MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 16, 2005) – Rookie driver John Angelone, of Bridgewater, N.J., earned the first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car victory of his career Sunday at the Monterey Sports Car Championships, driving away from the rest of the field in his No. 19 Pit Bull Energy Drink/Stand 21 Audi A4 to win the 26-lap race by 5.214 seconds. -30-
Bob Stretch, of Dallas, Texas led early before finishing second, and Peter Cunningham earned the fourth SPEED World Challenge Drivers’ Championship of his career, and secured the SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by Racer Magazine for Acura, by finishing third.
Looking more the part of a seasoned veteran than a rookie making just his third start, Angelone blasted his way forward early on, moving to fourth and then systematically overtaking each car ahead of him, sliding past Stretch’s No. 98 Wheels America/P5Wheels BMW 325Ci on Lap Eight.
“I knew Bob [Stretch] was going to get a good start, so I just sort of tucked in behind him and the others,” Angelone said. “I was patient and just let the field settle out over the first couple of laps. I thank the guys for running well and running cleanly. It was a great race.
“It feels unbelievable, and I want to thank the guys at STaSIS Engineering for putting together the best possible car for me this weekend.”
While Angelone, who ran the Urbanracer.com Hot Lap of the Race with a 1:38.357 (81.914 mph) on Lap Three, never let anyone challenge him from there, battles for the rest of the podium, and for season championships, raged on throughout the season finale.
After launching his BMW into the lead off the start and then falling behind Angelone, Stretch appeared to have a comfortable grip on second, but Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., stormed up from behind in his No. 72 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsport Mazda 6, literally smoking the track in an effort to pass his Tri-Point teammate Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga. (who was locked in a tight duel with Cunningham’s No. 42 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX), Cunningham and Stretch and earn enough points to award the Manufacturers’ title to Mazda.
Altenburg made it all the way to Stretch’s bumper, but the aggressive run, spread over several laps, finally caught up to the left rear tire on Altenburg’s Mazda, which gave out after being flat-spotted on Lap 24 and ended his day.
“With the real-wheel drive BMW, it wasn’t overly difficult to get a good start on the front-wheel drive cars,” said Stretch, who matched his career-best finish. “The car felt good, and so I went for it. Yeah, everything went okay out there for a while, but then I saw the Audi and he got by.”
Cunningham, of West Bend, Wis., fought the Tri-Point Mazdas on his own for much of the race, but got some relief in the form of rookie teammate Brandon Davis, of Denver, Colo., who came up late to pester Pobst.
With Pobst occupied, Cunningham was able to sprint through the final few laps to earn the final podium spot.
The finish wrapped up Cunningham’s fourth SPEED World Challenge Drivers’ Championship, this one by a 263-248 tally over Pobst, and earned the Manufacturers’ title for Acura over Mazda, 77-73.
“Well, it definitely was not easy, it was really taxing and the race just refused to be over,” Cunningham said. “First, it was Randy pressuring me, sometimes I’d get a gap and then he’d be right back on me. Then Jeff came from behind Randy. He was able to get by Randy and then came right up to me.
“In the end, when Jeff had his flat tire, that was just bad luck. That removed one of the Mazdas out of the equation, but Randy was still right there. But then my teammate, Brandon, he was the team guy for the RealTime team today. He filled up Randy’s mirrors and that gave me a little bit of breathing room, so I owe him a lot of credit.”
When the race ended, Pobst held off Davis to finish fourth.
Manny Matz, of Somers, N.Y., won the B&M Holeshot Award for advancing nine positions on the first lap after starting 34th.
Jim Osborn, of Ooltewah, Tenn., won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing 21 positions to finish 17th after starting 38th.
The final point standings had Cunningham with 263, Pobst trailing with 248 and then Pierre Kleinubing (243), Brandon Davis (202) and Eric Curran (199).
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