JWR ALUM: Graham Rahal captures his first National Championship taking the Formula Atlantic class win at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs
Race 8: Formula Atlantic Graham Rahal, of New Albany, Ohio., captured his first National Championship Friday, taking the Formula Atlantic class win at the 2005 SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in his Anderson Walko Racing Swift 014. Dan Selznick, of Phoenix, Ari., and David Wilcox, of Lake Dallas, Texas, completed the top-three.
Having led every session and set a new lap record in qualifying, Rahal entered the race as the odds on favorite to win. In what would prove to be the most difficult part of the race, Rahal's Anderson Walko Racing Swift 014 car misfired at the start, causing the 17 year-old to lose several positions entering the esses. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Selznick led Mirl Swan through the opening turns.
Quickly recovering from the poor start, Rahal moved into second on the second lap, passing Swan on the back straight. Having fallen back to third, Swan's race ended later in the lap, when he spun off-course. Posting lap times up to two seconds quicker than any other driver, Rahal soon caught Selznick, passing for the lead on lap five. Steadily pulling away from Selznick, David Wilcox and Keith Lively, the battle for fifth became the most heated amongst the leaders.
Having moved into fifth, Bernie Sunier went off-course on lap nine, allowing Ben Beasley to take the position. Two laps later, Beasley spun exiting Thunder Valley, becoming stuck in the grass, relinquishing fifth place to Ryan Spencer-Smith. On lap 17, the final change in top-five occurred, when Lively pulled into the pits and retired with a mechanical failure.
Setting a new race lap record, Rahal crossed the start/finish 43.01 seconds ahead of Selznick, to capture his first SCCA National Championship Runoffs win, 30-years after his father, racing legend Bobby Rahal won the Formula B National Championship. "I had a misfire at the start," said Rahal. "When I came out of the paddock the car misfired, but it cleared up right away. At the start it did it again and I thought, 'oh, no!', but it cleared up again and we were OK. I definitely had the fastest car out there and I knew that I could keep up. I took my time and caught up to Dan. I got a good run on him and passed into the Keyhole. Then I just kept careful, building my lead and trying to stay out of trouble."
Spencer-Smith, of Nappa, Calif., finished fourth, and Burke, of Rumson, N.J., completed the top-five.
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