ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Riley Salyer used a last-lap pass to claim top honors in the B-Spec division during the 57th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America on Saturday.
Polesitter David Daughtery set a slow pace up to the flag and took the lead heading into turn one with Salyer taking up second, Brandon Vivian third, and Tony Roma slotting into fourth position. With the lead train established, the racers set out to put a gap on fifth place John Philips, who was leading his own train of several cars. A swarm of mid-pack bees followed the two lead trains.
With just a few changes in the lead, that’s how it went for the next 10 laps. The four leading cars worked on putting distance between themselves and the rest of the field, while Philips — with his train — tried to catch them. On the fifth lap, teammates Vivian and Roma took the lead over from Daughtery, shuffling him back to fourth in the lead pack.
“It was more opportunistic than premeditated,” Roma said.
As the field crossed the line for the 10th time, Vivian still held the lead, followed by Daughtery, Salyer, and Roma, with Philips and his train 14 seconds back. Salyer made a move on Daughtery heading into turn one, smoothly driving past the veteran champion to take up second place. The young contender then tried to pass Vivian heading into turn five, but lost momentum and was shuffled back to third behind Daughtery and ahead of Roma. The shuffling allowed Vivian to open a small gap, but without a drafting partner the space was quickly closed up again.
The surprise drama took place on the 11th lap, when Daughtery suddenly slowed on the exit of turn five with a reported fuel starvation issue that proved fatal for his chances at the lead on the climb to turn six. Daughtery dropped back out of the lead pack, but maintained fourth position about 10 seconds ahead of Philips. Salyer took over second position, which is the catbird seat for a B-Spec race because of the drafting advantage over the leader.
As the white flag came out, Salyer was clearly looking for his way into the lead. The young racer bobbled a bit in turn 14 heading up to the white flag and Roma looked to capitalize on the error, but couldn’t out-drag Salyer up the hill. Salyer took another look around Vivian in Turn 6, running two wheels off on the grass at the exit, but couldn’t find a way around.
The moment of truth came at turn 12, Canada Corner, when Salyer got a run on Vivian and pulled alongside through the Billy Mitchell curves. Salyer emerged in the lead, and led the field up to the checkered flag. Vivian finished second, and Roma held on for third place. Farther back, Daughtery and Philips rounded out the top five.
“It doesn’t even feel real,” Salyer said in victory circle. “It feels amazing.”
The first-time champion will also race in H Production later this weekend, but has his eyes set on more racing in the future.
“I want to move up to pro racing, but I need to find a sponsor,” he said.
Vivian was naturally disappointed but had praise for Salyer.
“We have really good camaraderie and close racing in B-Spec,” he said. “It comes down to the last lap, and Riley drove a better last lap than I did. It was a great race, really fun, and I’m glad to represent the class on the podium. Congratulations to Riley.”