Canada Corner (Tony DiZinno)

Lee Alexander’s 1:59 lap leads SCCA Runoffs Day 1 Qualifying

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The first day of qualifying is in the books at the 50th running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Elkhart Lake’s Road America. Some news and notes regarding the day’s fastest qualifiers, which included track records set in 11 classes:

  • Lee Alexander set a 1:59.638 in the C Sports Racer class, fastest time on the day and the second driver into the sub-2-minute range at the SCCA Runoffs in Road America history. The CSR and DSR classes were the first session of the day on a cool, fast track. Scott Tucker, who is not racing at this year’s Runoffs, set the record lap of 1:58.997 in a West WX10/ST10 D Sports Racer entry a year ago.
  • The two heaviest populated classes, Spec Miata (70 cars entered) and Spec Racer Ford (54) ran solo qualifying sessions. The rest of the 28 classes ran in combined group sessions.
  • SM saw no less than 15 cars break the old track record, with Jim Drago fastest of them at a 2:41.862. Brian Schofield led the way in SRF at 2:37.974.
  • Two drivers, Andrew Aquilante and Lawrence Loshak, set the fastest time in more than one class. Aquilante accomplished the feat in T1 and GT2, with Loshak doing likewise in FB and HP.
  • Peter Portante, who races full-time in the USF2000 National Championship on IndyCar’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder, led the Formula Continental (FC) field at 2:11.394 driving for the local ArmsUp Motorsports team, based in nearby Sheboygan Falls.
  • Nearly one minute separates the fastest time of the day – Alexander’s sub-2-minute flier – and the slowest fast time coming from B-Spec, Joel Weinberger at 2:54.936.
  • Ironic fastest qualifier of the day award? That would be your American Sedan pace-setter, Tom Sloe. I’ll be here all night.
Classes, Fastest Tuesday qualifier and time
CSR/DSR:  CSR, Lee Alexander, 1:59.638.    DSR, Chris Farrell, 2:01.662.
SM:       SM, Jim Drago, 2:41.862. 
GT1/T1:   GT1, Cliff Ebben, 2:03.917.      T1, Andrew Aquilante, 2:14.673.
FA/FB:    FA, Sedat Yelkin, 2:03.089.      FB, Lawrence Loshak, 2:04.786.
FP/HP:    FP, Mark Carpenter, 2:33.193.    HP, Lawrence Loshak, 2:41.750.
GT2/GT3:  GT2, Andrew Aquilante, 2:14.320. GT3, Mike Henderson, 2:23.405.
F500/FV:  F500, James Weida, 2:21.517.     FV, Michael Varacins, 2:41.293.
STU/STL:  STU, Marc Hoover, 2:24.693.      STL, Rob Huffmaster, 2:32.995.
T2/AS:    T2, Kurt Rezzetano, 2:24.619.    AS, Tom Sloe, 2:26.570.
FC/FF:    FC, Peter Portante, 2:11.395.    FF, Tim Kautz, 2:21.221.
EP/GTL:   EP, Aaron Downey, 2:29.795.      GTL, Robert Lentz, 2:33.281.
FE/FM/S2: FE, Scott Rettich, 2:13.403.     FM, Doug Peterson, 2:16.042. 
          S2, Mark Mercer, 2:18.276.
SRF:      SRF, Brian Schofield, 2:37.974. 
T3/T4/    T3, Chad Gilsinger, 2:31.631.    T4, Michael Scornavacchi, 2:40.493.
B-SPEC:   B-SPEC, Joel Weinberger, 2:54.936.

NHRA to expand field sizes for 2020 Countdown playoffs

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Field sizes for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs could substantially increase for the upcoming 2020 season, the sanctioning body announced Wednesday.

The previous standard to qualify for the playoffs was the top 10 ranked drivers following the last regular season race before the Countdown begins, the U.S. Nationals in suburban Indianapolis. That standard remains in place.

Now, in light of Wednesday’s announcement, additional drivers in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car “Nitro” classes will be eligible for the six-race Countdown playoffs if they compete in all 18 regular season events and run a minimum of two qualifying sessions at each of those 18 events.

Given that most of the 18 NHRA regular season events have as many as four qualifying sessions, the new expanded field could potentially add several Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars to the Countdown field. For example, if there are 16 full-time teams that compete in all 18 regular season races for the upcoming season, all 16 teams will likely qualify for the playoffs.

If those additional drivers meet the new standard, their point standings will also be reset after the U.S. Nationals, as has always been the case for the top 10 Countdown qualifiers.

Changes will also take place in Countdown qualifying for Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, which have smaller season schedules than their counterparts in Top Fuel and Funny Car.

In addition to those being ranked in the top 10 after the U.S. Nationals following the 13-race regular season, additional Pro Stock drivers who have competed in all 13 prior events as well as took part in a minimum of two qualifying sessions in each of those events will be eligible for the Countdown.

Because it contests only an 18-race overall season schedule, Pro Stock’s portion of the Countdown is only five races, rather than six as in Top Fuel and Funny Car.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, which has a 16-race overall season schedule, in addition to those being ranked in the top 10 after the U.S. Nationals following the 11-race regular season, riders who have competed in all 11 regular season events and took part in a minimum of two qualifying sessions in each of those events will also be eligible for the Countdown.

As in Top Fuel and Funny Car, all Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle drivers/riders that qualify for the Countdown after the U.S. Nationals will have their points reset.

Speaking of points being reset, the NHRA also announced that heading into the Countdown, Top Fuel and Funny Car will see first and second place be separated by 20 points, while each subsequent position will be separated by a 10-point differential.

In Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, first and second place heading into the Countdown will be separated by 20 points, while second through fifth place will be separated by 10 points and all positions below fifth place will be separated by five points.

And has been the case in the past, all drivers/riders that reach the Auto Club Finals season-ending race will earn points-and-a-half for qualifying and each round run.

According to a NHRA media release, “NHRA officials made this change in order to better reward driver endurance and encourage participation in regular season events.”

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