Three cool clear days of qualifying ended with the tight lead pack of five drivers who could potentially win the Runoffs at Road America – Calvin Stewart, James Weida, Aaron Ellis, Clint McMahan and Eric McRee – in that order. Calvin and Clint (changing setups daily) each had the fastest laps in the first two sessions with Calvin pulling one out in the third and final qualifying session close to the previous race lap record of 2:20.8 (set back in 2013) with a 2:20.954 to secure the pole position with Clint unable to challenge when his chain came off (yet again) after 4 laps. This was just one of many mechanical issues that Clint and crew spent six 14 hour days fixing and hoping nothing else goes wrong in the race.
The surprise was Aaron Ellis who unloaded his car at midnight and ran ONLY the third session to join the lead pack with a 2:21.341. But here is the rest of the story for Aaron. Aaron has always impressed me with his quiet demeanor and very bright intellect (he builds his own cars). Aaron Ellis almost decided not to come and he was going to give his car to Carl Maier, a friend from the days when Carl sold Aaron his first racing kart back in Indianapolis, to drive in the Runoffs. Fortunately, Aaron changed his mind and he was able to make the Runoffs – doing so dramatically at the last minute.
The rest of the drivers were in another zip code over the three days in the following qualifying order – Jeff Delong, Jason Martin, Jack Walbran, Cory McLeod, Carl Maier and George Bugg who has had a continuation of his oil cooling problems.
In the race, the top five drivers were packed all together on the first lap with Clint passing several and then making his big move going into Turn #5, out braking and driving around both Aaron Ellis and Calvin Stewart on the outside of the turn and immediately distancing himself from the lead pack. While the four car pack tried to catch Clint, James Weida and Calvin Stewart (on different laps) went off at Turn #5 but quickly rejoined the pack. Lap after lap, Weida kept hunting down and picking off one of the front running cars until he finally broke free from them at mid-race and began to hunt down Clint. His lighter weight helped both his braking and speed as he slowly cut the distance behind Clint. And Clint was not dawdling along either as he was running near qualifying laps the whole race but he was avoiding the rumble strips to keep from knocking his chain off again while Weida ran over the rumble strips the whole track.
In the meantime, the rest of the field was in its own battle with some drama. Jeff DeLong and Jason Martin were duking it out until lap #10 when Jason spun in Canada Corner, went off and ended up against a tire barrier ending his day. Jack Walbran was happy with his top speed, qualifying 10th in a fast field. He had a great start moving up to 6th entering Turn #1. Unfortunately, his blipper cable then broke and wrapped around his throttle assembly in WOT position causing Jack to run wide out of line and he hit his kill switch, rolling to a stop. Before that, Cory’s throttle cable came loose from the motor while in the warmup lap and he also rolled to a stop. On the 3rd lap, one of Carl’s rear axle hubs failed, resulting in terminal rear steer and he pulled off at Turn #5 to avoid any more damage. In the mean-time, George Bugg was moving up the field from last place with no issues for the first time all week for a good finish.
Back up front, Weida set the fastest race lap of 2:21.391 as he inched up closer and closer to Clint but did not quite make it at the checkered flag, finishing 2nd by a mere 0.584 second. We all speculated what would have happened but the old saying goes – “It is one challenge to catch somebody but it is a whole tougher challenge to pass him”. The rest finished in this order: Calvin Stewart 3rd, Aaron Ellis 4th, Eric McRee 5th, then Jeff DeLong, George Bugg, Jason Martin, Carl Maier, Jack Walbran and Cory McLeod.
The race points are as follows:
- Clint McMahan 24
- Calvin Stewart 22
- Aaron Ellis 20
- Eric McRee 18
- Jeff DeLong 16
- George Bugg 14
- Jason Martin 12
- Carl Maier 11
- Jack Walbran 10
- Cory McLeod 9
After the fourth round, the Series Points are as follows:
- Eric McRee 64
- Calvin Stewart 60
- George Bugg 47
- Aaron Ellis 42
- Jeff DeLong 38
- Jason Martin 30
- Carl Maier 25
- Ryan Mayfield 24
- Clint McMahan 24
- Austin Morvik 20
- Craig Laprade 18
- George Fox 16
- Jack Walbran 10
- Cory McLeod 9
We are very thankful for our valued sponsors who have made this series possible:
Hoosier Racing Tire ( www.hoosiertire.com )
Solo Performance Specialties (SPS) (www.soloperformance.com)
Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies (www.PegasusAutoRacing.com)
Hawk Performance ( www.hawkperformance.com )
Winding Road Racing (www.WindingRoadRacing.com )
MPT Industries ( www.mptindustries.com )
Design Engineering, Inc. (http://www.designengineering.com/)
The Formula 600 Challenge series was developed to help promote an affordable open wheel formula car series to showcase talent without large financial race budgets. 100% of the sponsorship money and products go to the drivers. The Formula 600 open wheel cars use a 600cc motorcycle engine and a 6 speed sequential transmission revving up to 15,000 rpm with speeds in excess of 140 mph. The sound of this drive train is likened to a F1 car.
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