Deep field, deep storylines as Pirelli World Challenge heads for Mid-Ohio
All classes gearing up for a doubleheader weekend.
The biggest field of the season heads to the classic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the Pirelli World Challenge continues its 25th Anniversary season. A pair of 50-minute sprints are on tap for GT, GT-A and GTS, Rounds 11 and 12 of the year, with Touring Car, Touring Car A and Touring Car B-Spec racing a pair of 40-minute events for Rounds 9 and 10.
In total, 78 cars are entered among the six categories of competition. That includes season-tying or new highs in GT/GT-A (23 total), GTS (28) and TC (9).
With championship battles occurring across the board and a pair of races on tap at the 2.258-mile circuit located in Lexington, Ohio, this will prove a pivotal weekend in the 2014 season.
All-star GT field set for shootout
Cadillac continues to lead both the driver's and manufacturer's championships leaving the streets of Toronto, but they will likely have a fight on their hands this weekend back on the road course at Mid-Ohio. Neither Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R (in photo above) nor Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., in the sister No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R has a road course win this year. Still, O'Connell has managed three podiums (two at Barber, one at Road America) and Pilgrim one (Road America Round 8) on the tracks that generally don't suit the Cadillac as well as the point-and-shoot street courses.
K-PAX Racing returns to Mid-Ohio seeking an encore of its near perfect 2013, when Alex Figge, of Denver, Col., won both races from pole and the team finished 1-2 in race two. Figge's luck has been miserable thus far in 2014, and he's due for it to come around this weekend in his brand new No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, built up following his Road America accident. Teammate Robert Thorne, of Littleton, Col., has steadily improved all season in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3.
Audi remains well represented in GT with three cars. Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., is a two-time winner in 2014 in CRP Racing's No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra and ranks second in place heading into the weekend. James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra and Andrew Palmer, of Chicago, in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra add another strong two-car effort.
R. Ferri Motorsports seeks to return to their early season success on the road courses. Round 3 winner Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 continues while regular teammate Nick Mancuso, of Chicago, is out this week following a pair of unlucky accidents north of the border in Toronto.
Dyson Racing Team Bentley has impressed in its first two Pirelli World Challenge weekends, and Butch Leitzinger, of State College, Pa. in the No. 08 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3 looks for his first podium result on the flowing road course.
Ryan Dalziel is back
A big name returns to the series this weekend. Returning for the first time since the 2013 season opener in St. Petersburg is Glasgow, Scotland's Ryan Dalziel, now of Windermere, Fla., in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R. Porsche factory ace Nick Tandy won Round 9 at Toronto in this car, and Dalziel will no doubt be one to watch in the No. 31 this weekend.
Rounding out the GT class field is another big name, former IndyCar series rookie-of-the-year Alex Lloyd, originally from Manchester, England but now living in Indianapolis. Lloyd will be in a second CRP Racing entry, the No. 12 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. The lead writer for Yahoo Autos has two prior Mid-Ohio starts, in 2007 in Indy Lights and 2010 in IndyCar.
GT-A: More action in 11-car class
On the strength of consistency, DragonSpeed's Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in the No. 10 DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 has moved into the GT-A classification points lead thanks to five podium finishes in class. The Swede looks to check his first win off this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Just 42 points separate the next four in GT-A, who are 24 or more points behind Hedman. Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, ranks second in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R with Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas, third in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R and former Mid-Ohio class winner Tim Pappas, of Boston, Mass., will be in the No. 54 Black River Caviar Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 fourth. All three have a win in GT-A this season.
GMG Racing's Bill Ziegler, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in the No. 95 Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra, has a best class finish of second this season and ranks fifth in GT-A. He's joined by teammates Bret Curtis, of Austin, Texas, in the No. 32 Valspar Paint/Spectra Resources/United Steel Supply Audi R8 Ultra and Alex Welch, of Englewood, Col., No. 76 GMG Racing/Prestige Imports/Morgan Adams Foundation Audi R8 Ultra. Welch makes his first series start since Mid-Ohio 2013.
Four-time GT-A winner Marcelo Hahn, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, leads the pair of Reiter Engineering entries. He'll be in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 and teammate Albert von Thurn und Taxis, of Regensburg, Germany, will be in the No. 24 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2.
