Brett Sandberg (LEFT) and Ernie Francis Jr. scored wins in Round Three of the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec championships at Circuit of The Americas Sunday, part of the series' Cadillac Sports Car Challenge weekend.
Sandberg, in the No. 70 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si, took home his first Pirelli World Challenge win, pulling out a 5.663-second lead over teammate Ryan Winchester in the race that averaged 76.908mph around the 2.3-mile, 20-turn National course. Sandberg led the second-consecutive all-Compass360 podium in 2013.
“It feels awesome to get the first win,” Sandberg said. “I've been in the series a few years now and I've been struggling quite a bit. I finally got together with these Compass360 guys and I think we're in for a good season.
“Traffic was a lot better than yesterday. The TCB guys showed a lot of respect to us today, considering they need to keep that momentum up. I got lucky a few instances in traffic and I was able to get a gap. The car was great from the beginning to the end. If anything, the car got better and better as the race went on. I was really impressed with the guys. They did a great job with the car.
“This is the second straight day that Compass360 swept the podium and it's just awesome. I know it means a lot to [team principle] Karl [Thompson]. He's done it in other series and to be a part of it here is really an honor.”
Saturday's double winner, Winchester, in the No. 72 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si, got around his teammate, Remo Ruscitti on the penultimate lap of the 23-lap, 52.9-mile race. Winchester felt fortunate for the finish, struggling with handling issues throughout the race
“I got a pretty decent start and I got inside of [Sandberg] going into Turn 1,” Winchester said. “I thought I might get him there, but when I didn't, I knew that was probably my best chance. We missed it a little bit on the setup today. The rear end was too stuck to the track and I had to lift in places where yesterday, I was flat. That costs you time. He [Sandberg} drove a great race and didn't make any mistakes.
“I was basically settling for third. I don't know what happened to Remo there. Something happened on the front straight and I got by him. It's a great weekend for us – two wins and a second and we'll get out of here with the points lead. But, I'd like to win all of these if I could!”
Following the pass, Ruscitti, in the No. 71 Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si, pushed hard to get back around his teammate on the white flag lap, but settled for third, completing the second-consecutive Compass360 podium of the weekend.
“Great result for us in our first weekend in Pirelli World Challenge,” Ruscitti said. “It was a little frustrating when I was getting into the traffic, with some of the cars not letting me by. It was a great race between me and Ryan [Winchester] at the end. We were going two-wide through the shortcut section, which you really shouldn't be able to do. Overall a good result for the team.”
Jon Miller finished fourth, behind the Compass360 trifecta on the podium. Miller, driving the No. 68 Shea Racing Honda Civic Si, crossed the line 26 seconds behind Ruscitti.
Patrick Seguin notched his sixth career top-five in Pirelli World Challenge competition, after a fifth-place finish in Round Three in the No. 64 Gear Tie Racing/Fortune Auto Honda Civic Si.
After becoming the youngest winner in series history Saturday, Francis Jr. (LEFT) kept the record-setting streak alive, taking the victory on Sunday in the No. 98 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2. Francis Jr., a 15-year-old high school student, set a record that may prove tough to beat, becoming the youngest driver to win three-consecutive races in Pirelli World Challenge. Francis also collected the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race and Kia Turning Point of the Race en route to his win.
“In the beginning, I was battling with the Honda [Lipperini] and trying to keep the pressure on him,” Francis Jr. said. “Once I saw my opportunity to get past, I took it. They started battling behind me and I was able to pull away from them.
“I knew a couple spots where they were slowing me down, when I was behind. I knew that if I could get in front that I wouldn't have to worry, that I could run faster. I just needed to focus and do my laps.
“For my second-ever pro race, to sweep the weekend is great. It's been an amazing experience.”
Charlie James brought the No. 0 SafeRacer MINI Cooper home in second for his third runner-up finish of the weekend. In one of the closer battles in the race, James got around Robbie Davis, of Dallas, on lap 15. James then passed Lipperini on the next lap, and held off the charging Davis at the line. James also scored the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race.
“It was a different race than the races Saturday,” James said. “It was quite a bit longer and Joel [Lipperini] getting out front kind of stacked up the group and made for a totally different race. Once [Francis] Junior got around and Robbie [Davis] and I were stuck behind Joel the race was over for the win. Joel drives a great race and makes it hard to get past him. That was a challenge throughout the whole race. Robbie and I had a good battle. MINI second and third, we'll take that.”
Davis, who started fifth, had a good start, making the most of having the inside line into Turn 1, getting the nose of his No. 37 MINI USA/MINI Financial Services MINI Cooper into the lead battle. Davis continued his pursuit of the top spot, hounding Francis Jr., then Joel Lipperini swapping positions throughout a lap more often than the official position changes at the timing line would suggest.
“Very good battle,” said Davis. “Me and Charlie were biding our time and using the draft as much as we could. Later in the race we were going to start making some moves. Charlie made the first move to get by Joel and then I was able to get by him as well. Thought I might get a chance at Charlie but I just didn't have enough oomph coming off the last corner. My first World Challenge weekend was a lot of fun. I'm super excited to attend all the races this season.”
