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Ebben GT1

Ebben GT1Above: Cliff Ebben was not to be beat Sunday as he took his fourth GT-1 SCCA Runoffs championship. Credit: Jay Bonvouloir

To close out the 2016 SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB, the powerful GT-1 field filled the hills around Lexington, Ohio, with thunder emanating from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Cliff Ebben, of Freedom, Wisconsin, claimed his fourth SCCA National Championship with the victory.

Ebben, in the No. 36 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Lamers Ford Mustang was the Tire Rack pole sitter. After racing earlier this weekend in the SCCA Pro Racing sanctioned Trans Am Series event at VIRginia International Raceway, Ebben led the GT-1 field to the start Sunday afternoon at the Runoffs and was overtaken by defending Runoffs GT-1 champion Michael Lewis, of Escondido, California, in the No. 12 Goodyear/Peg's List.com Jaguar XKR.

Lewis and Ebben toured the 2.258-mile, 13-turn track nose-to-tail for the first half-dozen laps, with Ryan McManus, of Westfield Center, Ohio, in the No. 07 The McManus Agency/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette falling nine-seconds back in third. But beginning on lap eight, Ebben started poking the front of his car alongside Lewis.

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Just before the race's halfway point, Ebben managed a good run out of Turn 9 heading into Thunder Valley and got alongside Lewis. The duo was side by side as they entered the left-hand bend at Turn 11 with Ebben on the outside. The two touched, Lewis spun, and Ebben headed off to what would ultimately be his fourth GT-1 Runoffs championship.

"Everything went real smooth today," Ebben said. "It's been a while since I've won at the Runoffs. It's nice the weekend ended up well. This win is as good as ever."

After the spin, Lewis collected himself, but had fallen into the clutches of McManus in third. Putting his head down, Lewis pulled away intent on chasing down Ebben. But that wouldn't be possible this day, and Lewis finished second.

"We made some changes and the car was better today, but it wasn't ultimately enough," Lewis said after the race.

After McManus lost contact with Lewis, he came under pressure from Dave Ruehlow, of Hartland, Wisconsin, in the No. 31 Ruehlow Racing Chevrolet Corvette. Ruehlow's car had come into its own during the second half of the race and he was able to overtake McManus on his way to a Sunoco Hard Charger award and third-place finish.

"I had a great time out there," Ruehlow said about his first Runoffs podium. "About 10 laps in, my car kind of came alive. I got comfortable out there and started reeling McManus in. I stayed on his bumper, we had some good racing, I got around him, and at the end I was just trying to keep my tires going."

McManus finished fourth and fifth went to Todd Peterson, of Boulder, Colorado, in the No. 2 Peterson Machining Inc. Ford Mustang.

The 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB, the Pinnacle of American Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America's Club Racing National Champions this year at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, from Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25.

While the live broadcast of all 28 National Championships is available live at SCCA.com, each race will be on demand in the coming weeks.

Provisional results for Sunday's SCCA GT-1 National Championship at the 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.

1, (1), Cliff Ebben, Freedom, WI, Ford Mustang, 23.

2, (2), Michael Lewis, Escondido, CA, Jaguar XKR, 23.

3, (4), Dave Ruehlow, Hartland, WI, Chevrolet Corvette, 23.

4, (3), Ryan McManus, Westfield Center, OH, Chevrolet Corvette, 23.

5, (5), Todd Peterson, Boulder, CO, Ford Mustang, 23.

6, (7), Jeffrey Hinkle, Destin, FL, Dodge Challenger SRT, 22.

7, (6), Kenneth Davis, Escondido, CA, Chevrolet Corvette, 10.

DNS, (8), Mark Boden, Winnetka, IL, Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, 0 .

Overall Time of Race: 32:55.554
Average Race Speed: 94.638 mph
Margin of Victory: 8.588 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: Michael Lewis, 1:22.866 (98.096 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #31 Dave Ruehlow
Lap Leaders: Laps 1-10, #12 Michael Lewis; 11-23 #31 Cliff Ebben

Kevin Harvick NASCAR New Hampshire 2016

Kevin Harvick won at New Hampshire to advance to the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup round of 12 stage of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Harvick continued where he left off in Chicagoland with his aggressive approach, moving up to third by two-thirds distance after starting 19th on the grid.

