Crawford Survives Wild Stock C Battle
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Michael Crawford survived a wild race to win the Showroom Stock C National Championship at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Thursday at Road America, outlasting Ali Naimi and Charlie James.
Sage Marie took the inaugural B-Spec Shootout presented by Pirelli World Challenge subclass during the race.
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The Showroom Stock C race actually began under a full course caution after two cars came together and into the front straight wall just after the green flag of the Showroom Stock B race, which was running concurrently with SSC. The field circulated under yellow before going green to start lap five.
Despite the delayed gratification, the action heated up in a hurry as James drove his No. 0 SafeRacer/Alpine Stars/BFGoodrich Tires Hyundai Tiburon around Gumout polesitter Brian Husting’s No. 65 BFGoodrich Tires/Team Associated Chevrolet Cobalt in the first corner, holding the lead until lap nine, when Husting reclaimed the point.
At that point, the battle was between Husting, James, and Crawford’s No. 66 BFGoodrich Tires/A&M Spray Foam Acura Integra GSR for the lead. Both Husting and James ran wide through the ultra-fast kink, and after going to the outside of corner, Husting came back across the track and into the inside wall, ending his day with a 13th-place finish. Crawford used the opportunity to get into the lead, and then held on for a 1.855-second victory in the 11-lap race, shortened to a 40-minute time limit after the initial yellow flag.
With the yellow, Crawford averaged 63.548 mph for the race on his way to his first National Championship. Crawford’s best finish in two previous trips to the Runoffs was a 12th, making his win that much sweeter.
“The first year, I lost two spark plug wires and had to pull in and it was over after that,” Crawford reflected. “Last year, I got in a little too deep going into five, and this year we finally made it through.
“I was watching these guys most of the race and thought it was pretty much one-two-three. I wasn’t really gaining a lot. We came down into five and I saw him get a little bit hot in there. Brian passed him, and then they got a little aggressive. I’m thinking, let’s just see what happens. We got to the kink and I was able to get by at that point, and I just kept going.”
Naimi, unfortunately, was surprised by the restart and fell back from his 5th place starting position, then began his climb toward the podium. Naimi was close enough to the front to also take advantage of the incident amongst the leaders in the kink, finishing as the runner-up in the No. 14 Off Line Racing/Hoosier/Hawk MAZDA3 in back-to-back years.
In his run to the front, Naimi turned the Hawk Hot Lap in a class-record 2:49.035 (85.189 mph) as the fastest lap of the race.
“I was not prepared for the restart,” Naimi said. “My crew said one more lap, the pace car lights were on when we came to the turn leading on to the front straight. The flagger was standing there with yellow flags, and I’m thinking we got one more lap and the next thing I know there are people passing me on the inside before we even got up the hill. I realized at that point that it was a green flag. I fell back a couple of places and used up a couple of laps to get back to where I was.
“But as usual, I’m glad to be here. Obviously, I’d like to move up one, but I’m glad to be here.”
James held on for a third-place finish, his first podium appearance at the Runoffs. The finish was just the start of a great weekend for James personally, who is off to his son’s wedding this weekend.
“We were having a really good race,” James said. “The tires were great. I just went down into five a little too deep. I just overbroke. It was totally on me, which allowed him to get up the inside of me going into six. Then, I just tried to jump in right behind him and follow him a little bit. It’s the first time I’d been behind Brian all week, and he hit the brakes going into the kink and I was not prepared for that. I ended up on the outside and we just ended up getting together on the outside of the kink.
“We rode the guardrail for a minute and these guys went blowing by. Brian ended up turning into the wall, I’m just glad he’s ok.”
Jim Ebben was fourth in the No. 4 Ford/Hoosier/Carbotech Ford Focus, followed by Tom Daly in the No. 02 Luther Westside VW/BFGoodrich Tires Volkswagen Rabbit.
Marie came out on top of a three-car battle in the B-Spec Shootout presented by Pirelli World Challenge. While not a National Championship, three cars battled within tenths of a second of each other for nearly the entire race, before Marie took the win in the No. 45 Honda Racing/HPD/BFGoodrich Tires Honda Fit. Marie also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger for after improving four overall positions.
“When you put these cars together with some good drivers and everybody is having a good time, it makes for a really exciting event,” Marie said. “What’s great about B-Spec, too, is that there are so many venues. You can be here at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, you can be in the Pirelli World Challenge races on a big, professional stage. The cars are very versatile, and hopefully that helps them catch fire.”
Joel Lipperini’s No. 81 BFGoodrich Tires/Honda/Racelabz/Hawk/Red Line Honda Fit crossed the finish line second, with Shawn Young third in the No. 10 Continental Mazda of Naperville MAZDA2.