BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 17, 2013) - Tucked in the hills of Northeast Georgia, IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama participants battled for survival in Round 13 of the 2013 series season. Lack of visibility and wet track conditions challenged drivers to rise above the adversity to master their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in Race One at Road Atlanta. The first of two races at the 16th Annual Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda was littered with caution flags and sprinkled with rain in the 45-minute race feature.
Participants braved the wet circuit as a consistent light rain fell over the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit. Drivers have become quite familiar with the Yokohama rain tires this season, as many sessions have been declared wet throughout 2013. Madison Snow, the 2013 Platinum Cup Champion, proved he is the best on track no matter what the situation, by capturing his seventh win of the year. Snow had a lonely race from start to finish, maintaining the lead despite multiple yellow flags bringing the field of 24 back together.
Snow took the lead from Sloan Urry of EFFORT Racing, who snatched the first position on the start but lost it in a spin after a restart situation.
"Sloan (Urry) definitely had a good start," Snow said. "He pulled away a little bit and I was just hanging back. And then he spun himself on the restart. It was pretty bad conditions out there and I knew as long as I had the car under control the win would come to me."
Urry jumped out to the lead off the start on the front straightaway and led until the yellow flag came out early when Miguel Benitez spun several times before stopping off track. On the restart just six minutes later, Urry tapped the wall on the front stretch and was pushed back through the field.
Colin Thompson took advantage of Urry's spin and moved up to second position. In the No. 14 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car, Thompson held off NGT Motorsport's Craig Duerson who pressured hard to overtake the position. Thompson's second-place finish is his highest of the year.
"You couldn't have asked for a better race," Thompson said. "We switched some things up and made some major changes and we rolled the dice and it really worked!"
The famous Turn 10 gravel trap was a challenge for many competitors today. Two of the four cautions came out as a result of more than one car going off track at corner 10.
With 20 total minutes under caution it was difficult for drivers to find a rhythm, but Duerson, who loves rain races, had no issue grabbing the third position and hanging onto it through the waving checkered flag.
"The race was good," Duerson said. "It was a good pace. I think the top three of us were a little faster than the rest of the field and we proved that just restart after restart. Madison (Snow) had a good pace so I just tried to stay in line and finish on the 'Big Boy Podium' and win Masters!"
With the wet weather conditions limiting some of the benefit the Platinum Cup cars have over the Gold Cup cars, TPC Racing's Ben Keating was able to finish seventh overall and first in Gold Cup competition. Keating pushed from a starting position of 11th to climb four spots during the 45-minute sprint. He posted a fastest time of 1:42.016, which was four seconds faster than the rest of his Gold Cup competitors.
"It was really fun," Keating said. "It was really good. The fact that it's wet eliminates some of the benefit of the Platinum Car to the Gold Car and the Gold car actually ran really well against the other Platinums. So I had a good time. It was slick out there but challenging and I had a blast.
Keating's teammate David Williams finished second in category. Williams typically runs close with Michael Levitas, but as Levitas moved up the ladder to try his hand in Platinum for the first time, Williams' goal was to bring the car home.
"It was interesting and I survived it, which was the plan," Williams said with a laugh.
In her first race with the series since Road America, Kristin Treager remained patient to collect third place in Gold Cup at Road Atlanta.
"That was a crazy race," Treager said. "Survival was the name of the game and I just tried to play it smart and it worked out in my favor. I love the track, it's one of my top five and only my second time here. This is only my third rain race ever! It doesn't rain much in Oklahoma and if it does, there is usually a tornado with it!"
Gary Pennington of Pole Position, LLC climbed 10 positions during the 45-minute sprint to earn the Yokohama Hard Charger Award.
The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series is back on track for the final 2013 race tomorrow at 11:40 a.m. ET. After the checkered flag flies participants will head to the Night of Champions to honor the 2013 title winners in all categories.
The Master Championship
The Masters Championship will come down to the final race of the 2013 season after Craig Duerson of NGT Motorsport evened the score between himself and Kasey Kuhlman. Both drivers have tallied 262 points this season leading into tomorrow's season finale race. Duerson, known for his love of rain racing, was out in front with the young guns and managed a third place overall in Platinum Cup in addition to his Masters victory.
Duerson and Kuhlman lined up side-by-side on the starting grid today in fifth and sixth position, respectively. On the first lap, the two frontrunners made contact in the Esses, which sent Kuhlman for an early spin off track. The Wright Motorsports driver had to battle his way back through the pack, dropping to as low as 18th after the incident. By Lap 9 Kuhlman had chipped away to 11th position. Entering the final three minutes of the race, it was between him and Phil Fogg Jr. for the second place Masters finish. On the second-to-last lap the two made contact, which sent Fogg Jr. off course and allowed Kuhlman to capture the second step of the Masters podium.
"I got taken out at the start so I had no choice but to come from behind, but I just put my head down and tried to take them one spot at a time and it worked out for me and now I feel really good," Kuhlman exclaimed.
TPC Racing's Michael Levitas continues to impress this season, even behind the wheel of a Platinum Cup car. The 2013 Gold Cup Champion tried his hand at the latest generation of the current Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in this series. In his first Platinum Cup competition, Levitas finished eighth overall and third in the Masters class. With the Gold Cup championship in hand, Levitas is turning laps for the rest of the year in Platinum to prepare for a full 2014 year in Platinum.