ELKHART LAKS, Wis. – Gerald Szykulski, of Edina, Minn., crossed the finish line at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America as the Formula Continental National Champion and the first SCCA Super Sweep award winner of 2012.
Nicholas Coello, of Dousman, Wis., and Brian Belardi, of Grafton, Wis., completed the podium.
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Szykulski won the Central Division point championship, the SCCA National point championship and the BFGoodrich Tires Rocky Mountain Super Tour in Formula Continental, and then completed the most difficult award in SCCA Club Racing with a National Championship in the No. 31 Rotary Systems Inc/Arms Up Motorsports Van Diemen DP08/Ford by 4.273 seconds to earn the Super Sweep.
The champion covered the 13-lap, 52-mile race in 28:49.230, averaging 108.256 mph.
The Gumout Polesitter, Szykulski fell behind Coello’s No. 81 Pouredfoundations.com/RFR Cars/Hoosier Firman RFR 2000/Ford at the green flag and trailed in the runner-up position. Szukulski moved around the four-time National Champion up the front straight on lap five, but Coello reclaimed the lead in Turn 12.
Just when Coello appeared to be stretching the lead, Szykulski closed the gap and went by, again up the front straight and into turn one, to regain the point on lap nine and capture the GoPro Hero Move of the Race award. Szykulski kept Coello behind him to the finish line for his first National Championship.
Szykulski also turned the Hawk fastest lap around the 14-turn, 4-mile circuit in 2:11.467 (109.533 mph).
“It feels great,” Szykulski said. “We worked hard all year developing the car and kind of ran around the country a little bit to get that last race in to get the National points, so we had that up in the air for a little while. We won every race that we’ve been entered. The car is absolutely perfect, it’s fantastic.”
The race had some early drama for Szykulski.
“We were scrambling a little bit, we got to the grid late,” he said. “It was kind of nerve wracking as far as that went. He (Coello) got a perfect start, he timed it absolutely perfectly and saw him over there going into one. I didn’t want to do anything stupid going into the first lap. His car was better early on, and he just doesn’t put a wheel wrong. You know that’s not going to happen, he doesn’t mess up.”
Coello’s car had the cornering speed and early grip, but lost ground in straight line speed to Szykulski. To make matters worse, he ran out of fuel on the final lap and drove across the finish line on fumes.
“I tried to stay close enough so that he’d have a little more pressure on him and make a mistake,” Coello said of his late race chase. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to really pass him down the straightaway unless he did make a mistake and I could get a run on him. But then for some reason on the last lap, it ran out of fuel. I swear it was a lap too long, the race, but it was strange because every race I’ve done all year six gallons makes the race.
“It’s a little strange, but it was a good race and it was fun racing with these guys. It’s always a good time, this group is really fun to race with.”
Belardi survived an early battle with Robert Allaer’s No. 52 Voss/Martini – LTD Motorsports Van Diemen DP08/Ford, moving into the final podium position on lap 8. Chasing Belardi’s No. 4 Hoosier/Arms UP Motorsports Van Diemen DP08/Ford, Allaer spun and Belardi raced to the podium unchallenged.
“Robert kind of surprised me at the start of the race going into turn five, I really didn’t see him there,” Belardi said. “I was just about to turn in, and the next thing I knew he was there. It became a little bit more of a race. [Szykulski and Coello] were obviously the class of the field all weekend, I was just planning to hopefully stay with them and then I found myself in my own battle. It took me a couple of laps to get around him and once I did, I was able to keep up my momentum.”
After spinning, Allaer rejoined the race just in front of the battle for fourth. For the final three laps, Allaer battled with Chuck Moran’s No. 45 Van Diemen RF99/Ford and Peter LeSueur’s No. 05 OSQ/Hoosier Tire Van Diemen RF02/Ford before crossing the line in fourth place. Moran and LeSueur crossed the final stripe nearly side-by-side, with Moran completing the top five.