Mike Skeen and Lawson Aschenbach swept the Pirelli World Challenge GT and Touring Car classes at Mosport International Raceway with wins on Sunday in a race that ended under caution after a late-race incident. Paul Brown, from Covina, Calif., joined the pair as the GTS winner on Sunday at the Pirelli Grand Prix of Mosport Victoria Day Speedfest Presented by Optima Batteries.
For the second straight day, Skeen started on pole and led start to finish in the No. 2 CRP Racing/Cragar Wheels Chevrolet Corvette. The 29-lap, 71.311-mile race was slowed to an average of 83.129mph after running the final seven laps under caution.
Skeen, who won the first race of the doubleheader on Saturday, got a jump on second-starting Patrick Long at the standing start and began to pull away. Long's No. 45 Privacy Star Porsche 911 GT3 gave chase, and when the pair caught the lapped GTS and Touring Car traffic, the lead fluctuated between nearly two seconds and nose to tail.
Skeen had opened his lead to more than 1.5sec again on lap 23 when the Touring Car No. 33 Brimtek Motorsports Volkwagen GTI of Tristan Herbert began leaking fluids in Turn 5. Herbert spun off the track in Turn 9, as did the Touring Car No. 60 Gila Monster/Zotz Racing Volkswagen Jetta, the No. 75 VooDoo Music/RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S and the No. 9 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 of Alex Figge.
That caution, and the fluids on the slippery surface, couldn't be cleaned up before the race's 50-minute time limit expired, and Skeen led the field behind the safety car to his second win of the season and the weekend.
“Who would've thought it? I'm amazed that this CRP Racing Team came back after a tough start to the year,” Skeen said. “It's really good to get this double victory here at Mosport. We're going into the summer break and hopefully we can kind of continue this momentum into the second half of the year and finish out strong.
“When we first went yellow I was pretty worried because I felt like we had enough of a gap that we could manage if it stayed green. There was a lot of give and take with traffic. I got caught a couple of times in [Turn] 5 and it really slowed us down, and a couple times I'd gap them with a lucky break, so it went both ways. I was really worried about the yellow at first but then after we saw a bunch of cars off the side of the road and how close we were to the finish, we kind of had the feeling that we were going to finish under yellow.”
Long, who struggled to a fifth-place finish after contact on the start in Saturday's race, missed an opportunity to chase down Skeen for the win, but was happy with the points he earned with the second-place finish.
“In a lot of ways, it feels like a win,” Long said. “The Corvettes were in a league of their own this weekend, and quite honestly, I think the Cadillacs were pretty darn good as well. It was about getting a start and putting the pressure on Skeen as much as I could in traffic but I knew it was inevitable, once there was a bit of a break, that we were going to have to maintain second and try to put points between James [Sofronas] and I. Unfortunately, I think he had some fuel issues at the end but that helps us for the championship. There is a lot of competition in this series and I'm glad to be here. Although we missed a race we are going to fight for the Championship to the end.”
Johnny O'Connell earned his second podium finish in as many days with a third-place finish in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. O'Connell was charging toward the leaders at the end of the race, but was denied any opportunity for "what might have been."
“We just didn't have enough for those guys,” O'Connell conceded. “I don't know whether Porsche found another number on their map switch or what, but they showed dramatic improvement overnight. We had a good car. Actually, we might have even run faster than we did yesterday. If they'd gone green, I think I might have had something, because on clear laps, we were pretty darn close, but it didn't happen. I'm just stoked for everybody at Cadillac. I mean, we have moved forward. We are five races into this gig and to get on the podium twice this weekend, we're constantly improving and that's been our objective all along.”
When the circuit went to full course caution, James Sofronas sat fourth in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3. While circulating behind the pace car, the Porsche ran out of fuel before the checkered flag on the final lap, and the slowed car crossed the finish line in seventh position.
Sofronas' misfortune elevated Jason Daskalos, who started ninth in the No. 7 Dalsin Developments Dodge Viper, to his fourth-consecutive top-four finish. In the midst of the climb through the field, Daskalos earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race when he moved past Andy Pilgrim's No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe on lap 11 for fifth position.
Pilgrim would earn his second-consecutive fifth-place finish when he also moved past Sofronas on the final lap.
Sunday's race squeezed the leading GT Drivers' Championship contenders even closer together, with Sofronas now leading by just eight points over Long, 626 – 618. Skeen sits just 10 points behind Sofronas after the weekend sweep, followed by Daskalos (561) and O'Connell (537). Porsche leads Cadillac in the Manufacturers' Championship, 45-18, with Volvo in third with three points.
