IPS: Cunningham wins California to clinch championship

Wade Cunningham clinched the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship in style by winning the season ending California 100 at the California Speedway. Cunningham led the points battle for most of the season despite winning his first race this ...

Wade Cunningham clinched the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship in style by winning the season ending California 100 at the California Speedway. Cunningham led the points battle for most of the season despite winning his first race this afternoon.

Cunningham ended the season with 519 points while Simmons finished second in the championship with 474 points.

After starting fifth Cunningham moved into third on the first lap. Polesitter Travis Gregg held onto the point for the first five laps before Cunningham led his first of 28 total laps, the most of any driver. The official boxscore showed fifteen lead changes between Cunningham and Gregg but that only counted lead changes at the start finish line.

"The minute I got the opportunity, I went to the front," said Cunningham. "Most of the time we were strong. When the wind shifted every now and then, people got runs, they could go around me, but within a lap or two, I could go straight back to the front."

Jeff Simmons, the only driver with a chance at winning the championship, started seventh but was third at the end of the first lap. Gregg, Cunningham and Simmons waged an intense battle until just past the halfway point of the race when Gregg dropped back, running comfortably in third.

A late race yellow for a sprinkle of rain bunched the field to set up a ten lap dash to the finish. Travis Gregg was able to lead laps two of the final ten laps before falling back once again. Gregg finished third after leading 22 laps.

Cunningham pulled away from Gregg with Simmons tucked under his rear wing. Simmons stayed there until the last lap when he pulled to the bottom of the track entering turn three. Diving under Cunningham, Simmons went under the white line and nearly took both cars out of the race.

Simmons defended his actions, "He left the inside. (He) knocked me off the track pretty much."

Although Simmons managed to pull ahead by a nose, both drivers lost momentum as they rounded the final turn. Cunningham was able to retain more momentum, crossing the finish line 0.1067 seconds ahead of Simmons.

Travis Gregg was third, nearly five seconds ahead of his Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Chris Festa.

Nick Bussell finished fifth followed by Arie Luyendyk Jr., and Marty Roth in seventh.

Originally scheduled to run before the IndyCar Series race, the Pro Series race was delayed by rain. The race was run following the IndyCar Series race and the championship celebration held on the front straightaway for Dan Wheldon.

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