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Thirty-two podiums. Two championships. One team. The 2014 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season was the definition of success for Kelly Moss Motorsports.
In the hunt all season, the team entered the season finale Friday, Oct. 3 in a three-way tie for first place in the Platinum Cup Team Championship race. It was winner take all in the final race.
Through weather changes, multiple yellow flags and breathtaking racing action, Colin Thompson brought home the No. 14 Kelly Moss/Porsche of Bucks County Porsche home in first to secure the Platinum Team Championship for Kelly Moss, while earning his first Platinum Driver Championship.
"It's absolutely the ultimate," Kelly Moss Vice President Jeff Stone said. "This was absolutely fantastic racing down to the last lap. I had to hold my breath for 45 minutes. For the Team Championship to come down right to the very end just shows how great the season was."
Thompson started Rounds 15 and 16 in pole position. In the first race Thursday, Thompson knew he had a fast car but just couldn't put it all together, finishing third. He dropped to second in the championship, just one point behind Michael Lewis, setting up for a dramatic last race.
On Friday, weather conditions took a turn for the worse. Heavy clouds opened up before the 45-minute race, guaranteeing a wet start.
Pole sitter Thompson took the field to the green flag with smooth precision in the treacherous conditions. Lewis and Sloan Urry, who started second and third, respectively, spun in the slick conditions exiting Turn 12 behind Thompson before crossing the start-finish line to begin the race. Both were eliminated from the race.
Once the race restarted, Thompson battled title rival Angel Benitez Jr., pulling away to as much as a seven-second lead before a caution bunched the field. After the restart, Benitez closed in on Thompson, but Thompson was able to stay in first, securing his title.
"It was killer," Thompson said. "Porsche of Bucks County set me up with a car, and they're the reason I'm here. And Kelly-Moss Motorsports, we pulled it together. What a race!"
In addition to Thompson's magnificent title drive, there was no shortage of highlights for the entire Kelly Moss lineup. Driver Dan Weyland finished in third place in Platinum Masters for Round 16. It was his first career podium finish and a big highlight for the entire Kelly Moss team.
"This was the most fun I've ever had on a racetrack," Weyland said. "I love the rain. The rain at the start was, of course, almost undriveable. I haven't been on a podium ever, so this is a great day. To have had my team up there cheering for me - it feels great."
In the Gold Class, David Ducote continued his podium trend, picking up four total podiums throughout the two days of racing. In Round 15, he finished third in Gold and second in Gold Masters. In Round 16, Ducote picked up two additional second-place finishes in Gold and Gold Masters.
"Lots of excitement, lots of action, lots of exciting things happening on the track," Ducote said. "Kelly Moss gave me a good setup all weekend, and the car felt as good as you could expect under the conditions we had today."
Ducote finished on the podium in five of his six starts in the Gold class this season. His father, Wayne Ducote, finished the race weekend with fifth- and 10th-place finishes, respectively.
"The weekend was great," Wayne Ducote said. "The racing was terrific. I had a good battle yesterday with (Fred) Poordad. We passed each other twice and were head-to-tail for 45 minutes, and I prevailed to finish sixth, which made me very happy. Today (Friday) I was doing fine until I ran out of transmission. But it was a great time. The team was great. Kelly Moss really is the best."
William Peluchiwski also picked up a top-five finish in Round 16 after finishing eighth in Gold Masters in Round 15. Peluchiwski also was awarded the Yokohama Hard Charger award for Round 16, presented to the driver who advances the most places from start to finish.
"It was great to win the Hard Charger Award," Peluchiwski said. "I had been struggling over the weekend, and to win that at the end was a great result. Thank you to Kelly Moss."
Kelly Moss ended the season with 32 podiums between its drivers, and the Road Atlanta event was the perfect exclamation point.
"It's been a phenomenal season," Stone said. "I can't say enough about our Kelly Moss crew. All of our guys are just awesome. All of our drivers are absolutely amazing and like family.
"I really wish Paul Barnhart and Seth Davidow could have been here this weekend. We missed them both. But it was really great to see Bill get the Hard Charger and see Dan Weyland get on the podium.
"To see Colin win it the way he did was just fantastic. A special thanks to Jens Walther and all the help from Porsche Motorsport and the guys at Porsche and IMSA. I also have to thank all the folks back at Kelly Moss - the guys back home, and to my brother, I couldn't do any of this without him. I also want to give a special thanks to our sponsor and friends at Brey-Krause, specifically Dodge and Vicky Whipple and the "Walrus." And to my wife, Ekram, thank for continuing to be my biggest supporter through this all, it means so much to me. I couldn't be happier."
