Pombo wins TDI Cup at Road Atlanta; Megenbier takes championship
Braselton, GA (September 26, 2009) - For the third-consecutive race weekend, the drivers of the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup had to navigate a rain-soaked track on race day. This added an interesting but familiar twist to the final race of the year, which was contested on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course at Road Atlanta.
When the drivers arrived at the track, they saw that the series' technicians had installed the grooved Pirelli rain tires that would make their 14 laps of racing action more manageable. When the race began, Juan Pablo Sierra Lendle held the lead he gained from winning the pole position, but it didn't take Mark Pombo long to show who is boss on his home track. The Duluth, Ga.-native took the lead in Turn 10 on the first lap, and he never looked back. The top three race finishers included Pombo, Andrew Cordeiro (2nd) and Juan Pablo Sierra Lendle (3rd).
"There's something about racing in the rain that really works well for me because the two races I've won this year have been on a wet track," Pombo said. "This win is really bittersweet for me because if it weren't for a couple of bad breaks, I feel as though I might have had a chance to fight with Timmy (Megenbier) for the Championship. However, I think it's pretty neat that I've won the first race for the series last year and my final race this year. I'll be too old to race in the Jetta TDI Cup again next year, so it's great to be able to go out on top."
While Pombo took the Road Atlanta trophy, there was another race going on today. Timmy Megenbier and Andy Lee came into the weekend fighting for the series Championship and its $100,000 prize. Megenbier brought a 39-point lead into the race, and it was apparent from the start that he was taking a conservative approach to the race in order to maintain his spot on top. Naturally, the rain caused several dramatic spins and accidents, but the pair w able to avoid trouble with Lee placing sixth and Megenbier 11th. While Lee was able to cut into the Melrose Park, Ill.-driver's lead, Megenbier's mid-pack finish was enough to maintain a 29-point advantage over Lee and give him the Championship. Pombo's race win vaulted him two positions in the standings to third.
"I knew what I had to do to achieve my ultimate goal of winning the Championship," Megenbier said. "After being on the podium nearly every race this season, it was a real challenge to hold myself back so that I didn't potentially risk my season. I had a couple of close calls out there today with the rain and people spinning in front of me, but thankfully I was able to hold on. Being named the Champion is a dream come true for me, and my hope is that this will lead to much bigger things for me down the road."
While the series' regulars had previous experience battling the elements, the guest drivers experienced an added obstacle today. However, both journalist Jeremy Shaw and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford avoided trouble, with Shaw placing 12th and Whitford 18th.
"This entire weekend was quite the experience for me," Whitford said. "First of all, I was driving a totally different car than I have competed in before. Secondly, I have never raced in the rain. Add the two together, and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. However, I was able to keep the car on track and in one piece for the entire race. Considering the conditions, I was really amazed at how well these cars held up to the demands of racing. Several years ago, nobody would have guessed that you could race a diesel, but these Jetta TDIs are awesome little cars, and I think the fans that showed up early to the track today got a great show."
At the end of the day, it was fitting that tire grip and handling were the two factors that decided the race. First year series sponsor Pirelli had brought more than 100 tire dealers to the track, and they got to see first hand how the products perform under challenging conditions.
"While I'm sure that some of the drivers weren't pleased to see the rain today, I don't think we could have asked for a better demonstration of our product," said Rafael Navarro, Pirelli Director of Media Communications and Motorsports. "Our involvement in this series has far surpassed our expectations, and I look forward to a bright future with Volkswagen and continuing to contribute to the environmentally-conscious spirit of the series in 2010."