TOPEKA, Kan. (July 20, 2016) – Beautiful Pittsburgh International Race Complex was the location this past weekend for the final SCCA Match Tour event of the year, the Tire Rack Heavy Metal Showdown. The sterling venue, which has had a major makeover in the last few years to update both the racing surface and infrastructure, played host to more than 120 soloists over three days.
Classic American Muscle Sport witnessed intense competition as John Laughlin went into Saturday afternoon runs with a target on his back. Laughlin showed up to the event in a bone-stock car, having just bought the vehicle. But by his first run Saturday, he had an almost fully prepped car due to help from competitors. He was sitting in first with a .3-second lead over Larry Casey. The afternoon runs flipped the story as Casey crossed the finish on his final run with a 48.4, .7 second faster than Laughlin and enough to seal the win in CAM-S.
In Super Touring Xtreme, the Saturday morning runs revealed a battle between Matt Jones and Kyle Herbst, two drivers very familiar with one another. Jones laid down an early lead over Herbst, only for the standings to switch after second runs. On Herbst's third run, he extended his lead to .6 seconds after a 49-flat turn at the wheel. Afternoon runs in STX had a similar outcome and Herbst claimed victory.
C Street Prepared showed another tight battle for trophy spots. The Saturday morning runs shuffled positions throughout with many drivers nicking cones with front splitters. Joseph Brennan nabbed an early lead and held it for his second run at 47.3 seconds. But Danny Kao cleaned up his drive on a final run and grabbed a 47.1 in his '99 NB named "Oscar." During the afternoon runs, Kao was able to retain his morning lead, ultimately claiming the win.
With Saturday's competition wrapped up and more than 20 winners crowned, focus shifted Sunday to qualifying and the Challenges. Sam Strano laid down a 46.2 to take the top qualifier position in heat one, but decided to pass on competing in the challenge, thus bumping the following 16 drivers into the brackets. In heat three, Martin Valent managed his infamous MR2 to a blisteringly quick 45.5 to take the top qualifying spot.
As Top Dog bracket racing began, times began to drop and drivers were breaking out past their dial-ins from earlier. In heat three, Danny Kao was able to fend off all others to move on to the final, three-way battle. Heat two's bracket winner was Gregory Vincent driving his yellow, B Street Honda S2000. Matt Jones was the victor in heat one. In their three-way battle, tensions were high. The timing displays were switched off and the announcer did not share times as each competitor crossed the line. The first one to cross was Matt Jones. He had been consistently going faster with each bracket pairing, but also steadily decreasing his dial-in. He powered across the finish with a clean, solid run. Next across was Vincent, and like a crisp bolt of lightning, also finished with a clean run. For the final run, all eyes were on Danny Kao. On the second-to-last turn, Kao got on the power heading towards the finish and spun. The announcer then declared aloud that Matt Jones had won the Top Dog Challenge with a 48.2 run.
Moving to the Lucky Dog Challenge, Megan DePietro first fought off Matt Parson in his XP V8 Miata. The next competitor was Sara Odioso, who just nicked a cone on the back slalom. In the final bracket, DePietro faced off with Lloyd Willis in his MINI, but Megan prevailed and piloted her beautiful Nitrous Blue RS through to the finish closer to her dial-in, and winning the Lucky Dog bracket.
The final bracket on Sunday afternoon was the Under Dog Challenge. Kyle Herbst emerged victorious from the first heat bracket, Chett Wohlgamuth from the second, and Andrew Merrow from the third. Merrow went on to win the Under Dog challenge with a clean and fast run.
Full results can be found at the Tire Rack Heavy Metal Showdown webpage. On a weekend when even a spur-of-the-moment Class was created Saturday to accommodate five drivers competing in brand-new Ford Focus RSs, the 2016 Match Tour season concluded. Many solo drivers now set their sights on September's Tire Rack Solo Nationals, presented by Garmin VIRB. For additional information about SCCA Solo, visit www.scca.com/solo.
Words: Daniel Gross
Image: Solo drivers ended the SCCA Match Tour season at Pittsburgh International Race Complex during the Tire Rack Heavy Metal Showdown.
Photo Credit: Perry Bennett