June Sprints®, “It’s more than just another race”

“It’s not just another race” this is quite a statement, but true, with the history to back it up. The Chicago Region SCCA, June Sprints® is the longest consecutively run SCCA National Road Race. Contested every year since 1956 on the 4.048 miles, 14 turn Road America race circuit. The first running of the June Sprints was part of the SCCA National Sports Car Championship, a series that determined the SCCA Champions prior to the now-familiar Runoffs. The 1956 Championship Series consisted of races at Walterboro, Pebble Beach, Cumberland, Eagle Mountain, Road America, Beverly, Seafair, Thompson, Watkins Glen, and Palm Springs. Road America and Watkins Glen are the only circuits still in existence today. The fact that the race circuit at Road America has remained unchanged since the beginning just adds to the distinctiveness of the event. Many notable drivers have competed in the June Sprints over the years. Carroll Shelby, John Fitch, Carl Haas, Roger Penske, Jeff Miller, Jim Jeffords, Augie Pabst, Briggs Cunningham, Bobby Rahal, Paul Newman, and Walter Payton, they all have a place in June Sprints history. Shelby won the first June National driving a Ferrari 121 LM to victory. In the early days it was not un-common to see the most current and competitive cars available entered in the Sprints. In 1957 a long nose 3.8 liter D-Jaguar entered by Briggs Cunningham won the feature race. At the 1960 June Sprints a heated battle between Augie Pabst and Dick Thompson lasted the entire race. In the end Pabst in his Meister Brauser Scarab took the win besting Thompson driving the Bill Mitchell entered Sting Ray racer. In 1977 spectators witnessed one of the fastest cars ever to enter the June Sprints when a Porsche 917-10 CanAm car competed for the coveted June Sprints Flag. Jerry Hansen was a perennial favorite at the sprints often entering multiple races. In 1983 Jerry won three out of four races entered with an A-Sports Racing Lola, a Showroom Stock GT, and in Formula Atlantic.
Still today, the June Sprints has notable drivers and entries, some competitors still compete in multiple classes and drivers from 27 different classifications leave with a coveted June Sprints trophy and checkered flag. To give you an idea of the level of preparation, competitiveness, and performance seen at the Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints here are some race lap times from the 2021 race as examples. In the Prototype 1 group James French set his fastest race time at; 2:03.513; J.R. Smart in the Formula Atlantic group set a fastest race lap time of; 2:11.426; Dave Ruehlow with a GT1 Corvette, set a fastest lap at 2:10.278. To help you put all of these times into perspective at the IndyCar race that same year at Road America race winner Alex Palou driving for Ganassi Racing hit a fast race lap time of 1:50.053. James French’s lap time was just 0:13 seconds slower, and Ruehlow and Smart were just 0:20 and 0:21 seconds respectively behind Palou’s time. It’s not just another race!!!
Jim Swintal and the June Sprints. In 1986 Jim became a Chicago Region member and his first time as a volunteer flag marshal was at the Sprints. He is now a renowned racing artist and has been providing original artwork for the engraved hardwood June Sprints trophy plaques for years. These trophies have become a tradition which are presented to all competitors finishing in a trophy position. The same artwork is also printed on the trophies for the Saturday SCCA Majors races. Beginning in 2017 the Chicago Region observed its seventieth anniversary and with that the Region began its “Seven Decades of Motorsports” celebration. As part of this celebration Jim Swintal was commissioned to create special original artwork which is printed on tee-shirts that are presented to all drivers and volunteer staff. With five designs already presented and two more in the series to go, these shirts have already become collectables for many. As the shirts are handed out at the Sprints people ask which one this is, how many more will there be, along with personal comments praising the artwork to comments like “I was there”. Jim Swintal himself has also entered in the conversation about the shirts. One recipient of a shirt last year stated, “I saw Jim at another race earlier this season and he (Jim) told me wait until you see this year’s shirt, you’re going to like it”. The artwork on the shirts represent historical events and locations. The first shirt featured Denny Hulme taking the checkered flag in front of the beloved Pagoda at the 1968 CanAm race. The second year showed the battle between Augie Pabst and Dick Thompson as they pass under the Bill Mitchell Bridge in the 1960 June Sprints. The 2019 shirt was a Jim Swintal favorite depicting Phil Hill in a Jaguar leading Fred Wacker in his Eight Ball Allard in the 1952 race at the corner of Lake and Rhine in downtown Elkhart Lake. “It’s not just another race”
Beginning in 2019 the Chicago Region welcomed all returning June Sprints winners with an eight foot high feather flag designed by Past Chicago Region Regional Executive and former June Sprints competitor Jim Marinangel proclaiming their June Sprints win. These flags are on display in the competitors paddock space for all race fans to see. All twenty-seven of the 2021 June Sprints winners are eligible to receive a feather flag to proudly display in the paddock area if they enter the 2022 June Sprints. Of these twenty-seven, many of them will be will be repeat winners taking home their second or even a third flag. “It’s not just another race”
No race weekend would be complete without a party and the June Sprints is no exception. After the checkered flag drops at the end of the day on Friday and Saturday the evening parties and dinners begin. The Friday night party is usually pizza and beer (wine, soda, and water also). Saturday’s party has giveaways for our volunteers and dinner is a buffet style sit down white table cover event. As in years past the June Sprints Grand Marshal will speak at the dinner. This year’s Grand Marshal Is John Doonan, President of IMSA, and he follows a long line of distinguished individuals that filled that role. Here are just a few that have served Carroll Shelby, David Hobbs, Bobby Rahal, and Nick Craw. John will feel right at home here, having grown up at Road America and as a member of Chicago Region he will have many stories to share and catching up with old friends, and joining in on good laughs and great times.
It’s not just another race, the June Sprints has been and still is the event of the year. An opportunity for old and new friends alike to gather, enjoy the competition on the track, the sights, sounds, and smells of racing. Over the years, famous drivers, notorious race cars, and dear friends have gathered here at Road America, to celebrate the Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints®.
If you want to be part of this historical event, the action, the comradery contact the Chicago Region SCCA club office at 847-729-2211 or Cluboffice@scca-chicago.com to learn more. Reach out, make the call, it’s more fun trackside than you can imagine, remember, “It’s not just another race”