Tooele, Utah – The Pirelli World Challenge concludes its 25th anniversary season with a return to Miller Motorsports Park, where five of the six championships are set to be decided. GT, GT-A and GTS have a pair of 50-minute sprints for Rounds 15 and 16 of the season. The second race for these categories serves as a makeup event for the weather-postponed first race at St. Petersburg in March. Touring Car, Touring Car A and Touring Car B-Spec close out their seasons with Rounds 13 and 14, both 40-minute sprints. Here's where things stand heading into this title-deciding weekend.
Pirelli World Challenge GT: O'Connell Seeks Three-Peat; Skeen Looks For First Crown
Mathematically, there are five drivers still in the running for the Championship but the two drivers currently sitting first and second – Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., and Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C. – will battle for the GT class crown. O'Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, holds a 42-point lead over Skeen, in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra (1376-1334). O'Connell looks to secure his third straight GT class championship, while Skeen seeks his first.
For Skeen to take the points lead over O'Connell in Round 15 before Saturday's title-deciding Round 16, he'll need to win with O'Connell finishing third or worse. He could also move into the points lead with second place and O'Connell eighth or worse, or by finishing third and O'Connell ending 13th or worse. Other scenarios could occur that could see Skeen close or move ahead, while O'Connell looks to retain the points lead that he has held for the majority of the season.
The two drivers have been evenly matched for most of 2014. Each driver has three race wins. Skeen holds the edge in pole positions (4-3) and fastest race laps (4-1).
Cadillac also seeks its third straight Manufacturer's Championship, but will have to overcome a seven-point deficit to Audi (85-78) over both races to do so. This could be achieved with a Cadillac win (9 points) and the best Audi finishing no better than fifth (2 points), or with second (7 points) and no Audi scoring points. Either of those results would need to occur in Round 15 for Cadillac to have a chance in Round 16.
Behind the title protagonists, other points positions could shift over the course of the Miller weekend.
On the strength of his second win in 2014, Sonoma's Round 14, Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., moved into third place in points in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 over Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R and Andrew Palmer, of Chicago, in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra. Only 92 points separate Lazzaro (1216) from fifth-placed Palmer (1124); meanwhile fourth-placed Pilgrim (1158) looks to secure his first win of the season in either race and support O'Connell and Cadillac's respective championship efforts.
The 2013 GT runner-up, James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra, has been extraordinarily consistent in 2014 with 14 top-10 finishes in as many races this season, the only driver in GT to do so. Sofronas seeks to end the year with his first podium and potentially move into the top-five in points; he enters sixth with 1005 points.
Dyson Racing Team Bentley posted a very strong Sonoma weekend with its first podium finish and two fastest race laps. Both Butch Leitzinger, of State College, Pa., in the No. 08 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3 and teammate Guy Smith, of Beverley, U.K., in the No. 88 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3 look to build on that momentum at a track where both drivers have significant past experience.
Also entering with upward momentum is Ryan Dalziel, of Winter Park, Fla., who has four podium finishes in as many starts in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R since taking over the car at Mid-Ohio. Like the Dyson teammates, Dalziel has past track experience at Miller in other championships.
K-PAX Racing seeks to end its 2014 campaign on a high note with Robert Thorne, of Littleton, Col., in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3 and Alex Figge, of Denver, Col., in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3. Thorne finished third at Sonoma last race for his second 2014 podium; Figge looks to shake a run of bad luck.
A driver to watch this weekend is Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Col., who makes his GT class debut in the No. 20 Laguna Bicycles/Crown Seven/Invisible Glass Wiper Blades Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 for Reiter Engineering. Lee won the GTS class race at Miller in 2012 and is poised to make a big first impression in Pirelli World Challenge's top category.
Alex Lloyd, of Westfield, Ind., seeks a trouble-free third weekend in the No. 12 CRP Racing Chevrolet Corvette, to round out the 13-car class lineup. Lloyd was forced to miss Round 13 at Sonoma after being contacted by another car during a test session.
Pirelli World Challenge GT-A: Mills Looks to Deliver EFFORT, Porsche Inaugural GT-A Title
A strong run of races has brought Michael Mills, of Angleton, Texas, in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R to the precipice of capturing the inaugural Pirelli World Challenge GT-A championship, and the B.R.M. Chronograph that goes with it.
Mills captured four straight wins from Round 10 in Toronto through Round 13 at Sonoma, and with none of his closest title rivals finishing ahead of him in Round 14, Mills has a comfortable 48-point lead in the GT subcategory for gentlemen drivers.