Randy Pobst and Andrew Carbonell gave Freedom Autosport a great season finale by finishing second in the ST class during Friday’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Road Atlanta. Their No. 26 Mazda MX-5 was the highest-finishing Mazda in the class.
The race marked the fifth trip to the podium for Pobst and Carbonell this season. They ended 2014 with two wins, one second and two thirds. In all, Freedom Autosport amassed three wins, one second and three thirds during the season.
Pobst started the race from the 16th spot on the grid, which gave him the tough job of trying to move the No. 26 MX-5 through the middle of the pack. A great pit stop by the Freedom Autosport crew during the first full-course caution meant that Carbonell took up the chase in seventh place. From there, he continued to surge forward, crossing the finish line less than one second behind the winner.
“This was a fabulous end to a great season,” said Pobst. “Andrew and the whole Freedom Autosport team did such a good job. It was a big comeback, really. We started further back, and the longer we ran, the better the Mazda ran. Special thanks to Glenn Long for running this team, and to Derek Whitis, Rhett O’Doski and Mazda Motorsports for the opportunity.”
“That Mazda MX-5 can really keep its Continental tires under it for a long time, so the longer we’re under green, the better, but we had a lot of cautions today,” said Carbonell. “This car has been so competitive all year. Freedom Autosport has always done a great job preparing the MX-5, and racing with Randy all year has been a real honor for me.”
Mark Pombo put in a solid qualifying effort in the No. 25 Mazda MX-5, securing the fifth spot on the grid. He and Mat Pombo were optimistic after finishing third at Circuit of the Americas last month. As the first hour of the race progressed, Mark moved into third place. Unfortunately, a crash exiting turn 12 took the No. 25 out of contention.
Britt Casey, Jr., returned for his third race with Freedom Autosport in the No. 27 Mazda MX-5. The 16-year-old had never raced at Road Atlanta before, but he set a qualifying time that put him at 18th for the start. Casey and co-driver Christian Szymczak, who was making his Freedom Autosport debut, ran a steady race to finish 16th.
The season finale and Freedom Autosport’s podium finish will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at noon on October 12.
“This has been a memorable season for Freedom Autosport: we’ve had a lot of success on the track, and we were able to have veterans driving for us,” said team co-owner Derek Whitis. “Mark Pombo drove with the team all season, and it was an honor to have U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Liam Dwyer join us for three rounds. We look forward to continuing to foster driving opportunities for military veterans in our 2015 season.”
Top Fuel points leader Tony Schumacher claimed the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will also lead their respective categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the fourth of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Schumacher, who won the opening two events of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, posted a career-best 3.733-second pass at 327.51 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to lead the field into eliminations. It was the seven-time world champ’s 76th career No. 1 qualifier, fourth of the season and seventh at Reading. Schumacher, who has a Top Fuel best 76 career victories, will open eliminations against Bob Vandergriff.
Schumacher’s seventh No. 1 qualifier at Maple Grove Raceway was a Top Fuel qualifying record. No other driver has ever had more than six No. 1s at a single track.
Brittany Force qualified second with a 3.737 at 328.78 in the Castrol EDGE dragster. She will face Terry McMillen to start. Kalitta Motorsports teammates J.R. Todd and Doug Kalitta drove their dragsters to the third and fourth starting spots with Todd running a 3.738 at 325.77 in the Optima Batteries dragster while Kalitta posted a 3.747 at 326.95 in the Mac Tools dragster. Todd will race Dom Lagana while Kalitta opens with Clay Millican. St. Louis winner and 2012 world champ Antron Brown faces Khalid alBalooshi in the first round following a 3.762 at 323.50 in his Matco Tools dragster.
John Force qualified second with a 3.997 at a track record speed of 323.97 in the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. Force, a 16-time world champ and seven-time winner at Reading, opens eliminations against Bob Tasca III. Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan raced to a 4.008 at 321.50 in the Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, good enough for the No. 3 qualifier and a first round matchup with Tony Pedregon. Courtney Force, trailing her father by 30 points in the standings when the weekend began, is fourth in the Traxxas Ford Mustang following a 4.008 at 320.36. She races Jeff Arend on Sunday. Robert Hight, the 2009 world champ, faces Tim Wilkerson from the No. 5 spot after his 4.009 at 320.13 at the controls of his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
Shane Gray, the winner at Indianapolis to end the regular season, sits second after a 6.484 at 212.33 in the Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray will open eliminations against Kenny Delco. Points leader Jason Line is third in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.500 at 213.23, earning a first round faceoff with John Gaydosh. Allen Johnson rebounded from a tough start in the Countdown with the No. 4 qualifying spot after a 6.505 at 212.79. He will drive his Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart against first-round foe Larry Morgan. Chicago winner Vincent Nobile starts fifth in his Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro and will race Dave Connolly after a 6.505 at 212.46 in his Charter Communications Camaro. Connolly, who has won the last two races, is currently second in points.
