Champions crowned at 50th SCCA Runoffs over the weekend

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Here’s a few news, notes and tidbits on the National Champions crowned at this past weekend’s 50th running of the SCCA Runoffs, the last for now held at Elkhart Lake’s Road America:

  • In GTL, Chris Bovis edged Bobby Lentz by 0.007 of a second, for the closest ever margin of victory at the Runoffs in the transponder era. Not to be outdone, Tim Kautz beat Reid Hazelton by 0.1 of a second in FF.
  • Andrew Aquilante (GT2, T1) and Lawrence Loshak (F1000, HP) took titles in two classes. Loshak’s titles gave him National Championships in four different classes (EP, DSR) for his career, only the fourth driver in history to do so.
  • John Heinricy captured his 12th National Championship at the Runoffs when the top three in front of him, Tom Sloe, Michael Lavigne, and Jeff Werth, were disqualified from AS. Greg Ira took the EP crown when Matt Reynolds was penalized for contact.
  • A tip of the hat to Peter Portante, the 17-year-old regular in USF2000 who took home the FC title in his Runoffs debut.
  • Charlie James took the inaugural B-Spec title, while Mark Mercer captured the 34th and final S2000 crown.
  • This year’s Runoffs had 701 drivers total, second-most all time trailing only Mid-Ohio in 2004 with 709.
  • The Spec Miata class had a Runoffs record field of 69 cars, beating its old mark of 60 in class in 2010.
  • All 28 class poles were set on Tuesday, with rain Wednesday and Thursday negating improvements.

Here’s a full rundown of class champions:

Class            Champion, Hometown
Formula Atlantic    Sedat Yelkin, Canfield, OH
Formula 1000        Lawrence Loshak, Grafton, WI
Formula Continental Peter Portante, Plainville, CT
Formula Enterprises Scott Rettich, Camden, OH 
Formula Vee         Michael Varacins, Burlington, WI
Formula F           Tim Kautz, Geneva, IL
Formula 500         James Weida, West Lafayette, IN
Formula Mazda       Darryl Wills, Houston
GT-1		    Cliff Ebben, Appleton, WI
GT-2		    Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, PA
GT-3		    Rob Warkocki, Frankfort, IL
GT-Lite		    Chris Bovis, Lawrence, KS
E Production	    Greg Ira, Plantation, FL
F Production	    Mark Carpenter, Charlotte, NC
H Production	    Lawrence Loshak, Grafton, WI
American Sedan	    John Heinricy, Clarkston, MI
Spec Miata	    Jim Drago, Memphis, TN
C Sports Racing	    Lee Alexander, Las Vegas
D Sports Racing	    Chris Farrell, Salt Lake City
Sports 2000	    Mark Mercer, Aurora, CO
Spec Racer Ford     Brian Schofield, Lakeland, FL
Touring 1	    Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, PA
Touring 2	    Andy Wolverton, Papillion, NE
Touring 3	    Chad Gilsinger, Marysville, OH
Touring 4	    Michael Scornavacchi, Matthews, NC
B-Spec		    Charlie James, Joplin, MO
STU		    Elivan Goulart, Shelton, CT
STL		    Rob Huffmaster, Clarkston, MI

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”