"One of our main goals this year was to not stress ourselves out so bad," Harvick said. "I feel like the performance of the car and the things that we're doing are good enough to be competitive, and we just need to not make mistakes and go from there."

He traded places with defending champion Kyle Busch but after the penultimate restart, Harvick moved into second behind Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth, who was aiming to be the first driver to win three consecutive races at New Hampshire.

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Harvick passed Kenseth on the final restart with five laps to go, hanging onto the lead to take the checkered flag.

"Man, that worked out really good," said Harvick, who won for the second time at Loudon. "The car was pretty good on the restarts. Once we got clean air there at the end, it wound up being really good up front. I'm just really proud of our team. They did a great job."

Kenseth was told by NASCAR before the final restart not to slow down in the restart zone, which they believed he had done on the previous restart. 

"They made it sound like I slowed down the last time," Kenseth said. "But in my opinion, the leader is always supposed to have the advantage. He's the leader. He earned that advantage. They said I slowed down a little bit last time, which I've got to re-watch it.

"I don't really think I did, but if I did at all, it's because the inside car (Truex) was laying back a little bit, and you want to make sure he gets up to your nose so it's a fair restart. If he's back at your door and anticipates a little bit, it's not a fair restart. He's going to be equal to you or a little bit better."

"[On the final restart] I saw Kevin at my door, and I should have known better," Kenseth added. "I should have went deep in the box and waited, and the acceleration was probably better down there anyway, but I didn't. I went right at the first line, and he anticipated a little bit of that and got rolling good through the gears, and then I got through the gears bad. I spun the tires in second (gear), I spun the tires in third, so I had a really bad restart besides all that."

Kyle Busch finished third as his gamble to take an extra pit stop compared to many of the Chase competitors gave him rubber to charge through the field.

Former champions Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch were out of contention for much of the race but benefitted from the final caution flag stops to take fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Polesitter Carl Edwards finished sixth overall, picking up a late-race penalty for crossing into the pit entry too late, hampering his chances of victory.

Furniture Row driver Martin Truex Jr. was the pacesetter for much of the race but the decision was made by the crew of Truex to only change two tires instead of four at the second set of caution pit stops so a few laps after the restart, Kenseth seized the lead.

Truex then dropped down to seventh ahead of Jimmie Johnson as he was overtaken on his final two restarts, having chosen the inside line when the outside of the track had more grip.

Non-Chase driver Kasey Kahne was forced to start at the back, but his charge through the field and timing at pit stops allowed him to progress to ninth place.

Kyle Larson was fastest in all three practice sessions but failed to convert this into race pace – coming home 10th ahead of Joey Logano.

Chase Elliott finished 13th, having been in the top five for much of the race while Denny Hamlin looked set to finish in the top 10 for 10 consecutive races for the first time in his career. But a series of pit lane penalties near the end of the race ended his hopes of continuing that streak.

Austin Dillon had a strong end to the race to take 16th while fellow Chase contender Jamie McMurray lost out in the final pit stops to finish 19th.

Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher had races to forget as they finished well outside the top 20, leaving them in real danger of not making the round of 12 stage of the Chase.

