The 1982 Champion Spark Plug Road Racing Classic (Runoffs) took place during the third week of October at Road Atlanta. This was the nineteenth consecutive running of the event to determine the Sports Car Club of Americas (SCCA) National Road Racing Champions.

Over 400 drivers from seven geographical regions within the United States earned an invitation, based on their performance during the year, to participate at the Runoffs.

There were National Championships for twenty-one different classes. These race groups fall into one of five different categories:

  • Production Category – There are six classes in the production category – C Production (CP), D Production (DP), E Production (EP), F Production (FP), G Production (GP) and H Production (HP). These production-based vehicles are grouped according to their performance potential. Sports cars such as the Mazda RX-7, Datsun 240Z, Lotus Elan, MG Midget, etc., are most often associated with this category.
  • Grand Touring Category – Four classes are identified as Grand Touring – they include Grand Touring (GT1), Grand Touring (GT2), Grand Touring (GT3) and Grand Touring (GT4). These vehicles are also grouped according to their performance potential. The quickest class, GT1 features cars such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette, while at the other end of the spectrum, GT4 includes the Mini Cooper and Honda Civic. These vehicles are allowed a larger number of modifications than the production category.
  • Showroom Stock – Three Showroom Stock categories, Showroom Stock A (SSA), Showroom Stock B (SSB), and Showroom Stock C (SSC), were created by the SCCA to accommodate performance street cars with a minimum amount of modifications required to race. Showroom Stock A includes the more powerful vehicles such as the Mazda RX-7, Triumph TR8, Datsun 280ZX, etc. Changes to these vehicles are for safety purposes.
  • Sports Racers – These are purpose-built closed-wheel race cars. There are four classes within this group – A Sport Racer (ASR), C Sport Racer (CSR), D Sport Racer (DSR) and Sports 2000 (S2). Sport Racers include a variety of chassis’ which may be constructed by the competitor or a race car manufacturer. With the exception of Sports 2000, which must use a 2.0-liter Ford engine, there is also a wide range of engine options used by the teams.
  • Formula Category – These are also purpose-built race cars. This category includes four classes – Formula Atlantic (FA), Formula Continental (FC), Formula Ford (FF) and Formula Vee (FV). There are a variety of rules that govern these open-wheel cars.

Drivers would compete on the twelve-turn 2.52-mile road course in an eighteen-lap contest to determine National Champions.

