Wilson Wins GTS Round 17, Cooper Takes GTS Drivers’ Title

SALINAS, Calif. – Kris Wilson, of Monument, Colo., was victorious in GTS Round 17 at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca presented by Cadillac. Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y. finished 10th to clinch the GTS Drivers' Championship.

With the standing start lights going off, Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 GTSport Racing/Umphrey's McGee Porsche Cayman S got a clean getaway from pole position, but drama ensued behind him.

Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, Ont. in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kinetic Motorsports / Kia Racing Kia Optima stalled, and was hit by Freddie Hunt, of Selham, West Sussex, England in the No. 26 Maserati Corse Maserati GranTurismo. The incident also collected Vesko Kozarov of Salt Lake City, Utah, in the No. 23 Skullcandy Team Nissan Nissan/Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z and brought out a full-course caution for cleanup.

A single file restart followed, with Wilson in the No. 07 Royal Purple/Orion Energy/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4 sweeping around Baldwin's Porsche to take the race lead, and eventual victory, his fifth on the season. The pass earned Wilson the Cadillac ATS-V Move of the Race Award.

Behind those two, Ben Clucas of Northampton, England, in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.Org Kinetic Motorsports / Kia Racing Kia Optima was third and Championship contender Andrew Aquilante, in the No. 32 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Phoenix American Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302 was fourth.

A few cars further back, it was Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., in the No. 20 BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro moving up to fifth, while Championship leader Cooper in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28 played it safe, giving up sixth spot to Dean Martin of Westland, Mich. in the No. 50 Rehagen Racing/Picture Cars East Ford Mustang Boss 302.

As Wilson led Baldwin, Aquilante was all over Clucas for the final podium position. By lap 11 Wilson had pulled out a lead to over a second, while Aquilante overtook the Kia for third place on lap 13.

Jack Roush, Jr. of Livonia, Mich. in the No. 60 Rehagen Racing ROUSH Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 then made his move, passing Cooper on lap 13 for seventh place, and moved again a few laps later to get around Martin for sixth.

Cooper then surrendered eighth place to Derek Hill of Santa Monica, Calif., in the No. 27 Maserati Corse Maserati GranTurismo.

On lap 22, Wilson led by 2.2 seconds, as Aquilante looked to challenge Baldwin for second, but couldn't keep up with the Porsche for long, and settled for third in the race, and second in the final point standings. Baldwin would go on to close the lead gap a bit, running the fastest lap of the race.

With Wilson, Baldwin and Aquilante on the podium, it was Clucas and Lee completing the top five in the final race of the 2015 season. Roush, Jr. was sixth at the flag, with Hill in seventh and Martin in eighth.

Nick Esayian of San Diego, Calif., in the No. 34 Stephen Cameron Racing Special Operations Warrior Foundation/Justap Aston Martin Vantage GT4 passed Cooper on the last lap to grab ninth.

Kurt Rezzetano of Phoenixville, Pa. in the No. 37 Phoenix American Motorsports Calvert Dynamics Ford Mustang Boss 302 won the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award for gaining seven positions off of the start. Rezzetano also won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award, advancing nine positions during the race. Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill. in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28 earned the Invisible Class Clean Pass of the Race Award for his move on Kevin Marshall, of Incline Village, Nev. in the No. 44 VSA Motorsports Lotus Evora GT4.

"There is no sense looking back on the season. I knew what the plan was at the beginning. I wasn't going to run all of the races this year," said Wilson. "Of course, to win five races and the most in the series is great and it speaks very highly of the race team. I would like to put together a program that we can go for a championship. The Aston Martin is a sensational car. And today it was fun to drive. It's a great way to finish the year with a win."

"It was a rough season for us," said Baldwin. "We had a lot of missed opportunities. Our team did a great job to get the car back in contention. I think half way through the season if you had told me that we could finish in the top three in points, I just couldn't see it. At one point, we were 300 or 400 points back and it looked pretty dismal. This is my fourth year in the series with the Porsche Cayman and I think I made the top three in point every year. We just keep missing that top spot. Today I was hoping to get a win. We put it on the pole and I thought we could win. But Kris is very good driver. We just had nothing for the Aston Martin today."