RESULT

PosDriverTeamCarLapsGap
1 Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 301 2h57m53.s
2 Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet 301 1.982s
3 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 301 3.671s
4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet 301 3.690s
5 Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford 301 4.265s
6 Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 301 5.483s
7 Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 301 5.989s
8 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 301 6.138s
9 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 301 6.566s
10 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 301 7.144s
11 Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing Ford 301 7.594s
12 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 301 7.945s
13 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 301 8.519s
14 Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet 301 8.887s
15 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 301 9.116s
16 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Toyota 301 10.226s
17 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 301 10.379s
18 Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 301 10.883s
19 Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports Ford 301 11.060s
20 Carl Edwards Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 301 11.181s
21 A.J. Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 301 11.524s
22 Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet 301 11.985s
23 Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing Ford 301 12.706s
24 Clint Bowyer HScott Motorsports Chevrolet 301 15.267s
25 Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 301 25.005s
26 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 301 27.402s
27 Casey Mears Germain Racing Chevrolet 300 1 Lap
28 Landon Cassill Front Row Motorsports Ford 299 2 Laps
29 Chris Buescher Front Row Motorsports Ford 299 2 Laps
30 David Ragan BK Racing Toyota 299 2 Laps
31 Matt DiBenedetto BK Racing Toyota 299 2 Laps
32 Regan Smith Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet 297 4 Laps
33 Michael Annett HScott Motorsports Chevrolet 295 6 Laps
34 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 294 7 Laps
35 Reed Sorenson Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 294 7 Laps
36 Eddie MacDonald Go FAS Racing Ford 293 8 Laps
37 Ryan Ellis Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 292 9 Laps
38 Brian Scott Richard Petty Motorsports Ford 278 23 Laps
39 Michael McDowell Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet 191 Electrical
40 Josh Wise The Motorsports Group Chevrolet 94 Accident

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Quotes courtesy NASCAR Wire Service

ffNeil Verhagen, of Mooresville, N.C., became the youngest SCCA National Champion ever on Sunday, winning Formula F during the SCCA Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. At 15 years, 242 days, Verhagen is more than a full year younger than current IndyCar star Graham Rahal was when capturing a Formula Atlantic National Championship at the same track in 2005.

Hans Saurino, of Tulsa, Okla., and David Livingston Jr., of Nashville, Tenn., finished behind Verhagen on the podium.

Verhagen set sail from the green flag, showing poise beyond in years in the No. 3 K-Hill Motorsports/Hoosier Mygale SJ11/Honda. The youngster built a lead of over 15 seconds before a full-course caution wiped it all away, then ran away again at the restart for the three-lap dash to the checkers and a 5.451-second victory.

The champ covered the 21-lap race, slowed once for a four-lap caution period and shortened to the 40-minute time limit, for an average of 77.266 mph. His fast lap of 1:30.133 (90.187 mph) led the field by nearly a second.

Verhagen also claimed the SCCA Super Sweep Award, winning his U.S. Majors Tour Conference, the national point championship, a key regular season race, and, finally, the Runoffs.

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"I'm ecstatic right now," Verhagen said. "It's quite an accomplishment to be the youngest driver to ever win the Runoffs and set pole. I'm head over heels right now.

"Since this class is known for the drafting, I was a little worried at the beginning of the session that there was a chance that they would be in the draft from me and could stay with me. I think a couple of mistakes on the first lap gave me enough gap to open up my lead. I did not want to see the restart come out at all. It was hard. I got a great start again, and by the time I looked out at turn three, I had enough of a gap and we kept building from there."

Verhagen also punched his ticket to the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout with champions from a variety of racing series, where the winner can earn a scholarship to USF2000 for 2017.

Behind Verhagen, however, was an eight-car battle for the final two podium positions. Russell Ruedisueli (No. 20 Hoosier/Farley/Primus Van Diemen RF99/Ford), Andy Brumbaugh (No. 26 Blackhound Creative/Primus Racing Van Diemen RF98/Ford), John Benson (No. 7 ABS Racing/Cricket Farms Motors Swift DB-3/Ford), and Andrew Melvin (No. 23 American Pen Company Van Diemen RF00/Honda) joined Saurino and Livingston in a gaggle of open-wheel machines.

Saurino's No. 11 Quantum Racing/Hoosier Van Diemen RF97/Honda was the first to make a big move, running from fourth to second under braking on lap five. That didn't last long, however, as he fell back to third on the next lap, and made the pass into second on four different occasions throughout the race.

His biggest challenge, however, came on the lap 19 restart after Melvin bounced off the curbing trying to make a pass going into the keyhole and ended his day, as well as the day of Benson and Brumbaugh.

Saurino had a lapped car between he and Verhagen, but had Livingston's No. 85 ThermaMasters Spectrum 14H/Honda in his mirrors. He timed the restart perfectly, however, and kept Livingston just far enough behind for the silver medal.

