MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 12, 2005) - It’s just days before Andy Pilgrim will take to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey, Calif., where, this weekend, he will attempt to finish off the 2005 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT season with his first SPEED GT Driver’s Championship. But mention that to the cool-handed driver from Delray Beach, Fla., and all you’ll likely get is either a small grin or maybe just a shrug.-30-
Cockiness? Nope. Experience.
“I’m probably the last person in the world who thinks about a championship before the end of the year,” Pilgrim said. “I’ve been fortunate to win four of them (in other series), and I didn’t plan to win any of them. I’ve also lost them when I thought I should have won.
“In 1998, I won [the Speedvision Cup Series - Grand Sports Class] championship with Terry Borcheller because the guy who should have won blew up during the race. Two others I’ve dominated with the team through the year.”
The realistic approach with which Pilgrim approaches things is probably one of, if not the biggest reason he currently holds the top spot in the SPEED GT ranks – even though he has yet to win a race this season.
Obstacles of all sorts have flung themselves at the No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V this season in the form of just-ahead wrecks and other things, but Pilgrim has persevered through what he describes as average finishes and avoided trouble (winding up in the top five in eight of 10 rounds, and in the top 10 every race). Staying clean on the track should surprise no one, though, considering Pilgrim’s unheard of 116 consecutive finishes in IMSA competition.
While the 49 year old Team Cadillac driver is modest about personal goals, when it comes to his team, it’s a much different story.
“The team championship is always at the front of my mind,” Pilgrim said. “It’s a whole different philosophy. It’s a team game where you have to do the best you can at all times. It’s always back up your teammate if you can.”
The team concept is something that fits Pilgrim perfectly, as he is arguably the most consistent performer in SPEED GT, something Cadillac needs as it tries to chase down Porsche (which leads 57-54) in the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by Racer Magazine. This season has been a snapshot of Pilgrim’s career, as he has taken a winless season and molded it into championship-caliber one, most importantly by finishing and, more importantly, finishing high, even as he has driven against what he calls one of the richest talent pools in all of racing.
“Oh it’s right up, absolutely it’s right up there,” Pilgrim said in reference to the driving caliber of his competitors. “Good Lord, look at the grid at Mosport. It was unbelievable. You had Ron Fellows. You had Max Papis. You had Patrick Long, [Mike] Rockenfeller, Tommy Archer, Wolf Henzler, Lou Gigliotti and Leighton Reese.
“You could put any one of those guys in any series, and they would be in the top five. I don’t care what series it is. SPEED GT racing is as deep in talent as any series out there. It has phenomenal depth.”
Even though he thinks so highly of his rivals, the unflappable Pilgrim also said that he didn’t spend much time during the six-week break worrying about how he was going to pull out the Driver’s Championship.
“Not at all because I’ve been so busy doing other things,” said Pilgrim, who owns a computer company. “I’ve got my business and I just released a driver video with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. about three or four weeks ago, which is on my Web site at www.andypilgrim.com, and that has kept me hopping. Other than that, I’ve been working out and doing some shakedown and testing in the Cadillac.
“So with all that going on, I haven’t had the time to sit around and think about it and mull things over. I’ve just had too many other things going on.”
Obviously, Pilgrim has kept busy during the six-week stretch between last round and this one. But, now that the potential championship-winning weekend is staring squarely at him, Pilgrim’s focus is back on the track.
Knowing what is at stake might make others nervous, but not Pilgrim. That said, however, he admitted that his perch atop the point standings is far from solid, and he’ll simply take the race as it comes.
“I would say the word is precarious,” Pilgrim said. “You have to have some luck, and I think I’m lucky to be [on top of the standings] after Mosport.
“You can expect 110 percent from me this weekend,” Pilgrim said. “It’s kind of like golf, you have to play it shot by shot. As soon as you start thinking you are two holes away from a championship, you throw one in the trees and you don’t win. So for me, it’s take one step at a time.”
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