Posted (09/22/2013) -
Rob Huffmaster, of Clarkston, Mich., watched his father win the Super Touring® Lite race a year ago. At the 50th SCCA® National Championship Runoffs®, the younger Huffmaster drove away to win the class title in the same car. Chad Gilsinger, of Marysville, Ohio, and Jim Drago, of Memphis, Tenn., finished second and third, respectively, to earn their second medals of the weekend.
Huffmaster started the No. 11 Huffmaster Security/Hoosier/Mazda Mazda RX-8 on the SafeRacer pole and drove away from the field at the green flag to a 5.198-second win. He averaged 93.362 mph over the 13-lap, 52-mile race and turned the Hawk Performance Hot Lap in a race-record 2:33.125 (94.041 mph).
The championship-winning car was the same one that Ray Huffmaster drove to the win a year ago, complete with some cosmetic body damage on the front fender. The elder Huffmaster’s win did not count as a National Championship, as the class only had supplemental status in 2013.
“It was cool that he won the race last year, keeping it in the family for STL,” Huffmaster said. “He’s actually a little frustrated that it’s a national championship class this year. But yeah, the damage on the car is still from last year. We haven’t done much with the car because we’ve been running Trans-Am, but we came out for all the test days for this race, and did everything we could to get what we could out of it.
“It was actually pretty much the same as it was a year ago. We took it out to a local track – Waterford race track – and blew the motor. So, we had to get a new motor in and stuff, so we weren’t sure how that was going to work or stack up. From last year, we had to move down a tire size and had smaller brakes for the car.”
The title is the third in four tries for the 27-year-old, who adds to his 2007 Touring 3 and the 2012 Super Touring Under title.
“It’s really special to win three of four, because it’s not that easy,” the three-time Champion said. “The first one in ’07 was a rain race, and got a couple breaks that went my way. Last year, the same thing – we had a great car, had a brake problem, then struggled for it. And then this year, I know Jim [Drago] and Chad [Gilsinger] are really good drivers so I knew they were going to give me something. I was just hoping I was going to be able to get a little gap and break them out of the draft and hold that steady for the rest of the race. Three of four – it sounds easy on paper, I guess, but it’s not.”
Drago’s No. 2 East Street Racing Mazda Miata and Gilsinger’s No. 64 BFGoodrich Tires/HPD/H&R Honda Civic Si stayed in a line early to try to keep pace with Huffmaster, but eventually fell into a battle with each other to decide the second position.
Gilsinger moved to the silver medal position going into turn five on lap six, and never relinquished the spot. Gilsinger also earned the Touring 3 National Championship earlier Sunday morning.
“This was my first time running the car all year, so I didn’t know what I was going to do in the car or what these guys were going to do,” Gilsinger said. “[Drago] and I fell behind Rob, which gave Rob breathing room. I was content to just stay behind [Drago], but then I noticed that the tires were going off a little bit and he was drifting wide a lot at some of the exits. I was kind of planning for a few laps of how I was going to take advantage of that. I got a good run coming out of (turn) three, and just tucked up behind him and made the move coming into (turn) five. He was great to run with; he gave me plenty of room, and I got by him. He stayed with me as we were trying to catch up with Rob, but he had it in cruise mode. I was just trying to not to make a mistake and fall out of second.”
Drago, Friday’s Spec Miata National Championship, will add a bronze medal to his collection.
“It was kind of strange,” Drago said. “Rob and I were talking before the race, and I had never seen Rob and never seen Chad on the track. None of us knew where our gearing was, how fast the cars were, where our braking points were. Rob and I talked – we were very concerned that Chad was just going to blow past us, and then we thought, well, maybe we should start here. We didn’t even know where our gears were. So we just decided to go; we would just get through the start as best we could. Even going into turn five, we still didn’t know how fast Chad was.
“Truthfully, I don’t think any of us were here to just get on the podium – we were here to win. I slipped a little behind Rob, and he opened a two- or three-second gap. I was able to maintain it, but drove the car off. It was a little tight, so I just kept trying to drive it and drive it; it was getting a little worse and a little worse. Chad stayed the same, and it seemed like he was a little more sorted. He slowly reeled me in, and he caught me in [turn] five. I let him go, and I figured I would get in behind him and cool the tires and come back and race him toward the end and see if we could do anything with Rob. He slowly inched away, and my car got a little worse. I knew we had a pretty good gap, so I just tried to maintain position and kept the podium position.”
Luke Wilwert, of Marysville, Ohio, had an eventful race to move to finish fourth in the No. 79 HPD/BFGoodrich Tires/H&R Springs Honda Civic Si. Wilwert and the No. 13 BFGoodrich Tires/Red Line Oil/HPD Honda Prelude of John Schmitt got together in turn 1 on the second lap, spinning Wilwert. The contact ended Schmitt’s day, and dropped Wilwert as low as ninth.
Robert Beede finished fifth in the No. 28 Bill Fenton Motorsports/BFGoodrich Tires Honda Civic Si.
Rich Walke finished sixth, just ahead of Greg Amy. Amy’s No. 33 Honda Racing/HPD/Hoosier started 39th and worked through the field after swapping out his motor earlier in the week to earn the Sunoco Hard Charger. He, and his crew, were also awarded the GoPro Hero Move of the Race for the engine swap and charge through the field.
Breton Williams, Darin Treakle, and Tom Kraft all cracked the top 10.
The 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs®, The Pinnacle of American Motorsports, will crown Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing National Champions at Road America, Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 22.