MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 18, 2005) – SCCA Pro Racing and the SPEED World Challenge community honored their own Sunday night in the annual awards celebration held at the Monterey Marriott.
The evening, hosted by series announcer Tom Hnatiw and SPEED Channel broadcast play-by-play announcer Greg Creamer, honored outstanding accomplishments of the season, highlighted by the SCCA SPEED GT and SCCA SPEED Touring Car Champions in both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships.
Peter Cunningham (No. 42 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX) received his fourth SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Drivers’ Championship, having topped the SPEED Touring Car division with 263 points over the 11-race season that began in March at Sebring and concluded Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Cunningham started the season off with his series-record 29th victory at Sebring. After four-straight third-place finishes, REWARDS weight took its toll on the Champ, finishing races six through nine outside of the top five before concluding 2005 with two more podiums at Mosport (second) and Laguna (third), where he also won the Air Force Reserve pole. For his season, Cunningham earned $89,970 in prize money and contingencies. He finished the season 15 points ahead of second place Randy Pobst, who finished fourth on Sunday.
Andy Pilgrim (No. 8 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose/On Star Cadillac CTS-V) became just the second driver in 40 separate series Drivers’ Championships since the 1990 inception to take the title without winning a race. Like Cunningham, Pilgrim was the model of consistency throughout the season, starting the season with five-straight top fives, including runner-up finishes at Sebring and Road Atlanta. Like Cunningham, REWARDS weight likely kept him out of victory lane as the season progressed, but Pilgrim continued his streak of top 10 finishes all season. After qualifying 12th for the finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Pilgrim needed to finish fourth or better regardless of where his competition wound up. In the end, he could have finished worse to clinch, but he finished where he needed to—fourth. Pilgrim won $67,080 in purse and prizes and earned 248 points to beat the defending series champion, Tommy Archer, by six points.
With the SPEED World Challenge being a place for manufacturers to showcase their products, the Manufacturers’ Championships Presented by RACER Magazine were hotly contested in both series.
In SPEED GT, Cadillac accomplished the goal it set out to do when the program was announced in January 2004, taking the title over Porsche 63-59. Throughout the season, Cadillac scored four victories, at Road Atlanta, Lime Rock Park, Mosport and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with three different drivers. Following Porsche in the final standings were Chevrolet (40 points) and Dodge (38 points).
It was down to the wire in the SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine as well, with Acura taking its series record-tying fifth (with Eagle, Honda and Porsche) title, and giving American Honda Motor Company its 10th title. Acura scored a season-high five wins with drivers Cunningham, Pierre Kleinubing and Eric Curran, and its 77 points were four more than its chief rival, Mazda. BMW was third in the final standings, with 53, followed by Ford, with four.
Both of The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookies of the Year were crowned prior to the season finale.
In SPEED Touring Car, Brandon Davis (No. 44 A-SPEC/Monster Energy Drink/RealTime Racing Acura TSX) wrapped up his title after Round Nine at Denver, and had eight top-10s, two top fives and one pole en route to finishing fourth in the Championship.
Sonny Whelen (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette C5) wrapped up The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookie of the Year honors in SPEED GT after his career-best finish of ninth at Mosport, Round 10 of the Championship. His finished the season 12th in SPEED GT points.
While he came up short for his second Drivers’ Championship, Randy Pobst (No. 73 Mazdaspeed/TriPoint Mazda 6) earned the season-long Air Force Reserve Pole award after scoring four poles on the season, coming at St. Petersburg, Mid-Ohio, Infineon Raceway and Portland International Raceway. Pobst was the only driver to score multiple poles on the season, and earned a $5,000 bonus for his efforts.
While the drivers and manufacturers were honored for the points they scored and the races they won throughout the season, several awards were given out for accomplishments behind the scenes.
Jon Groom, owner and driver of Jon Groom Racing, was presented the Jim Cook Award, the highest non-competition honor in the series, presented to the individual, or group, for contributions to the series’ overall success. Groom has worked to build a Championship-caliber GT team and established corporate sponsorship relations that have promoted the series throughout the last two seasons.
Jon Groom Racing crew member Tivadar Heinlein was presented with the Zimmermann Cup for his excellence in racing exemplified for his dedication and passion for motorsports. Heinlein sustained third-degree burns on his face during a pit lane mishap at Portland. Despite his injury, Heinlein displayed the utmost team support and courage in returning to the racetrack that weekend and throughout the remainder of the season.
Additionally, Jon Groom Racing and Tindol Motorsports were voted on by the SCCA SPEED World Challenge teams as the Crew of the Year for GT and Touring Car, respectively.
The season finale races, which aired on Sunday, will be re-broadcast on SPEED Channel, Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. (Eastern) and again, Wednesday (Oct. 19) morning (SPEED GT) at 4 a.m. and Thursday (Oct. 20) morning (SPEED Touring Car) at 4 a.m.