Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was the perfect setting for the close finish of the first race for the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge drivers.
BOWMANVILLE, Ont., (July 20, 2013) - Race fans dream about finishes like Race One of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series today. Eleven one-hundredths of a second separated first and second under the checkers at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park today. Madison Snow and Angel Benitez Jr., second and third in points entering the weekend, battled until the bitter end of the first Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix event resulting in a spectacular "picture perfect" photo finish.
On the final straightaway of the last lap, Snow made an over-under pass to get by Benitez just before the finish line. The 17-year-old displayed talents well beyond his years to claim his third title of the 2013 season and take the lead in series points standings.
"I was pushing harder than I ever have before," Snow said. "It was such a hard race. (Angel) Benitez is so fast but on the last lap, last corner, I just finally got him. He was going to block on the inside so I went really wide on that corner, just did an over-under and got him on the front straight."
Snow led the grid for the first 11 of 33 laps before Benitez took over. Benitez held a solid lead for 16 laps of his own, but by the 27th time around the circuit Snow was putting the pressure back on the NGT Motorsport driver.
Only one tenth of a second separated the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars as they took the white flag for the final trip around the 2.459-mile circuit.
"We drove as hard as we could and sometimes you have to have a little bit of luck and this time it was on the side of Madison (Snow). So we're just focusing on tomorrow and hoping to take the victory back," Benitez said.
Despite taking the second step on the podium, Benitez proved he still had plenty of speed in the last quarter of the race, by turning the fastest lap of all competitors with a time of 1:22.489 on lap 18.
Meanwhile, the drama behind the leaders was no less intense. On Lap 23, eight tenths of a second separated Brett Sandberg and Sloan Urry, until the two were side-by-side in lap 29. Shortly after, Sandberg made a move on the inside and bumped Urry, sending him back for a fourth place finishing position.
"It was a great run," Sandberg said. "Me and Sloan had an awesome battle from start to finish really. Both our cars were good in different places of the track so it made for really good racing. It's just such a tough place to pass and it's very unforgiving if you make a mistake so just really clean racing and we came out with fourth."
"Back-to-back podiums is always a fun thing," Urry said. "It was a really tough race. The guys in front, Angel (Benitez Jr.) and Madison (Snow) had lightning quick pace. (Brett) Sandberg gave me a great race, we had a lot of fun, side-by-side a little bit of door banging so it was awesome. I'm glad I was able to land a podium position again for EFFORT Racing. They gave me a great car and we're ready to go for tomorrow trying to move up the step."
With the win, Snow becomes the sole points leader with 112, followed by Ashley Freiberg and Benitez, tied for second with 96. Freiberg entered the weekend as the series points leader, but extensive damage sustained during qualifications leaves her sidelined for the weekend.
"I don't really know where to start except that it's really disappointing," Freiberg said. "I made a mistake in the worst spot possible on the race track and ended up not being able to finish out the weekend. It's a huge blow for the team, for me and everyone who has been supporting me.
TPC Racing's Ben Keating earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for his efforts in gaining positions throughout the race. Keating managed a ninth place finish overall after starting out in 15th.
Championships aren't easy to win and this is going to be a tough one as far as the points to come back from. But more than anything I feel bad that I let my team down, but at this point all I can really do is learn from it, move on, and look toward Road America."
In the Gold Cup category, Michael Levitas built up his already substantial lead in the standings with a Race One victory, but the win didn't lack pressure from other competitors. Danny Gianfrancesco and Franck Silah stayed right with the TPC Racing driver throughout the duration of the 45-minute sprint.
"What a race," Levitas said. "Gosh, Franck (Silah) behind me was pushing me so hard and I knew I had to get going right on the start. And I knew he was going to give me a hard time from practicing so I just had to get up there, get steady and stay consistent and see if he could do it. And darn it, he was able to stay there! Franck did a great job, the MGM (MGM Racing) boys did a great job and the Porsche of Towson #36 car came in first place but with great competition! Thanks Franck!"
In his first competition with the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series this season, Silah proved a force to be reckoned with in Gold Cup competition, landing on the podium for third.
"At the end it was very interesting," Silah said. "I had a bad moment with Mr. Levitas. We touched and I put two wheels on the grass. I made a spin and lost the chance to be in the front. The lap times were very close, but it wasn't possible to catch them after the spin. But I am happy just the same."
The Master Championship
Craig Duerson and NGT Motorsport regain the Masters Championship lead with a victory in Race One at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Duerson has now tallied 120 points, five more than Kasey Kuhlman with the next highest points standings.
Kuhlman took third place for the first time in four races, the rest of his finishes being first or second. The Wright Motorsports driver finished 12th overall at the 10-turn facility.
CORE Autosport's Jonathan Bennett repeated his season high finish, with a second place spot at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Jonathan Bennett: Second Place Masters Championship
"Mosport (CTMP) is a fantastic track and when you are inside a GT3 Cup Car, there is no better place to be. It was a great race, and of course always, I am a driver and would rather be a little bit more toward the front. But it's a tough class and I am learning race by race and I had a great time today."
Kasey Kuhlman: Third Place Masters Championship
"I'm exhausted. I'm wiped out. I was stuck behind slower traffic at the beginning and I spun myself by not hitting a car. Anthony Mantella ran a great race and I just got back on the horse and passed cars back and made it back to the Masters podium so I'm really happy."