ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – John Black, of Olympic Valley, Calif., captured his second-consecutive GT-3 Championship, winning Sunday’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs race at Road America.
Jeff Dernehl, of Woodstock, Ga., and Paul Young, of Commerce Township, Mich., completed the podium.
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Starting from the Gumout Pole Position, Black watched second qualifying Mike Henderson, of El Cajon, Calif., get the jump with his No. 12 Mazda/Redline Oil/Goodyear Mazda RX-7 at the drop of the green. On lap three, Black got a good run out of Turn Eight and drove his No. 17 Murillo Racing Nissan 350Z around the outside of Henderson in the Carousel. The pass earned Black the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
Once out front, Black slowly stretched out his advantage, taking a 1.959-second victory, averaging 99.485 mph.
“I tried to start the race off a little slower, hoping that the Mazdas wouldn’t get to the top speed that they are capable of,” Black said. “At some point, I thought that all three Mazdas might go by me at the start. I felt pretty lucky that it was just one. Mike seemed to be struggling for the first couple of laps and I was able to get by him in the Carousel.
“I was expecting a battle to the very end, with the tires all worn out and people sliding all over the place. Fortunately for me, I made it to the last lap. If I had to go one more, I think Jeff would have gotten me. I pretty much used up everything in the car by the last lap.”
Dernehl qualified his No. 03 Roswell Outback Auto/RRE/Hoosier Mazda RX-7 fourth, but started third when Mike Cyphert didn’t make the grid. Dernehl was challenged early by Wolfgang Maike, who charged from seventh on the grid but retired after 10 laps.
It was the second-straight year that Dernehl finished second to Black at the Runoffs.
“John [Black] is a very tough competitor and I knew that he was going to be very tough to beat out there,” Dernehl said. “Mike [Henderson] has a very fast car and my plan was to hang in there and let those two battle and keep digging. What I didn’t count on was Wolfgang [Maike]! He really gave me a race. I had to keep my eye on the goal, which was to catch the boys in front.
“Once I was by Henderson, I put my sights on John, but I couldn’t quite close the gap. Toward the end, I could sense he was a bit in trouble. I don’t want to wish anything bad on anyone, but I was hoping he might have a problem on the last lap.”
Young started eighth in his No. 79 Young Racing LLC/Hoosier Tire Ford Probe, but charged to the final podium position, turning the Hawk Hot Lap of the race in the process, with a 2:23.593 (100.283 mph). It was Young’s best finish since coming home second in 1999.
“It feels fantastic being back on the [podium],” Young said. “I didn’t have my heart in this thing at the beginning of the week. A lot of people know that my wife passed away a year ago almost to the day. It was tough coming back, because I happened to be here and she was at home.
“I’ve been having some issues this year, and this was really the first time the car has run right all season. Hats off to the guys that help me. It turned out to be a great week.”
James Hargrove, of Surrey, B.C., finished fourth in his No. 38 RaceEnergy/Analytic Systems Honda Civic, followed by Ken Nelson, of Novi, Mich., and his Nissan 200-SX.