Club Racing News

Report from the 2016 Runoffs

by Sam Fouse

In 2013, SCCA celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Runoffs at historic Road America, which in my opinion is the ultimate ‘bucket list’ road course in the United States, both for the driver and the spectator. That event also marked the end of the line for multi-year contracts for Runoffs venues. Starting in 2014 and going forward, the event began rotating around the country: east, west, and in the middle.  First up in 2014 was Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which was the first western Runoffs since Riverside in 1968. In 2015, the Runoffs returned to Daytona, the site of some of the earliest championships (’65,’67,’69). Next year, we’ll be visiting Indy for the first time ever, then back out west in 2018, before returning east again in 2019. Sites for ’18 and ’19 as of this writing are still TBD. Heard lots of rumors, nothing solid.

For 2016, the Runoffs circus visited the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time since 2005, which at the time was the last year of a 12-year run at the historic track in NE Ohio. You may think of Mid-Ohio as an old line club road course, but it’s actually 5 years younger than VIR (‘62 vs. ‘57). It has a special place for me, as it is where I attended my first sports car race as a teenager in 1967 and was also the site of my one and only (to-date) Runoffs entry, in 1995. If you are interested in the history of the Runoffs and of SCCA National Championship racing in general, I highly recommend you visit www.scca.com/runoffs, go to the sidebar on the right, and scroll down to “Runoffs Media Guide and Record Book”. There you will find a well put together 68 page history in a downloadable pdf format.

As a track, Mid-Ohio offers an appropriate challenge with some off-camber, blind turns, and is best characterized as a mid-speed ‘stop-n-go’ track with only one significantly long straightaway, when compared to Daytona, Road America, or some of our other SEDIV tracks. In the bigger picture as a facility, since all of the paddock space lies outside the track surface, it offers almost unlimited paddock space, much of it paved, which seemingly stretches forever up the hill behind. That also leaves a terrific infield geared to just spectating, and there is abundant camping space. I have seen a lot of change at Mid-Ohio since my first visit in the 60’s, when the paddock was just a grass slope behind a block control tower at start/finish. Most of the change occurred during the Jim Trueman (Red Roof Inns)/CART era when the paddock was leveled and paved, with much of the fill being used to build the spectator hills. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is the scenic village of Lexington nearby. Mid-Ohio is definitely worth a visit and it remains one of my favorites.

This year’s event enjoyed some of the most perfect weather I can ever remember during a Runoffs week, and I’ve attended about 30 of them in one capacity or another. At this point I’d like to thank Dennis Shaw for allowing me to ‘camp’ in his motor home for the week right along the fence just up from turn one and the trailer of Wayne and Jean Quick. We had a great spot to access just about everything.

Understand that a Runoffs effort, whether by driver, crew, or worker, is a major commitment of both time and money, far in excess of any other SCCA event. Expect ten days of lodging minimum for driver and crew, not including towing time at both ends. For drivers, add to that several sets of tires ($) and bringing all your best stuff ($$), not to mention weeks of prep work in advance.  With all that said, 8 NC Region racers participated this year: Eric Cruz in FE, Donnie Isley in FV, Bob Wheless in P1, Doug Piner and Bryan Yates in P2, Alex Phelps in STU, Kirk Knestis in STL, and our 6–time National Champion Don Knowles in T4. Although they didn’t bring home any hardware this year, they all raced well and finished respectably.

Our worker contingent included some of our best: Heather Clark, Ben Tyler, Megan Smith, Mark Biamonte, Anna Crissman, Heather Powers, Mo Overstreet, and of course Wayne Quick as a steward. I’m sure they represented us very well, and please forgive me if I’ve left someone out that I wasn’t aware of or didn’t see personally.

Clayton Condrey stayed busy all week crewing for Doug Piner while Dan Robson and Dennis Shaw supported Chad Bacon in GT3. I’m sure there were lots of other NCR members attending as crew also, but I have no source to reference them.

