HILLIARD, Ohio — Neil Verhagen, a 15-year-old high school student from Mooresville, N.C., was named the 46th recipient of the RRDC Mark Donohue Award.
This unique award is presented annually by the Road Racing Drivers Club for outstanding performance, competitiveness and sportsmanship during the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
Verhagen became the youngest SCCA National Champion in history, winning the Formula F class during the SCCA Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Sept. 19-25, 2016.
Before this win, IndyCar racer Graham Rahal, a full year older than Verhagen, was the youngest when he captured the Formula Atlantic National Championship at Mid-Ohio in 2005.
The award is named for RRDC member and former president Mark Donohue, who won his first National Championship in the SCCA E Production class in 1961 and then went on to become one of America’s greatest racing drivers.
Verhagen will be officially presented the award at the annual RRDC members’ dinner at the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25.
Driving in his first Runoffs in the No. 3 K-Hill Motorsports/Hoosier Mygale SJ11/Honda, Verhagen started from pole position and built a 15-second lead before a full-course caution brought the field back on his tail. He quickly moved ahead after the restart and took the checkered flag with a 5.51-second margin of victory.
“I knew about the RRDC Donohue Award, but I had no idea I was even in contention to receive it until I got the phone call from Bobby Rahal. I am extremely honored and very happy to receive this award,” said Verhagen, who won the 2016 F1600 Series championship and was named the only American on the FIA’s 20 Under 20 list.
“It’s obviously not easy to win the Runoffs or the F1600 Series championship. I got done what I came to do and it was a very good year for me,” said the driver who has won two karting championships since starting his racing career in 2010.
Verhagen credits his family for allowing him to pursue his dream.
“My family has no relation to racing at all, which makes it quite difficult because at the same time that I’m going through it for the first time, it’s also their first time,” he said. “My dad had a group of friends at work who had BMWs and would take them to track days but not to race. I thought that was kind of cool and I wanted to try it, and then he got me into a go-kart eight-nine years ago, and here we are today.
“My family has been absolutely amazing. Even my brother races, and that makes it even more difficult to try to support two kids. And it’s because of their support that I’m here.”
Verhagen has also been named to the Red Bull Junior Team.