ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Michael Varacins, of Burlington, Wis., may have started and finished the Formula Vee race at the front, but it was by no means an easy SCCA National Championship Runoffs race at Road America for the Wisconsin native.
Varacins drafted past Roger Siebenaler, of North Hero, Vt., at the finish line to take the win. Gary Blanarik, of Baden, Penn., finished third behind Siebenaler.
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The Formula Vee race began with two early caution periods. The first to retrieve the No. 77 ARS Inc/Veesport Racing/AutoWerks Volkswagen VDF in Turn Six, which belonged to third-starting Rick Shields, from, Bridgeville, Penn. Shortly after the restart a second full-course caution was issued when the No. 37 Irion Filtration/Noble Racing/Goody Vortech FV of Charles Hearn, of Houston, Texas, came to a stop upside down on the front straight. Both drivers walked away from their respective incidents.
Racing resumed in earnest on lap five with Varacins leading Blanarik, Chris Jennerjahn and Siebenaler into Turn One. On the following lap Blanarik and Jennerjahn breezed past Varacins on the front straight for the top two positions, but Varacins had the lead right back on the following lap.
“I think I was pretty quick through the back section, so going into Turn Five on the first lap, I made it difficult for the guys to go around me because I knew if I could get through Five in the lead we could maybe stretch it out,” Varacins said. “That was my main mission. The first couple times I did it I was getting annoyed with the full-course yellows, because we’d get spread out, but then there’d be another full-course yellow.
“My strategy changed depending on how many cars were in the pack. I didn’t want to make too big of an issue out of things when I could see so many cars in our mirrors, but once the four of us (Varacins, Siebenaler, Blanarik and Jennerjahn) broke away, then I had a little more leeway to dice around a little bit. I didn’t want to be at the end of that train because if someone made a mistake, then the first two cars were gone. I kept fighting to make sure I was no further back than second.”
For the final two laps, Varacins and Siebenaler broke away from Blanarik and Jennerjahn who were in their own battle for the final podium spot. In true Formula Vee fashion, the win came down to drafting strategy on the final lap.
“On the last lap it was Roger and I,” Siebenaler said. “I was a little surprised to see him go by coming into 12. I was okay with leading out of Turn 14, because I wasn’t sure he’d be able to get me at the line. I was willing to take that chance and see if it happened.”
Siebenaler made his move in Canada Corner, but Varacins had the momentum coming out of Turn 14 and drafted past Siebenaler at the finish line, winning his second Formula Vee Championship by 0.101-second. The pass won Varacins the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
“This one feels better than the first,” Varacins said. “After you win the first one, you think that you’re going to have more of them, but the last two years, wins have been few and far between. When you win the second one, you appreciate it more than the second one, so this is great.”
Second-starting Siebenaler fell back to fourth early, but knew that was the name of the game in Formula Vee racing.
“I got a pretty good start, but that doesn’t do you any good here because there’s two other straightaway for everyone to get by you,” Seibenaler said. “That’s pretty much what happened and I knew it was going to happen. I was content staying there, because I knew the guys in the pack were pretty fast. I figured I’d work my way back when the time comes.”
Seibenaler worked his way back to a battle for the win. After exchanging the lead with Varacins on seemingly every lap, the time came for the defending FV Champion to pick his spot for the final run to the finish line.
“My strategy was obviously the wrong strategy,” lamented Seibenaler. “I passed him [Varacins] going into Canada Corner and I probably shouldn’t have. I should know better than that. I thought I may have had an opportunity if I could ace Turn 14 coming onto the front straight and maybe I could pull him up the hill. That didn’t work; he had good momentum up the hill and drafted past me. I knew I was a sitting duck. It was going to happen to one of us. I should have waited a few more corners.”
Fourth-starting Blanarik had hoped to stay with the leaders to the end, but his fight with Jennerjahn allowed the leaders to pull out of reach.
“Chris got really sideways coming into Turn 14 and I checked up because I thought he was going to come across in front of me and I had to really tighten up my line,” Blanarik recalled. “I pulled in front of him and we tried to work together to catch back up, but we couldn’t make up the gap.”
With six Runoffs starts in Formula Vee on his resume, Blanarik also knew that his position relative to Jennerjahn would be key to claiming his first Runoffs podium.
“I was hoping that he would pass me going into Canada Corner, so I held the inside, gave him the pass and he took it,” Blanarik said. “I kind of had a feeling he would. Then, I waited behind him coming into Turn 14, which he had already had a problem there, so I’m sure he was a little nervous, and I was able to run him up the hill for the draft pass.”
Despite setting the Hawk Fastest Race Lap and a new record at 2:40.938 (89.475 mph), Jennerjahn, of Hardford City, Ind., just missed the podium in his No. 48 Jennerjahn Machine, Inc. Vortech. Charles McCormick, of Clarkston, Mich., finished fifth in his No. 69 RSE Incorporated Vortech CM1.