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[Portland Tribune] Race fever: With Kansas solo nationals over, drivers aim for runoffs and a triple crown.

START YOUR ENGINES: With Kansas solo nationals over, drivers aim for runoffs and a triple crown

The Portland Tribune - Oct 4, 2006

Two weeks ago, we met several local drivers who were headed to Topeka, Kan., for the national autocross championships.

Those folks are back home now, and another group of drivers is headed for the Sport Car Club of America National Championship Runoffs.

The big difference between the two events is that autocross happens one car at a time against the clock, and the runoffs are all-out fender-to-fender racing.

Before we talk about the SCCA runoffs, here’s how our autocrossers fared at the SCCA Solo National Championships:

• George Hudetz of Lake Oswego finished 15th out of 36 competitors in his B stock class RX-8, while Tristan Kotzian-Coulter of Hillsboro took home third place among four entries in B stock ladies.

• Paul Marshall of Bend finished 19th out of 26 in his B street-prepared Subaru STI. Vancouver's Jerry Jenkins finished in 11th place in his E Stock Miata, while teammate Andy Howe of Salem finished 15th out of 36 competitors.

• Kyra Lein of Vancouver finished fourth out of five entries in E stock ladies. Driving the family Miata in the C street-prepared class, Jim Daniels of Gladstone finished fifth out of 27 competitors.

• In the same car, Tami Daniels finished third out of eight in C street-prepared ladies.

• And, Tom Kotzian of Gladstone managed a 16th out of an astonishing 61 competitors in the super stock class.

This is a special year for local club racing drivers because the championship runoffs have moved from mid-Ohio to Heartland Park in Kansas — nearly 1,000 miles closer to the West Coast.

As a result, about twice as many western-region drivers are seeking an SCCA crown this year.

Here are just a few of our local drivers who are headed to the runoffs:

Portland’s Gary Bockman and Sherwood’s Ken Sutherland are headed for the first-ever national championship contest in the new spec Miata class.

All the Miatas in this class are prepared alike, so the competition is fierce. With more than 70 entries, this will be a tough race to finish.

“It would be great to finish in the top 10, and it would be awesome to be on the podium, but I just want to race clean for the full 30 minutes,” Bockman says.

Cindi Lux of Aloha has had a club and pro racing career that would make anyone proud, but she’s after a special distinction — an SCCA triple crown in her Dodge Viper.

The triple crown honor is given to a driver who wins Wisconsin’s June sprints race, a divisional championship and the runoffs. Lux already has the first two elements, and she’s driving for the third.

“These new Vipers are the coolest cars I have driven. Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky. Being up for the triple crown gets me even more fired up,” Lux says.

Todd Harris and Curtis Aimonetto will compete in identical spec racer Ford cars. These are purpose-built racing cars with sealed engines to equalize the competition.

Harris owns the popular ProDrive racing school at Portland International Raceway, and he hopes his showing at the runoffs will inspire his students.

“We train people all the time, and they can watch me race and have someone with a tie to them at the runoffs,” Harris says.

Aimonetto is a first-time competitor at the national level.

“I started racing in 2004 after a friend of mine died suddenly. It was a wake up call that I needed to live today, not just for the future,” he says.

All these drivers are spending their own money to go to the runoffs. Sponsorships are modest, if they happen at all. But these drivers are adamant about thanking those who make racing possible.

“Without support from miatacage.com, Clyde/West equipment, 99 West Trailers and my crew, Pat McFall and Kevin Keenan, I wouldn’t be able to make the trip,” Bockman says.

Wyatt Fire Protection, Game Crazy, and Pittman & Brooks CPA sponsor Sutherland.

Aimonetto is sponsored by Mortgage Advocates. Harris is sponsored by ProDrive Driving School.

And Lux’s primary sponsors are Kumho Tires and Dodge’s Motorsports and SRT divisions.

From Oct. 13 to Oct. 15, you can follow all the runoffs racing action live on the Web site www.scca.com. I’ll have a follow-up story from Heartland Park on Oct. 20 to let you know where our drivers finished.

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