Pilgrim, Cunningham and Buras Win World Challenge Race; Championships Clinched At VIR ALTON, Va. (September 12, 2010) -- In a thrilling day of World Challenge Championships action during the Race-Keeper VIR Grand Prix presented by MTM Special...
Pilgrim, Cunningham and Buras Win World Challenge Race; Championships Clinched At VIR
ALTON, Va. (September 12, 2010) -- In a thrilling day of World Challenge Championships action during the Race-Keeper VIR Grand Prix presented by MTM Special Ops Watch at VIRginia International Raceway, Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., shook a frustrating season with a GT win, Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., extended several series records in GTS including his sixth Drivers' Championship and Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., capped a four-for-four season in Touring Car. In addition to Cunningham's title, Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., and Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., wrapped up the GT and Touring Car Championships, respectively, with runner-up finishes.
Pilgrim started on the pole in the No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, pulled away from the field, and never looked back en route to his first win of the season. It capped a perfect day for Pilgrim, who led all 22 laps, turned the fastest race lap in a time of 1:58.410 (99.417 mph), and averaged 88.389 mph over the 71.94-mile race on his way to a 1.392-second margin of victory.
"It's been a funny year and this weekend has been the funniest part of the year," Pilgrim said. "Last night, we determined that there was something wrong with the car all year. The team worked so hard and they haven't been able to fix it. It's just been so frustrating for everyone. Yesterday, we overheated the gearbox to the point that they would have had to have changed the gearbox. That's like a nine-hour job and they looked at the data and said, 'you know what Andy, if you don't mind, we'd like to put you in last year's car.' I said 'okay, let's do it.' We'd set it up as a back-up car in case Randy or I had a problem with our main car, so we knew it wouldn't be that far off if at all.
"It was like getting back in your favorite pair of slippers. It felt very good. It felt very similar to the other car, but it just ran better overall. My only fear was that we didn't have a race setup on it but it held together."
There were only two real moments of concern for Pilgrim throughout the race. The first came early in the race when Kuno Wittmer's No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper, running in second, was charging hard and closing the gap to Pilgrim. The two raced into VIR's famed Oak Tree Turn on lap 13, where Wittmer spun and allowed the Volvo to race away.
The second came on lap 17, when a full-course caution bunched the field behind the safety car for corner workers to retrieve a piece of metal on the racing surface. Pilgrim again pulled away from the field on the lap-20 restart and raced the remaining three laps to his 10th career GT victory.
"Kuno would have gotten me for sure," Pilgrim conceded. "He was coming. He was on me. Kuno got balked in some traffic in the lower esses. I just flew through as hard as I could and threw it into Oak Tree as late and as hard as I could. As I was exiting, I could just see him fly straight off going in. I think he was probably frustrated from getting balked because he knew how close he was to me and he just overdid it. It was slick. You had to be really careful. I was like 'what a shame, and thank goodness!' There's no way he wasn't going to get me.
"I dedicate this race to Jeremy [Smallwood], my crew chief. He has worked so hard all year long on that car and never gave up on it or on me. Always a great attitude. He was in tears after the race. This one is definitely for Jeremy."
Pobst earned his fourth-career World Challenge GT Drivers' Championship with his runner-up finish in the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60. Pobst started third, spent the early stages of the race chasing Wittmer, and then settled in several car lengths behind his teammate to the checkered flag.
The runner-up finish clinched the GT Drivers' Championship for Pobst, who previously won the honor in 2003, 2007 and 2008. The sweep of the top two positions by K-PAX Volvos also clinched the Manufacturers' Championship for Volvo with one race remaining.
"I feel relief," Pobst said. "Winning the Manufacturers' Championship for Volvo was our mission. Winning a Drivers' Championship was a bonus. The role for Andy and I was to do our part of the job--to help K-PAX Racing win this Championship for Volvo. We got some breaks yesterday with the weather. We got some breaks today with our competitors making mistakes. This is really important for Jim Haughey, who is the principle of K-PAX Racing. It is important for Volvo. We feel like we climbed to the top of the mountain and today we got to the summit."
James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., earned a third-place finish from his fourth position on the grid but certainly passed more than just one car to do it. Sofronas made a mistake entering Turn One for the first time in his No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 after the standing start, and began lap two in ninth place. As Sofronas worked his way through the field, he ran off the track several times, hindering his progress. Among his many passes, Sofronas slipped past Jason Daskalos in the No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper for fifth position in Turn Two on lap 12 to earn the MTM Special Ops Watch Move of the Race.
He restarted with three laps to go behind teammate Jeff Altenburg in the No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3, and made his way into the final podium position on the race's final lap.
"It was definitely not meant to be today," Sofronas said. "On the start, I saw the inside clog up. I decided to take the outside line in one and went a little too deep and got two wheels off and fell to the back. I shook my head and said 'this is gonna be a long day.' I just needed to be patient and stay focused. I started picking off guys and then I'd make a mistake and fall back. I think I passed seven cars...twice. That's not really how I like to drive. The car was more than capable but I was just not driving in my limits. I'm pretty lucky to finish third. It's a testament to this GMG team and the Porsche."
Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., the 2007 Touring Car Champion and four-time TC race winner, earned his career-best GT class finish in his first race weekend of the season in World Challenge.
Rob Morgan, of Conway, Ark., earned his second-consecutive fifth-place finish in the No. 46 TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3. The top-five matched Saturday's for his best career World Challenge finish. Morgan was penalized 10 driver points for his role in an incident with Jason Daskalos, which led to his Dodge Viper's retirement.
In the GTS class, Cunningham led flag-to-flag in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX to extend his World Challenge record for career wins to 40 on a weekend where he also extended the career pole position mark to 41.
