Millville, NJ (September 12, 2009) - It's been a weekend full of challenges for the 26 drivers competing in the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup series races at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Today brought a new challenge - dry conditions.
The drivers hit the track yesterday, but all-day rain forced the cars to run on Pirelli rain tires. Today's dry conditions turned the tables on the drivers, as the first of two races this weekend marked the first time that they navigated the 14-turn, 2.225-mile road course on racing slicks.
It was clear when the race started that the drivers would be taking advantage of the dry racing surface to put on a show of speed and fuel efficiency for the fans. Lap times during the race dropped by nearly 10 seconds from qualifying as a result of the new tires, and the passing throughout the field was some of the best seen so far this season.
Polesitter, Andy Lee held on to his position early in the race and built nearly a four-second lead at one point. However, the trio of Jake Thompson, Timmy Megenbier and Juan Pablo Sierra Lendle became a growing presence in his mirrors as the race wore on, and three of the four drivers led laps in the closing moments of the race.
On lap 17, Sierra Lendle passed Lee for the lead going into turn one, but Lee was able to regain his position one lap later. Then, it was Thompson's turn on lap 18, as he dove underneath Lee in Turn 1 to move into the lead with one lap left. The Calgary, Alberta native never looked back before taking the checkered flag in the #19 Oakley car for the second time this season. Lee placed second, and Megenbier came in third for his seventh podium finish of the season.
"What a crazy race today," Thompson said. "My strategy coming it was to be cautious since none of us had been able to run on a dry track this weekend. At first, it felt like I was starting to go backwards, but then guys ahead of me started going off track a lot, so my patience was rewarded. About halfway through the race, it felt like I was stuck in fourth place, but I was eventually able to find a few spots on the track where I was better than the guys in front of me, and I timed my passes really well. After winning during our first race weekend, it's great to finally get back to the top of the podium, and I hope to make the same climb tomorrow."
The race results didn't have a major impact on the Championship points standings. With two races to go, Megenbier has 306 points, which represents a 31-point lead over second place Lee (275). Joey Atterbury (255), Thompson (251) and Pombo (214) round out the top five spots.
"Unfortunately, I lost eight points of the lead I brought to New Jersey, but I've said all along that I just need solid finishes from here on out to win the Championship," Megenbier said. "I would have loved to get the win, but now isn't the time to get greedy. A podium is certainly good in my mind, and now I just need to repeat it tomorrow. The magic number for me to tomorrow is 60. If I can gain some ground on Andy (Lee) and the others, the Championship will be mine tomorrow. It's going to be tough, but I'm hoping for the best."
Perhaps the story of the weekend so far is the success of guest driver, Red Bull athlete and freestyle motocross rider, Mat Rebeaud who is competing on four wheels for the first time. After starting 20th today, he moved up nine spots to place 11th. Fellow guest driver and retired MLS player, Mike Ammann placed 21st after starting 26th.
"Today was awesome," Rebeaud said. "It was my first race in a car, and after a really bad start, I was able to move up through the field and keep the car in once piece. I think 11th is great for my first race, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm starting ninth, so hopefully I'll be able to improve on today's result. Racing on four wheels is definitely a lot different than two, but I'm having a blast."
The Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup series returns to action at New Jersey Motorsports Park tomorrow for Round 9 at 10:55 am ET. Live timing and scoring is available at http://www.livetiming.net/SCCA/VW/livetiming.asp.
New Jersey Motorsports Park Race #1 (Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup - Round 8):
Fin. Pos./St. Pos./Car Number/Driver/Hometown/Sponsor/Best Lap Time/Best Lap Speed
1 3 19 Jake Thompson(R)/Calgary/Alberta/CN/Oakley/ 1:32.967 / 87.127
2 1 27 Andy Lee/Maricopa/AZ/Castrol/ 1:33.598 / 86.540
3 5 17 Timmy Megenbier/Melrose Park/IL/Chicagoland VW/ 1:32.938 / 87.154
4 7 23 Juan Pablo SierraLendle/Puebla/MX/Castrol/ 1:32.883 / 87.206
5 2 14 Joey Atterbury(R)/Renton/WA/Hyperfuels/ 1:33.042 / 87.057
6 9 7 JD Mobley(R)/Castle Rock/CO/Bosch/ 1:33.538 / 86.595
7 15 4 Nicky Boulle(R)/Dallas/TX/Defnder/ 1:33.781 / 86.371
8 11 29 Devin Cates(R)/Broad Run/VA/HYPERFUELS/ 1:33.683 / 86.461
9 12 5 Ryan Ellis(R)/Ashburn/VA/VION/ 1:33.444 / 86.683
10 4 20 Mark Pombo/Duluth/GA/VW Parts & Accessories/ 1:33.174 / 86.934
20 10 Mat Rebaud(G)/Payerne/Switzerland/Red Bull/ 1:34.176 / 86.009
11 21 3 Taylor Broekemeier/Fort Collins/CO/Sherwin-Williams/ 1:33.520 86.612
12 14 24 Donny Warren(R)/Winchester/VA/Aggreko/ 1:33.690 86.455
13 17 30 Perry Richardson(R)/Los Gatos/CA/Pirelli/ 1:34.741 / 85.496
14 22 6 David Richert/Niverville/MB/CN/LAMIN-X/ 1:34.691 / 85.541
15 24 18 Kerstin Smutny(R)/Bothell/WA/iRacing.com/ 1:34.329 / 85.869
16 23 34 Juan Pablo Delgado(R)/Orizaba/VZ/MX/Red Bull/ 1:34.395 / 85.809
17 19 28 Rhett Tucker(R)/Cumming/GA/SCCA/ 1:34.262 / 85.930
18 13 15 Theresa Condict(R)/Lexington/MA/Bosch/ 1:34.318 / 85.879
19 25 32 Andrew Gun Tucker(R)/McDonough/GA/Pirelli/ 1:35.510 / 84.807
26 35 Mike Ammann(G)/Round Hill/VA/DC United/ 1:36.049 / 84.332
20 18 2 AJ Nealey(R)/Pasadena/MD/Brimtek/ 1:33.962 / 86.205
21 6 8 Derek Jones/Philadelphia/PA/Aggreko/Crash/ 1:33.386 / 86.736
22 8 22 Andrew Novich(R)/Novato/CA/Oakley/Crash/ 1:34.422 / 85.785
23 10 26 Andrew Cordeiro/Woodbridge/ON/CN/VION/ 0 / no time
24 16 16 Eric Morse(R)/Pittsburgh/PA/Amplify/ Crash / no time
(R) - Jetta TDI Cup Rookie Driver
(G) - Guest Driver