Jeff Courtney, of Milwaukee, Wis., returns in the No. 99 Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra after missing Toronto. Also back for the first time since St. Petersburg is Jim Taggart, of Cary, N.C., in the No. 7 Absolut/Porsche Porsche GT3 R.
GTS: Largest field of the year sees Kias up front
GTS should see its biggest field of the season with 28 cars at Mid-Ohio. There were 28 entered at Barber, but only 26 ultimately started the pair of races.
The pair of Kinetic Motorsports Kias has been tough to beat this year, with three road course victories on their scorecard. Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima swept Road America while Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.org Kia Optima is fresh off a win in his home race and also won at Mid-Ohio last year. Wilkins (first) and Jonsson (third) are in driver's title contention and have currently propelled Kia to the lead of the manufacturer's championship.
Seeking to upend the Kias are Wilkins' two 2013 championship rivals, defending class champion Lawson Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro and Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S. Aschenbach won the other Mid-Ohio race and Baldwin has been a consistent threat on road courses this year; he won Round 4 at Barber. Providing support as always are teammates Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro and Buz McCall, of Boca Raton, Fla., in the No. 72 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S.
BestIT Racing's pair also look to spoil the party. Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Col., in the No. 20 Crown Seven/BestIT Chevrolet Camaro has several podiums in 2014 and still seeks his first win of the year; rookie teammate Geoff Reeves, of Cleveland, Ohio in the No. 40 Shadow Works/BestIT Chevrolet Camaro continues to develop and gain experience.
Ford has the heaviest presence at Mid-Ohio with eight Mustangs entered this weekend. Leading the charge are Dean Martin, of Westland, Mich., currently second in points in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S and Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R, who ranks fifth and still seeks his first win of the year.
Motorsports Development Group has its usual pair of entries with Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas in the No. 17 Watson Racing/MDG Ford Mustang Boss 302S and Mitch Landry, of Lake Charles, La., in the No. 97 VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Udell is coming off a near miss in Toronto, when Wilkins beat him by just 0.039 of a second in Round 10; meanwhile Landry posted his two best results of the year in Toronto, sixth and seventh.
Capaldi Racing has a quartet of Fords with full-season entries Brad Adams, of New Orleans, La., in the No. 96 Voodoo/Dat Dog/Yo MTV Raps Ford Mustang Boss 302S and Craig Capaldi, of Richmond Township, Mich. in the No. 68 Wolverine Bronze/Capital R Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Joey Atterbury, of Rochester, NY, takes over the No. 33 Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S driven earlier this year by Tony Buffomante, of Naperville, Ill.
Adding to Capaldi's stable is the charity entry driven by Pirelli World Challenge President/CEO Scott Bove, of Conifer, Col., and rising open-wheel star Austin Cindric, of Mooresville, N.C., who will each race once in the No. 55 Special Operations Warriors Foundation Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Bove makes his first start since Austin 2013 in race one while Cindric, 15, will make his series debut and fourth overall race start of the weekend (three USF2000 races) in Sunday's race two. The No. 55 Mustang, fielded by Capaldi Racing, is a charity entry designed for both fundraising and raising awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The foundation ensures full financial assistance for a post-secondary degree from an accredited two or four-year college, university, technical, or trade school; as well as educational and family counseling to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty. For more information visit http://www.world-challenge. com/donate/
Aston Martin's trio of entries from TRG-AMR North America continues to improve. While veterans Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif. in the No. 34 Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4 and Drew Regitz, of Denver, Col. in the No. 02 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4 have track experience, rookie Jorge de la Torre, of McAllen, Texas in the No. 04 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4 will make his first Mid-Ohio start. An additional Aston, Automatic Racing's No. 62 Invisible Glass Aston Martin GT4 driven by Mark Klenin, of Denver, Col., is also entered.
Nissan will have extra cars at Mid-Ohio for the second year in a row. Ric Bushey, of Virginia Beach, Va. in the No. 51 Nissan/Motul/SPL/OSGiken/ Sparco/Sunoco Nissan 370Z and Brian Kleeman, of Baltimore, Md. in the No. 07 Nissan/DXD Clutches/Aeromotions Nissan 370Z continue their seasons. Meanwhile BJ Zacharias of Milford, Ohio in the No. 74 Nissan Nismo Nissan 370Z and Vesko Kozarov, of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 90 Nissan/Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z make their respective first starts of the season.