"I was very fortunate to get out ahead early on," Saurino said. "Every lap was a battle. I went from fifth to second more times than I could tell. I was fortunate not to be in that wreck, and when I looked back and saw that huge gap behind me, I thought something bad must have happened.

"On the restart, it was a scary circumstance where I thought I'd have to battle again. My crew chief came on and said there was one lap, and I was so thankful because there wasn't quite enough road to catch up. Another lap or two and it would have been a fight, for sure."

Livingston had to recover from a spin, aided by a bump, on turn-in to the Esses during the 12th circuit. It seemingly put Livingston out of contention at the time, but the full course caution aided his march to his first podium finish and a Honda podium sweep.

"It was a very intense race," Livingston said. "Going into the turn off the main straight, I got tagged from the rear and spun in the middle of the pack. Luckily everyone missed me, and the double yellow gave me a chance to catch up and a second chance. Another lap or two and I could have given Hans a challenge. We had a great race going there before I went off. It was a good day."

Ruedeisueli finished fourth, followed by Rubenzer, who improved six positions from his qualifying spot to earn the Sunoco Hard Charger.

  • Click here to stream the live broadcasts of the 53rd running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Races run Friday through Sunday.

While the live broadcast of all 28 National Championships is available live at SCCA.com, each race will be on demand in the coming weeks.

Provisional results for Sunday's SCCA Formula F National Championship at the 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and lap.

1, (1), Neil Verhagen, Mooresville, NC, Mygale SJ11 Honda, 21.
2, (6), Hans Saurino, Tulsa, OK, Van Diemen RF97 Honda, 21.
3, (5), David Livingston Jr, Nashville, TN, Spectrum 14H Honda, 21.
4, (3), Russell Ruedisueli, Rochester Hills, MI, Van Diemen RF99 Ford, 21.
5, (11), Scott Rubenzer, Brookfield, WI, Spectrum 012 Honda, 21.
6, (10), Clifford Johnson, Stilwell, KS, , 21.
7, (8), Jeffrey Bartz, Plymouth, WI, Van Diemen RF00 Honda, 21.
8, (9), Rick Payne, Mission, BC, Van Diemen RF99 Honda, 21.
9, (14), Robert Gross, Washington Twp, MI, Piper DL7 Honda, 21.
10, (12), Mark Keller, Snohomish, WA, Piper DF5 Honda, 20.
11, (13), Jon Krolewicz, Elgin, SC, Swift DB-3 Honda, 19.
12, (4), Andy Brumbaugh, Elgin, SC, Van Diemen RF98 Ford, 19.
13, (7), John Benson, Dade City, FL, Swift DB-3 Ford, 14.
14, (2), Andrew Melvin, Lakewood, CO, Van Diemen RF00 Honda, 13.

Overall Time of Race: 36:49.327
Average Race Speed: 77.266 mph
Margin of Victory: 5.421 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: #3 Verhagen, 1:30.33 (90.187 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #31 Scott Rubenzer
Lap Leaders: Laps 1-21, #3 Verhagen

FPABOVE: John Walker won Sunday’s F Production race at the SCCA
National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB. (Jay Bonvouloir photo)

Tire Rack pole-starting driver John Walker, of Richland, Mich., took the F Production lead in his No. 5 Walker Racing Lotus Super Seven going into the Keyhole at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on lap 10 and was later crowned class National Champion when an accident just moments later ultimately brought the race to an early end at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB.

Eric Prill, of Topeka, Kan., finished second in his No. 7 MaxtonsFight.org/JPM/Hoosier Mazda Miata, and Charlie Campbell, of Corry, Pa., was third in the No. 89 Hoosier/Carbotech/JPM Mazda Miata.

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"It feels great to win," Walker said. "I am just trying to figure out that this actually just happened! It was just about late last night when I finally accepted that I put it on pole after seven or eight laps. It's nice to kind of come full circle, my Dad grew up 20 miles from here and we have always kind of considered Mid-Ohio home. To come here and get the first Runoffs pole and win in the Lotus is very special."

