Fellows, Cunningham and Stout earn wins at The Glen
When Ron Fellows, of Mississauga, Ontario, signed a three-race World Challenge Championships deal with CRP Racing, one of the races he wanted to run was the World Challenge Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by Sunoco - selected because the Canadian had never raced on the 3.4-mile full circuit at The Glen. After an 11.775-second GT and overall win on Saturday afternoon, Fellows can now claim a perfect record on the long course. He was joined in Victory Lane by Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., the GTS and Touring Car class winners, respectively.
Fellows started second and bogged down at the standing start, falling 3.486-seconds behind polesitter Randy Pobst in the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 by the end of lap three, still in second place.
With a clear track behind he and Pobst, the Corvette closed to the tail of the Volvo by the end of lap five. One lap later, Fellows took a hard look to the inside of Pobst going into turn one.
Fellows initially appeared to back out of trying to make the pass under braking, but Pobst slid wide and off the track on the outside of turn one. Fellows took the point and earned the MTM Special Ops Best Move of the Race.
"I locked the rear tires as well, which is why I ended up moving in behind him," Fellows said. "I was going to make a move to the inside, but he went in deep. He was closer to the two marker, and I was braking somewhere between the three and the two, and it was way too early in the race and we would have ended up just banging doors. My car had a bit of a twitch, but when Randy went off, I went by."
From there, Fellows cruised to his second-consecutive World Challenge win, averaging 104.056 mph over the 22-lap, 74.8-mile race. Fellows also turned the race's fastest lap at 1:55.672 (105.816 mph).
"This is my last race of three with CRP Racing," Fellows said of his World Challenge plans. "We had picked three that I really wanted to do - Long Beach, my home track of Mosport on their 50th anniversary, and here because I hadn't done the long course before. I've got to think Cragar Wheels for the opportunity.
"When I first started in the Trans-Am Series, we ran on the NASCAR weekend and ran the short course, and of course again in my NASCAR starts. But I must say, the long course is awesome. That is the most fun section of the race track, and it's surprising how much grip you can generate through turn six. I really enjoyed it, and I'm glad to get a win in the Corvette."
Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, made it two Canadians atop the podium when he was also able to get past Pobst, trying to manage the brakes on his Volvo, on lap eight. Wittmer's second-place finish capped an eventful race weekend for the driver sitting second in the Drivers' Championship after an accident on his first lap of the second practice session on Friday.
With Wittmer's car unable to be repaired at the track, the team turned to Jeff Courtney's No. 99 Kenda Tires Dodge Viper. Courtney graciously stepped out of the car to allow Wittmer to run the blue machine, now numbered as the No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper, in qualifying and the race.
"Jeff Courtney deserves all the credit today," Wittmer said. "For a teammate to give up a car like that halfway through the season when he's going for points, the only other person I know who would do that for me is my brother. It was very nice of him to get out of the car yesterday and give me the ride and go on to something else.
"It was unfortunate the weekend got off the way it did, but things happen and that's motorsports. We were able to turn around and get a good car together for qualifying and toss a couple of things at it for the race. It was a real Dodge Viper in the race, just impeccable. It drove real nice the whole race. I saw Randy catch me a couple of times through traffic, which was really hard to get through today. Most of the time we caught them through the high speed esses, and we'd get bottled up behind them and Randy would catch me. But hats off to my crew, they gave me a great car today."
Courtney was able to race what was Tony Gaples' Blackdog Racing back-up car, finishing 12th in a Chevrolet Corvette that he didn't get a full lap in until the first lap of the race.
Despite the early-race difficulties, Pobst managed his K-Pax Volvo well enough to earn a third-place finish.
"We had a great start in the Volvo," Pobst said. "I got out to what looked like a big lead, but I've been around and I knew to wait and see how it sorted out. Ron reeled me in pretty quick, and my brakes just weren't up to snuff in the race. I had a lot of trouble getting the car to stop, and it made it very tricky to drive. When you have a rear brake bias, the rear wheels want to lock up.
"I saw Ron coming, and I had been careful with the brakes. I didn't want to let him through, and I got in a little deeper and had a lot of trouble getting the car to stop. I got it a little sideways and almost spun it around. Once Ron got by, I had nothing for him. Kuno also came up in the Viper and I couldn't keep up with him either today. We're happy to have the K-Pax Volvo in the championship lead still, but it's a long season and we'll see what we can do."
Patrick Lindsey started third in the No. 57 Horton/Sloan Securities Porsche 911 GT3 and was second for two laps before falling behind Fellows on lap three. Trying to keep pace with the leaders, Lindsey spun on lap three in turn eight and dropped as low as ninth. He worked his way back through the field, earning fifth when a battle with James Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 ended with Sofronas spinning in turn seven on lap 19.