It took two attempts to start the 1982 H Production National Championship at Road Atlanta. Nineteen competitors come under the bridge and head for turn twelve and the Starters flag. On the pole is the No. 94 Austin Healy Sprite of the 1975 class champion Jim Miller. Beside Miller is the No. 95 Winners Circle sponsored Austin Healy Sprite of Jeff Milstein. The second row is occupied by Randy Canfield and Earl Clemenson.
Runoffs rookie Jeff Milstein was making his first visit to Road Atlanta. The driver of the No. 95 Austin Healy Sprite qualified on the outside of the front row. Milstein jumped into the lead at the start of the race but spun on the sixth circuit. Without losing too much time, he caught the front runners and retook the top spot on lap-13. Milstein would maintain the position and win by a margin of 1.06-seconds.
Historically, the GT2 category belonged to Datsun, but this year the Mazda competitors were expected to be a threat for the title. Mazda RX-3 driver Mike Green qualified on the pole but spun on the opening lap allowing Datsun 200SX of Dr. Bill Coykendall to lead. Then it was Coykendall’s turn to spin, allowing the No. 15 Mazda RX-3 of Chris Dembs to take first place. Despite a challenge from Paul Romano, Dembs won.
A fan favourite at the 1980 Runoffs was D Production driver Denny Wilson and his ‘tail happy’ Triumph TR6. That year Wilson started sixth and challenged the factory-backed entries. He led six laps before finishing second to the Porsche 924 of Doc Bundy by a margin of 2.155-seconds. In 1982, Wilson finished third in the Mid-West point standings and fourth at Road Atlanta. However, he failed tech and was disqualified.
A field of thirty-three Formula Ford drivers prepare to start their national championship race. On the pole is the No. 26 Lola T-T640 of Michael Andretti – the son of the 1978 World Driving Champion Mario Andretti. Starting the on the outside of Andretti, in the No. 16 Viking, is Bob Lobenberg. On the second row is the third-place starter, Dave Knapp, in the No. 19 Reynard RF82 and the Van Diemen RF82 of Michael Roe.
The 1980 Formula Ford title holder, Bob Lobenberg, parked his championship-winning ADF in favour of the No. 17 Valhalla Automotive Viking. The Viking was the creation of successful engine builder Arnie Loyning and college professor Bob Erikson. Lobenberg qualified second fastest at Road Atlanta. Despite a pass early in the contest by Michael Andretti, he would lead most of the race and earn his second gold medal.
It would be difficult to bet that Jerry Hansen wouldn’t win the A Sports Racing class as he had seven consecutive victories in the category. However, it appeared that there may be a challenger this year. Rex Ramsey purchased the No. 22 Frissbee from Paul Newman Racing and put it on the pole. However, Hansen jumped into the lead at the start and beat Ramsey to the checkered flag by a margin of 5.221-seconds.
Similar to GT2, C Production would be a battle for supremacy between the Japanese manufacturers Mazda and Datsun. Qualifying on the pole was the No. 45 Mazda RX-7 of Dr. Robert Reed. Alongside Reed is fellow Mazda competitor John Finger. The second row is filled with the Datsun 280ZXs of third-place starter Morris Clement and Runoffs veteran Jim Fitzgerald. A total of fifteen drivers took the green flag.
Dr. Robert Reed put the No. 45 Rotary Specialities Mazda RX-7 on the C Production pole for what promised to be a very competitive contest. Reed moved into the lead at the start but lost first place to John Finger before the end of lap-1. On the eighth circuit, Finger lost the top spot to Morris Clement but got back around him. On the sixteenth lap, Reed working his way back to the front and held on for the victory.
Capturing the runner-up position in C Production was Morris Clement. Clement’s best Runoffs result in his previous three attempts was an eighth-place last season. Driving the No. 21 Minolta Datsun 280ZX, he was the fastest of the Datsuns and started in the third spot. During the race, he battled with the Mazdas of John Finger and Dr. Robert Reed. Clement finished 0.879-seconds behind the winner Reed.
Harvey Templeton was well known for constructing very successful Formula Vees. After an eight-year absence from the Runoffs, Templeton returned in a Formula Ford of his own design, called HR7260. The HR7260 was named after the Bill that resulted in the American Social Security Act. The number on the car is Mr. Templeton’s age. Templeton completed all eighteen laps and finished twenty-seventh.
E Production was expected to be a ‘two-horse race’ between Southeast division competitors – Joseph Cogbill and Paul Spruell. The No. 63 Porscheware sponsored Porsche 356 of Cogbill jumped into the lead at the start while Spruell was delayed by an oil leak that coated his clutch. Spruell eventually moved into second, while Cogbill had to contend with a broken clutch cable. Cogbill held on to capture his first gold medal.
The GT4 field heads for Road Atlanta’s corner twelve and the Starter’s green flag. On the pole is the No. 2 Comptech Machine Renault LeCar of Doug Peterson. On the outside of Peterson is James Dentici, the reigning class champion, driving the No. 7 King Honda / At Engineering Honda Civic. In the second row are Bill Cooper in the No. 12 FORTECH Mini Cooper S and the No. 15 Datsun 1200 of Van McDonald.
A broken axle robbed Doug Peterson from attempting to win last year’s GT4 National Championship. Peterson returned with a new car in 1982 – the No. 2 Comptech Machine prepared Renault LeCar. He and the Renault broke the lap record by 1.368-seconds. Peterson’s biggest threat this season came from last year’s champion Jim Dentici, but he crashed on lap-1. Peterson would dominate the contest and lead flag-to-flag.
Last year’s GT4 National Champion, James Dentici, returned to Road Atlanta to defend his title. Dentici was in the familiar No. 7 King Honda / At Engineering Honda Civic. He qualified second fastest, but like the rest of the field, Dentici was not able to match the pace of Doug Peterson’s Renault LeCar. At the start of the race, he followed Peterson into corner one, but impact with Bill Cooper caused him to retire.
Bill Coykendall, the 1979 B Sedan National Champion, was favoured to win this year’s GT2 category. Coykendall put the No. 63 Datsun 200SX on the outside of the front row. He jumped into the lead but was passed by the pole-sitter, Mike Green, before the end of lap-1. On the second circuit, Coykendall had contact with the Mazda RX-3 of Christopher Dembs. The damage to Datsun led to Coykendall’s retirement.
Frank Leary won the 1978 C Production National Championship piloting a Datsun 280Z. This year, Leary was campaigning one of the two new Datsun 280ZX Turbos entered in GT1. The other Datsun was entered for Paul Newman. He started on the pole in the No. 48 Peterson Tractor sponsored car. Leary controlled the contest until lap-14, when his transmission failed. He was classified with a nineteenth-place finish.
Another Runoff’s rookie to win in his first attempt was David Vegher. Vegher drove the No. 48 Veloce Motors Lotus Elan. The newcomer qualified second fastest in the D Production category. He won the drag race to corner one, chased by the pole-sitter and 1981 E Production Champion, John O’Steen, in a Porsche 924. Despite the pressure from the more experienced O’Steen, Vegher led flag-to-flag.
After seven attempts, John O’Steen captured the gold medal in E Production, driving a Porsche 356. This year O’Steen was competing in the D Production category in the No. 98 Escort / Autobahn Porsche 924. This car won the class last year with Tom Brennan behind the wheel. O’Steen was the fastest qualifier but couldn’t hold off the hard-charging Lotus Elan of David Vegher and finished second.
In the No. 31 Bosch / Valvoline/ BBS Volkswagen Scirocco, the pole-sitter, Tom Davey, paces the field of twenty-one GT3 competitors. On the outside of Davey is the No. 72 Volkswagen Scirocco of the second-fastest qualifier Tom Schweitz. In row two are the No. 5 Datsun 510 driven by Roger Wiley and the No. 16 Lou Fusz Datsun sponsored Datsun B210 of Rameau Johnson.
The Tom Milner team replaced last season’s Volkswagen Scirocco with a 1982 model for driver Tom Davey. During the previous two seasons, Davey captured the GT3 title using the older car. This year he put the new No. 31 Bosch / Valvoline/ BBS sponsored Volkswagen Scirocco on the pole. Davey controlled the race and led from start to finish earning his fifth national title – he collected his first two in Formula Super Vee.
There were two new Datsun 280ZX Turbos entered in GT1. Bob Sharp Racing entered the No. 33 Datsun for the two-time National Champion Paul Newman. Newman won the D Production in 1976, driving a Triumph TR6 and in 1979 he captured the C Production crown driving a Datsun 280ZX. This year, he started twenty-third after the car failed on the false grid and drove through the field for a runner-up result.
Fred Baker entered his first Runoffs in 1977, driving the Granturismo Jaguar prepared Jaguar XKE and finished twelfth in C Production. By 1980, the team had the Jaguar fully sort and in a ‘Cinderella story’ Baker beat the Datsun factory supported drivers to win the title. But with the success of the Jaguar, it was moved to the GT1 category. This season Baker qualified eighth fastest but retired after eleven laps.
Sports Car Club of America amateur road racing veteran Jim Fitzgerald made his Runoffs debut in 1968 and has competed in twenty-five National Championship finals, including 1982. His best season was 1970, when he won the gold medal in D Production driving a Datsun 2000. This year he was competing in the C Production category, driving the No. 38 Datsun 280ZX and finished in the fourth position.

