RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Hometown driver Cowen wins GT1 thriller

Ashland, Ohio driver Tim Cowen won the GT1 National Championship today at Mid-Ohio, his hometown track. Cowen started his Mustang from the Valvoline Runoffs pole, but second-starting Cliff Ebben bumped his way past at the entrance to the esses.

Ashland, Ohio driver Tim Cowen won the GT1 National Championship today at Mid-Ohio, his hometown track. Cowen started his Mustang from the Valvoline Runoffs pole, but second-starting Cliff Ebben bumped his way past at the entrance to the esses. From there, the race for the lead was a story of tires. Ebben was running on the traditional bias-ply tires from Goodyear on his Corvette, and Cowen had the BFGoodrich radials used as the spec tire on these cars in the Trans Am series.

Ebben pulled away to a lead of several seconds in the early laps, as his tires warmed up quicker than Cowen's harder-compound rubber. By lap seven, Ebben's lead was out to 5 seconds. Once Cowen's tires came in, he pulled away from the pursuit by Phil Sims and started to cut into Ebben's lead, running about of a second faster each lap.

At the start of the penultimate lap, Cowen came across the line right on Ebben's back bumper. Ebben had used up his rear tires and was sliding the back end on the slow turns. Later in the lap it cost him the lead, when a slide in the Keyhole left a lane for Cowen to get inside to make the pass. From there, Cowen pulled out a lead he would not relinquish.

Behind that race for the lead was more excitement. On the start of the race, a battle began between Bill Gray and Tom Sloe. The two drivers ran side by side through the esses and Gray bumped Sloe aside at the end. Sloe recovered after an anxious moment and fell back into line.

On the next lap, Gray dove inside Brian Kubinski for the 6th position and slammed him out of the way. Kubinski's tire was flattened and he drove around slowly to the pits for a replacement, returning one lap down.

Gray lost some momentum with the contact, allowing Sloe to close in again. Sloe went inside Gray at the entrance to Thunder Valley, and Gray spun into the center of the track. Sloe swerved inside to try to miss the spinning car, but could not clear it and launched his Corvette into the air over the nose of Gray's Camaro. Amazingly, both cars continued and they had contact another time at the top of the next hill, Sloe taking a slide through the gravel trap. Gray pulled into the pits and was out of the race, but Sloe's car was still running, and he continued in the race.

Another interesting race was between William Hopwood, Ross Murray, Paul Newman, and Rob Giorgi. Hopwood qualified 8th, Murray 10th, Newman 11th, and Giorgi 12th. In the early laps, all four drivers made progress through the field with the retirements ahead of them. By lap four, Newman's Jaguar was in 6th place, and Murray, Hopwood, and Giorgi were on his rear bumper.

On lap 8, Giorgi got past Hopwood, and two laps later Murray put a good pass on Newman. Murray pulled away a bit, while Newman and Giorgi pulled away from Hopwood. They kept those positions, with Giorgi trying to pass Newman, for the next nine laps. With two to go, Giorgi pushed Newman into a spin at the exit of the esses and went by into seventh place. Before Newman could get going again, Hopwood had gotten by too.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Ross Murray , Tim Cowen , Tom Sloe , Cliff Ebben , Bill Gray , Rob Giorgi , Brian Kubinski , William Hopwood