Shields Wins Formula Vee National Championship in Photo Finish
ELKHART LAKE, Sept. 28, 2010: Rick Shields, of West Mifflin, Pa., emerged just ahead of competitors Roger Siebenaler, of North Hero, Vt., and Brandon Peterson, of Edwards, Colo., in a three-wide photo-finish to decide the Formula Vee title at the 47th SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Subway at Road America. Sheilds’ margin of victory of 0.017-second was the closest-ever finish for the class and the second-closest in Runoffs history overall since the beginning of the transponder timing era.
Shields started third in the No. 17 ARS Inc/VeeSportRacing/AutoWorks VDF-2/VW and was part of an epic battle for the lead with Gumout Polesitter Michael Varacins (No. 65 SpeedSport/Hoosier/Veetech SpeedSport AM-5/VW), second-starting Peterson (No. 49 Peak Performance Vortech 09/VW), fourth-starting Siebenaler (No. 72 Autowerks/Hoosier Tire Mysterian M-2/VW) and sixth-starting Stevan Davis (No. 80 Wedge Racing/Goodyear/Butler Racer’s Wedge SB-1/VW) over the opening three laps.
On lap four, with Varacins in the lead, the pack entered Turn Eight, which was covered with oil from an expired engine. Varacins and Siebenaler both slid wide, with the polesitter spinning completely around. The caution flag came out later that lap to clean up the oil, but Varacins found himself mired in 19th place for the lap-eight restart.
Shields, Siebenaler, Peterson, Davis and Chris Jennerjahn, up from 12th starting position in the No. 46 Jennerjahn Machine Inc. Vortech 08/VW, became the lead battle after the restart. With time ticking down, each driver began making plans for final lap drafting.
“Roger [Siebenaler] and I had a plan to work together,” Shields said. “If we got into a group, we would be man-to-man. My guy on the radio told me three or four laps, and I took it at four and it worked out good.”
As the one-to-go signal came out beginning lap 11 of the time-limited race, Siebenaler led. Shields made his move around his teammate on the back straight going into Turn 12, taking Peterson with him. Exiting the final corner, Peterson gave Shields a bump, with Siebenaler popping out of the draft first and then Peterson. The top three cars finished side-by side, separated by 0.065-second, with Shields the victor by mere inches. Shields averaged 64.809 mph in the race slowed by four laps of caution.
“Going into 14, Brandon [Peterson] gave me a real nice push up the hill and I saw Roger in my mirror,” Shields said. “It was just an amazing finish!”
Shields previous best finish was ninth in 2008.
“I was hoping for this moment,” Shields said. “I remember Steve from VSR said I should go to Wal-Mart and buy a bunch of bins ‘cause they will be needed when they tear your motor apart [after winning].’ Words just can’t describe what I’m feeling right now.”
Two-time Champion Siebenaler was all smiles after the race in celebration of his friend’s victory and his fifth-career podium finish.
“I had the most to lose,” Siebenaler said of his final lap. “I came in leading on the last lap, which is not the best with these guys behind. Brandon and I went side-by-side in Canada Corner and I thought it was the last lap, so I didn’t want to give up an inch. From doing that, I lost momentum, which actually helped me on the straight because I had a gap between them, so I got this killer great draft and I was able to try and pass them.
“Rick and I talked about how we could win this. We figured that for one of us to win, the other might have to sacrifice. Guess I had to sacrifice, but it’s great to have VeeSport Racing first and second.”
Despite being so close to a National Championship, Peterson was thrilled with his third-place finish.
“Coming out of turn 14, I had a great run on Rick,” Peterson said. “I knew I could bump him or try and draft by him. But I saw Siebenaler coming up behind, so I tried to push Shields as best I could to keep us both in front of him.
“Anyone in the top 20 could have easily won this race. It was a great race and it’s great to finish third.”
Chris Jennerjahn finished fourth, just 0.132-second behind the winner. Bob Neumeister, of Pueblo, Colo., started and finished fifth in the No. 94 Hoosier Tire/Red Line Oil Vortech. Neumeister turned the fastest race lap, with a record-breaking 2:41.722 (88.508 mph).
Davis, Ron Whitson, Ed Womer, Dennis Andrade and Gary Blanarik completed the top 10.
Jeff Loughead finished 11th in his No. 8 RSE Incorporated Vortech CM1/VW, advancing 17 positions from his starting spot and earning the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
Varacins actually worked his way back into the lead battle on lap 10, but slid off at Turn 12 with a reported flat tire. He eventually finished 25th.
Now in its 47th year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Subway annually crowns Champions in the Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing classes. The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available throughout the weekend at www.Speedcasttv.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.