Manufacturer diversity in class continues with entries from BMW, Subaru and Scion joining those from Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Porsche, Aston Martin, and Nissan. The remainder of the field includes Larry Funk, of Oberlin, Ohio, in the No. 22 Northshore Group BMW M3, Ray Mason, of Columbus, Ohio, in the No. 70 Children's Tumor Foundation/Touge Tuning/Racing4Research.org Subaru WRX-STi, Jay Matus, of Houston, Texas in the No. 71 VP Fuels Porsche 996, and Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., in the No. 86 Scion/Lucas Oil/TRD Scion FR-S.
Funk and Mason have their home races this weekend; Matus makes his series debut and Stout returns to Pirelli World Challenge action for the first time since Barber in April following further development on the Ken Stout Racing, Inc. Scion.
TC: DiMeo Seeks Return to Top at Mid-Ohio
Last time out at Road America, Michael DiMeo, of Toronto, had his two worst finishes of the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car season – second in both races. The driver of Compass360 Racing's No. 71 Grand Alarms Honda Civic Si still holds a sizeable lead in the driver's championship over teammate and C360 team principal Karl Thomson, of Toronto. Thomson drives the team's sister No. 72 Children's Tumor Foundation/HPD/ Racing4Research.org Honda Civic Si.
Adam Poland, of Mt. Vernon, Texas in the No. 11 Texas Track Works/Eastex Motorsports Mazda MX-5 got on the scoreboard in Round 8 at Road America, and the young driver looks to add to win that total this weekend.
The pair of Skullcandy Team Nissan entries are back for a second straight race, after scoring a win and pole apiece at Road America. Round 7 winner Steven Doherty, of Plainfield, Ill., will be in the No. 94 Nissan/GT Academy/Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe, with Round 7 polesitter Bryan Heitkotter, of Fresno, Calif. in the similar No. 93 Nissan/GT Academy/Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe. Doherty competed in a GTS class Nissan 370Z at Mid-Ohio last year, when he made his series debut.
Also with two entries for the first time in 2014 is Emich Racing, with a pair of Volkswagen Jettas. Fred Emich, of Denver, Col., will be in the No. 30 Emich Racing Volkswagen Jetta GTI, while teammate Emilee Tominovich, of Laurel, Md. returns for the first time since New Jersey in the No. 19 Chesapeake Electrical Systems, Inc./Charter Financial Group Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Both drivers have a best finish of fourth in 2014, and each look for their first season podium at a track where Tristan Herbert scored two podiums for Volkswagen in the 2013 TC races.
Kevin Anderson, of Huntington Station, N.Y., also returns to the series for the first time since New Jersey in the No. 23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda RX-8. Anderson finished second at both New Jersey races and looks for his first win this weekend. Meanwhile back for the first time since this race last year is the Branden Peterson Racing entry, with Branden Peterson of Breckenridge, Col. and Bob Roth of La Crosse, Wis. set to drive one race apiece in the No. 64 Fortune Auto/Hybrid Racing/Supper Tech/Competition Clutch Honda Civic Si.
TCA: Tight points battle between Holbrook, Wolfe heading into Mid-Ohio
After splitting wins at the pair of Road America, Jason Wolfe now leads Shea Holbrook by just nine points in the Touring Car A category with six races remaining. It's the closest points battle within the TC categories.
Wolfe, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio seeks his fourth win of 2014 in the No. 36 Wolfe Trucking Kia Forte Koup on a track where he raced in USF2000 a year ago. Holbrook, of Groveland, Fla. in the No. 67 TRUECar/Lucas Oil/Radium Honda Civic Si, has a class-high four wins this year; a fifth would move her into the championship lead.
Wolfe has a ringer in a teammate this weekend, with legendary Irishman Tommy Byrne, now of Ormond Beach, Fla., set to drive the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup. Byrne, an ex-Formula One driver from the 1980s, currently serves as a driving instructor at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and is renowned in racing circles for his 2008 book Crashed and Byrned.