Walker made what proved to be the winning pass for the lead on the No. 77 Huffaker Engineering/Hoosier MG Midget of Joe Huffaker, of Petlauma, California, going into the Keyhole on Lap 10.

Seconds later, as Walker and the other leaders raced through the Keyhole and down the Mid-Ohio back straight, Steve Hussey, of Capitola, Calif., also tried to move by Huffaker in his No. 37 LinnSpeed/Teknik Lotus Super Seven.

Hussey and Huffaker touched right at the fast "kink" section of the straight and both cars spun off course. Huffaker's Midget made contact with the wall on the right side of the track while Hussey's Lotus had a hard impact with the safety barriers on the left side of the track.

Huffaker exited the Midget uninjured while Hussey was transported to a Columbus-area hospital.

A full-course caution was shown for the incident and, after circulating for a few laps behind the pace car, the field was shown a black flag and guided into the pits. The checkered flag was shown a few minutes later when it was determined track repairs couldn't be completed within the race time limit.

Prill jumped from third to second at the race start and ran in the runner-up slot until both Walker and Hussey passed him just before the race-ending incident.

"It was a crazy race, it was a lot of fun, but I just really hope Steve is OK," Prill said. "I got a really great start but I later made a little tactical error going into the Keyhole. That opened the door for John (Walker) to go inside of me, he got Joe (Huffaker) for the lead at the same time, and then the wreck happened. But it was another solid run with this car and I am very happy to again be on the podium with the car in one piece."

Campbell started sixth but was up to fourth by lap two and battling in the lead pack.

"I didn't get a good start really but managed to work up a little bit farther," Campbell said. "I was just kind of hanging back a little bit, Hussey got by me, I tried to figure out a way to get back by him and finally did, but then time kind of ran a little bit short. For the most part, I think everybody played well together, and I certainly hope that Steve is OK, our thoughts are with him."

Huffaker led the first nine race laps after charging from fifth to first at the race start.

"I had no idea where Huffaker came from," Walker said. "I never heard him, I never saw him but all of a sudden he was in the lead. He was definitely holding us up a little bit, but everybody was so close, it was hard to make a move. I was just biding my time waiting or an opportunity to open up and it did, just in time."

Kevin Ruck, of Pearsall, Texas, finished fourth in the No. 73 Hoosier/Honda Performance Development Acura Integra, and Peter Morton was fifth in his Creative Threads/Austin & Hayley Lotus Super Seven.

The Sunoco Hard Charger Award went to Brian Linn who improved 12 positions in his No. 21 Hoosier/Carbotech/Red Line Oil MG Midget to finish ninth.

  • Click here to stream the live broadcasts of the 53rd running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Races run Friday through Sunday.

While the live broadcast of all 28 National Championships is available at SCCA.com, each race will be on demand in the coming weeks.

Provisional results for Sunday's F Production race at the 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.

