TORRANCE, Calif. – August 18, 2009 - Team Honda Research-West took another step toward realizing a national championship dream when Matthew Staal became the second THR-W driver to qualify for the 2009 Sports Car Club of America National Runoffs. Driving a Showroom Stock SSB class Honda Civic Si, Staal battled a large field to finish fifth and fourth, respectively, at Pocono in national qualifying races on Saturday and Sunday, August 15 and 16.
Staal’s strong weekend allows him to join fellow THR-W regular driver Sage Marie, who qualified for the Runoffs in a T3 class Honda S2000 with a second-place finish in the Southern Pacific Division championship. The drivers, who are being supported as part of Honda Performance Development’s new grassroots motorsports initiative, will race at the 2009 SCCA National Runoffs, Sept. 21-27 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Both cars are being prepared and fielded by Ohio-based Team Honda Research (THR).
Staal, who focused on endurance racing in 2007 and 2008, quickly got up to speed by qualifying fourth in class on Saturday. During the race, mechanical issues slowed the Civic Si, forcing Staal to focus on smooth and consistent laps, while saving his car for the second race.
On Sunday, Staal improved to third position in qualifying. He was able to utilize the Civic Si’s strong acceleration to move into second place before contact interrupted his challenge for the lead. In Turn One, Staal was hit on the passenger side, causing him to nearly spin in front of the field. Staal kept his foot on the throttle and managed to recover from the severe oversteer, staying with the frontrunners to finish fourth. These two strong finishes, following Staal’s second-place run at Nelson Ledges (Oh.) Raceway in July, earned him a starting position in the National Runoffs.
Staal is looking forward to representing Honda Racing/HPD along with fellow drivers Lee Niffenegger, Chad Gilsinger, Inness Eisele, Sage Marie and Bob Boileau at Road America for the SCCA National Championships on September 24-27, 2009.