"To come into the Pirelli World Challenge in our first season and finish second in the point standings, I can't be too disappointed," said Aquilante. "Our crew did a phenomenal job this year and with just one win. To help win the manufacturers championship for Ford is a great feeling too. The camaraderie between the Ford teams is great in the series. We tried hard this year but didn't quite have the car. We were good early in the season but never the fastest, especially when Chris was around with the Aston Martin. "

"Today I was sitting on the grid and looking at the back of the Kia (Wilkins) and saying, 'He's going to stall. I need to go right.' And of course, that happened and I didn't get a good start," said Cooper. "After that I what just the manage our position and grab enough points for the championship. I wasn't with Blackdog in their first two championships but this team is a dynasty. There know what they are doing. They have a consistent and reliable car always. I want to thank Blackdog Speed Shop and Chevrolet. This championship feels different than in Touring Car. This comes after two years of being in and out of racing. It's definitely sweet. After I won the TC title in 2012, I thought I had a ride but things switched. And I changed my focus too. I was getting some calls but nothing on a regular basis. I was getting in and out of a car about every six months for a year and a half was tough going. Just getting into a car cold is hard. Especially something that's faster than you have driven is a challenge. Clearly I did well enough to get this ride this year."

Results are provisional until posted final. The Pirelli World Challenge paddock now gathers for the 2015 Championship Awards Celebration tonight in Monterey, California. Of note, the 2015 GTS Manufacturers' Championship was secured by Ford. Watch Round 17 on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday, September 23, at 9 p.m.

SALINAS, Calif. – Results from Sunday's 30 lap 67.14 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GTS Round 17 race, part of the Monterey Grand Prix Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca presented by Cadillac with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).

1. GTS, (2), Kris Wilson, Monument, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 30.
2. GTS, (1), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 30, -2.302.
3. GTS, (5), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 30, -2.886.
4. GTS, (3), Ben Clucas, Northampton England, , Kia Optima, 30, -10.024.
5. GTS, (8), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 30, -14.044.
6. GTS, (9), Jack Roush Jr, Livonia, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 30, -22.642.
7. GTS, (11), Derek Hill, Santa Monica, Calif., Maserati GranTurismo, 30, -28.752.
8. GTS, (7), Dean Martin, Westland, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 30, -37.515.
9. GTS, (12), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 30, -37.888.
10. GTS, (6), Michael Cooper, Syosset, N.Y., Chevrolet Z28, 30, -38.868.
11. GTS, (15), Jeff Courtney, Milwaukee, Wis., Maserati GranTurismo, 30, -39.626.
12. GTS, (25), Patrick Byrne, Spokane, Wash., Maserati GranTurismo, 30, -40.056.
13. GTS, (19), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Z28, 30, -55.027.
14. GTS, (17), Kevin Marshall, Incline Village, Nev., Lotus Evora GT4, 30, -59.085.
15. GTS, (20), Jon Fogarty, Bend, Ore., Hyundai Genesis Coupe, 30, -1:00.482.
16. GTS, (10), Mark Klenin, Lone Tree, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 30, -1:04.469.
17. GTS, (26), Kurt Rezzetano, Phoenixville, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 30, -1:07.456.
18. GTS, (14), Jeff Huber, Menio Park, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 30, -1:19.981.
19. GTS, (22), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 30, -1:29.199.
20. GTS, (21), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 30, -1:32.330.
21. GTS, (23), Geoff Reeves, Cleveland, Ohio, Chevrolet Camaro Z28, 30, -1:35.112.
22. GTS, (13), Nathan Stacy, Owasso, Okla., Ford Mustang Boss302, 29, -1 lap.
23. GTS, (24), Vafa Kordestani, Burlingame, Calif., Maserati GranTurismo, 28, -2 laps.
24. GTS, (27), Paul Holton, Tallahassee, Fla., Audi TT-RS, 25, -5 laps.
25. GTS, (16), Freddie Hunt, Selham West Sussex, UK, Maserati GranTurismo, 1, -29 laps.
26. GTS, (4), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, KIA Optima, 1, -29 laps.
27. GTS, (18), Vesko Kozarov, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nissan 370Z, 0, -30 laps.

Time of race: 50 minutes, 45.951 seconds.
Average speed: 79.352 mph
Margin of victory: 2.302 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-4, #73 Jack Baldwin; laps 5-30, #07 Kris Wilson
Fastest race lap: #73 Jack Baldwin, 1:32.717 (86.896 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #73 Jack Baldwin, 1:31.427 (88.122 mph)

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