Overall, Runoffs participation in some classes was lighter than I’m sure SCCA had hoped for, and many races were shortened by incidents that unfortunately resulted in the clock running out early. To be fair, Mid-Ohio doesn’t have a lot of space to safely park cars during a race, so many incidents were worked ‘live’ that we might not have had to at VIR. However, there were still some close, hard-fought, full-length races. Overall, it was an excellent week for spectating and there’s no place that I’d rather be than at the Runoffs in the fall.

The sights, sounds, smells, and most importantly, the people, are why we all attend. Along those lines, of course there were the usual parties and banquets during the week. I attended the Richland County Chamber of Commerce feast in Mansfield on Monday, as did many NCR members, followed by the Mazda banquet on Wednesday, and the SCCA tent party on Thursday evening. And since none of our guys were racing on Friday, three of us snuck away to visit the Air Force Museum in Dayton on Friday. That is a visit I highly recommend. Should be right on the way to or from Indy next year.

Speaking of Indy, I expect the turnout for next year’s Runoffs will easily exceed this year by quite a bit for two reasons: 1. It’s Indy (bucket list), and 2. SCCA has now lowered the bar to qualify. Look for the NCR contingent to grow next year also. As they say, all it takes is time and money.

ATTENTION DRIVERS!

Beware of counterfeit Driver Gear!

Some of you may have received this info from SCCA, but it bears repeating:

We were notified by SFI about counterfeit drivers gear.
For more information, please follow this link: Racing Memo RM 16-07

 

Upcoming October Events

It’s October, no I’m not kidding, it really is October, and yes, the first nine months of the year have flown by in a blur for us, too. There has been so much great racing in NCR, elsewhere in the Southeast Division, and across the entire SCCA nation. NCR-SCCA, like many professional road racing series, wraps up our road racing season in October, but road-racing is not all that our Region has going on.

Here are a few ideas get you out racing with NCR-SCCA family this month:

1. Join other NCR SCCA members at a Chapter meeting this week.

NCR chapter social meetings are how NCR members keep connected between events. Racing brought us to the track, but the people we meet keep us coming back. Come see why.

2. Register at MotorsportReg.com so you can come play at the track.

MotorsportReg is how we take care of the details of planning an event. It is where folks like yourself tell the NCR event planners (members just like you) that you want to play an important role in NCR-SCCA.

3. Register to participate in any or all of the following:

October 8-9 – SARRC Invitational Challenge/ECR Finale at Roebling Road, GA

October 15-16 – James A. Buckberry Memorial “Goblins Go”

October 21-22 Halloween Day/Night Enduro at VIR – 13/8 Hours

October 22 – NCR SCCA Novice Autocross School – Cherry Point

October 23 – NCR SCCA Autocross – Christine at Cherry Point

The leaves may be starting to change colors and the temperatures are falling, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to retire to the couch until the spring. Cooler weather means cooler air, and cooler air means more power! More power means there is awesome racing coming up at Roebling Road where Southeast Division will crown champions; at Virginia International Raceway where a newly paved racing surface surely means track records will be broken; at Cherry Point, one of the premier Autocross sites in the United States where Solo 2 National champions will be teaching new drivers, and competing to win NCR championships.

Whether you drive, volunteer, or spectate, we are ALL racers at heart, so get out and have fun with all the other members of NCR SCCA. Your membership is your pass to come out and have a good time with like-minded folks. And while you’re at it, why not bring a friend and introduce them to the NCR-SCCA family? We’re confident that they will thank you.

Pete Romanowski Steps up to Chief Starter

by: Eric Danielsen

The NCR Board of Directors happily accepted Pete Romanowski’s offer to step into the position of Chief Starter. After James Buckberry passed away last month, his position needed to be filled. Pete is already Chief Starter for South Carolina Region and the Petit Le Mans. As a member of the North Carolina Region, it’s fitting that he volunteers to play Chief Starter at VIR.

