Road Atlanta: Season finale preview

World Challenge Championship Time in Hot'lanta BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 30, 2008) -- The curtain is about to close on the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge season. While both of the Manufacturers' Championships Presented by RACER...

World Challenge Championship Time in Hot'lanta

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 30, 2008) -- The curtain is about to close on the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge season. While both of the Manufacturers' Championships Presented by RACER Magazine have been wrapped up, the Drivers' Championships will be determined at the SPEED GT Finale Presented by Foametix® and the SPEED Touring Car Finale Presented by Toyo Tires®. SPEED GT may be en route to a predictable outcome, but it's anybody's guess who'll walk away with the SPEED Touring Car crown.

With 92 points separating Randy Pobst and Andy Pilgrim, 122 maximum points available and 25 cars entered in SPEED GT at Road Atlanta, it seems an act of God would be required to stop Pobst from claiming his second-consecutive SPEED GT Championship in the No. 1 K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT3. And with the Manufacturers' Championships already clinched for Porsche, Pobst can focus solely on his race. Working in Pilgrim's favor, however, is the fact that Cadillac is undefeated at this track since the car made its debut in 2004, including Pilgrim's win in 2006. Winless so far this season, Pilgrim will be gunning for the top step on the podium in the No. 8 Remington Shaving Cadillac CTS-V.

The real point battle could be for third place in the Drivers' Championship. Brandon Davis currently holds the spot with his No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang, but Michael Galati and James Sofronas are well within striking distance. Davis' powerful Mustang will be a formidable opponent on the fast Road Atlanta circuit, but it was no match for Sofronas' No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 at Thunderbolt Raceway last weekend. Now that Sofronas knows how to get the job done, will the wins keep coming? Though Thunderbolt was a less successful outing for Galati, with 12 Road Atlanta starts and three wins, he can't be overlooked for a victory this weekend in the No. 23 K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT3.

Jeff Courtney, Jason Daskalos and Michael McCann have each been gaining speed throughout the season and are primed for a podium finish at the season finale. Courtney drove a cool race in the driving rain at Road Atlanta last year to finish sixth, which is precisely where he finished last weekend at Thunderbolt Raceway in the No. 99 Kenda/TJM MPI Coin Dodge Viper. Daskalos just missed a podium at Thunderbolt, finishing a remarkable fourth in the No. 5 Coastal Pet Products Dodge Viper after starting 13th. Round Nine wasn't as friendly for McCann, who broke and finished 20th, but has otherwise been hovering just outside the top-three in recent rounds in the No. 16 Remington Shaving Cadillac CTS-V.

If anybody could use a strong finish this weekend in SPEED GT, it's Eric Curran. After finally tasting victory at Mosport in August, the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette driver exited Detroit early with mechanical woes and endured similar trouble at Thunderbolt, which forced him to pit from third. Once back on course, Curran went on to set the fastest lap of the race, leaving the team wondering if a possible win had just slipped through its fingers.

For evidence of the why SCCA SPEED World Challenge is 'how racing should be," look no further than the SPEED Touring Car Drivers' Championship standings, where the top three drivers enter the finale, separated by only 15 points.The fact that all three drivers represent the same team only heightens the suspense. Can you trust a teammate going after the same prize as you?

That's something Peter Cunningham, Kuno Wittmer and Pierre Kleinubing will have to consider as they dive into Turn 12. RealTime team owner Cunningham currently leads the pack in his No 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. The four-time Champion has recorded four wins at Road Atlanta in his long World Challenge career, more than anyone else in the field. Wittmer meanwhile, has yet to stand on the podium here in his two starts, though he already has three wins to his credit this season in the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. Perhaps the most confident though is Kleinubing (No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX), who has yet to finish outside the top five in 11 starts at Road Atlanta.

Their chief competitor may be Michael Galati in the No. 95 Mazda North America/Tindol MAZDA6, who won this race from pole in the rain last year. Galati is also the most recent winner, taking his second SPEED Touring Car victory of the year at Mosport in August. Though he is back in eighth in the Drivers' Championship, Galati wouldn't mind capping off the season with his third win.

The BimmerWorld cars will be another tough opponent for the RealTime trio as local driver Seth Thomas (No. 38 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW325i) led much of this race last year after qualifying second. His teammate and Road America race winner James Clay will likely be with Thomas every step of the way in the No. 36 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW325i, as he was a podium finisher here last year.

In addition to the Manufacturers' Championship being wrapped up by Acura at Mosport, Jason Saini (No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6) clinched the SPEED Touring Car Rookie of the Year Title. With that out of the way, he can focus on catching Chip Herr for fourth in the drivers' standings. Saini currently trails Herr and the No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6 by 36 points.

World Challenge races at Road Atlanta are inevitably some of the most exciting races of the year. Now that a finale scenario has been added to the mix, anything could happen.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Randy Pobst , Michael Galati , Peter Cunningham , Eric Curran , James Clay , Kuno Wittmer , Chip Herr , James Sofronas , Michael McCann , Seth Thomas , Brandon Davis , Jeff Courtney , Jason Daskalos , Jason Saini
Teams Global Motorsports Group