ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Ray Huffmaster, of Clarkston, Mich., won the Super Touring Lite® class debut at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs after a final-lap pass on Jim Drago, of Memphis, Tenn., Sunday at Road America.
Rich Walke, of Hawthorn Woods, Ill., made a last-lap pass of his own to finish third.
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While the STL class was running as a supplemental class this year at Road America and not for a National Championship, the action was no less intense. Huffmaster’s No. 31 Huffmaster Security/Hoosier Mazda RX-8 and Drago’s No. 2 East Street Racing Mazda Miata swapped the lead officially eight times, and many more times at the back of the circuit before crossing the timing stripe.
The multiple passes were just the appetizer to the final lap’s main course. Drago led at the start of the lap, but the two banged door handles coming out of turn three down the long straightaway into five, with Huffmaster pulling in front. Drago reclaimed the lead through turn eight, with Huffmaster seemingly losing it when he ran wide. The RX-8 chased down the Miata with a great run through the kink, and Huffmaster completed the pass before getting into Canada Corner, the 12th turn at Road America.
Drago, pushing hard, ran wide and spun in turn 12, but the race wasn’t quite over. Huffmaster also ran wide through 13, but gathered it up and climbed the hill to the checkered flag for a 10.957-second victory
“The last lap was exciting,” Huffmaster said. “We went back and forth a few times. More or less, we’d get the run down through the Carousel into the Kink. We caught a lapper and I thought I had the room to get over so it was just enough to sneak over and in. I thought actually I was going to get pinched there, and it was just a little speed difference in the car.”
Huffmaster got an assist from his son, Rob Huffmaster, who won the Super Touring Under® race running concurrently with STL. The younger Huffmaster, running with a comfortable lead, slowed on his final lap so as not to lap the STL leaders, which would have checkered their race a lap early and given Drago the win.
“We kind of ran the numbers earlier and thought they were coming by us, and I figured the whole front part of the STU field was going to be in the last lap,” the elder Huffmaster said. “That always makes it interesting. You don’t know how that’s going to turn out or where you’re going to be. I did look back and saw that car in the mirror, and I went, ok, he closed on us fast. He must have laid back to see what the old boy could do and probably was having a laugh at it!
“It’s fantastic. It’s always been a lot of fun, and it’s great to be able to run with your son.”
The pass for the lead was a tough one by Huffmaster and earned him the GoPro Hero Move of the Race, but it was one that Drago understood.
“I think on the last corner, Ray shot the gap,” Drago said. “There was enough room there and it just got to the point where he cut across me and it was a move I would have made. At that point it was either run into Ray or really try to lock the car down. I didn’t want to take all three of us off, I thought I could hit the brakes and at least get a little sideways. I didn’t expect to spin off, but I also didn’t want to take all of us off at the last corner. I think that was a good move and I would have made the same one in that corner.”
Drago earned his second podium of the 2012 Runoffs after taking a National Championship in Spec Miata on Saturday. The adjustment from running a spec class to one with a variety of cars was one that the champion really enjoyed, even turning the Hawk Hot Lap in 2:35.499 (92.605 mph).
“It’s almost comical how different our cars were,” Drago said, comparing his Miata to Huffmaster’s RX-8. “There’s no way my car should be faster than his; there no way his car should handle better than mine. My car is a Spec Miata that we literally just started throwing stuff at it. My car is so bad through the Carousel that Ray could, if he was in the same zip code, just track me down and flat the Kink and I couldn’t remotely flat the Kink.
“This class is a lot of fun.”
Like the leaders, Walke’s No. 61 Dan Glitz/Creative Technology Inc. Mazda RX-7 battled back and forth with Bob Beede’s No. 44 Bill Fenton Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires Honda Civic Si. Walke used his horsepower to move around Beede right at the finish for the bronze medal.
“Based on the qualifying times, we knew we weren’t in the hunt for the lead. We knew these two were going to run away and hide, but there were three of us within a couple of tenths. As it played out, there were two of us in that good battle and my race with Bob Beede the whole race long he drove a fantastic race, a clean race. His car had certain strengths and my car had certain straights. He was good through the Carousel and made up time on me, and I was better out of 14 so I was making up time as a result up the front straightaway. We traded the lead seven, eight, nine times through the race.
“[On the last lap] we went into 12 side by side, we came out side-by-side, and he pulled just slightly in front of me going into 13. I drafted into him into 14 and then I made my move and got a perfect run coming out of 14. I stayed behind him, drafted up the front straightaway, and took him about 100 yards from the start/finish line. It was a fabulous finish.”
Beede finished fourth, followed by Greg Amy in the No. 33 Honda Racing/HPD/Hoosier Acura Integra. Mike Smith finished eighth in the No. 05 Pit Pal Products Honda Civic Si to win the Sunoco Hard Charger.