The likeliest way for Mills' closest rivals Henrik Hedman, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in the No. 10 DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 and Dan Knox, of Pilot Point, Texas, in the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing, Inc./Performance SpeedTech Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R to overtake him is if Mills has a failure to finish in Round 15 or 16 and does not complete the 70 percent distance necessary to score points.
Hedman has struggled in the last two weekends and looks to recapture his early season form that brought him five GT-A podiums in the first 10 races. Knox, too, has failed to reach the GT-A podium since Round 10 at Toronto. At the minimum, both need to outscore Mills by 20-plus points in Round 15 to have a shot at the title in Round 16.
Fourth in GT-A points and the co-class leader with four wins this season is Marcelo Hahn, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2. While Hahn is unlikely to capture the class title this weekend, he could very well play spoiler. The same is true for Tim Pappas, of Boston, Mass., in the No. 54 Black River Caviar Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, who returns after missing the Sonoma race weekend.
Bill Ziegler, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., rounds out another year in the No. 95 Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra and teammate Alex Welch, of Englewood, Col., entering his second weekend of the year in the No. 76 GMG Racing/Prestige Imports/Morgan Adams Foundation Audi R8 Ultra. Brent Holden, of Newport Coast, Calif., has also been entered in the No. 44 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra. Jeff Courtney, of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 99 Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra looks to add to his four class podiums this season.
Rounding out the 11-car class are Walt Bowlin, of Tarpon Springs, Fla., in the No. 23 Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers Audi R8 Ultra and Louis-Philippe Montour, of Saint-Donat, Quebec, in the No. 27 LeBon Dodge Viper Coupe. Bowlin returns after missing the Sonoma round while Montour's car has been entered at several rounds this year, yet unable to start in each.
Pirelli World Challenge GTS: The 2013 Title Rival Trio Battles It Out Once Again
A year ago, Jack Baldwin led Lawson Aschenbach by 46 points and Mark Wilkins by 47 heading into the final race of the season at Houston. Heading into the final race weekend of 2014, the same three drivers have a mathematical shot at the GTS class championship, only in a different order.
On the strength of two wins and overall consistency, with 12 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in 14 races, it's Wilkins, of Toronto, who leads the points with 1333 in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.org Kia Optima.
Yet it's Aschenbach, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro and Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S who have the most amount of momentum heading into Miller.
Aschenbach has three wins in the last four races, and a run of eight straight top-six finishes has brought him to within 80 of Wilkins, 1333-1253, heading into Miller. With two chances to close the gap, a second straight comeback championship is more than possible.
For Baldwin, a crucial win and a runner-up in Sonoma has given him a chance as well, but at nearly 200 points back, he'll need a win and some help in Round 15 to have a legitimate shot in Round 16.
Despite wins earlier this season, some tough weekends have cost Dean Martin, of Westland, Mich., in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S and Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima a shot at the title. Martin's chances ended with a heavy impact in Round 14 at Sonoma; Jonsson failed to score points in either Sonoma race with various issues.
Still, the Swede can help deliver Kia the Manufacturer's Championship; Kia holds an eight-point lead over Ford heading into the weekend. For Ford to tie, it would need a win (9 points) in Round 15 with the best Kia finishing no better than sixth (1 point) heading into Round 16. Ford could move ahead with a win and both Kias finishing outside the top six in Round 15.
Behind them there's still plenty on the line to drive for. Currently sixth and eighth in points, Jack Roush Jr., of Livonia, Mich., in the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R and Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas in the No 17 Watson Racing/MDG Ford Mustang Boss 302S each seek their first wins of the year. Another Ford driver, Joey Atterbury, of Rochester, N.Y., in the No. 33 Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S, could play spoiler having finished top five in each of his four races this season.
Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro and Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., in the No. 34 Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4 look to solidify their spots in the top-10 in points at year's end. Gaples is currently seventh and Esayian 10th heading into the weekend.
Just 120 points separate 11th through 15th in the standings. Buz McCall, of Boca Raton, Fla., leads that group in 11th in the No. 72 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S with Mitch Landry, of Lake Charles, La. in 13th in the No. 97 VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S, rookie Jorge de la Torre, of McAllen, Texas 14th in the No. 04 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4 and Brad Adams, of New Orleans, La., 15th in the No. 96 Voodoo/Dat Dog/Yo MTV Raps Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Those positions could fluctuate this weekend; note Ric Bushey, currently 12th in points, is not entered this weekend.
Other season-long entrants who seek to end 2014 on a high note include Geoff Reeves of Cleveland, Ohio in the No. 40 Shadow Works/Best IT Chevrolet Camaro, Mark Klenin, of Denver, Col. in the No. 62 Invisible Glass/Premiere Copier/SCHOMP Aston Martin GT4, Craig Capaldi, of Richmond Township, Mich. in the No. 68 Wolverine Bronze/Capital R Ford Mustang Boss 302S, and Drew Regitz, of Denver, Col., in the No. 02 TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4.
