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Virginia: Cunningham, Acura win championships

After qualifying flip, Kleinubing wins Speed Touring Car final from VIR; Cunningham, Acura win championships. ALTON, Va. (October 27, 2002) -- Brazil's Pierre Kleinubing flipped his car in qualifying, and then came back to win the final race of...

After qualifying flip, Kleinubing wins Speed Touring Car final from VIR; Cunningham, Acura win championships.

ALTON, Va. (October 27, 2002) -- Brazil's Pierre Kleinubing flipped his car in qualifying, and then came back to win the final race of the 2002 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship, part of the VIR SpeedFest Presented by the Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience at VIRginia International Raceway. Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., and Marc Kirberg, of Corte Madera, Calif., completed the top three. After finishing sixth, Peter Cunningham, of W. Bend, Wis., captured the Drivers' Championship, with Acura taking the Manufacturers' Championship.

Kleinubing started ninth in his No. 1 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R after rolling the car several times during the Woody's Ice Top-10 Shootout Saturday afternoon. The crew worked into the night fixing the car, and, while it didn't look very nice, proved to still be fast.

Teammate Cunningham (No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R) started from the pole, but it was second-starting Ken Dobson's BMW who led from the standing start. After a brief battle with Taz Harvey's Honda Civic Si and an early-race restart, Cunningham began working on Dobson, pulling alongside at the end of the back straightway on lap 11. As the two went into the "Roller Coaster" section, they bumped and slid off course to the right, crossed over, and went off on the left. Cunningham was able to get the car slowed before hitting the guard rail, and re-joined the field in seventh place. Dobson spun around and rejoined in 22nd.

The spin, and some early-lap contact with Bobby Sak, suddenly promoted Kleinubing, who was in fifth the lap previous, into the lead. As the race continued, Kirberg (No. 37 SSF Imported Auto Parts BMW 325i) mounted a charge on Kleinubing, but as the two caught traffic on the 18th of 19 laps, Altenburg's No. 14 TriPoint Motorsports/Mazdaspeed Mazda Protege ES went past on the front straight. Kleinubing held off Altenburg for a 0.209-second win, averaging 82.946 mph.

"Never for a split second, after the accident yesterday, did I think I could win this race," said Kleinubing. "I was just hoping I could race today.

"When I saw P.D. [Cunningham] and Ken [Dobson] go off course, I called the crew and told them I was in the lead, even though I couldn't even believe it myself."

Altenburg's move to second, demoting Kirberg's BMW to third, allowed Acura to take the Manufacturers' Championship by a single point, 59 to 58.

"It was only fitting that I helped Acura get the Manufacturers' Championship, as it was a lapped Acura that helped me get into second place," said Altenburg. "The pass for second was definitely making the most of an opportunity, but was still little hairy at over 100 mph. I had to drop two wheels in the dirt as we split the lapped car."

Kirberg, who earned the Rookie of the Year title at Road Atlanta two weeks ago, was happy to be on the podium after the raucous event.

"People were really aggressive out there, it was like an L.A. traffic jam with everybody on the gas and bumping into one another," said Kirberg.

Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., finished fourth, followed by Shauna Marinus, of Folsom, Calif.

Cunningham recovered from the incident with Dobson to finish sixth, and clinch his third Drivers' Championship by seven points over Kleinubing, 255 to 248.

"When the season started, the plan was for me to race Touring and support my teammate Pierre [Kleinubing]," said Cunningham. "After he had a few DNFs, it made sense for both of us to try and score as many points as possible. Finishing first and second in the Championship is great, particularly given that Acura captured the Manufacturers' Championship."

Kirberg's finish moved him into third in points, with 205, followed by Dobson (194 points) and Chuck Hemmingson (192 points). Following Acura and BMW in Manufacturers' points were Mazda (55 points), Lexus (22) and Honda (12).

Today's race will air on SPEED Channel November 9 at 8:00 p.m. (EST).

-scca pro racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Justin Bell , Pierre Kleinubing , Bobby Sak , Ken Dobson , Peter Cunningham , Chuck Hemmingson , Charles Espenlaub , Jeff Altenburg
Teams RealTime Racing