1, (1), John Walker, Richland, MI, Lotus Super Seven, 14.
2, (3), Eric Prill, Topeka, KS, Mazda Miata, 14.
3, (6), Charles Campbell, Corry, PA, Mazda Miata, 14.
4, (4), Kevin Ruck, Pearsall, TX, Acura Integra, 14.
5, (7), Peter Morton, Milford, MI, Lotus Super Seven, 14.
6, (12), Samuel Henry, Republic, MO, Mazda Miata, 14.
7, (9), Mason Workman, Reynoldsburg, OH, Mazda Miata, 14.
8, (10), Ken Kannard, Sebring, FL, Mazda Miata, 14.
9, (21), Brian Linn, Hermosa Beach, CA, MG Midget, 14.
10, (14), Mark McAllister, Webster, NY, Mazda Miata, 14.
11, (13), David Strittmatter, Akron, OH, Lancia Scorpion, 14.
12, (18), Doug Weaver, Chatham, ON, Mazda Miata, 14.
13, (22), Michael Sturm, Grafton, WI, Mazda Miata, 14.
14, (11), H Gary Baucom, Monroe, NC, Fiat 124 Sport Spider, 14.
15, (24), Larry Gallagher, Thornville, OH, Acura Integra, 14.
16, (15), Robert Garrison, Knoxville, TN, Mazda Miata, 14.
17, (23), Mark Weber, Saint Louis, MO, Mazda Miata, 14.
18, (26), Daniel Thiel, Webster, NY, Mazda Miata, 14.
19, (28), Ken Alderson, Westlake, OH, Opel GT, 14.
20, (30), Stewart Wright, Blue Ash, OH, Honda CRX Si, 14.
21, (27), Jeffrey Norris, Felton, PA, Mazda Miata, 13.
22, (29), Robert Keller, Algonquin, IL, Volvo P-1800, 13.
23, (31), Brian Frank, Eaton, OH, Ford Fiesta, 13.
24, (5), Joe Huffaker, Petaluma, CA, MG Midget, 9.
25, (2), Steven Hussey, Capitola, CA, Lotus Super Seven, 9.
26, (8), David Bednarz, Ann Arbor, MI, Mazda Miata, 5.
27, (17), Gerald Lamb, Oswego, IL, MG B, 1.
28, (20), Lee Grimes, Burlington, KY, Honda CRX Si, 0.
29, (19), Tom Tuttle, Windsor, CA, MG Midget, 0.
30, (32), Scott McAllister, Brockport, NY, Volkswagen Rabbit, 0.
DNS, (16), Blake Meredith, Alpharetta, GA, Honda CRX Si
DNS, (25), Andrew Wright, Murfreesboro, TN, Lotus Super 7
DNS, (33), Ryan Kristoff, Farmington Hills, MI, Triumph Spitfire

Length of Race: 32 miles
Overall Time of Race: 35:45.325
Average Speed: 64.215 mph
Margin of Victory: Race ended with field in the pits
Fastest Race Lap: No. 5 Walker 1:36.399 (84.325 mph)
Lap Leaders: No. 77, laps 1 – 9; No. 5, laps 10 - 14
Sunoco Hard Charger: No. 21 Brian Linn

weaverIn light of the recent rule changes regarding the Sprint Cup post-race technical inspection policy, NASCAR vice president and racing development officer Steve O'Donnell delivered a stern warning to teams on Sunday: Do not circumvent that process.

In his opening remarks during the drivers meeting at New Hampshire, O'Donnell advised teams not to do anything that would affect the post-race inspection procedure – an order that seemingly includes the practice of weaving cars back and forth after the race to reset the aerodynamic skew.

"I know there's been a lot of dialogue about what takes place after the checkered flag in post-race inspection," O'Donnell said. "So I want to make clear to everybody here that if in NASCAR's judgment [there are] any measures to circumvent what happens in post-race inspection, we're going to react.

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"We know that's subjective, but we ask all of you not to put that in our hands, because we will react if we have to. I think everybody knows what that means. We want to concentrate on the race. We want to celebrate the winner for the second race of this Chase.

"We couldn't be more clear and we hope everybody agrees with that."

NASCAR made a series of changes to its inspection failure policy this week after Chicagoland race winner Martin Truex Jr. and 12th-place finisher Jimmie Johnson both failed the Laser Inspection Station. But since Truex wasn't so above the tolerance that it appeared egregious or intentional, he was allowed to keep his win bonuses, which include an automatic berth into the second round of the playoffs.

Johnson, on the other hand, would have been subject to the same points penalty that Truex would have needlessly received, but that would have been far more crippling outcome for the No. 48 team. That would have placed the six-time Sprint Cup champions in a difficult spot to advance without winning over the next two weeks.

In short, this was perceived as unfair and NASCAR reacted by changing the language of the rule book to avoid penalties unless the infraction was a P4, P5 or P6 – those considered to be far enough above the tolerance that it would warrant taking away win bonuses.

NASCAR also increased the tolerance for the LIS station but warned that even slightly going over it would result in grave consequences for the offending team. O'Donnell essentially reasserted that claim on Sunday at New Hampshire.