He plays Chief so well. “I do it for the love of the sport” says Pete, “someone has to do it (Chief Starter), I’m the logical choice. I’ve stepped in for James before. Ten years ago at Kershaw, James asked me to be Chief for the first time, when he couldn’t make it,” Pete recalls.

He’s going to miss James Buckberry. “James and I were like brothers. We’d take care of each other. We’d talk after the races back at the hotel. James used to get up early and leave a cup of coffee for me outside my door. I’m going to miss the little things like that” Pete reminisces.

“I’m not going to do this forever. Hopefully by the end of next Spring I’ll have someone to take my place as Chief Starter” dreams Pete.

When asked, what is the key to success? Pete tells us, “Once the Green Flag is shown, Start becomes another corner station. It’s like a corner station with extra duties. That’s the way I’ve always felt about it”

He should know. He’s been flagging since the 70’s.

Romanowski’s first memory of racing was the sound of the cars. “It was in Europe somewhere; I only remember the sound.”

Born in Essen, West Germany in 1946 Pete was 10 years old when his family moved to Buffalo NY. The first race he remembers attending was the 1969 Can-Am race at Watkins Glen where he saw Bruce McLaren win. When he moved to Florida he began volunteering as a corner marshall at Palm Beach International Raceway “before they changed its name to Moroso. Now it’s back to PBIR,” Pete informs us.

“My ‘Swamp Rat’ name was ‘Bearded Rat,’” Pete shares, “ask Chuck (Stanley) what his ‘Swamp Rat’ name was.”

“We didn’t need a license back then; nobody thought about insurance. I started in 1976 and didn’t join SCCA until ’79.”

He’s “worked” all the stuff down in Florida: Daytona, Sebring, Pro, and Club races.

When there wasn’t a race, he would autocross, or drive in TSD rallies, or whatever else was going on that had to do with cars.

He received his National F&C License before getting National Starter. He’s worked as Corner Captain just about everywhere he’s been, most notably, as the Captain of Turn 5 during the 24-Hours of Daytona for 15 years.

Captains of the 24 staff their own turn and run it like a Flag Chief. “I recruited my own people, set up the rotation, and dealt with any problems. Sometimes I had to chew somebody out, I tell it like it is, but I never lost anybody…they always came back”, Pete says with his gravelly voice.

Known as “Uncle Pete” to countless flaggers, Romanowski has endeared himself to so many Marshals and Starters. As he keeps them “straight”, Pete never forgets the fun, “You gotta keep it fun, or they won’t come back.”

Pete obviously has fun with flags in his hand, because he’s been coming back for a long time. Rest assured he is not going to retire just yet, “I’m going to be wherever I’m needed,” he confirms.

Going to Summit Point for the MARRS5/Double SARRC? You need to read this…

If you were not aware, there is a SARRC/MARRS or MARRS/SARRC (depending on which side you look at) trophy, that is being contested between the two racing series. The first half of the challenge was the SARRC/MARRS Challenge, held at VIR May 7-8. The second half will be held at Summit Point Raceway on June 18-19. It is the MARRS5/Double SARRC. By the way,WDCR is offering a $100 discount to any driver who hasn’t raced there in two years. That means two SARRC points races for $235! The discount must be requested in advance and is noted on MotorsportReg.

Bob Brookfield has compiled the following information for those traveling to Summit for the race. He has listed motels in the Winchester, VA area and also in Charles Town, WV. Note that the WDC Region does not have any agreement at this time with any motel in the area of the track for an SCCA discount. The info he sent includes comments/suggestions for routes to that area. Also included are general directions from I-81 to the track. Thanks Bob!

Motels in the Winchester area.

Comfort Inn. $79.00 per night, breakfast included. Motel is off I-81 exit 317. Turn left at light, about 1/4 mile motel on right. Phone 540-667-8894. This is closest to the track.

