LINCOLN, Neb. – Sunny skies were overhead as 30 National Championships were awarded on the final day of competition at the 41st Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships at the Lincoln Airpark on Friday.
Seven drivers completed the requirements for the prestigious Triad Award during the week, and an additional six non-championship classes declared winners during Friday’s competition.
The Elliott Spiedell-designed West Course decided half of Friday’s winners on a course that became known for its transitions and slalom sections, as opposed to the longer Sam Strano-designed East Course that seemed to favor horsepower.
The largest class of the week was Street Touring X, and, as expected, the competition was intense. Andrew Pallotta, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, held the overnight lead in the Stranoparts/Moto-East Scion FR-S, but the difference between courses allowed different makes of cars to shine.
That held true in STX, as both Jeff Hurst, of Hicksville, N.Y., and Clint Child, of Glendale, Ariz., turned times 0.6-second quicker in their Mazda RX-8 and Acura Integra, respectively, than Pallotta on Friday’s West Course runs. For Hurst’s ANZE Suspension RX-8, that time was enough to leap into his first National Championship. Pallotta finished second, just 0.226-second behind, while Child’s Bhatch Racing/Pro Parts USA Integra moved to third for the second-consecutive year.
D Stock looked for a while like a runaway for three-time defending champion Mark Smith, of Denver, Colo., as the 3Zero3ms.com/SPE-ED/Customcraft Audi TT opened up a lead of 1.8 seconds after his second of three runs. When Smith lowered his time by an additional two-tenths of a second, it seemed the sure thing was cemented.
As it turned out, Smith needed that last run after all. After cone penalties on his first two runs, James Feinberg, of Fuquay Varina, N.C., cranked out a final run in his BFGoodrich Tires-shod SoloPro Driving School Audi TT that sat him ahead of Smith’s second time and the quickest class time of the day, but 0.114-second shy of the aggregate time needed to dethrone Smith.
Heat three on the West Course only had two classes running, but both were packed full of drama.
Jeff Cashmore, of New Berlin, Wis., led the opening day of D Modified by a half second, but trouble struck in the form of a broken steering arm midway through the day’s runs. With a crowd of people and a furious exchange of tools around the front right of the King Motorsports Lotus Honda, Cashman rolled to the starting line 1.7 seconds behind Mark Huffman’s Lotus Elan.
Cashmore’s car was back together, completing the circuit in 50.132 seconds, slower than Huffman’s Friday time but quick enough to take a 0.4-second lead in the all-important aggregate time. With one run to go, Huffman needed a time of 49.5 seconds to win his first National Championship.
Huffman weaved through the cones in what looked like flawless fashion, whipping his head to the scoreboard as he crossed the stripe. Huffman slapped his steering wheel as the timing board displayed a 49.820 – an improvement, but still 0.270-second shy of Cashmore. The win moved Cashmore into double-digit career National Championships, with 10.
C Stock was just as dramatic. Ryan Buetzer, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., had overcome an opening day 0.7-second disadvantage on the twisty West Course to take a lead of over a second in the ChaseCam/Albin Bowling Supply/The Dent Guy Pontiac Solstice.
On the final runs of the heat, Buetzer followed the JFA Racing/Track Time Performance Nissan 370Z driven by opening day leader Daniel McCelvey, of Houston, onto the circuit. When McCelvey crossed the stripe more than a second quicker than his previous best, he moved back into the lead by 0.122-second. Buetzer, already more than half way through his run when McCelvey finished, failed to improve on what was the class fast time of the day, and McCelvey had earned his first National Championship.
Eric Sienkiewicz, of Charlotte, N.C., proved Friday that a good driver doesn’t need a specialty car to compete for a title. Using his Discount Tire Co./Kiwi Garage Mazda3 that doubles as his daily driver, Sienkiewicz drove to his first National Championship on a set of BFGoodrich Tires g-Force Rival tires with 10,000 miles already on them for the Street Touring FWD crown.