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September 24, 2021

Who Will Win: RallyCross Nationals

Who Will Win: RallyCross Nationals

The 2021 season marks the 15th anniversary of RallyCross Nationals, where the best from around the county gather to crown National Champions. The event is sold out with 125 drivers waiting to descend on the epicenter of RallyCross — Ross County Fairgrounds in Chillicothe, OH — October 15-17, 2021.

The move east from Kansas in 2020 and Iowa the year before has enticed many new drivers from the East Coast and Upper Midwest to attend, as a full 50% of the drivers are rookies looking to win a title and, potentially, 2021 Rookie of the Year. The winner will be selected by the RXB based on performance in the 2021 National Event and presented during closing ceremonies. With a long list of new talent — and several long-time attendees absent from this year’s event — the veterans will have their work cut out for them keeping the large rookie class at bay. Now, on to the classes.

Stock Front (SF)

The top three 2020 finishers are not registered for the event and, with previous champions moving to other classes, the 2021 title is wide open for a new champion to immerge.

The class has doubled in size to 16 competitors, and is the largest field to ever take the dirt at a National Championship. With several manufacturers represented, power and weight differences will be sorted out on the field as the drivers wring every ounce of performance from a variety of vehicles. 2020 Stock All Wheel Drive Champion Josh Armantrout leaves a drive axle behind to campaign a Mini in hopes of capturing another national title. Hal Denham — the highest placing driver to return from 2020 — will wield his years of FWD experience to attack the field in his attempt to take a nation title. Rookies Jason Meyer, Trevor Graham and Eric Dieterich are also well poised to make a run for a National Championship title.

Any way you slice it, a new Stock Front champion will be crowned in 2021, but who will it be? Our prediction is Armantrout followed by Denham, Meyer, Graham and Dieterich. 

Stock Rear (SR)

After showing dramatic growth over the past five years, SR shrinks to half of 2020 numbers but, with six drivers braving rear-wheel cars on DOT tires, the class still has plenty of talent and intrigue.

Four manufactures with three different engine configurations — front, mid and rear — bring a lot of variety to this small class as each competitor looks for the best tool to slay the courses. Sean Grogan — who has dominated in the mid-engine Porsche Boxster — returns to SR in search of a third straight title. It will take some effort to unseat the reigning champ, but John Voegeli returns from a 2020 top-three finish in hopes of ascending to the top. Voegeli is coming off a commanding victory at the Milwaukee Tour event and is looking well poised to contend for the title.

All will be known at the end of competition as this class looks to be a competition of choice and talent. Our picks for SR are Grogan followed by Voegeli, Breneman and Macoubrie.

Stock All (SA)

With 16 competitors, SA remains similar in field size to last year. Turbocharged 4-cylinder cars have been the winning choice for many years in SA, and 2021 looks to be no exception. Subarus have filled the field for years with a sprinkling of Mitsubishi EVOs, Ford Focus RSs, and an occasional Audi. This year adds a Lexus, Jeep and Suzuki to the mix.

Four-time National Champion Jan Gerber looks to reclaim the title in 2021 with reigning champion Josh Armantrout switching classes, but the task is no less daunting with several returning drivers and new talent to contend for the title. Timothy Thompson had a great showing in 2020 with his Ford Focus RS and continues to get a variety of seat time to hone his skills — he’ll be a formidable force this year. Long-time SA competitor Steve Ducharme — sharing his ride with Jan Gerber — continues to show improvement and is well poised to contend for the title. Rookie Brad Legris has also shown real speed at local events and will show up to test against seasoned veterans. He could be the sleeper that shakes up the class. Trenton Von Holton moved from MA to SA and is coming off a hotly contested first place at the Milwaukee National Challenge. Look for Von Holton to pressure the field with quick times.

Stock All could turn into a close battle at the top. As with every class there are no foregone conclusions, but our pick is Jan Gerber, followed by Thompson, Ducharme, Legris and Von Holten.

Prepared Front (PF)

Prepared Front remains consistent in size with 16 competitors and seven manufacturers and various models. The 2020 top three are not returning this year, leaving the class open for previous champions and new talent to compete for the title.