Like Skeen, Brown started on pole and never looked back in the No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters Ford Mustang Boss 302S to take his second GTS win of the season and the second of his career. Brown had opened up more than a seven-second lead over Ben Crosland and lead four Mustangs to the top four positions.
Brown's previous win at Long Beach came during technical inspection after the on-track winner was disqualified, giving the veteran his first chance to stand on the top step of the podium and celebrate.
“This one is official,” Brown said. “This one is pretty good. We came with strong cars. As always, we came prepared. We definitely had some issues in practice and in yesterday's race, and this just feels good. I can't thank my crew enough. My crew chief wasn't able to be here, my engineer wasn't able to be here because of family things, so we had to patch a couple people together with volunteers. Chris Filias stepped in to fill the duty. He's only 22-years old and this is only his sixth race. This whole thing feels pretty awesome.”
Crosland followed up a Saturday win in the No. 25 Interbank FX/RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S with a runner-up finish during Sunday's Round Six race. The 18-year-old Crosland has now earned a second-place finish or higher during three of the last four races.
Running third for the entire GTS race was Eric Foss in the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S. Foss earned the third-place finish, his fourth podium of the season, driving one of the original cars that first competed in the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge before joining the GTS class of the Pirelli World Challenge this season.
Chris DeSalvo finished fourth in the No. 37 Rehagen Racing/Hawk/BBS Ford Mustang GT after starting the race on the inside of the GTS class second row. DeSalvo held off six-time World Challenge champion Peter Cunningham, driving the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, for fifth place.
Brown, who had fallen out of the GTS Drivers' Championship lead after Saturday's race, moved back to the top of the point standings with the win. Brown now leads Foss by 23 points, 684 to 661, followed by Crosland (598), Cunningham (567) and Adams (449). Ford leads Acura in the Manufacturers' Championship, 58 to 26.
Aschenbach started second in Touring Car driving the No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si, falling behind Herbert – who earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award for his first lap – and polesitter Aaron Povoledo in the No. 88 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30 on the first lap. Povoledo was called to pit lane by race officials to serve a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start, eliminating him from contention and leaving Aschenbach in second.
The 2006 GT Drivers' Champion dogged Herbert for several laps, followed closely by teammate Brett Sandberg in the No. 70 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si and the No. 81 Durabond Honda Civic Si of Anthony Rapone. Aschenbach finally moved past the Volkswagen and into the lead on the seventh lap of the Touring Car race, earning the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award and racing home for his fifth career Pirelli World Challenge win.
“What a fantastic weekend,” Aschenbach said. “Any time you can go two for two it's just amazing. First and foremost I have to say hats off to Compass360 Racing and Honda Racing. This Honda Civic was just awesome all weekend. We knew we had a shot to win; we just really had to get out in front. We just don't have the power right now to keep up with some of these guys so it's really focused on handling and cornering and that's what this Honda Civic does so well.”
Sandberg and Rapone continued to battle Herbert, but were unable to get by before Herbert's mechanical difficulties on the 19th lap of the Touring Car race. Both Rapone and Sandberg narrowly avoided spinning on the slippery track or making contact with Herbert, but squeezed past and finished second and third, respectively.
Rapone earned his second-consecutive runner-up finish in his debut Pirelli World Challenge weekend after winning the Canadian Touring Car Championship a season ago.
Sandberg matched his best career finish and grabbed his second career podium. Eric Meyer finished fourth in the No. 32 XOWii/Samaritan's Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8, his highest finish of the season. Meyer started seventh in the Touring Car class.
Povoledo recovered from the penalty at the start to work back through the field and finish fifth. Herbert was classified 12th in class at the finish.
Devin Cates, in the No. 23 Renn Gruppe Motorsports/Cates Engineering Volkswagen GTI, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for finishing eighth in Touring Car after starting at the end of the field.
With the win, Aschenbach extended his Touring Car Drivers' Championship lead to a commanding 212-point advantage over Povoledo, 771 to 559. Zitza, who finished 13th on Sunday after getting caught on the slick track, is third with 489 points. Robb Holland (462) and Herbert (453) are also in the top five in the championship. Honda leads Volkswagen 49 to 31 in the Manufacturers' Championship, followed by Volvo (27).
Both rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Mosport presented by Optima Batteries will air on Versus on Saturday, June 18 at 3 p.m. ET.
The Pirelli World Challenge now enters a “summer break” and returns to action with a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Aug. 5-7.