MachikoFE by Shawn LumleyOne thing SCCA loves to do is analyze racing statistics. In addition to regional, divisional, conference, and national points standings, drivers can compete in a winner-take-all national championship race, and they can also try to excel in all of those areas put together.

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The SCCA Club Racing Super Sweep is the toughest challenge that a Club Racer can attempt, and the award signifies a consistently great performer. In order to receive a Super Sweep award, a driver must meet 4 conditions in a single year in a single class:

  • Win a Majors Conference Championship
  • Win at one of 10 designated Majors races
  • Win the national points standings
  • Win the National Championship Runoffs

For 2016, the ten designated Majors races where a driver could win his class included Sebring, Auto Club Speedway [Fontana], NOLA, Road Atlanta, Hallett, Thunderhill, Pitt Race, Mid-Ohio, Road America, or Watkins Glen.

With the great difficulty and travel requirements to win a Super Sweep, you'd think very few drivers could do it but, heading into the Runoffs, 23 classes had drivers who were eligible for the honor if they won their races.

To give you an idea of how tough it is to win the Runoffs, though, by Sunday morning, just six drivers out of 18 eligible races had managed SCCA's greatest on-track achievement. The Super Sweep winning drivers are Scott Rettich in Formula Enterprises, James Devenport in Prototype 1 (pictured below, Jay Bonvouloir photo), Matt Reynolds in E Production, Matt Machiko in Formula Mazda (pictured above, Shawn Lumley photo), Peter Shadowen in GT-Lite, and Ryan Norman in Formula Atlantic.

DevenportP1 by Jay BonvouloirFrom zero to hero in one year

Eric Kutil made it to second place in the Super Touring Light championship in his first trip to the Runoffs. That's a pretty good achievement just on its own, but most drivers get several years of racing experience under their belts before they even think about the Runoffs. But this time last year, Kutil had never even driven on a racetrack.

Eric Kutil"I bought the car a year ago on Monday," Kutil (pictured, photo by the author) admitted on the podium. "I just wanted to do some track days and maybe some races."

Kutil drives the No. 82 Auto Assets Honda Civic Si hatchback, and he qualified in third position, a little more than a second slower than the polesitter. But during the race he showed his mastery of the Mid-Ohio track and his car, running nose-to-tail with champion Kevin Boehm and finishing just a fraction of a second behind the leader.

"I actually ended up stealing an Integra Type R engine that I had and putting it in the racecar, because I wanted to do well," Kutil says.

Next Year in Indy

The 2016 SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB concludes today, and the national champions will all be crowned by nightfall. This brings the 2016 competition year to a close, and attention will turn toward 2017.

  • Click here to stream the live broadcasts of the 53rd running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Races run Friday through Sunday.

Next year, for the first time in SCCA history, the Runoffs will be held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The national championship event will take place on Indy's 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. The Runoffs will utilize the road course configuration used for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis, which includes Indy's historic front straight and start/finish line.

The 2017 Runoffs will take place from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, with qualifying on the 25th-28th, and racing from Friday, Sept. 29 to Sunday, Oct. 1.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff believes the battle for this year's Formula 1 world title will go all the way down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Given the sizeable swings in momentum we have seen so far this season between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, it appears highly likely his prediction will prove correct.

Rosberg won the first four grands prix and was comfortably in front by 43 points after five races, only for Hamilton to respond with six wins in seven to hold a 19-point advantage going into the summer break. Since then Rosberg has won the last three to reclaim the lead by eight points with six races remaining.

Malaysia, October 2

Rosberg is clearly in the ascendancy, buoyed by Wolff's words after Singapore when the Austrian claimed he had never seen his driver perform as well.

Over the past three years, however, Hamilton has finished one place ahead of Rosberg on each occasion in Malaysia, although the latter should have had the edge in 2013, only to hold position on the orders of former team principal Ross Brawn.

The Sepang circuit has been resurfaced this year, with its potential lack of grip likely to favor Hamilton who often performs well in such conditions.