Rounding out the 20-car class are local driver Vesko Kozarov, of Salt Lake City, in the No. 90 Nissan/Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z and Jay Matus, of Houston, in the No. 71 VP Fuels Porsche 996. Kozarov was due to make his first start of 2014 at Mid-Ohio but was withdrawn; Matus did start both Mid-Ohio races and returns for his second weekend in Miller.
Pirelli World Challenge TC: DiMeo Seeks Wins Record in Miller
Michael DiMeo, of Toronto, has mathematically clinched the Touring Car class championship, but can still make Pirelli World Challenge series history in Miller this weekend. DiMeo, driver of the No. 71 Grand Alarms Honda Civic Si, can break a tie with Peter Cunningham of eight wins in a season if he wins either of Friday's Round 13 or Saturday's Round 14. Winning one would give him nine and the record; winning both would make him the first driver in series history to hit double digits in a single season.
DiMeo returns this weekend after missing the Brainerd round two weeks ago. There, his teammate and Compass360 Racing team principal Karl Thomson, of Toronto, in the No. 72 CTF.org/Touge Tuning/Racing4Research Honda Civic Si and Fred Emich, of Denver, Col., in the No. 30 Emich Volkswagen Volkswagen Jetta GTI, split the wins.
Emich is back with two cars, as Emilee Tominovich, of Laurel, Md., makes her third weekend appearance this year in the No. 19 Chesapeake Electrical Systems, Inc./Charter Financial Group Volkswagen Jetta GLI. She seeks her first Pirelli World Challenge podium this weekend.
Race presenting sponsor Nissan seeks a win in the TC class with the two Skullcandy Team Nissan entries back as well this race. Both Bryan Heitkotter, of Fresno, Calif. in the No. 93 Nissan/GT Academy/Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe and teammate Steven Doherty, of Plainfield, Ill., in the No. 94 Nissan/GT Academy/Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe will be forces to be reckoned with this weekend.
Go 4 It Racing also has two cars entered. After running Brainerd two weeks ago, Michael Pettiford, of Louisville, Col. returns again in the No. 41 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk Brakes Pontiac Solstice. He'll have teammates in the form of SCCA President/CEO Lisa Noble, of Manhattan, Kan., and Steve Burns, of Key West, FL sharing duties in the No. 42 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk Brakes/Purifoy Pontiac Solstice.
Road America Round 8 winner Adam Poland, of Mt. Vernon, Texas, is the lone single-car entrant in the nine-car class. Poland will drive the No. 11 Texas Track Works/Eastex Motorsports Mazda MX-5.
Pirelli World Challenge TCA: Wolfe, Holbrook, Francis Jr. Set for Title Bout
Jason Wolfe, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, in the No. 36 Wolfe Trucking Kia Forte Koup took hold of the TCA points lead early in the season and seeks to secure the inaugural class title this weekend. The rookie will have to hold off two series veterans to do so.
Wolfe leads Shea Holbrook, of Groveland, Fla., in the No. 67 TRUECar/Lucas Oil/Radium Honda Civic Si, by 36 points (1346-1310). She has five wins to Wolfe's four and stands on the precipice of her first title if she can gain back enough points starting with Friday's Round 13.
Meanwhile Ernie Francis Jr., of Dania, Fla., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5, played himself back into title contention with a Brainerd weekend sweep two weekends ago. Francis Jr., who narrowly lost the 2013 TCB title, is now only 75 points behind Wolfe, and with two more wins, could snatch the title away from the two who've fought all year for it.
Both Wolfe and Holbrook have teammates. Holbrook's is rookie Jason Cherry, of Gambrills, Md., in the No. 13 Autism Society of America/Avpro/Purposeful Architecture Mazda MX-5, whose luck has not matched his speed this year as he seeks his elusive first win. Meanwhile Wolfe will have Russell Smith, of Buford, Ga., back in the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup for the first time since New Jersey Motorsports Park in June.
Pirelli World Challenge TCB: Price, Stacy, or Palmer Will Claim TCB Crown
All that's good about Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec will be on display in the battle for its 2014 class championship. Either 37-year-old Brian Price, 20-year-old Tyler Palmer or 14-year-old Nathan Stacy – Price in a Honda, Palmer in a Mini or Stacy in a Ford – will walk away with the TCB crown. Each has had quite a season as they seek the championship.
