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

IndyCar CEO: No safety changes for 2016 car, despite Wilson death

indycar ceo mark miles
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An investigation into the August accident that killed driver Justin Wilson has resulted in no recommendations for immediate safety changes in race cars, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said.

But changes could be in line by 2017, including some sort of canopy or enclosed cockpit or surrounding apron to protect drivers, Miles told USA Today.

The 37-year-old Wilson was struck in the head from a piece of debris that flew off Sage Karam’s wrecked car during a race at Pocono Raceway. Wilson died the following day in a Pennsylvania hospital.

“What the report provides is a lot of technical data about the energy involved and the forces and exactly what happened and all of that,” Miles told USA Today. “I don’t think there were any revelations. I think for everybody, with or without the report, all of us hope to be able to make progress in finding ways to make the cockpit safer and to reduce the risks.

“So for example, there may be some short-term measures like tethering some parts that weren’t this year, but could be. That’s a work in progress. But I don’t want to give the sense that was because of anything revealed in the accident investigation. What you think happened, happened there.”

One area that has received considerable discussion is the potential for enclosed cockpits or canopies in Indy cars. But the development of such a device will take time, prompting Miles to predict that if canopies or capsules are ultimately added as a safety precaution, it likely would not occur until at least the 2017 season.

“You’re not going to see a change to the car for next year in this regard just because I don’t think it’s possible,” Miles said. “… These are technical challenges and it’s hard to imagine that anything transformative will happen this year. At this point, I wouldn’t rule out 2017, but the research has to be done, the development has to be done to answer the questions as to what can be done by when.”

Addressing specifically the investigation of Wilson’s accident, Miles said, “It reinforces the risks, I think, of the open cockpit and further energizes efforts in motorsport to try to reduce those risks.”

But devising a cockpit or canopy – if either is adopted – will take considerable development and testing time. Miles said he’s had lengthy discussions with officials from groups such as NASA and the aerospace industry that provide cockpits for entities such as jet fighters.

He added that Formula 1 officials have also been studying enclosed cockpits for quite some time, particularly things such as ingress/egress from within the cockpit, as well as heat buildup inside.

“Obviously, the foundational point is whether there’s a solution which protects the driver and there may be no solution which provides complete protection if you get into a situation like in Las Vegas (where driver Dan Wheldon died as a result of head injuries when he stuck a catch fence support),” Miles said. “But it’s how much more safe can you make it while proving for not having unintended consequences.”

Miles said that in addition to canopies and enclosed cockpits, IndyCar is also looking at other variations and the potential risk vs. rewards of those as well.

“This is not necessarily about a completely closed cockpit,” Miles said. “It could be more of an apron. If something hits that … it’s possible (the object) could be propelled higher and further and an unintended consequence could be the risk of something going into the crowd.

“It doesn’t necessarily knock it down and put it on the track if something was coming at a car like that, especially something like a tire that has energy in it.

“What is clear to me is we’ve got an outside perspective as do our safety people, on the long list of things you have to address. … Hopefully something meaningful can happen.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.