Red Roof Inn. $65.00 per night. I-81 exit 313. Turn left at the light, motel on left. Phone 540-667-5000.

Best Western Lee-Jackson. $63.00 per night. I-81 exit 313. Turn right at light, motel is on left. Restaurant next door. Phone 540-662-4154.

Wingate By Wyndham. $99.00 per night. I-81 exit 313. Turn right at light. Left on Pleasant Valley Rd passing Waffle House. Right at light. Phone 540-678-4283.

Sleep In and Suites. $63.00 per night. I-81 exit 313. Go straight at light, left at next light (past COSTCO). Phone 540-667-7636.

Courtyard Winchester. $99.00 per night. I-81 to Va 37. Exit onto US522, right at light. Right at next light. Phone 540-678-8822.

Holiday Inn Express. $101.00 per night. I-81 to Va 37. Exit onto US50 west. Right at 2nd light.

There are some locations in Charles Town near the Charles Town Races and Slots. Prices may be quite high. And staying there means having to go thru Charles Town traffic and lights to get to the track. It’s 8 miles to the track from the west end of town. Mountain View Diner is a good place to eat. There’s also a Middle Eastern restaurant in town.

Coming to Summit/Winchester area, you will at some time end up on I-81. From the Raleigh area I suggest going up past Milton/VIR to US29 north to I-64 west to I-81 north. From points towards Wilmington, you likely will be using I-95 north. If so, take exit 67 onto VA 288 to I-64 west, then I-81 north. You can avoid the Richmond traffic and other traffic heading north. It is the route we use to go to the Wilmington banquets and to Colonial Williamsburg.

Fuel costs. If you are a COSTCO member they have the cheapest gas. Locations in Harrisonburg, and Winchester VA. Sheetz gas stations in Winchester are close to Summit. Gas in WV is at least 20 cents a gallon higher than in VA.

The paddock at the track has power. Check on that at the gate. Word to the wise…MAKE SURE ALL DRIVERS, CREW MEMBERS, WORKERS HAVE THEIR SCCA MEMBERSHIP CARD UPON ARRIVING AT THE GATE. OTHERWISE YOU MAY BY HIT WITH A $25.00 CHARGE THAT IS NON-REFUNDABLE. At the gate you will sign a track waiver and get a track wristband. At registration you will get the proper SCCA wristband.

Workers, there is a worker camping area that has power. Sadly, all connections are made at a panel in the middle of the area. Make sure you have extension cords for your campers. Also, there is NO DUMPING of holding tanks allowed. They have a serious problem in that regard.

Final note. To get to the track, from I-81 exit 317 turn right onto US11 north. About a mile away turn right onto Old Charles Town Rd. When you come to the fork (Jordan Springs Market & gas) go left. Stay on this road until you come to a stop sign. Turn right onto Summit Point Rd. Track is 1/4 mile on the right. If there have been VERY heavy rains the night before or all day on your trip, and you are towing a trailer, be advised there is a low bridge on the road which may be under water. If in doubt, take I-81 to exit 315. Left at the light. You will soon come to a 7-11 on the right at a traffic light. Turn right, (this will be Crumb Church Rd) then right again at the stop sign and right at next stop sign. You’ve arrived!

I hope that a lot of our folks come up and enable us to take the SARRC/MARRS Challenge trophy home.

Got Friends You Want to Involve?

Sure you do. We all know the best way to hook someone is to bring them to an event. When they get there they’ll say, “Wow! I never knew something like this existed.” You’ll say, “Wow! I’ve been telling you about it for years.”

Well now you can bring events to them. We’ve made some movies you can show them. The most recent is Opie Goes Racing, a story of a boy whose racing dreams come true. The Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point was the Solo Season Opener from Cherry Point. Click the links.