Dino Crescentini finished sixth from his eighth place on the grid in the No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3. The Round Two winner fought with Gaples' No. 29 Kleinschmidt/Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Corvette for several laps, including running side-by-side through turns nine, 10 and 11 before Crescentini fell behind moving onto the front straight.
Crescentini waited just a half-lap before pouncing again, passing Gaples going into the "bus stop" chicane to claim seventh place and earn the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award for his close racing. That position became sixth place when Sofronas spun. Sofronas finished seventh, one spot ahead of Gaples.
Charles Morgan (No. 47 Privacy Star/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3) led son Rob Morgan (TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3) to ninth and tenth place at the checkered flag.
Despite finishing behind Wittmer, Pobst extended the lead for himself in the Drivers' Championship and for Volvo in the Manufacturers' Championship when bonus points for qualifying and laps led were included. Pobst now leads 653-600 over Wittmer, followed by Crescentini (515), Daskalos (467) and Sofronas (438). Volvo leads the Manufacturers' Championship 38 - 32 over Dodge, with Porsche in third with 30 points.
In taking the GTS victory by more than one lap, Cunningham extended his World Challenge wins record to 35 in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Despite more wins than anyone in the history of the Series, this was his first in World Challenge at Watkins Glen.
"My first pro win was here in June of 1987 in the 24 hour race, but it's nice to get my first World Challenge win here," Cunningham said. "It's such a fun track, this long course is one of the most challenging in North America and we love it. Everything went without a hitch, so we didn't have too much commotion other than the GT cars coming up and us passing the Touring Cars to lap them. Within GTS, I had my way today. The Acura ran great and I'm glad to have such a strong finish."
Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., earned his fourth podium and second runner-up finish of the season in the No. 34 Acura/Real Time Racing Acura TSX.
Ernie Jakubowski, of Oakville, Ontario, followed Esayian to the line in the No. 91 Fuchs/CDOC/Forgeline Porsche Cayman S to climb onto the podium in his World Challenge debut.
Aaron Poveledo finished fourth in the No. 44 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.
Cunningham now leads the GTS Drivers' Championship with 701 points, 90 points ahead of Esayian. Acura also holds a commanding lead of Porsche in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Stout earned his third Touring Car win in his first season as a professional, rushing to a
29.389-second margin of victory in the No. 18 DG Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC. Stout started fourth, but by the end of the first lap had just his teammate Dan Gardner and Touring Car polesitter Eric Meyer ahead of him.
Stout was in the lead by the end of lap two, clicking off laps to keep ahead of the pace. When Meyer's No. 32 XOWii/Samartian's Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8 made contact with the wall on lap four, Stout earned some more breathing room. That lead was his for good when Gardner, in the No. 36 DG Spec/Scion/TRD/Lepper&Associates Scion tC, and Alexander Lvov, driving the No. 9 Honda GMS Honda Civic Si, began to battle for second place.
The win was even sweeter for Stout, as the No. 18 team had struggled in practice and qualifying on Friday.
"This weekend a few changes were made to the car, affecting the software in the system," Stout said. "It messed with the car a little bit and it wasn't really happy. We fought with it a lot this weekend, but we were slowly ticking away. This morning we thought we got it figured out. We went out in the race and I really had to hit my marks and my shift points. I felt really confident in the car, the team worked really well, and we got this great finish.
"After I got by Dan and Eric Meyer, I tried to settle in and hit my marks the best I could. I was looking in my mirror, and Eric had some trouble. I watched Lvov and my teammate battle, and it was a confident feeling knowing I could stretch out the gap a little bit and just try to hold on. It was great that Dan could pull it off at the end so that we could get Scion a 1-2 finish, I'm very happy with everything."
Gardner, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Lvov traded the runner-up position on lap 15, with Lvov moving into second, and again on lap 18 with two to go. With Gardner trying to hold the position on the final lap, the two made side-by-side contact on more than one occasion before Lvov ran off track and Gardner raced to the runner-up position.
Lvov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, finished third for his first Touring Car podium.
Brett Sandberg finished fourth in the No. 28 Whitehall Stable Acura TSX, tying a career best set at the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Colin Cohen (No. 01 Istook's Motorsports Volkswagen GTI) finished fifth in Touring Car.
The win gives the 18-year-old Stout a commanding lead in the Touring Car Drivers' Championship with 713 points, a 165-point advantage over Meyer, who finished seventh.
"It's amazing, a lot of people have helped me out to be able to succeed like this," Stout said of his Championship lead. "You're never comfortable when you're doing this, but it's nice knowing I have a strong lead right now. I'm really trying to conserve it and keep telling myself that at the end of the season this is where I want to be, and not make any moves during the race that will change that in the long run."
Stout's win also extended Scion's lead in the Manufacturers' Championship to 15 points over Volkswagen, 49-34. Mazda and Honda are now tied at 18 points.
The World Challenge Championships return to action on the streets of Toronto, July 16-17.
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