Head to head (as Mercedes teammates:

2013: Rosberg 4th, Hamilton 3rd

2014: Rosberg 2nd, Hamilton 1st

2015: Rosberg 3rd, Hamilton 2nd

Advantage: Hamilton

Japan, October 9

Hamilton may be a three-time winner at Suzuka  including the last two but by his own admission it is a track on which he has never felt comfortable, believing "the set up has never really come together" and he has never taken pole position at the track.

Rosberg secured pole in 2014 and '15, but was beaten into Turn 1 by Hamilton last year and struggled thereafter. With overtaking difficult at Suzuka, the starts that have played such a determining role for Mercedes this season will again be crucial.

Head to head:

2013: Rosberg 8th, Hamilton DNF

2014: Rosberg 2nd, Hamilton 1st

2015: Rosberg 2nd, Hamilton 1st

Advantage: Rosberg

United States, October 23

Circuit of The Americas is a real Hamilton favorite and he has won three of the four events at the track on the outskirts of Texas capital Austin since it opened in 2012.

Rosberg has started from pole for the last two years, yet it has been Hamilton who has taken the victory, and last year it was the venue where he won his third title.

Rosberg has lost those two by being passed by Hamilton late on during the race, although last year he claimed a gust of wind played a part in his downfall.

Head to head:

2013: Rosberg 9th, Hamilton 4th

2014: Rosberg 2nd, Hamilton 1st

2015: Rosberg 2nd, Hamilton 1st

Advantage: Hamilton

Mexico, October 30

On F1's return to Mexico for the first time in 23 years last year Rosberg was quicker than Hamilton in every practice session and qualifying before going on to take the checkered flag by 1.954s from his teammate, although a late safety car played a part in the close finish.

It has to be remembered Hamilton started enjoying himself away from the track post-title triumph, so how focused he was heading into this round is debateable. But regardless of Hamilton's mindset, Rosberg will hope to use his 2015 performance to his advantage on this occasion.

Head to head:

2015: Rosberg 1st, Hamilton 2nd

Advantage: Rosberg

Brazil, November 13

Hamilton has never won or taken pole position at Interlagos, although he captured his first title at the venue in dramatic circumstances in 2008.

By contrast, Rosberg believes he has "usually been pretty quick there" and he has won from pole position over the last two years. In 2015 Hamilton was quickest in two of the three practice sessions after Rosberg had swept the board the previous year.

Head to head:

2013: Rosberg 5th, Hamilton 9th

2014: Rosberg 1st, Hamilton 2nd

2015: Rosberg 1st, Hamilton 2nd

Advantage: Rosberg

Abu Dhabi, November 27

Yas Marina is possibly the toughest track to judge: both drivers have won twice, been on pole twice and endured their share of problems under the lights.

Technical problems forced Hamilton into retirement in 2009 and 2012 after he had qualified on pole and led early on, while in 2014 Rosberg's title bid was thwarted by an ERS failure.

Rosberg had qualified on pole that year, too, only to be passed by Hamilton at the start, but he converted pole into victory last year.

Head to head:

2013: Rosberg 3rd, Hamilton 7th

2014: Rosberg 14th, Hamilton 1st

2015: Rosberg 1st, Hamilton 2nd

Advantage: Neither

THE VERDICT

It is almost too close to call, in particular as the late-2015 form of Rosberg has to be judged in the context of Hamilton switching off to a certain degree after he secured the championship.

Rosberg heads into the final six races as the man in form but Hamilton's six wins from seven races coming before the summer break this year prove he is capable of turning the tables just when his teammate appears to be gaining momentum.

Given Hamilton does appear to be having one of those seasons when he is hampered by his fair share of difficulties, and Rosberg has been relatively trouble free, this looks like being the German's best shot yet at the title.

Originally on Autosport.com

ShadowenGTLABOVE: Peter Shadowen pounding his way to a GT-Lite Runoffs win and SCCA Super Sweep. Credit: Jay Bonvouloir

 

Records continue to fall at at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB.

  • Click here to stream the live broadcasts of the 53rd running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Races run Friday through Sunday.

While the live broadcast of all 28 National Championships is available live at SCCA.com, each race will be on demand in the coming weeks.

Click here for race schedules.

For extended coverage of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB, click here

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