Price, of Middletown, Va., in the No. 51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit won four of the first six races and finished second in the other two. But a practice crash at Road America cost him those two races, and in the last six races, he's only made one visit to the podium.
Stacy, of Owasso, Okla. in the No. 14 MDG/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta, has been consistent with top-10 results in each of the season's 12 races, but only a single win (Round 4, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) as he looks to become the youngest champion in series history.
Palmer, of San Diego, Calif., in the No. 37 MINI USA/Mobil 1/Flying L Racing/ThePainter'sFriend.com/Discount Tire Mini Cooper, has had an even better finishing record with top-five results in each of his 10 starts this year, including two wins. But as he missed Rounds 3 and 4 at CTMP, although his MINI of Charleston Racing team has accumulated the most team points, Palmer needs a bit of help to make up the difference in the driver's championship.
Price has 1144 points, Stacy 1067 and Palmer 1037 heading into the weekend. Both Stacy and Palmer will need to make inroads in Friday's Round 13 to have a better shot in Round 14, with Price likely needing to finish outside the top five.
In fourth and with the ability to play spoiler is Paul Holton, of Tallahassee, Fla., in the No. 65 Radium/TRUECar/Lucas Oil Honda Fit. At 135 back of Price, Holton is an unlikely champion but could realistically get up to second in the points by the end of the weekend.
Just two points separate Holton's teammate at Shea Racing, PJ Groenke, of Toronto in the No. 66 Verax.ca/Tundra/Mulligan Gold Honda Fit and Jason Fichter, of Jupiter, Fla., in the No. 7 Surf Fire & Security Mini Cooper in the battle for fifth. That's another battle worth watching this weekend; Groenke and Fichter each have one podium this year.
The hottest teams entering the weekend are Garrett Racing/Drive4Diabetes and Racing.ca, which have won four of the last five races. Chase Pelletier, of Brampton, Ontario, returns in the No. 12 Animas/ADA/American Honda Honda Fit after winning Round 10 at Mid-Ohio and with Johan Schwartz, of Denmark, having won Rounds 11 and 12.
Racing.ca has Glenn Nixon, of Mission, B.C., in the No. 58 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com/Nixon Prosports Mini Cooper, who has finished on the podium in five of his six starts. Teammate Andrei Kisel, of North Vancouver, B.C. in the No. 57 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com Mini Cooper sits seventh in points and looks for his first podium of the year in either race.
Tom Noble, of St. Louis Park, Minn., in the No. 24 4R Motorsports/West Real Estate/Hawk Brakes Mini Cooper and Austin Snader, of Fulshear, Texas in the No. 99 Evert Fresh Corp./SR Enterprises FIAT 500 currently sit 10th and 11th in points, as they complete their rookie seasons.
The 4R Motorsports charity entry will have Leo Parente of New York, NY in the No. 00 FIAT USA/Pirelli Tire/SRT Motorsports FIAT 500.
Lastly, Nic Duynstee, of Mission, B.C., will make his first series appearance in the No. 22 Nixon Prosports/Mission Contractors/HPD/ND Honda Fit.
Miller Motorsports Park
15-turn, 3.048-mile permanent road circuit (Outer Course, GT/GT-A/GTS)
13-turn, 2.2-mile permanent road circuit (West Course, TC/TCA/TCB)
Friday, Sept. 12, 11:50 A.M. MDT/1:50 P.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB)
Friday, Sept. 12, 1:05 P.M. MDT/3:05 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS)
Friday, Sept. 12, 3:15 P.M. MDT/5:15 P.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB Race 1)
Friday, Sept. 12, 4:55 P.M. MDT/6:55 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 1)
Saturday, Sept. 13, 9:15 A.M. MDT/11:15 A.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB Race 2)
Saturday, Sept. 13, 2:30 P.M. MDT/4:30 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 2)
Race Lengths: 50 minutes (GT/GT-A/GTS), 40 minutes (TC/TCA/TCB)
Television (GT/GT-A/GTS on NBC Sports Network): Sunday, Sept. 28 – 2:30 PM (EDT)
(TC/TCA/TCB on MAVTV): Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11 and 12, times to be confirmed.
Live Internet Telecast (on www.world-challengeTV.com):
Friday, Sept. 12, 3:00 P.M. MDT/5:00 P.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB Race 1)
Friday, Sept. 12, 4:40 P.M. MDT/6:40 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 1)
Saturday, Sept. 13, 9:15 A.M. MDT/11:15 A.M. EDT (TC/TCA/TCB Race 2)
Saturday, Sept. 13, 2:10 P.M. MDT/4:10 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 2)
WC Vision & SCCA Pro Racing