TOPEKA, Kan. (Jan. 26, 2017) -- The Sports Car Club of America® has officially announced that the 2018 SCCA® National Championship Runoffs® will be held October 16-21 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. It is the first time the Runoffs will be held at the Northern California track.
"We're excited to have the Runoffs again head west, continuing the Board of Directors' initiative to move the event around the country to iconic and challenging racetracks," SCCA VP and COO Eric Prill said. "With its deep heritage, dramatic setting and inspired layout, Sonoma Raceway is certainly right at home on the list of Runoffs host venues."
About an hour's drive north of San Francisco, Sonoma Raceway's road course features more than 160 feet of elevation change. With track activity scheduled an average of 340 days a year, it is one of North America's most complete and versatile motorsports complexes and home to one of the nation's only high-performance automotive industrial parks with approximately 75 tenants. The facility's first official event at then-Sears Point Raceway was an SCCA Enduro on Dec. 1, 1968.
"In 2018, Sonoma Raceway will kick off its 50th anniversary year and will be very proud to feature the premier event in amateur road racing as part of that celebration," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. "We look forward to welcoming the SCCA community and the nation's best racers to the beautiful Sonoma Valley next year."
At the suggestion of participants, the 2018 Runoffs, including testing, qualifying and racing, will be shortened overall by two days from the 2015-2017 events. Paved paddock space is limited, so additional lots around the track will be utilized. A pre-reserved system for assigning paddock spots will be utilized just as it has been since the 2015 Runoffs at Daytona International Speedway.
Use of both the Carousel and Esses are expected, but the specific track layout has yet to be finalized for the 2018 Runoffs at Sonoma Raceway. However, the venue is undoubtedly a fantastic site for both racing and spectating. The weather for October is traditionally pleasant, with average temperatures in the high 70s during the day and lows in the mid 40s. Average rainfall for the month is a little over one inch.
While there is plenty to keep people entertained and busy at the track, the surrounding community is a well-known tourist destination. The Sonoma County Tourism organization notes there are more than 425 wineries in the region, miles of rugged Pacific coastline and towering redwood forests. Sonoma County features premium wine, farm-to-table dining, unique resorts and spas, and over 50 state and regional parks.
The SCCA Runoffs has evolved into what is now commonly agreed to be the pinnacle of American motorsports. Since 1964, the SCCA has crowned Club Racing National Champions at the winner-take-all, single race Runoffs format through dozens of separate races over three days. As host of the 55th Runoffs in 2018, Sonoma Raceway will become the third California track to host the SCCA's National Championship, joining Riverside International Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
While the SCCA looks forward to the 2018 Runoffs at Sonoma Raceway, racers are currently eyeing the 2017 Runoffs to be held Sept. 25-Oct. 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. The layout at Indianapolis will be an exciting 15-turn challenge running 2.592 miles in a clockwise direction. The configuration includes portions of the track previously utilized by Formula One for the U.S. Grand Prix and currently used by the Verizon IndyCar Series for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
The location of the 2018 SCCA National Championship Runoffs has been announced as Sonoma Raceway. Dates have not yet been announced. More details to come shortly.
On a mostly rainy Tuesday back in August of 2016, the Sports Car Club of America hosted a half-dozen Club racers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to test multiple road course layouts for the 2017 National Championship Runoffs to be held in September. After a full day exploring seven different configurations, both clockwise and counterclockwise, the SCCA Club Racing Department has reached a decision.
The 2017 Runoffs course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be an exciting 15-turn challenge running 2.592 miles in a clockwise direction. The layout, which can hold up to 72 cars per Runoffs race, consists of ten right-hand and five left-hand turns, as well as a main straight 3,700 feet in length. The racing surface is 45-feet wide in sections with very mild, FIM-approved curbing. Eric Prill, SCCA Vice President and COO, said the Runoffs configuration includes portions of the track previously utilized by Formula One for the U.S. Grand Prix and currently used by the Verizon IndyCar Series for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
"The course we selected has a mix of straights, transition corners and long corners. It's got a little bit of everything. I think it will reward well-rounded drivers and well-rounded vehicles, which is what you want in a championship course," Prill said. "We have a unique opportunity in 2017 to race at a track where very few will have previous experience. With that in mind, the Speedway's staff has agreed to make this a Runoffs-only configuration. No other racing organization will use this layout at any point during 2017, which means a level playing field when Runoffs participants arrive in September."
The six drivers who took part in the test session included Formula 500's Jeremy Morales, Formula Vee stalwart Lisa Noble, two-time Formula Continental national champion John LaRue, two-time F Production national champion Kevin Ruck, multi-time Runoffs winner Scott Rettich in a Spec Racer Ford Gen3, and two-time Runoffs winner Jason Knuteson in a Spec Miata. A GT-1 car was scheduled to participate, but was withdrawn after sustaining damage in a race two days prior to the test. Prill said each of these invitees agreed to pay their own expenses to partake in the test, with rubber supplied by Hoosier Race Tire.
"All of the participants are very experienced," Prill noted. "Many of them are national champions or Runoffs frontrunners. They were chosen due to their experience, as well as their proximity to Indianapolis and the type of racecar they drive. We got a lot of great feedback from each of them, as well as a good cross-section of feedback based on car type."
A Runoffs lap will begin at the "Yard of Bricks" and head north toward a sharp right-hand Turn 1, which is nearly 90 degrees. Turn 2 is a left-hander followed by three flowing right-handers that lead into the long, left-hand Turn 6 loop. The right-hand Turn 6a then brings drivers on to the Hulman Straight. Rettich, who turned laps previously on the Indianapolis road course while involved in USF2000, said this complex will be tricky as drivers search for how best to maximize rolling speed for a good exit on to the straight.
"There are a few different lines you can take," Rettich said about the Turn 6 loop. "You can try to double apex it, you can try to late apex it or you can try to hold your apex down for a while.
"There are at least three good passing zones in the Runoffs layout, and then maybe another three or four opportunities to make passes with the track being so wide," Rettich continued. "There's really no one 'section' that isn't important for a good lap, but the most important corner will be the final one leading on to the front stretch. That will be essential for good lap times and passing."
(In-Car SRF3 Runoffs Indianapolis lap video link)
"What really hits you is when you go across the yard of bricks," Knuteson said. "When you pull out of the pits, you are overwhelmed by the size of the stands and the facility itself. But when you hear the 'thump, thump' as you race over the bricks, I think that was the biggest moment for me."
"This is a 'bucket list' track," Knuteson continued. "If you haven't been going to the Runoffs for the last two or three years, now is the time to get the cars out of the garage, get them tuned up, get to the U.S. Majors or Hoosier Super Tour and get qualified. SCCA and the staff at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are putting on a top-notch event. It's one you will not want to miss."
(In-Car SM Runoffs Indianapolis lap video link)
While the day was mostly wet during testing, the track did dry out mid-afternoon. But no matter the condition, Knuteson said competitors will be pleased with the racing surface.
"It's a very well-prepared track," Knuteson said. "There's very good grip. Even in the rain, it was really exceptional grip. In the dry it might have so much grip that you'll have to be careful."
On a side note, Prill did warn that "racers cannot drive through the gravel traps. The gravel traps stop cars. There is no getting out of the gravel. It's like quicksand."