The Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC), made up of the creme de la creme of road racing drivers, team owners and industry stars, annually awards the RRDC Mark Donohue Award. The recipient exhibits outstanding performance, competitiveness and sportsmanship during the annual Sports Car Club of America National Championship Runoffs for amateur racers.
The Mark Donohue award is named for the driver, who was an RRDC member and former president of the group, and who won his first National SCCA E-Production class championship in 1961. Donohue later went on to become one of the United States’ greatest racing drivers, racing for Roger Penske. He won the Indy 500, the CanAm championship, three Trans-Am titles and the International Race of Champions (IROC).
This year’s 47th such award, voted by RRDC members attending the Runoffs and/or viewing them live online, was earned by Eric Prill, of Topeka, Kansas. It took Prill 16 tries to win the Runoffs this year; he earned his victory in F-Production, driving a MaxtonsFight.org/JPM/Hoosier Mazda Miata. This win was Prill’s seventh Runoffs podium; he’s had four second- and two third-place finishes from 2009-2016.
He drove the kind of race you’d expect of a determined driver, qualifying on pole in a 42-car field, quickly regaining a lead he lost in the first turn at these 54th SCCA runoffs on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on September 25-October 1, 2017.
After a caution on the seventh of 18 laps killed his margin, Prill pipped nine-time Nationals champion Joe Huffaker on the restart and continued to lead. With a second full-course caution on the 12th lap, Prill again snookered his pursuers and watched them battle for the remaining podium spots as he cruised to a two-second victory.
“Each time the yellow came out, I just thought ‘are you kidding me?’ But, I believed I had the pace to get away as long as I could be out front after the first couple of corners,” Prill recalled. “Having a guy like Joe Huffaker on your bumper for three separate starts really puts the pressure on.”
An SCCA racer since taking his driver’s school in 1995, Prill’s truly been part of the sport since his youth. “I knew about Mark Donohue at a young age. Years ago I read [Donohue’s book] ‘The Unfair Advantage’ and I think it made my [racing] program better. I understand his significance in both SCCA and motorsports history. It’s very humbling to be honored with the award bearing his name.
There are lots of great stories about winners and people with heart-tugging stories at the week-long Runoffs but the story of Eric Prill and his win is more than being the best on the track at that particular point in time. Prill is vice president and chief operations officer of SCCA and he is the father of Maxton, who has been affected by Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) since he was nearly three years old.
After a three-year fight, Maxton Prill had his last day of cancer treatment in late December of 2016. Perhaps it was that weight off his shoulders, and his father’s as well, that propelled his Eric Prill to victory almost a year later?
RRDC president Bobby Rahal explained the spirit of Eric Prill’s RRDC Mark Donohue award: “It’s about personal spirit and performance behind the wheel. Those qualities are more important than winning the race. The RRDC honors Eric, not only for his outstanding drive to win, but for his perseverance. His passion for the sport he’s embraced for so many years as a racer and an SCCA employee has never faltered.”