Before the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda season finale in October, four drivers will step out of their Crawford F4-16 cars and suit-up for the Sports Car Club of America National Championship Runoffs at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sept. 25-Oct. 1.
Elliot Finlayson of Yorkville, Illinois, will compete against Flinn Lazier of Vail, Colorado, in the Formula Enterprise class, while Austin McCusker of Glen Head, New York, campaigns for the Formula Continental national title. Jacob Loomis of Corinth, Texas, is entered in the largest class, the Spec Racer Ford Gen 3, which has a field of 101 competitors.
The 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs made club history after nearly 1,000 competitors entered the event.
“Competing in SCCA club events is different than professional racing and exposes our young drivers to different car with different performance characteristics,” SCCA Pro Racing Vice President Steve Oseth said. “With the National Championship Runoffs being held at IMS this season it has brought some intense and varied competition with nearly 1,000 entries in 28 different classes. Our F4 U.S. drivers are used to large fields but they definitely have their work cut out for them this weekend.”
McCusker laid down a fast time of 1.37.789, just half a second off from the lap-leader in his first qualifying session on Monday and took third fastest time in Session 2.
“Racing at Indy is always a great time. The atmosphere of the whole city is far different from any other that I have visited,” said McCusker. “During qualifying we had 66 cars on the track at a time which made it a bit difficult to maneuver through traffic, but racing with F4 at IMS earlier this season helped me adapt to the track conditions faster.”
Finlayson, who earned two SCCA regional championships and won the SCCA June Sprints Race in a FE this season, took preliminary pole-position in his class during Session 2.
“The very first time I crossed the bricks at IMS during Monday’s qualifying session, I was just trying to take everything in. I knew then I wanted to come back and experience the Indianapolis 500 as an IndyCar driver,” Finlayson, who joined F4 after the IMS event, said. “The Formula Enterprise class always has some tough competition, especially this season with 36 entries. Lazier is my toughest competition since he raced here at IMS earlier this season with F4. Paul Schneider, Brandon Aleckson and Justin Gordon are a great core-group of guys who also put some pressure on me through qualifying.”
Lazier finished just outside the top-three in fourth in both FE qualifying sessions.
“I’m really excited to be back at Indy racing. To me it’s been my home away from home since I was practically born and living here as a kid. It’s a really cool and unexplainable feeling racing here,” Lazier said. “I think we can be strong this week, it’s just a matter of getting the race set-up and personal strategies right in the last 40 minutes. I have to send a huge thanks out to all the people who made this happen at SCCA as it means a lot to everyone here to compete on such a prestigious track.”
Qualifying for the FE and FC class started on Monday and continues through Thursday with one qualifying session per day. The best time from each of the four sessions creates the final line-up in each class. While FE, FC and Formula Mazda qualify together, each class participates in individual class races.
Loomis, who got his open-wheel start through SCCA club events, had a successful SCCA National Championship Runoff debut last season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, finishing the FM race with a new track record. Loomis is hopeful his 2016 momentum carries over this season, resulting in a National win.
“I am excited to be back racing in the National Championship Runoffs,” said Loomis. “Last season we were so close to taking the national championship. Racing at IMS earlier this season with F4 gave me some additional confidence and I believe we are very well prepared to win this race. We qualified near the top of the field on Monday and we are ready to build on that for our next session on Wednesday.”
Loomis qualified 16th overall out of 101 drivers on Monday. Due to the large amount of entries in the SRFG3 class, all drivers participate in three qualifying sessions and the top-60 move on to the final qualifying session on Thursday. The remaining 41 drivers fight for the final 12 open positions in a Last Chance Race on Thursday evening. The best times from the 72 competitors creates the final line-up.
Several F4 U.S. drivers have participated in the SCCA National Runoffs over the years. Primus Racing Team driver Jim Goughary Jr. is a consecutive two-time SCCA National champion, winning the SCCA FM National Championship in 2007 and 2008.
“SCCA Club prepared me for SCCA Pro Racing,” Goughary said. “I still race a few times a year in Club in the Spec Racer Ford Gen3 class and it is not easy to win there. That car has shaped me over the years to be very smooth and taught me the meaning of momentum. I highly recommend any driver to try their hand at that level of club racing and I think they would be quite surprised just how good the drivers are at the front of those fields.”
To qualify for the 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, drivers had to participate in three regular season SCCA club events. Qualifying for all classes continues through Thursday with Championship races held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Races in all classes will be 40 minutes in length or 19 laps, whichever elapses first. Final results and full entry lists can be found by clicking here.
***Photo credit Jay Bonvouloir