforts in trying to capture the final podium spot. Rick Kavitski, of Freeland, Pa., finished fifth in the No. 24 RDK Engineering Inc. Mazda Miata.