The pair of Mazdas entered could play spoiler. Ernie Francis Jr., of Dania, Fla., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5 competed in TCB at Mid-Ohio last year and looks for his second win of the year. Rookie Jason Cherry, of Gambrills, Md., in the No. 13 Autism Society of America/Avpro/Purposeful Architecture Mazda MX-5, has had great pace this year but not the luck yet to earn his first series win – it could well come this weekend.
TCB: Parity reigns as class heads back to Mid-Ohio
Brian Price, of Middletown, Va., in the No. 51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit dominated the early portion of the 2014 Touring Car B-Spec season, but a pre-race accident that took him out of the two Road America races has left him vulnerable in the championship chase. Price still leads the standings by 55 points heading into Mid-Ohio. Price won the opening three races, but the competition has closed up as the class has seen five different winners in the last five TCB races.
Those closest on his heels are a pair of teenagers. Both 14-year-old Nathan Stacy, of Owasso, Okla., in the No. 14 MDG/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta and 17-year-old Paul Holton, of Tallahassee, Fla., in the No. 65 Radium/TRUECar/Lucas Oil Honda Fit, have a win apiece this year and are both within 119 points of Price. All three drivers make their first Pirelli World Challenge TCB starts at Mid-Ohio this weekend.
Despite missing Rounds 3 and 4, Tyler Palmer, of San Diego, Calif., in the No. 37 MINI USA/Mobil 1/Flying L Racing/ThePainter'sFriend.com/ Discount Tire Mini Cooper also is still in title contention. Palmer sits fourth in points, 187 behind Price, on the strength of one win and five podiums in six 2014 starts. Palmer scored a pair of podiums at Mid-Ohio last year and will be a force to be reckoned with once again.
Besides these four, the other winner in the last five races is Glenn Nixon, of Mission, B.C., who won in his second series race at Road America in the No. 58 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com/ Nixon Prosports Mini Cooper. Both Nixon and teammate Andrei Kisel, of North Vancouver, B.C. in the No. 57 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com Mini Cooper add to the field's depth this weekend.
PJ Groenke, of Toronto, in the No. 66 Verax.ca/Tundra Tech/Mulligan Gold Honda Fit and Chris Capaldi, of Imlay City, Mich., in the No. 31 Wolverine Bronze Co./Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta return to Mid-Ohio after racing in TCB here last year.
John Heinricy, of Clarkston, Mich., makes both his and Chevrolet's first TCB start of the year in the No. 35 Matick Chevrolet Chevrolet Sonic. Heinricy, a track veteran, could well be a spoiler this weekend.
The Garrett Racing/Drive4Diabetes entry is one of two in the field featuring two drivers. While Johan Schwartz, of Denmark, returns for his third weekend of 2014 in the No. 12 ADA/Promatex/American Honda Honda Fit, second driver Chase Pelletier, of Brampton, Ontario will make his first 2014 start in the No. 12 ADA/Lilly Diabetes/American Honda Honda Fit. The car has two podium finishes this year, one by Schwartz in Round 1 and a second by NASCAR's Ryan Reed in Round 8.
The second two-driver car is the charity entry from 4R Motorsports, the No. 00 FIAT USA/Pirelli Tire/SRT Motorsports FIAT 500. Making a return to competition after a several-year hiatus is Leo Parente, of New York, N.Y., who has carved a successful second career as a racing insider and online commentator. Sharing the seat is Dan Goodman, of Erie, Col., a veteran BMW racer who like Parente will make his series debut. Parente and Goodman will be driving in support of Maxton's Fight, formed in support of children battling disease, including three-year-old Maxton Prill, son of SCCA vice president Eric Prill and former Pirelli World Challenge staff member Robin Prill. For more information visit http://www.world-challenge. com/donatetc/
Three additional rookies round out the field of 13. Jason Fichter, of Jupiter, Fla., will be in the No. 7 Surf Fire & Security Mini Cooper, with Tom Noble, of St. Louis Park, Minn. in the No. 24 4R Motorsports/West Real Estate/Hawk Brakes Mini Cooper and Austin Snader, of Fulshear, Texas, in the No. 99 Evert Fresh Corp./SR Enterprises FIAT 500.
Cindric and Bove team up for Mid-Ohio weekend
New 2015 Acura TLX GT debuts at Pirelli World Challenge race this weekend