Cadillac Racing's Johnny O'Connell took advantage of a last-lap incident between the lead two cars to earn the manufacturer's first Pirelli World Challenge win since 2007 on Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Paul Brown and Aaron Povoledo earned the GTS and Touring Car class wins, respectively, at Sunday's Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by StopTech, Round Eight of the championship.
O'Connell started seventh in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, took advantage of the standing start to complete the first lap in sixth place, and then charged forward again on a restart following a caution period to fourth.
The Cadillac moved past Randy Pobst in the esses for third with one lap to go, and appeared to be settled into the third position. But last lap contact between polesitter Alex Figge – who had led the opening 29 laps of the race in the No. 9 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 – and Mike Skeen's No. 2 CRP/Cragar Wheels Chevrolet Corvette sent Skeen spinning and Figge off the pace, opening the door for O'Connell.
The win was the first for Cadillac Racing in Pirelli World Challenge since Andy Pilgrim won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2007. Cadillac ran as a privateer effort in 2008, then moved away from the series until this season.
“It doesn't matter how you get ‘em, it's just gettin' ‘em,” O'Connell said after the race. ”After all the work that everyone at Cadillac Racing has done, it is nice to get the win today. There are some really good cars out there today. That's got to be the closest battle we've had all year, where you had both Volvos out front, both Corvettes were extremely strong. We did not qualify where we wanted, but we had a couple of issues this morning that we got sorted out.”
O'Connell averaged 79.349mph over the 30-lap, 67.74-mile race that was slowed twice for nine laps by caution flags on his way to a 1.005sec win. Figge limped to the finish line in fifth place, with Skeen scored in 13th.
“There were certain parts of the racetrack where the Corvettes were amazingly strong and then there were other parts where the Volvos were strong,” O'Connell said of the incident. “But it looked like Mike [Skeen], with the Corvette, probably had the best tires and the fastest car. It was just my hope that they'd get into each other and race hard that last lap. I was not hoping for them to wreck, but I was hoping for them to lose their momentum so I could get in the battle.
“Seeing them go side by side into Two, I thought, ‘This might work toward my advantage if they stay that way to Four.' But they touched and it was bad luck for Mike – he actually hopped in the air and it moved around. I think [Figge] bent his car a little bit. That was an exciting thing. The worst part about that last lap was my crew chief going completely mental in my ear as all that stuff was going on. I was like, ‘Shut up!' But, of course, it was a real good win for the team.”
Skeen and Figge's teammates benefited from the last-lap contact. CRP Racing's Patrick Lindsey moved past Figge into the runner-up position in the No. 12 CRP/Hawk Chevrolet Corvette, his best career finish and his fourth career podium. Randy Pobst finished third in the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, the first podium finish of the season for the defending GT Champion. Pobst ran second for most of the race, but fell back in the closing laps.
It was an extra special finish for Lindsey, who was hosting young Ben and family as guests from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
With a fourth-place finish in the No. 45 Privacy Star/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3, Patrick Long extended his GT Championship lead to 44 points over James Sofronas, 840-796. Skeen (755), O'Connell (753), and Andy Pilgrim (606) complete the top five. Cadillac closed the gap to Porsche in the Manufacturers' Championship, 56-30, with Volvo (18 points) and Nissan (1 point) behind.
Brown had to survive a very physical battle to claim the GTS win. Starting third after the morning qualifying, his No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters/Wellendorf Ford Mustang Boss 302S battled with Eric Foss. Running side by side out of the keyhole on lap six, the two made side to side contact with Brown actually moving off the road and coming back on.
The side-to-side contact slowed both down and let Ben Crosland whip around the outside of the pair going down the back straight and take the lead for 17 laps. Brown recovered to chase down Crosland and take the lead for the first time on lap 23.
Brown led to the finish for his fourth win of the season and second in as many days.
“The race was kind of a blur,” Brown said. “There was a lot of stuff going on. I just tried to put the pressure on Eric [Foss]. I didn't think we had a car strong enough to win today and my goal was just to put pressure on the guys and run as consistently as possible. Eric was running a defensive line, which allowed me to get a little bit of a run on him. And then every time we'd have a bobble, then someone else would go by. It seemed like I kept making passes, but none of them were for the lead until later in the race after the restart.
“It was a battle and there wasn't much breathing room. You had Alec [Udell] in the Camaro, and Eric in the Mustang and Jason [von Kluge] in the Mustang. Ben [Crosland] passed both of us when we were screwing around and then I've got Peter [Cunningham] in my mirror! It was just one car after another. We had to work really hard for this one today.”
Defending GTS Class champion and Mid-Ohio race winner Peter Cunningham earned his best finish since Round Two at St. Petersburg in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Cunningham outlasted the Mustang contingent to finish second a day after a mechanical failure ended his race with hard contact into the wall, resulting in a ride to the medical center and his team faced with a night's worth of repairs.
Crosland, after losing the lead, battled back to finish third in the No. 25 InterbankFX/RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S. The finish was the fourth podium in five races for the 18-year-old driver.
Foss finished fourth in the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S, followed by Brad Adams in the No. 75 VooDoo Music/RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S.