David Ostella qualified ninth in the Prototype Challenge class in the No. 38 Dash Neighborhood/Phillips 66 of Performance Tech Motorsports for his first Petit Le Mans start.
Ostella turned steady laps around Road Atlanta that averaged in the 1-minute, 17-second range. His top lap of 1:17.533 was just more than a second slower than pole sitter Jack Hawksworth.
Ostella wanted a quicker qualifying lap was but was willing to settle with consistency after missing the final TUDOR United SportsCar Championship practice session of the day.
The session originally was red-flagged due to lightning. The storm turned to heavy rain, and the track opened for practice. But Performance Tech Team Principal Brent O'Neill thought the possible outcome of an incident in heavy rain was too much of a gamble. The team didn't participate in the practice.
Ostella was not worried he found himself starting further back in the field than usual. Instead, rookie Ostella focused on the 10 hours of racing Saturday instead of the 15-minute qualifying session Friday.
"I think we're looking pretty good for the race," Ostella said. "We have a strong and consistent car. With 10 hours ahead of us, that's the best you can ask for. We just have to make sure we stay out there and make as few mistakes as possible during the race. I think I personally could have used that last practice, but I think it only hindered us a little bit because we we're going to throw on new tires and see how we did. We'll be good for the race."
The 17th Annual Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda begins at 11:15 a.m. (ET) tomorrow Saturday, Oct. 4. The race will be broadcast live starting at 11 a.m. on IMSA.com, with live coverage on FOX Sports 2 starting at 3 p.m. FOX Sports will air a highlight show Sunday, Oct. 5. Check local listings for details.
Colin Thompson kept his cool and his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on track in treacherous, rainy conditions to win the season-ending Round 16 and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama championship on Oct. 3 at Road Atlanta.
Thompson, from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, beat Angel Benitez Jr. to the finish by .685 of a second after starting from the pole in the No. 14 Kelly-Moss/Porsche of Bucks County entry. Christina Nielsen finished third in the 45-minute race in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport Porsche.
Series veteran Thompson earned his first championship by eight points, 254-246, over Benitez. Series rookie Michael Lewis, the championship leader entering this final round, spun out of the race at the start and ended up finishing 21st and third in the championship with 241 points.
|Platinum Cup podium finishers (from left): Angel Benitez Jr., Colin Thompson, Christina Nielsen|
"Porsche of Bucks County set me up with a car, and they're the reason I'm here," Thompson said. "And Kelly-Moss Motorsports, we pulled it together. What a race!"
Michael Levitas, from Baltimore, won the Gold Cup and Gold Masters classes in the No. 35 TPC Racing entry. But a third-place finish in Gold and Gold Masters was enough for Jeff Mosing, from Austin, Texas, to claim the Gold Masters championship - the only other title up for grabs today - by one point over Levitas in the No. 01 Topp Racing Porsche.
The pressure hovering over the start of the race was nearly as thick as the cloud cover. Lewis led Thompson by one point and Benitez by seven points after Benitez won Round 15 Thursday.
But the drama reached its pinnacle for the season even before the field crossed the start-finish line to start the 45-minute race.
Thompson tiptoed through puddles in Turn 12 to head down the front straightaway and take the green to start the race from the pole. But Lewis and the No. 20 JDX RacingPorsche of Sloan Urry, who started second and third, respectively, spun in the slick conditions exiting Turn 12.
Lewis and Urry both bounced on the muddy grass next to the track and made separate contact with the wall. Their respective races were over, just yards past the start-finish line on Lap 1.
Benitez, from Valencia, Venezuela, avoided the spinning cars Friday and cars making evasive maneuvers in the grass and found himself in second place in Turn 2 in his No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport Porsche, with Jesse Lazare third in the No. 31 Door Doctor/Moorespeed entry.
