Wilwert Earns Showroom Stock B Crown
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Gumout pole winner Luke Wilwert, of Marysville, Ohio, captured his first Showroom Stock B National Championship at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America.
Lance Stewart, of Miami, and Ed Zabinski, of Stockbridge, Ga., completed the podium.
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The SSB race got off to an inauspicious start when Stan Czacki, of Truth Consequences, N.M., and Steve Zink, of Fort Worth, Texas, made contact just past the start finish line when the green flag dropped. The result sent Zink’s No. 98 Ford Mustang V-6 into the inside wall, while Czacki’s No. 00 Whitehead/DGI/BFG/Summit/HPD/Colt came to rest in the grass. The track clean up took some time and race went green five laps later.
Ralph Porter, of Kokomo, Ind. took the race lead in the No. 32 Dryer & Reinbold BMW/Hoosier Tire BMW Z4 when the race went green, but, his lead did not last long. Six corners later, Wilwert passed Porter in his No. 79 HPD/BF Goodrich Tires/Alpinestars Honda Civic Si for the race lead and made it stick for his first-career Runoffs Championship. He won by 2.145-seconds over the 14-turn, 4.048-mile track.
“Ralph [Porter] is a wily old veteran and we’ve been racing together a long time,” Wilwert said of the race restart. “I can count on both hands how many times he’s gotten me on starts and restarts. He’s really good at them. I was confused that he was able to gain so much on the restart. I apparently screwed it up big time.
“I was thinking I’ve got to get by him as soon as possible. I knew the Mustangs were coming and I knew they were fast. My thinking was I just got to get by him as soon as possible. Luckily, I was able to get alongside him up the hill just after Turn Five. I was able to stick it in there and complete the pass. After that, I was able to get a little bit of a gap. I think I was able to get through traffic a little bit better than Ralph was and, maybe, even the Mustangs. It’s tough with the dual class racing. Dealing with traffic is part of the art and I think I just got lucky.
“This win means a lot. I feel truly blessed. In my second try, to win a National Championship, I didn’t expect it.”
Stewart qualified fifth in the No. 37 Specialty Vehicle Logistics, but started last due to being late to the SSB grid. From there, he drove a smart, steady race, while working alongside teammate Zabinski to finish second. Prior to Stewart’s STO podium finish earlier in the day, it had been 25 years since he had been on the podium. In about an hour’s time, he recorded back-to-back podiums.
“That time deal actually caused a little bit of problem for us,” Stewart said. “We made it to the grid late. So, I started dead last in the class. That made it a little difficult. The crash on the front straightaway took out one of my teammates.
“My whole goal was try to catch up to Ed, my other teammate and see what we could do on the restart. I worked my way up to him. Ed and I put our heads down and tried to get up to the two lead cars, the Honda and the BMW. We got by the BMW, but the Honda was just gone. That car was fast. He was doing a great job.
“It came down to the last few laps and that crash on the back straight. It was insane. We were racing through the grass. We’re racers. There’s a point where we’re going to lift and there’s a point where we want to win that race. It just created a strange dynamic through there. But, fortunately nothing bad happened. I would have like to have a few more laps. A little more time, we might have had a different result.”
Stewart turned the Hawk Performance fast race lap with a 2:43.473. He was also the Sunoco Hard Charger.
Zabinski, the 2010 SSB National Champion, started fourth in the No. 97 Accumoto/Dead Horse Racing/Hoosier Ford Mustang V-6. Zabinski and Porter battled for the final podium spot with two laps to go. Zabinski held on for his third-career SSB podium.
“After the restart, [Andrew van] Charbonneau had some sort of engine problem or something,” Zabinski said. “His car was missing so I got alongside of him going into [Turn] Three. He got loose and went off.
“Lance [Stewart] was right there and he came back [from his last place start]. We worked together a little bit, trying to do some drafting trying to get closer to the front. That worked for a while. Then, he got a monster run on me coming up the hill and I let him go. There was no point. He would have hit me so hard in the back that I would have gone into orbit. So, he just went around.
“We worked together the best we could. A few more laps would have probably done it. But, then we had the crash past the Kink, which was about the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. The car was right in the middle of the track. It was almost impossible to see. We were some of the first cars to get there. Fortunately, it was not more serious than what it turned out to be. I seemed to be stuck in third no matter who was in second. But, I’ll take it. It is a terrific class to be in.”
Porter finished fourth, while Lee Niffenegger, of Santa Clarita, Calif., finished fifth in the No. 42 Honda Racing/HPD/BF Goodrich Honda Civic Si.