ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Two Californians led a field of nearly 60 competitors to the Spec Racer Ford Gen3 SCCA National Championship Runoffs start at Road America on Saturday.
Tire Rack Pole Award winner TJ Acker was flanked by teammate Mike Miserendino in the No. 11 MBI Racing machine.
But after the start, it was five-time champion Miserendino leading the kaleidoscope of colorful cars winding around the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit in Wisconsin.
The 13-lap SRF3 event was expected to be filled with action, and the drama began early when a full-course yellow came out on the second lap. Danny Stripling had grabbed the top spot at that point and led the field to the restart.
But Miserendino went back by him shortly after and the two continued to swap the lead.
A group of as many as seven competitors found a home in the lead pack by the race’s halfway point. Franklin Futrelle looked strong and led a few laps, but slowed on the exit of turn five late in the race.
Unfortunately, Stripling looked to have tapped Futrelle at that point, ending his shot at a win. Bobby Sak, in the No. 19 Elite Autosport car, also moved to the front in the later portion of the race.
As is often the case in SRF3, especially at Road America, the race came down to the final lap. At the white flag, Sak was ahead with Miserendino tucked right up beneath him.
Going into turn five on the last lap, Miserendino took the lead away from Sak. Toward the end of the lap after Canada Corner, Sak assumed the front spot and never relinquished it.
That gave Sak, of West Bloomfield, Mich., his very first Runoffs Championship by a .169-second margin over runner-up Miserendino, of Bakersfield, Calif.
With Saturday’s victory, Sak earned SCCA Super Sweep honors. He was the 2020 SCCA U.S. Majors Tour Northern Conference champion, Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour SRF3 champion, and won at the Runoffs.
“I was definitely cool with being up front,” Sak said about leading to the white flag. “As soon as Mike (Miserendino) bumped me down the front straight to start the last lap, I knew he was in the same mental space as me and we’re just going to make this a him and I show.”
Before the final corner, Sak “backed up” his car a bit to slow Miserendino’s progress, and that was accomplished.
“From there, it was foot to the floor as hard as I could, make your car as wide as possible, and it worked out,” Sak continued. “It was a drag race up the front straight … and it really couldn’t have gone much better.”
For Miserendino, it was his 11th podium appearance at the Runoffs. Before the race started, he and Acker talked at length about how to work together to come out victorious.
Those plans were foiled early on in the race.
“I can assure you that the rest of the top 10 wanted to break us up as quickly and fast as possible, and I don’t blame them. I would’ve done the same thing,” Miserendino said about the race’s start. “There were so many good guys in the lead pack. But in the end, it just came down to me and Bobby, and I came up just a little bit short today.”
In his first-ever Runoffs start, it was Grant Vogel who brought his No. 46 Daikin Air Conditioning car home in the third and final podium position. Vogel, who has been racing with SCCA for two years, was only in his second-ever visit to Road America this week.
“For a majority of the race, I was probably in seventh at the rear of the lead pack,” said Vogel, who started in the 17th position. “I got up to fourth, then made one more pass for third, and then had to block for a couple laps. But at that point, I was surprised to be where I was, to be honest.”
Acker, of Saugus, California, finished fourth after starting on pole. Justin Claucherty, of Jackson, Mississippi, finished fifth. John Vogel, of St. Louis, Missouri, was awarded Sunoco Hard Charger honors for starting 42nd and finishing in the 21st spot.