Championship Focus for Wilden at Virginia International Raceway Wilden Looking to Seal the Deal on Sunday for himself and Ford DANVILLE, VA- (October 1, 2009) -- Talk about making the most of an opportunity--Canadian Ken Wilden is looking to ...
Championship Focus for Wilden at Virginia International Raceway
Wilden Looking to Seal the Deal on Sunday for himself and Ford
DANVILLE, VA- (October 1, 2009) -- Talk about making the most of an opportunity--Canadian Ken Wilden is looking to convert what started as a one-off race appearance into yet another championship for his trophy shelf this weekend as the Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge stages the final race of the 2009 season with the Bosch Engineering Octoberfest at Virginia International Raceway.
Even with an 18-point championship advantage, the four-hour finale will be a nail-biter for Wilden as 55 cars are entered for the four-hour finale event, with both the top Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) classes sharing the twisty 3.27-mile circuit near Alton, Virginia. The four-hour enduro could be the final chapter in what has been a near-storybook season for Wilden.
The season didn't start out looking like a championship-winning one. In fact, when Wilden got the call from Rehagan Racing to run with the team in the Daytona Test Days, it was merely to give the Canadian ace the chance to show off the car as the team looked to attract new drivers for the season.
But after his impressive pace put the car on the top of the sheets, the team invited him back to race in the season-opening event as he and Dean Martin scored third at Daytona. From that one-off race outing came an encore podium result as Rehagan brought Wilden back to team with Daytona Prototype driver Oswaldo Negri, with the two combining for a podium finish at Homestead Miami Speedway.
"It's been solid consistency," said Wilden. "The Mustang has been a phenomenal car. Dean's crew every weekend shows up with a car that's fully refreshed and ready to go. Dean and I just seem to drive really well together, we like the car the same way, so that seemed to really advance our ability to set the car up quicker on the weekends and be better prepared coming into the weekends, and make the most of the practice sessions. We're not disagreeing on set-ups generally, so I think that's given us a big leg up, and the pit crew has been phenomenal."
That launched Wilden into the championship lead, which he has refused to relinquish all season long.
Now, with just four hours of racing to go in the 2009 season, Wilden has two targets for the final race--bring the Ford Mustang home in at least 13th place to lock up the drivers championship, and hopefully bring Ford another Grand-Am Manufacturers Championship along the way. He'll be sharing the driving duties once again with Dean Martin, scored a hard-fought second place finish at VIR in 2008, in the No. 59 Rehaganracingproducts.com/Belesta Ford Mustang FR500C.
"I've won championships before and also finished second several times at the end of the season, so I have a pretty good feel for how to manage a race, and a season, in terms of when to be aggressive and when to be conservative," said Wilden, who showed that he was not in conservation mode as he fought for the lead in the most recent race at Miller Motorsports Park. "We went into every race weekend looking to win, because that was the best way to keep things moving forward with the small budget that we were working with. We still want to win this weekend, but winning the championship is the focus rather than winning the race."
Despite the fact that the season has been run on a shoestring budget, with the team combining support from Belesta with the prize money to keep the program going, the No. 59 has had a stellar season with Wilden, taking six podium finishes and leading 256 laps.
Wilden, who was behind the wheel for Rehagan Racing's first-ever KONI Challenge victory in 2007, would like nothing more than to repay the faith put in him by the team with the championship crown. He'd also, with just a handful of points separating the top contenders, like to pay back the support from Ford by locking in the Manufacturers Championship as well.
"The driver championship is the main focus but of course if we can bring Ford the Manufacturers Championship, that would be just the icing on the cake. We're sort of seen as underdogs and we like that. We rise to the challenge and that fight, and we're both pretty aggressive guys. We've worked well together in keeping each other calm at the right points in the race, so it's been an excellent partnership."
Wilden will look to see that partnership turn into a championship-winning one on Sunday. Friday is a promoter test day at VIR, with the grid being set in Saturday's qualifying sessions ahead of the 12:00 PM ET green flag on Sunday.