Utah: Series race report

Wittmer, Cunningham and Stout Cap World Challenge Season With Victories TOOELE, Utah (Oct. 3, 2010) -- Montreal's Kuno Wittmer grabbed a season-ending World Challenge GT victory during the Toyo Tires Utah Grand Prix Presented by Bondurant ...

Utah: Series race report

Wittmer, Cunningham and Stout Cap World Challenge Season With Victories

TOOELE, Utah (Oct. 3, 2010) -- Montreal's Kuno Wittmer grabbed a season-ending World Challenge GT victory during the Toyo Tires Utah Grand Prix Presented by Bondurant at Miller Motorsports Park on Sunday. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Robert Stout, of Brownsburg, Ind., capped GTS and Touring Car Championship seasons with wins in their respective classes.

Wittmer's No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper started second and held that position through the first corner, chasing polesitter Randy Pobst. After falling behind by just over a second early in the race, Wittmer took the lead from Pobst, the newly crowned Drivers' Champion, on lap nine as the pair encountered traffic in Turn Five. That pass earned Wittmer the MTM Special Ops Watch Best Move of the Race.

Once in the lead, Wittmer had a mirror full of Pobst's No. 6 K-Pax Racing/Safe + Secure Volvo S60 and his teammate, Andy Pigrim, just behind. Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., moved his No. 8 K-Pax Racing/Safe + Secure Volvo S60 past Pobst on lap 12, and from there set sail to challenge Wittmer for the lead.

Wittmer and Pilgrim pulled away slightly from Pobst, and the remainder of the race was a two-car, nose-to-tail battle between the Viper and the Volvo. Wittmer ran a mistake free race, however, and finished the 22-lap, 67.056-mile race ahead by just 0.346-second.

It was the second win of the year for Wittmer, who finished the season second in the Drivers' Championship. Wittmer averaged 90.941 mph in the race, which ran caution-free.

"We've been fighting all season-long to win this Championship," Wittmer said. "We couldn't win it, but we were able to get second place, so what could be better than Champion than being vice-Champion. We're really, really proud. This Viper has been really fast and consistent all season long. We've had highs and lows, but it's been mostly highs. To win at Long Beach and then to finish off with a win it just shows how outstanding this team has been."

The Viper's win came on a weekend that was shared with the Viper Owners' Group and their annual gathering.

"We've got a thousand-plus people here supporting us," Wittmer said of the seemingly endless parade of Vipers at the facility. "It's just incredible. I've met so many people over the course of the weekend and they're incredible, family people and that is just great for the [Viper] product."

Despite a valiant effort, Pilgrim fell just short of his second-consecutive World Challenge win. Pilgrim's seventh podium of the season left him fourth in the Drivers' Championship.

"Randy did a brilliant job getting pole, but with all that REWARDS weight, he was going to come back and it was going to obviously hurt his tires," Pilgrim said. "It was up to me to try to stay with Kuno. He got caught in traffic and I'd catch him up. I'd get caught in traffic and he'd pull away a little bit. It was definitely a concertina deal. He had good straightaway speed, so I couldn't make anything up there. But I seemed to have better brake and turn-in. I could stay with him, but to try to pass him would have taken a real low-percentage move and it probably would have taken us both out."

Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., finished third to end a season that included his fourth World Challenge GT Championship and a boost, with Pilgrim, to Volvo's first Manufacturers' Championship. Pobst also turned the fastest lap of the race around the 3.048-mile, 15-turn "Outer Course" at Miller Motorsports Park with a time of 1:58.936 (92.258 mph).

Jeff Courtney tied a career-best finish of fourth in his No. 99 Kenda Tires Dodge Viper, joining his teammate Wittmer as the second Viper in the top four positions.

James Sofronas finished fifth in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 to become the top-finishing Porsche and finish third in the Drivers' Championship.

Jason Daskalos (No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper) and Rob Morgan (No. 46 TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3) crossed the finish line in sixth and seventh.

Fred Roberts (No. 89 Direct Energy Home Services Dodge Viper) tied his career-best finish with an eight-place and clinched the GameStreamer GT Rookie of the Year title.

Cunningham ended his record-setting season with eight wins after his 3.810-second victory in the GTS class at Miller Motorsports Park.

Starting on the GTS pole in his No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, Cunningham fell back to sixth in class on the standing start going into Turn One. Cunningham had made three of those positions back by the end of the first lap, but when the No. 79 UPR.com/Jamison Eng Chevrolet Corvette of Kyle Kelley went by on lap two, Cunningham was back in fourth. Both Kelley and Cunningham passed the No. 27 Winkler Automotive Service Ford Mustang FR500S of George Winkler, from Frederick, Md., on lap four.

When Kelley's tire went down on lap six, Cunningham was in second and set sail for Ben Crosland in the No. 25 RPMotorsports Ford Mustang FR500S.

The 17-year-old Crosland, running his third World Challenge race less than 30 miles from his home in Salt Lake City, held off the six-time World Challenge Champion until lap 13.

