White Claims Thrilling SRF Championship

Cliff White (58) claimed the Spec Ford Racer National Championship during the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Friday at Road America. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)
Cliff White (58) claimed the Spec Ford Racer National Championship during the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Friday at Road America. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Cliff White, of Huntsville, Ala., made an exciting final corner pass on then race leader Brian Schofield, of Lakeland, Fla., to capture his first-career Spec Racer Ford National Championship at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America.

Todd Harris, of Portland, Ore., finished second, and Schofield was third.

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Driving the No. 58 Cottage Senior Living Spec Racer Ford, White’s car appeared to be hooked up early and often. He could choose just about any racing line he wanted and make it stick. White spent most of the race battling Harris, Schofield, and Scott Rettich, of Camden, Ohio, for the top spot. With the exception of White, each of these drivers led the race at one point. In fact, the only part White led was the final straight to the finish line, with a little help from Harris. The final margin of victory was 0.135-second.

“The car was just on rails today, which allowed me to get good position for runs down the back straightaway,” White said. “In particular, I took advantage into Canada Corner on the last lap. The guys were stacking up going into Canada and I think Todd [Harris] and Scott [Rettich] were both looking to pass. I just hung back about a car length and got a run on the outside, which became the inside. The car never wavered there. It stuck, even on the outside of Turn 13. I have to credit the setup. It was far superior to my ability to suck up in the draft. That’s why I had to get most of my passing done under the braking.

“I set up to pass Todd going into Canada. It’s kind of risky because you’re taking some speed away by taking that line. But as soon as I saw Brian’s car step out a little bit, I started to smile. I tried to push harder on the gas, but that didn’t help. I started climbing the hill. Brian made one defensive move and then another defensive move. That gave me room on the inside and I knew it was going to be close. Then, Todd came up behind and it was that classic Spec Racer draft and gave me a push across the finish line.

“This is an awesome feeling. I’ve been driving this car for a long time. I’ve been working very hard at it and I’m glad to be part of such a strong group of drivers that take the gloves off on the track, but can smile and laugh about it afterwards and come back next year.”

White had the GoPro Move of the Race for his final corner pass. He also turned the Hawk Performance fast race lap with a 2:38.863.

Harris started sixth in the No. 24 Pro Drive Racing/HMS Spec Racer Ford. After several nifty moves, he was up to second by lap seven. However, the four-way back-and-forth battle for the lead shuffled Harris to low as fourth with two laps to go.

“There was a lot of racing early,” Harris said. “It probably kept some of the guys in the bottom of the top 10 in the hunt a little longer. Racing on these big tracks with the long straightaways and the drafting is certainly an art form. Without a doubt, Brian [Schofield] is the master at that. But just because you know what you’re doing with it means you’re going to win every time. It’s a cat and mouse game. You have to get into the other driver’s head at times and figure out what he wants. What can I do to help him and what can he do to help me and then the gloves come off with two to go. But they were making these last-lap moves with many laps to go. It was very exciting. It was a great show.”

On the final lap, Harris worked his way to third, with a shot at the win with two corners to go. Schofield led White and Harris in Turn 14, but coming out of the corner Schofield slid a little wide. This allowed White to get a run, with Harris in tow, to pass the leader coming up the hill.

“I needed to get through Turn 12 better,” Harris said. “Cliff was better than I was there and we were side-by-side going into 14 and I had Scott [Rettich] behind ready to attack. You have to make a choice. Do I fight [White] all the way in or do I let him get it in there? It was the one time in the race that we were trying to occupy the same real estate. I gave him some room and he shot down in there. I saw what happened to Brian and then I just had to decide which direction to go. It ended up being to the right and there was a purple car in front of me. All I could do was stand on the gas and push him to the line.”

Schofield, the Gumout Pole winner, led the most race laps in the No. 61 PM Racing Spec Racer Ford. But, those laps did not come easy. He lost the lead a few times in Turn One, but each time had to fight to get it back.

“My car was good and then going into one, with maybe five or six to go, Cliff [White] got into the back of me in the right rear,” Schofield said. “The steering wheel was a little cocked from that point on.”

The 2010 SRF National Champion looked poised to pick up his second championship because he had the lead with one lap to go.

“On the last lap, I knew I was a sitting duck,” Schofield said. “You’ve got to somewhat throw the block. I think I’ve made that pass famous, going onto the front straight. I don’t think it’s been done much in the past and people say you can’t pass there, but you can in Spec Racers. I took the protective line and then I went wide driver’s left and when I did that the car just snapped on me. The rear jumped around and I knew they were just going to power by me on the front straight. Once I came around the corner I knew that was it. I knew I was a sitting duck.”

Rettich finished fourth in the No. 17 Alliance Autosport/Springboro Car Wash. Steve Fogg, of West Linn, Ore. Finished fifth in the No. 21 Lisa Alex and Emily Racing/Pro Driving.