GT1Doug Bethke / CorvettePaul Newman / Datsun 280ZX TurboArt Pasmas / Trans Am
GT2Chris Dembs / Mazda RX-3Mike Rickman / Datsun 200SXMike Green / Mazda RX-3
GT3Tom Davey / VW SciroccoRameau Johnson / Datsun B210Dave Carkhuff / Datsun 510
GT4Doug Peterson / Renault LeCarVan McDonald / Datsun 1200Michael Cheung / Datsun 1200
C ProductionRobert Reed / Mazda RX-7Morris Clement / Datsun 280ZXJohn Finger / Mazda RX-7
D ProductionDavid Vegher / Lotus ElanJohn O'Steen / Porsche 924Bob Hagestad / Porsche 924
E ProductionJoseph Cogbill / Porsche 356Paul Spruell / Alfa Romeo SpiderDave Coman / Alfa Romeo Spider
F ProductionBob Criss / MG MidgetLarry Moulton / TurnerMichael McClure / Alfa Romeo Spider
G ProductionJoseph Hauser / Datsun 1600Richard Davis / Fiat X1/9Roberto Lorenzutti / Datsun 1600
H ProductionJeff Milstein / A-H SpriteRandy Canfield / A-H SpriteJames Miller / A-H Sprite
Formula AtlanticJames King / Ralt RT-4Peter Greenfield / Ralt RT-4Chris Bender / ralt RT-4
FormulaContinentalTerry McKenna / Ralt RT-5Robert Schader / Van DiemenDavid Ammen / Ralt RT-5
Formula FordBob Lobenberg / VikingMichael Roe / Van Diemen RF82Michael Andretti / Lola T-640
Formula VeeBill Noble / CaracalGeorge Fizell / Zink Z12Scott Rubenzer / Caldwell D-13
A Sports RacerJerry Hansen / Lola T-332Rex Ramsey / FrissbeeTom Foster / Tracer Ralt 1.5
C Sports RacerTerry McKenna / Eagle/Argo JM4Chuck Billington / Tiga SC80Jeff Miller / Lola/Kohler
D Sports RacerPaul Decker / LeGrand MK18Al Beasley / Beasley-BobsyJames Boehm / Ocelot
Sports 2000Bob Lobenberg / March 82SStephen Glassey / Tiga SC80Bill O'Conner / Lola T-592S
Showroom Stock ALuis Sanchez / Datsun 280ZXBen Burrell / Datsun 280ZXJim Griffith / Triumph TR8
Showroom Stock BBob McConnell / Citation X-11Joe Locario / Alfa Romeo AlfettaBob Sweet / Citation X-11
Showroom Stock CKen Payson / Fiat X1/9Robert Crowell / Fiat X1/9B.J. Greber / VW Rabbit

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