Don Knowles, of Pittsboro, N.C., captured his fifth-career SCCA National Championship today, winning the Touring 2 class title at the 2009 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Jason Ott, of Thornton, Colo., and Andy Wolverton, of Papillion, Neb., completed the top three.
Knowles started second in his No. 35 Phoenix Performance/Hoosier Tire/Hawk Pontiac Solstice GXP, but cruised past polesitter Marty Grand's No. 4 AMS Performance/TRE/JRZ Mitsubishi Evolution at the start and into the lead. The lead trio of Knowles, Grand and Ott began to distance themselves from the field, with Knowles holding the point until lap four, when Grand moved ahead. The gap expanded and compacted over the next five laps until the top three closed up, with Ott's No. 2 Hoosier/Bimmerhaus/DANO BMW Z4 M Coupe right on Grand's bumper and Knowles not far behind.
As the trio exited Turn Three on lap 10 of the 13-lap, 52-mile contest, Grand's Mitsubishi lost a wheel and Ott made a lurid slide off course trying to avoid him. Knowles slipped through into the lead and Ott recovered to remain second. From there, Knowles held on for a 2.650-second win.
"The Championships get sweeter because you realize that things happen," Knowles said. "Last year at the Runoffs, I led every lap but one, and I didn't win. This year, frankly, if I hadn't had two lucky breaks with Marty losing a wheel and Jason having to avoid it I thought we wouldn't be sitting here.
"We tried to run a smart race. We figured that we'd run out of brakes if we ran as fast as we wanted to. I figured Marty would be very difficult to pass because the all-wheel-drive car comes out of the 90-degree corners so well and he's got more motor than we do and he's got Brembo brakes which are very good. So, I was a little surprised that he gave up the lead so easily in the first turn. I thought that just maybe we'd be able to run it out, but being the wanker that I am, I gave it back. I was so careful on the brakes and so aggressive on the throttle that I went off at three, five, at 12 and it was some unbelievably bad driving!
"Marty started to have some problems and bobbled in 14 and Jason [Ott] got by. Jason is like the Energizer bunny. Marty put him in the wall, almost, in Five and he was off the track almost to the wall at Turn Three. But I'd look in my mirror and there he was right behind me! I was like 'what is this guy doing?'
"We got four laps in testing. So we were starting from scratch on Tuesday and I had to go do some of that driver stuff. I'm a granny driver, really. I like to drive very gently and slowly and I didn't have time to work out that stuff this time. I really had to push myself. The crew did just a great job keeping up with the suspension changes. We made six suspension changes and two other changes before the final qualifying. We threw the kitchen sink at it and it worked.
"I enjoyed racing with Jason. I enjoyed racing with Marty and with Andy last year. Last year, I felt like I could have, should have won and this year I feel like I shouldn't have but did, so maybe this all just evens out in the end."
It was a career-best finish for Ott, who only ran his BMW four times this year before the Runoffs.
"About two laps before Marty lost the wheel, you could see the Evo hopping and I didn't think it would last doing that," Ott said. "I came through Turn Three and had a great run and all I saw was a huge tire coming at me. I figure it was either coming through the windshield or it was gonna crunch the front of the car, so I took some evasive maneuvers to the left. I held true to the code of the Colorado racers and I never took my foot out of it in the grass. It was a moment. Don drove a great race but I have to think I would have had a much better opportunity if that hadn't happened."
Wolverton, the 2008 National Champion, was enthralled in a race-long battle with William Baten, running primarily in fourth and fifth. On the penultimate lap, Wolverton put his No. 86 Hoosier/Raw Racing Pontiac Solstice GXP around the outside of Baten's No. 98 Hoosier/Baten ADR/BillyGraham Chevrolet Camaro in Turn 12 to take the position. Baten tried to take the spot back in Turn One, but bumped the curb and slid in front of Wolverton's Solstice. The two made contact, but both continued, although Baten fell to fifth, behind the No. 76 Northwestern/Griffin Mitsubishi Evolution.
Alan Kossof, of Wheeling, Ill., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing four positions in the race in his Kossof Motorsports/Fall-Line BMW M3.
The Touring 2 National Championship race will be available on demand at www.speedcasttv.com/scca shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Provisional results from Friday's Touring 2 National Championship Race, part of the 46th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (2), Don Knowles, Don Knowles, Pittsboro, NC, Pontiac Solstice GXP, 13.
2, (3), Jason Ott, Jason Ott, Thornton, CO, BMW Z4 M Coupe, 13.
3, (4), Andy Wolverton, Andy Wolverton, Papillion, NE, Pontiac Solstice GXP, 13.
4, (5), William Peter, William Peter, Mequon, WI, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Evo, 13.
5, (6), William Baten, William Baten, Indianapolis, IN, Chevrolet Camaro Z-28, 13.
6, (7), David MacNeil, David MacNeil, Hinsdale, IL, BMW M3, 13.
7, (9), Jay Patel M.D., Jay Patel M.D., Chicago, IL, BMW M3, 13.
8, (12), Alan Kossof, Alan Kossof, Wheeling, IL, BMW M3, 13.
9, (13), Daniel Spirek, Daniel Spirek, Parker, CO, BMW Z4 M Coupe, 13.
10, (11), Todd Napieralski, Todd Napieralski, Chelsea, MI, Chevrolet Camaro Z-28, 13.
11, (8), Michael Pettiford, Michael Pettiford, Louisville, CO, Pontiac Solstice GXP, 13.
12, (14), John Baldwin, John Baldwin, Covington, LA, Subaru WRX Sti, 13.
13, (15), Richard Kulach, Richard Kulach, Franklin, TN, Nissan 350Z, 13.
14, (16), David Muramoto, David Muramoto, Aurora, CO, Nissan 350Z, 13.
15, (17), John Baker, John Baker, Portland, OR, Nissan 350Z, 13.
16, (18), Scott Oliphant, Scott Oliphant, Colorado Springs, CO, Pontiac Solstice GXP, 13.
17, (1), Marty Grand, Marty Grand, Manassas Park, VA, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Evo, 9.
18, (10), Brian Kleeman, Brian Kleeman, Baltimore, MD, Nissan 350Z, 6.
Time of Race: 33 minutes, 12.332 seconds
Margin of Victory: 2.650 seconds
Winner's average speed: 94.492 mph
Fastest race lap: #4 Marty Grand, 2:32.155 (94.640 mph)
Lap leaders: Laps 1-2, #35 Don Knowles; laps 3-9, #4 Marty Grand; laps 10-13 Don Knowles.
Sunoco Hard Charger: #32 Alan Kossof
Attached image: Don Knowles takes the checkered flag at Road America.
Credit: John Steflik