MILLEVILLE, N.J. (September 27, 2008) – It took James Sofronas 99 attempts, but he finally captured his first-career SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge win, leading every lap of Saturday’s SCCA SPEED GT Championship Round Nine race at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Raceway. Brandon Davis, of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., completed the podium.
With the win, Porsche clinched the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine with one race remaining, Friday, Oct. 3 at Road Atlanta.
Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., started second in his No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 but edged polesitter Davis’ No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang to Turn One to take his first-ever lead in an SCCA SPEED GT race.
“I almost blew it,” Sofronas said of his start. “I had a great launch and the car just shot out. I thought that I hit the rev limiter, but I didn’t and I shifted early, so I had a shock and then I took off and started to move over and looked in my mirrors and I thought I had [Brandon] by a couple feet. I figured I needed to get ahead of him or it would be really tough to pass him, so I knew the start would be huge.”
For the first dozen laps, Sofronas did his best to keep Davis at bay with 10th-starting Eric Curran charging through the field in his No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette and joining the lead fight by lap seven. On lap eight, Curran slowed and pitted for a new alternator, costing him 10 laps.
On lap 11, the leaders caught the lapped Mitsubishi of rookie Vesko Kozarov, who was far behind the pack owing to a stop-and-go penalty for movement prior to the start. While Sofronas was able to get through cleanly, Davis had to follow for several corners, allowing the Porsche to pull out a 3.5-second advantage.
Davis slowly eroded Sofronas’ lead to less than a second when a lap-26 full-course caution flew for debris off Michael Galati’s Porsche. The two-lap caution created a green-white-checker finish, and Sofronas was able to hold Davis off for a 0.172-second victory, averaging 87.127 mph. Sofronas’ previous best finish was second place in the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship.
“It feels like a weight off my shoulders,” an excited Sofronas said. “I’ve been trying for a long time. The first 75 starts were with a really small, self-funded effort, but lately I’ve finally got some good equipment. My team this year has been as good as it’s ever been. To reward the guys for all their effort – I told Todd [Ketcham, crew chief] as I crossed the finish line ‘this one’s for you man! All your work pays off right now with the win.’ It validates everything that he does and it feels amazing.
“It’s really tough to pass here. [Davis] kept catching me in Turn Three, the fast right-hand kink. I was trying to stay conservative there. That’s were he got some runs on me in the beginning and I had to really keep my head down. On the tight stuff in the last few corners I could really get a good run out of the Esses and back up the straight. That’s where I had a comfort zone because I knew I could get a run and gap him a bit and know that I could hold him off into Turn One, which is probably the only passing zone here.
“I appreciate Brandon driving clean and professional. He made me work for it, but he never was over the line or trying to squeeze me off. That’s how I love to race. I’ve run with Brandon in the past and I’ve run with Andy a few times and they’re very professional. That’s the way you want to race. You want to win it on the track, nose-to-tail, green-flag racing.”
Davis recorded his fifth podium finish of the season and moved from fourth into third in the Drivers’ Championship entering the finale.
“I think it was a combination of a bad start for me and a good start for Andy,” Davis said of relinquishing the lead at the start. “There was so much junk on the inside line. My crew made it so our launches are pretty much brainless, so that was just the best it could do.
“On the restart, I got late to the gas,” Davis admitted. “I couldn’t hear and I pulled the lever to go to third, bobbled a little bit and James was able to get a gap. I knew that was going to be my chance. My car’s been really good on the right-handers. I didn’t get it and James was like a rocket in front of me. He did a good job.”
Pilgrim started third in his No. 8 Remington Shaving & Grooming Cadillac CTS-V and recorded his season-leading seventh podium finish to stay alive in the Drivers’ Championship. His hopes of victory were thwarted on the restart, which found the lapped car of Kozarov between the Cadillac and Davis’ Mustang. Pilgrim was not held up for long, but just enough time to allow the lead duo to build an insurmountable gap in the final laps.
“[Kozarov’s] pit people said ‘he’s going to stay left and let you race,’ but when he took off he just left me,” Pilgrim said. “That thing has so much power, I couldn’t get anything. Then we were getting late in the brake zone and he looked like he was coming in on the line, and then he stopped, so I just went through. There was so much gravel on the inside that I just barely missed clanging up against him. I did get through, but it was so tight. I think he was doing the best he could to stay out of everyone’s way, and he just ended up getting in everybody’s way. That was a shame thought cause [Sofronas and Davis] totally left me.
“I’m happy to be on the podium, but we couldn’t compete for the win. I had a heck of a time keeping Galati behind me to start with, then Simo was coming and then Daskalos for the last two laps. I couldn’t make any mistakes. When you’ve got that much pressure behind you, you’re trying to be as clean as possible, so I couldn’t fight with [Sofronas and Davis].”