Everyone is so busy these days that we need quick and easy ways to share the fun. Share a video with a friend and note their interest. If they seem interested, offer to show them more. Maybe they’ll try a ride around the solo course or a guest pass for a day at VIR. Bring them in slowly, at their pace or slower.

Let them chase the bait. If you want to hook them, it’s best if they want more.

Maybe bring them to an event is too much at first. A Chapter Meeting might be the thing. At Chapter meetings they can meet a bunch of car enthusiasts who actually get to play in a safe way.

Chapter Meetings are always more fun when guests join.

Check out our videos: Opie Goes Racing and The Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and share the FUN!

Eric Danielsen
Marketing Chair

Looking for something to do for the next 20 weeks?

If you’ve never worked or driven at a race somewhere other than VIR, you should know that traveling to new tracks can be a great way to meet new friends, build on existing friendships, and learn more about what we do! Anyone who has traveled around will agree. So, how about visiting one of these wonderful facilities:

Summit Point Raceway in Summit Point, WV – Host Region Washington D.C. Region. For more information visit WDCR’s website: WDC REGION

Charlotte Motor Speedway near Charlotte, NC – Host Region: Central Carolinas Region. For more information visit CCR’s website: CENTRAL CAROLINAS REGION

Road Atlanta near Braselton, GA – Host Region: Atlanta Region. For more information visit Atlanta Region’s website: ATLANTA REGION

Roebling Road Raceway near Savannah, GA – Host Region: Buccaneer Region. For more information visit Buccaneer Region’s website: BUCCANEER REGION

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Mansfield, OH – Host Regions: Ohio Valley Region and Cincinnati Region. For more information about working F&C visit Lake Erie Communications’ new website: LEC.  For information about working all other specialties, or driving, visit Ohio Valley Region’s website: OV REGION or Cincinnati Region’s website: CINCY REGION

 

So many places to race – so little time

by Alan Morris

There are some experiences that every track junkie has to experience in their lifetime, and this bucket list item is about Virginia International Raceway, a hallowed and memorial track set on the grassy manicured grounds that were originally an old Southern plantation in Virginia.

It starts with an email of interest sent to the North Carolina Region SCCA and a request for accommodation to participate in the May 6-7th event, which elicited a prompt response that I would be most welcome, and they could find a place to include me subject to having a current SCCA membership.

Early Thursday morning with the BMW E30 race car loaded on the trailer, we set out for Virginia for an estimated 11 hour trip to the track. Ask me why it is a bad idea not to have a functioning Garmin GPS, and reliance on a GMC in car navigation system with a voice operator who understands no spoken language. Ask me why never to go through Pennsylvania, if you actually want to get anywhere unless you are on the interstate, rather than endless winding rural roads, or even ask why an 11 hour trip took 15 hours, but I am not saying any more.

Registration opened Friday midday and off to see the Chief Tech for car classification within SCCA guidelines, and affix class decals and numbers. This done and with rain starting to fall it was time for practice and to try to familiarise the way around the unknown track, locate marshal stations, etc.

Qualifying on Saturday morning, in bright and sunny weather, the little BMW E30 CASC-OR GT4 plunged into the fray classed as SCCA GT2. The Quali results sheet had some cars with lap times 30 seconds faster, and I thought it prudent to revisit the scrutineers with a request to re-assess, if possible, into another class. This caused much head scratching, but eventually it was reclassified back to the original ITS class, for the Saturday race event, with the proviso that the car would start from the last position 43 as there was no corresponding ITS Quali time.

The race was great fun and the little blue E30 managed to move up through the tail-enders to finish about 1/3rd of the way up in the field. After the race all the cars were weighed and when my turn came I was asked the weight of the car, to which I replied “haven’t a clue – we don’t weigh cars for Ontario regional bracket racing”. Apparently, the car was 190 lbs. underweight, although it is missing no parts other than regular race car interior removals, has Lexan side windows, original glass windscreen, and a fibreglass hood. This caused some consternation, reference to SCCA Regs, and much head scratching. The long and short of it was that the car was reclassified as an SPO class, a catch-all class which allows for more modifications and no weight limit, and moved from Race 5 group into Race 6 group which included “Big Bore”, and you guessed it, the car would have to start in last position because there was no SPO Quali time. I am 100% O.K. with this…I’m here to race.