Once Cunningham went by Crosland, he opened up a slight gap to the checkered flag for his

40th career World Challenge win, extending his record.

"It was tough, for sure," Cunningham said. "I got shelled at the start. I don't know how far I fell back at the start--maybe eighth place, but I got a few back right away. I started to pick them off one at a time. Some were more difficult than others.

"Ben Crosland raced me very clean and was doing an excellent job keeping the tires underneath his car--congratulations to him and that team. Congratulations to Acura to finish out the year on a strong note and to RealTime Racing for giving me a car that didn't fail me."

Crosland held on for a second-place finish, topping his previous best of fourth at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August.

Winkler held on to finish third, the second of the Mustangs converted from the recently-completed Ford Racing Mustang Challenge based at Miller Motorsports Park, to cross the finish line.

Nick Esayian capped a career-best runner-up season in the Drivers' Championship with a fourth place finish in Utah. Driving the No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, Esayian also teamed with Cunningham to bring Acura a record ninth World Challenge Manufacturers' Championship, breaking a tie with Porsche.

Oli Thordarson finished fifth in his World Challenge debut behind the wheel of the No. 23 Alvaka Networks/Exposites.com Chevrolet Corvette.

Ernie Jakubowski was one of the cars who passed Cunningham at the start from his sixth position on the GTS grid, but cut a tire on lap one and finished 13th in GTS. That finish, however, clinched the GameStreamer GTS Rookie-of-the-Year award for Jakubowski.

Stout's Touring Car win in the Series finale was an exclamation point to the rookie's first season of professional racing.

Stout started sixth in the Touring Car class and got a tremendous launch from the standing start, propelling him past polesitter Taylor Hacquard, Jeff Mosing (No. 08 Frank's International Mazda RX-8), Eric Meyer, Pierre Kleinubing, and Robb Holland and into the lead on the opening lap to earn the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start award.

In the lead, but not clear of the field, Stout's No. 18 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC, locked into a wheel-to-wheel battle with Hacquard's No. 31 Mazda/Cybernation MAZDASPEED3 and Holland's No. 22 3Zero3 Motorsports/Track Pro/Emich VW Volkswagen GTI. Hacquard officially led lap five, and the trio continued to battle -- so closely that Stout's right-side mirror was knocked loose.

Stout and Hacquard swapped positions numerous times, with the 18-year-old Stout claiming the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award on lap seven with a Turn 15 pass for the lead. Holland remained just behind, ready to capitalize on any mistakes the leaders may have made.

Bad luck struck Hacquard and Holland in separate lap 10 instances, however. Holland had the hood of his VW fly open on the front straight and pulled off the track in Turn One, while Hacquard was shown a mechanical black flag and forced to pit to repair defective rear brake lights. The developments essentially left Stout alone on the track and relegating the two front-runners to the end of the Touring Car field at the finish.

Despite the No. 1 Mazda/Cybernation MAZDASPEED3 of Kleinubing lurking seconds behind for most of the race, Stout maintained his lead and crossed the finish line with a 6.909-second margin of victory. Stout also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for improving eight positions overall from start to finish.

The win punctuated a season that saw the 18-year-old become the youngest World Challenge Drivers' Champion, the GameStreamer Touring Car Rookie of the Year, clinch a Team Championship for DG-Spec, and a Manufacturers' Championship for Scion.

"This has been such a fantastic season," Stout said. "Lucas Oil and Rockstar Energy have been so supportive of us and helped us win the Championship, Rookie of the Year, the Team and Manufacturers' Championships. Almost everything you can get, I was able to claim this year and I couldn't do that without so many people helping me out.

"I got a great start, and didn't expect to have the first spot in Turn One, but I managed to. Rob Holland and one of the I-MOTO cars [Hacquard] were right there and we were swapping positions left and right. Next thing I know, the I-MOTO car is getting black flagged and Rob had some technical trouble and I just was able to pull a gap over Kleinubing and we came out with the victory. What a fantastic way to end the season."

Kleinubing, of Coconut Beach, Fla., finished second in his first race in the World Challenge Championships in 2010. Kleinubing was, however, entitled to run the No. 1 plate as a nod to his 2009 Touring Car Championship.

Meyer, of Indianapolis, Ind., finished third in the race behind the wheel of his No. 32 XOWii/Samaritan's Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8, leaving him second in the Drivers' Championship.

Tom Lepper, a teammate to Stout, finished fourth in the No. 36 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lepper & Associates Scion tC, followed by Branden Peterson in the No. 64 Competition Clutch/Supertech Performance Honda Civic Si.

Michael Pettiford (No. 41 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk Volkswagen Jetta GLI) finished sixth, followed by Mosing.

The Toyo Tires Utah Grand Prix Presented by Bondurant will be broadcast along with the doubleheader from VIRginia International Raceway on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Versus.

-source: scca pro racing

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