Coello earns fourth Formula Continental title in shortened race
Nicholas Coello, of East Troy, Wis., earned a time-shortened Formula Continental title in dominating fashion Saturday during the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Coello took the checkered flag 9.54-seconds ahead of runner-up Justin Pritchard, of Granville, Ohio, and third place finisher Revere Greist, of Madison, Wis.
Coello earned his fourth National title from the pole in the No. 81 pouredfoundations.com/Hoosier Tire Van Diemen RF-01 after an early race battle with Greist. Driving the No. 58 Waypoint Health Innovations Van Diemen DP07, Greist made a pass on Coello through Turn Five on the first lap and held that lead across the start-finish line.
The battle was then interrupted when a seven-car accident through the Kink eliminated six cars from the race and brought out a black flag that left the cars sitting on pit lane, awaiting a restart.
One driver involved in the incident, Thomas Gaffney, of Birmingham, Mich., did require a transport via helicopter to Froedert Hospital in Milwaukee, Wis., but was awake and alert when he left the track.
The black flag shortened the race from its regularly scheduled distance of 13-laps to a timed race, with just 20 minutes remaining when racing resumed.
Coello, who restarted in second, passed Greist on the restart and immediately began stretching his margin, first over Greist, and later over Pritchard. Coello also turned the fastest lap of the 11-lap race, in a time of 2:13.567 (107.811 mph).
"To be able to win at Mid-Ohio, Topeka and here, it really feels great," Coello said of his home track win. "Especially when you come home, everyone says 'well, it's your home track,' so it's nice to be able to win at the other places, too.
"I was really surprised and thought they had been battling behind me. My pace was off and my car was really loose. Every corner it seemed to do a lot of sliding and I was really worried that they would be coming up on me at any time to challenge me for the win. I just kept looking forward, trying to go faster, and it worked out."
Pritchard, driving the No. 88 Hossier/Elite/Raceday/K-Hill Van Diemen 99, started third, but was running fifth when the black flag came out. Fifth became a fourth on the restart, when Brian Tomasi couldn't get his Formula Continental to refire and was forced out of the race.
Pritchard passed Cole Morgan in the No. 3 WRD/QS/Goodyear/Morgan Homes Swift DB-6 on lap seven, and then passed Greist in Turn Five on the penultimate lap to claim the runner-up position.
Greist finished third, just ahead of Morgan, from Lighthouse Point, Fla. Joe Tovo, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., finished fifth in the No. 31 DNJ Logistics/My Amazing Family Van Diemen Zetec.
Rossella Manfrinato, of Alpharetta, Ga., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award after climbing 14 positions in the No. 10 scribbos.com/PhillipCreightonMS/Goodyear Tatuus RC-97.
The Formula Continental National Championship race will be available on demand at ww.speedcasttv.com/scca shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 SCCA National Championship Runoffs.