Cunningham turned the fastest GTS lap in a time of 2:09.907 (91.187 mph) on his way to clinching his sixth-career World Challenge Drivers' Championship, another record for the most decorated driver in World Challenge history.
"It definitely feels good to finish up the weekend on a positive note after the heartbreak from yesterday," Cunningham said of Saturday's race that saw him fall out of the lead with one lap remaining due to a mechanical failure. "Based on how things shook out at the start, I was able to grab the lead and build upon that until the caution came out. The restart, of course, gave me a scare with all the GT guys trying to get by on either side of us. But we were able to hang on and take the win. It definitely feels good to clinch the Championship heading into Salt Lake. Now there's no pressure of something like the ring gear falling off on the pace lap and not taking the start and losing the Championship! Now we can just go have fun at the finale. It's a great day for Acura and RealTime Racing and Toyo Tires."
Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., gave chase on his teammate and Championship rival, needing a win and some help to keep his hopes alive entering the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park. Instead, the driver of the No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX gave chase one day after his maiden win but finished with his ninth podium in 11 races on the season.
Third place went to Ernie Jakubowski, of Oakville, Ont., in the No. 91 Fuchs/CDOC/Forgeline Porsche Cayman S. Jakubowski started from the rear of the GTS field after making mechanical changes following qualifying, and worked his way into the podium position over the 22 laps.
Kevin Helms (No. 04 DBA/Carbotech/AST/Exedy Acura RSX) finished fourth.
The Touring Car battle was wheel-to-wheel between Buras' No. 50 Irish Mike's Racing/Krispy Kreme Volkswagen Jetta GLI and Stout's No. 18 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC. At the checkered flag, Buras won the battle, but Stout won the war in taking his first World Challenge Touring Car Drivers' Championship.
As the lights went out for the standing start, both Stout and Buras got away cleanly from their positions in the front row of the Touring Car field. A slow to accelerate No. 44 Motorsports Solutions Acura TSX GTS machine of Tommy Sadler bottled up the rest of the Touring Car field, making contact with Stout's teammate Greg Shaffer in the No. 36 DG Spec/Scion/TRD Scion tC. Shaffer spun off course and ended his day with contact in the guard rail, and the ensuing bottle neck collected the No. 67 SaferTeenDrivers.com Honda Civic Si of Shea Holbrook and ended her day as well.
That activity provided a gap for Stout and Buras to get away and turn the race into a heads-up battle between the two. Buras led the first lap, but Stout moved to the inside in Turn 10 after a run through the uphill esses to slide into the Touring Car lead and earn the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race.
Buras reclaimed the lead on lap four and the two battled side-by-side and nose-to-tail for the middle portion of the race. Stout ran off track on lap 13 trying to make a pass for the lead and dropped back behind the Buras, but immediately began to close that gap while Buras continued to turn fast laps. Buras turned the fastest Touring Car lap in a time of 2:13.989 (87.858 mph), but the late-race caution put Stout right back on Buras' bumper.
Stout took the lead on the restart, which came on lap 18 for the Touring Car drivers. Buras reclaimed the lead for good just one lap later, giving Buras four wins in as many tries in an Irish Mike's Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
Buras swept the season-opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, but was injured in a racing incident just a few weeks later. This weekend's sweep at VIR was Buras' return to racing.
"We went door-to-door, lap after lap," Buras said. "He [Stout] led, I led. I was really getting out to a comfortable lead and then the yellow came out for what looked like a piece of a bumper cover on the track. On the restart, he got it again! But this time I was able to get a run and then out-brake him into the rollercoaster. It should make for great TV. What a competitive field.
"I have to thank Irish Mike's Racing for letting me come back and do this. I have to thank Krispy Kreme and of course, my family for being understanding and letting me come back from the injuries and go racing this weekend."
The runner-up finish was enough to clinch the Touring Car Drivers' Championship for Stout, who at 18-years-old became the youngest World Challenge Champion in Series history. Scion clinched the Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship on Saturday afternoon.
"It's an honor to be a Champion here in my rookie season of World Challenge," Stout said. "It's been an awesome season. We've had a really competitive car all season long. I have to thank my crew and all my sponsors. I love everything about this racing and this series. The racing is so great. You have to really work for it every time. It's just such an honor to be here as the Champion."
Robb Holland, of Denver, Colo., earned his second podium finish of the season in the No. 22 3Zero3 Motorsports/Track Pro/Emich VW Volkswagen GTI. Holland avoided the incident at the start and pulled away in third place, remaining there for the entire race.
Michael Pettiford was the third Volkswagen in the top four, placing the No. 41 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk Volkswagen Jetta GLI one position off the podium. Pettiford battled with Brett Sandberg in the No. 28 Whitehall Stable Acura TSX in the early laps of the race, then raced Branden Peterson to the finish after the restart. Peterson finished fifth in the No. 64 Competition Clutch/Supertech Performance Honda Civic Si.
Charlie Solomon earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for improving his position 10 spots overall in the No. 21 Dr. Natasha.com/DC Racing Mazda RX-8, finishing sixth in Touring Car. Sandberg finished seventh, while Don Istook finished eigth in the No. 01 Revo Technik/Carbotech Volkswagen GTI. Istook also earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start for improving eight positions on the opening lap.
With only race wins and bragging rights on the line, the World Challenge Championships GT, GTS and Touring Car classes return to action in two weeks for the Toyo Tires World Challenge Utah Grand Prix presented by Bondurant, October 1-3, at Miller Motorsports Park.
For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com. The race will be broadcast along with the season finale from Miller Motorsports Park Saturday, October 30 at 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Versus.
-source: scca pro racing