Sunday morning, bright and sunny, and off to the pre-grid where the cars line up angled side by side in old Le Mans start style in their respective Quali positions with me at my customary place in last position, surrounded by a bevy of big bore Chevys, Mustangs, and a few Porsches. The 3 minute board goes up and the black Camaro to my left explodes into life, bellowing through the 5 inch side exit exhaust that exits at my driver’s ear left, and rocks the little blue BMW. I know for sure that I am not going to be passing any cars in this race, and it will be a challenging exercise in using your mirrors ALL THE TIME.

And so the race went, and I did pass a car, a Mustang, as it motored to a leisurely stop with unknown maladies.

One lap of VIR goes something like this. Exit pit exit and hustle down the front straight getting into 5th gear, before breaking hard and down two gears into Horseshoe, a sweeping right. Overtaking opportunity here, but the fastest line seems to early apex and then sweep around the outside maintaining momentum, but more powerful cars will duck in on the inside and pass you.

Three left-handers follow. An easy left, then move into mid outer track, and apex the second left Nascar Bend, then hook 4th gear and on to the third 90 degree left, drop down to 3rd gear, apex and stay fully left on exit to ease the entry into a sweeping right Snake that you will want to carry as much speed into as possible as it leads into a long uphill Climbing Esses, that jink left, then right, then left again and right again. Take as much kerb at each direction change as the car permits as you attempt to straighten the line. By the time you get to the top the car is pulling hard in 5th as you fly over the last kerb on the right hand side wheels, and the car settles back on all four wheels just in time to brake and downshift to 4th for a fast left hand South Bend, down another gear and enter the 3rd gear uphill right hand Oaktree hair-pin that leads you onto the long back straight. I never did get this quite right, and the oak tree is not there anymore.

Hammer down the back straight checking your mirrors for the front-runners of the pack of Porsches, big bore Chevys and Fords hunting you down to lap you. Brake hard at the last brake marker as you enter the left-hander, and continue trail braking to the apex of the Roller Coaster 90 degree right that leads into the downhill off camber esses.

Using all the off camber road and squeezing on the power, take some kerb into the following left hander and feed in more power as you enter the next downhill right. Hook 4th gear and hard on the power through Hog Pen, the car drifts out to the left, pit entry flashes past on your right and you are back onto the front straight, hammering through 5th to the end of a lap at VIR.

Repeat, until the starting flag man tells you top stop doing that. At the end of the day a great day of racing, and even a trophy plaque for 1st in class being the one and only SPO car in the big bore race.

Afterwards having loaded up the car onto the trailer, and adjourned to the Oaktree Tavern and Connie’s Pub, for a fine dining meal washed down with draft beer, you reflect on your good fortune, the warm welcome extended by the North Carolina Chapter of the SCCA, and the wonderful Southern hospitality that allowed you to participate and be included at this hallowed venue filled with memories and memorabilia of previous giants of motorsport.

Monday morning after a Southern breakfast spread prepared by Linda and Mama Gray at nearby Breezy Oaks farmhouse B & B, you head back on the long trip home.

Did the VIR event, meet and exceed all of my expectations? – HELL YES!

“Opie Goes Racing” is a SMASH HIT!!!

If you were at either of the last two NC Region events at VIR — the Spring Sprints Majors or The SARRC/MARRS Challenge — and DIDN’T see a screening of the new smash hit, “Opie Goes Racing”….well, what could you possibly have been doing that was more important?!? Anyway, here’s your chance for a private screening on your very own device! Just click and enjoy, “Opie Goes Racing”, courtesy of More Cowbell Productions.