Jason Daskalos, of Albuquerque, N.M., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing nine positions from 13th to finish a career-best fourth in his No. 5 Coastal Pet Products Inc. Dodge Viper. He came out on top of a late-race battle with Brian Simo’s No. 13 Foametix/Woodhouse Performance Dodge Viper. Simo finished fifth in his second 2008 start.
Jeff Courtney (Dodge Viper), Randy Pobst (Porsche 911 GT3), Tony Gaples (Chevrolet Corvette), Galati (Porsche 911 GT3) and Dino Crescentini (Porsche 911 GT3) completed the top 10.
Curran, who finished 12 laps down after his troubles, turned the fastest lap of the race, a 1:22.537 (94.648 mph) and also earned the Racing Electronics Holeshot Award for advancing four positions on the opening lap.
With Sofronas’ win, Porsche will enter the finale with an 18-point advantage over Cadillac, its nearest competitor. With only 10 points available at each race, Porsche clinched its seventh Manufacturers’ Championship, the second in three years.
Unlike Porsche, Pobst was unable to clinch the Drivers’ Championship, but continues to hold a healthy lead. His 901 points are 92 more than Pilgrim’s 809. Davis moved back into third, with 711, followed by Galati (685) and Sofronas (678). The Road Atlanta finale has a maximum of 122 points available.
Today’s race will be broadcast Wednesday, Oct. 15 at noon (Eastern) on SPEED.
The series loads up and heads south to Braselton, Ga. for Friday’s Road Atlanta SPEED GT Finale Presented by Foametix.
MILLVILLE, N.J. - Results from Saturday's 30-lap, 65.100-mile SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Round Nine race, part of the New Jersey Grand Prix at Thunderbolt Raceway, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps, distance behind winner and reason out (if any).
1. (2), James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 30.
2. (1), Brandon Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 30, -.172.
3. (3), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V, 30, -1.257.
4. (13), Jason Daskalos, Albuquerque, N.M., Dodge Viper, 30, -1.861.
5. (6), Brian Simo, Carlsbad, Calif., Dodge Viper, 30, -2.113.
6. (7), Jeff Courtney, Slinger, Wis., Dodge Viper, 30, -4.796.
7. (4), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Porsche 911 GT3, 30, -5.067.
8. (11), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette, 30, -11.626.
9. (5), Michael Galati, Olmsted, Ohio, Porsche 911 GT3, 30, -13.905.
10. (19), Dino Crescentini, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 30, -14.084.
11. (14), Mike Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 30, -14.150.
12. (9), Cindi Lux, Aloha, Ore., Dodge Viper, 30, -14.482.
13. (21), Gunter Schaldach(R), Aspen, Colo., Dodge Viper, 30, -16.673.
14. (20), Jeff Altenburg, Ellicott City, Md., Lexus IS, 30, -16.694.
15. (16), Sonny Whelen, Old Saybrook, Conn., Chevrolet Corvette, 30, -19.612.
16. (8), Tommy Milner, Leesburg, Va., Aston Martin DB9, 29, -1 lap.
17. (15), Vesko Kozarov(R), Salt Lake City, Utah, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 28, -2 laps.
18. (10), Eric Curran, East Hampton, Mass., Chevrolet Corvette, 18, Mech.
19. (17), Joey Scarallo, Smithtown, N.Y., Pontiac GTO, 14, Mech.
20. (12), Michael McCann, Canton, Ohio, Cadillac CTS-V, 1, Mech.
21. (18), Eric Olberz, La Canada, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 0, DNS.
Time of race: 44 minutes, 49.856 seconds.
Average speed: 87.127 mph
Margin of victory: .172 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-30, #14 James Sofronas
Fastest race lap: #30 Eric Curran, 1:22.537 (94.648 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #10 Brandon Davis, 1:25.940 (90.900 mph)
Cautions: One for two laps
Sunoco Hard Charger: #5 Jason Daskalos advanced nine positions in the race
Racing Electronics Holeshot Award: #30 Curran advanced four positions on lap one
SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Drivers’ Championship
After Nine of 10 Rounds
Pos., Driver, Car, Points (Wins)
1, Randy Pobst, Porsche 911 GT3, 901 (3)
2, Andy Pilgrim, Cadillac CTS-V, 809
3, Brandon Davis, Ford Mustang Cobra, 711 (1)
4, Michael Galati, Porsche 911 GT3, 685
5, James Sofronas, Porsche 911 GT3, 678 (1)
6, Jeff Courtney, Dodge Viper, 591
7, Michael McCann, Cadillac CTS-V, 589
8, Jason Daskalos, Dodge Viper, 553
9, Tommy Archer, Dodge Viper, 533 (3)
10, Tony Gaples, Chevrolet Corvette, 529
Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine
After Nine of 10 Rounds
Pos., Manufacturer, Points (wins)
1, Porsche, 62 (4)
2, Cadillac, 44
3, Ford, 41 (1)
4, Dodge, 39 (3)
5, Chevrolet, 21 (1)