With a wide range of competitive vehicle size, power and age, 2021 competitors will have to make the most of the courses to take the title. After a strong showing in 2019 and missing 2020, Jake Bucknam looks fast in his 2012 Mini and is ready to take the crown for his first national Championship. Rookie Josh Remmetter is another serious contender in a class where veterans commonly rule the day. Look for Remmetter to be fast out of the gate toward the title. Matt Wolfe — who already has one title in a FWD class — will keep the pressure on, taking his 1993 Ford Escort to battle for a second title. Christian Retterer, coming off a win at the Dixie Challenge and a closely contested 2nd place at the Milwaukee National Tour, is showing some serious speed as he looks to improve his 2020 finishing position and grab his first title. Newcomer Chris Murphy is another one to watch, showing lots of speed and top finishes in his region in his 2012 Ford Fiesta.

In a highly competitive field of talented drivers and past champions, we expect the top of the field to be close with lots of changes for the lead. Only after the dust settles for the final run will the winner be known, but our title pick is Bucknam followed by Remmetter, Wolfe, Retterer and Murphy.

Prepared Rear (PR)

The field has shrunk from 12 to 7, but we still expect the same level of competition. With everything from a 1980 Datsun 280ZX to a 2019 Chevy Camaro, PR will feature a broad range of power, weight and size.

The 2020 and 2019 Champions return, and new talent joins this small yet highly competitive field. Gonzalo “Gonzo” San Miguel looks to retake the top spot in 2021 after hitting three cones in 2020 and taking second to Shawn Roberts. San Miguel has the speed to win— if he can stay clean. Lothrop Withington IV moves from SR to PR, showing real speed in his mid-engine 2003 MR2. Aside from the spin in wet grass in 2020, he had the speed to be a top contender and will keep the pressure on San Miguel and Roberts for the title. Roberts — looking to continue his winning streak — has honed his skills in RX for many years, regularly beating both AWD and RWD cars at local events, and has the speed and talent to find himself on the podium in ‘21. Katie Orgler continues to show she is a serious competitor in PR. Katie is coming off a fourth-place finish in 2020 with lots of seat time in the Miata since.

One cone could be the difference between first and fifth in this closely contested class. Any one of these drivers could come out with the win, but our pick for the championship is San Miguel, followed by Withington IV, Roberts and Orgler.

Prepared All (PA)

In recent years PA has seen diminishing numbers, but it’s still full of top talent. This year’s class is slightly larger with nine competitors, mostly with turbocharged vehicles filling the field. This class has been the battleground between Mitsubishi and Subaru for years, and this year is shaping up to be no different, save for one lone Audi taking on the titans of PA.

Mark Hill returns to complete the threepeat in PA. Mark dominated in his EVO IX locally and nationally and is the driver to beat. Clifton Kangas — who had a top three finish last year — also returns with the experience, talent and car to keep the pressure on Hill. But keep an eye out for rookie Jeff Denmeade — look for him to be competitive out the gate. Denmeade has shown tons of speed locally and will be in the mix from the drop of the flag through the last run. Two other rookies — Tiernan Eiberger and Tyler Moser — are also in the mix. Eiberger has the talent to break into the top spots at this year’s event, but expect a solid showing from Moser. He knows the site, which may give him a home court advantage in the Ohio dirt.

Will Hill be able to complete the exceedingly rare threepeat, or will another competitor meet the challenge to be a first-time national champion? Our pick is Hill, followed by Kangas, Denmeade, Eiberger and Moser.

Modified Front (MF)

Holding steady in size since its inception in 2012, MF has been the leading class to bring well-constructed light weight, powerful vehicles. This year is no exception with six manufacturers across 12 competitors.

ZB Lorenc — one of a few who has won four national titles in a row, including a 2020 win in MF —returns in 2021 with hopes for adding a fifth to his winning streak. Andy Thomas, blisteringly fast in his Toyota Celica, also returns after a one-year hiatus to give Lorenc all he can handle in his quest to win his first national title. Phil LaMoreaux also returns after a short stint away, running a VW Golf like Lorenc’s, and has shown he has the speed to be at the top. National Champion Donald Carl has transitioned over the years from Stock to Prepared and now to MF, and is a wizard in his Dodge Neon. Carl regularly beats AWD cars on snow tires and will be right at the top competing for the win. Pete Bates also returns this year with the skill to move up the ranks of this competitive class, looking to improve his overall finish from ‘20.

Will Lorenc be able to extend the win streak, or will one of the MF elites break the chain and take the crown? All will be settled on Sunday, but our bet is on Lorenc followed by Thomas, LaMoreaux, Carl and Bates.