Lipperini started second, in the No. 81 Race Labz/Honda/HPD/BEST Brakes Honda Fit, and got the drop on polesitter Francis Jr., taking the lead following the exit of Turn 1. Francis Jr. pressured Lipperini hard, until the eventual race winner made it around him, getting a run out of Turn 20 on lap 14. Davis and James were then able to make it around Lipperini, who pushed his Pirelli P-Zeros to the max en route to a four-place result.
Proud father Ernie Francis Sr. joined his son in the top-five for the second time in the weekend. Francis Sr. guided the No. 2 Hydraulic Jeans MAZDA2 to fifth, making up 12 positions from his 17-place grid spot, earning him the Sunoco Hard Charger and Optima Batteries Best Standing Start awards.
Following a pair of wins, Winchester still sits atop the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car drivers' points with 405. Sandberg is 59 markers behind, with Ruscitti sitting third after collecting 300 points in three podium finishes.
Francis Jr. has a commanding lead in the drivers' championship with 440 points, 105 markers ahead of James in second. Davis completes the top-three, with 270 points.
The Cadillac Sports Car Challenge races will be broadcast June 16 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network.
The Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec contingent will next hit the track for an Independence Day weekend triple-header event, July 4-6 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
For more information on the series go to World-Challenge.com or follow on Twitter @WCRacing.
1. TC, (1), Brett Sandberg, Allendale, N.J., Honda Civic Si, 23.
2. TC, (3), Ryan Winchester, Mason City, Iowa, Honda Civic Si, 23, -5.663.
3. TC, (2), Remo Ruscitti(R), Vancouver, Calif., Honda Civic Si, 23, -6.685.
4. TC, (7), Jon Miller, Orlando, Fla., Honda Civic Si, 23, -32.774.
5. TC, (6), Patrick Seguin, Clarence Creek, Ontario, Honda Civic, 23, -34.343.
6. TC, (5), Sarah Cattaneo, Scottsdale, Ariz., Honda Civic Si, 23, -38.018.
7. TC, (9), Tristan Herbert, Reston, Va., Volkswagen GLI, 23, -44.979.
8. TC, (8), Michael Pettiford, Louisville, Colo., Volkswagen Jetta, 23, -1:00.344.
9. TC, (11), Thomas Martin(R), Denver, Colo., Volkswagen GTI, 23, -1:46.879.
10. TC, (12), Charlie Solomon, Irving, Texas, Mazda RX-8, 23, -1:49.126.
11. TC, (13), Dinah Weisberg(R), Webster, N.Y., Porsche Boxster, 22, -1 lap.
12. TC, (14), Colin Cohen, Southlake, Texas, Volkswagen GTI, 22, -1 lap.
13. TC, (15), Conner Ford, Allen, Texas, Volkswagen, 21, Mech.
14. TC, (4), Dan Martinson(R), Rogers, Minn., PontiacSolstice, 18, Crash.
15. TC, (10), Fred Emich, Denver, Colo., Volkswagen Jetta, 15, Crash.
1. TCB, (1), Ernie Francis_Jr(R), Davie, Fla., Mazda2, 21.
2. TCB, (3), Charlie James(R), Joplin, Mo., Mini Cooper, 21, -7.616.
3. TCB, (5), Robbie Davis, Dallas, Texas, Mini Cooper, 21, -7.963.
4. TCB, (2), Joel Lipperini, Pittston, Pa., Honda Fit, 21, -13.399.
5. TCB, (17), Ernie Francis(R), Davis, Fla., Mazda2, 21, -34.093.
6. TCB, (7), Mike Asselta(R), Overland Park, Kansas, Mini Cooper, 20, -1 lap.
7. TCB, (8), Jonathan Baker(R), Hollywood, Md., Honda, 20, -1 lap.
8. TCB, (11), P J Groenke, Toronto, Ontario, Honda Fit, 20, -1 lap.
9. TCB, (9), Johan Schwartz, Denmark, , Mini Cooper, 20, -1 lap.
10. TCB, (13), Brianne Corn(R), San Marcos, Texas, Mazda2, 20, -1 lap.
11. TCB, (4), David Alejandro(R), Pembrook Pines, Fla., Mazda2, 20, -1 lap.
12. TCB, (12), Scott Kuhne, Fort Wayne, Ind., BMW Mini Cooper, 20, -1 lap.
13. TCB, (15), Steve Taake(R), Houston, Texas, Mazda 2, 20, -1 lap.
14. TCB, (14), Fernando Seferlis(R), Panama, , Mazda2, 20, -1 lap.
15. TCB, (16), Chris Capaldi(R), Armada, Mich., Ford Fiesta, 20, -1 lap.
16. TCB, (18), Braden Miller(R), Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Fiesta, 19, Mech.
17. TCB, (6), Shea Holbrook, Groveland, Fla., Honda Fit, 19, -2 lap.
18. TCB, (10), Chip Howell(R), Chapel Hill, S.C., Mini Cooper, 0, DNS.
19. TCB, (19), Jack Murray(R), Montgomery, Texas, Fiat 500, 0, DNS.
20. TCB, (20), Ed Magner, Portage, Mich., Mini Cooper, 0, DNS.
21. TCB, (21), Jim Cleveland(R), Queensland Australia, , Fiat 500, 0, DNS.