Modified Rear (MR)

MR holds steady this year at 14 competitors. Like MF, MR brings a host of lightened cars with just enough power to accelerate while not completely obliterating the tires. Mod rear is all about balance and finesse, and there is no shortage of either in this class full of different makes and models — Mazdas, Toyotas, BWMs, a VW Bug and a Ford Mustang.

Brianne Corn has been the dominant force in MR for the last three years. When she shows up, Corn wins; if she wins a fourth she will be one of only two to have five titles, with four consecutive. John England — blazing fast with talent and a car to be in the top spot — returns in his supercharged Miata. Peter Dozeman will drive his car with co-driver, Corn, who he gets closer and closer to beating every year. The two had a scant 2.522 between them in 2020. Past Champion Doug Liebman (2017) has continued to improve his Superbeetle and show he has the right combination to be competitive and win titles. Peter Remner — returning after a few years away — will bring the narrow body, well sorted ‘84 RX-7, looking for the top finishes he’s seen in the past. Watch for Remner to be right in the thick of it come Sunday.

Will Corn continue her dominance of MR, or will someone be able to take the crown? Only after the final run Sunday will a winner be determined in this class, but our bet is on Corn, followed by England, Dozeman, Leibmen and Remner.

Modified All (MA)

Modified All is the largest class for this event, reaching a new high of 26 competitors in 10 different manufacturers’ vehicles. It’s also chock full of top talent with four National Champions holding a combined 10 national titles. Over the years, the cars have continued to evolve with growing numbers of fully customized cars competing for top spots.

Past Champion, Scott Banes, returns to the event after a three-year hiatus. Under Banes’s control, the quick Subaru RS gives him what it takes to stand atop the podium in 2021. Three-time National Champion Kent Hamilton will codrive the wickedly fast Isuzu Impulse RS built and driven by Jon Olschewski, and has the talent and speed to be in search of his fourth title. Chris Endres moves from SA to MA in his powerful GMC Typhoon (which may sound like a bunch of angry squirrels when he lifts) and has all the power he needs to be in the podium mix. Watch for Endres to run quick times in one of the few trucks competing. Jess Moeding brings his 2011 Lancer to the battlefield this year. He’s been toward the top of the class for several years, and this may finally be the year it all comes together for a win. Five-time National Champion Warren Elliott returns to the car in which he’s had so much success. The car may not be lightened like the rest of the field, but it makes it no less potent under the Elliott’s control, and he’s got the talent and ability to chase an unprecedented sixth title to become the most decorated champion in RallyCross. Austin Dowda — reigning 2020 champion — will be a force to contend with in his Honda Wagon. Dowda has shown he has the speed to be at the top as he looks to repeat his winning ways.

With so much talent in the field, MA will be closely contested. One cone could be the difference between sitting at the top of the podium and missing out on hardware, but our eyes are on Banes for the title, followed by Hamilton, Endres, Elliot and Dowda.

Constructor Class

Not since 2018 has a vehicle competed in Constructor Class. The 2021 rule changes opened up the class, and we anticipate this constructor class will grow significantly over the next several years. This year, Cole Powelson — owner of Sierra Cars — is bringing two 2020 RX3s to show what is possible in this class, which was conceived to give tube chassis and full-on race cars a place to play in the dirt, and the Sierra Cars put that vision on full display. There may not be a lot of competitors vying for the title, but it will be interesting and exciting to see what is possible in this highly configurable class.

As a special 15th Anniversary event, Sierra Cars has also offered two amazing RX3s for a Race of Champions (ROC). Each 2021 National Champion will compete, driving two consecutive runs in an RX3 on the championship course. The driver with the fastest total time will take home bragging rights, and the title of ROC Champion. It will no doubt be a spectacle of speed as the top talents in the sport wheel the RX3s in a best-of-the-best battle.

Wrap-Up

Rookies, past competitors and champions alike will gather for this epic event come mid-October. A new venue will bring new challenges, and a place for old friend to reunite and new friendships to be formed. The competition will be fierce and the competitors fearless with plenty of stories to be told of the perfect run or hit cone. When the dust settles, nine champions will be crowned, and all will have an experienced the excitement of racing with friends and competitors alike. To all competitors: good luck, and may you race to the best of your ability every run at the 15th annual SCCCA RallyCross National Championship.

Photo by Rupert Berrington

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