Thompson kept the lead in the ensuing restart and pulled away to a 7.313-second lead over Benitez. But that gap evaporated when Masters competitor Dan Weyland spun in Turn 10, triggering a full-course caution with about 18 minutes remaining in the race.
The rain started to subside when the race restarted with 13 minutes remaining, and Thompson pulled away again. Thompson led Benitez by 2.708 seconds with six minutes left.
But Thompson made a small mistake with three minutes remaining, letting Benitez pull to within .395 of a second with less than two minutes left. Benitez pulled to within a car length of Thompson over the last two laps but couldn't find a way past.
Thompson could have surrendered the lead and still won the championship, but he sealed the deal in powerful style with a victory.
The situation on the opening-lap incident was the opposite for Thompson of Round 15 in dry conditions Thursday. Thompson started from the pole but lost the lead to Lewis in Turn 2 on the first lap, eventually finishing third and losing the points lead to Lewis.
"It took us long enough in the season to get on pole, and it paid off," Thompson said. "In Race 1, I had no idea what to do from pole. I hadn't started from pole since Skip Barber and quarter-midget days. It was different and I had to adapt. I left a gap open, and Lewis got by yesterday, and it made me a little bit worried going into today. But I knew as long as I was in front of him it didn't matter.
"But Angel was right there. It was in the rain, and it got pretty tight at the end there when Angel really closed up. But we pulled it together. It was killer."
Kelly-Moss Motorsports/Porsche of Bucks County won the Team Championship, 257-255, over Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport.
|Platinum Masters podium finishers (from left): David Williams, David Calvert-Jones, Dan Weyland|
But the victory didn't come without drama for Calvert-Jones, from Los Angeles. He was involved in the opening-lap melee triggered by the spins of Lewis and Urry, spinning and collecting the No. 15 Wright Motorsports Porsche of 2014 Platinum Masters champion Kasey Kuhlman.
Kuhlman's race ended against the wall, but Calvert-Jones was able to resume with a damaged rear bumper and drive to victory.
"The start was just crazy," Calvert-Jones said. "I got a little of the mess in front of us with Michael and Sloan. I was checked up, which then spun me, and I spun into Kasey, which is really unfortunate.
"I feel so bad for Kasey. P1 in Masters is great for me, but I want to have a good and clean race with him, and it was out of my control. It's unfortunate. He had a great season."
Williams, from Annapolis, Maryland, earned his fourth Platinum Masters podium finish of the season in the No. 37 TPC Racing Porsche.
Weyland, from Denver, finished third in the No. 11 Kelly-Moss/Porsche of Bucks County 911 GT3 Cup car. Series veteran Weyland earned his first career podium finish.
"I haven't been on a podium ever, so this is a great day," Weyland said. "To have my team up here cheering for me - it feels great."
|Gold Cup and Gold Masters podium (from left): Jeff Mosing, Michael Levitas, David Ducote|
Levitas started third in the No. 35 TPC Racing Porsche but passed Mosing and David Ducote for the lead around the halfway point of the 45-minute race. He held off Ducote by 3.119 seconds for his Gold Cup-leading fifth victory of the season.
"What a weekend," Levitas said. "It had so much drama."
The victory also was Levitas' sixth in Gold Masters, which also led the class. But it wasn't enough to clinch the championship, as Mosing hung on to win, 236-235, over Levitas with his third-place finish that came despite an off-track excursion late in the race that ripped the front splitter from his Porsche.
"The car came in really good," Mosing said. "I was just being conservative what I was running, and my driver coach kept pumping me up and said I could go a little bit faster. I ended up getting a little too hot into Turn 10. I took the splitter off the front, and then at that point I didn't have any pressure in the back, so I was just going to finish out clean."
|Yokohama Hard Charger Award winner William Peluchiwski|
Ducote, from Houston, earned his sixth podium finish of the season in both Gold Cup and Gold Masters in the No. 6 Kelly Moss/Porsche of Bucks County entry.
William Peluchiwski, from Chicago, earned the Yokohama Hard Charger Award in the No. 74 Kelly Moss/Porsche of Bucks County Gold Cup car. Peluchiwski started 25th and finished 12th.
Mikhail Goikhberg ended the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda championship season in the same place he started - atop the podium.
Goikhberg, from North Vancouver, British Columbia, won the season-ending Round 14 on Friday, Oct. 3 at Road Atlanta by beating Enzo Potolicchio to the finish by 1.533 seconds in a steady rain.
Series champion Goikhberg earned his ninth victory in 14 starts this season in the No. 10 JDC Motorsports entry. He started the season by winning five of the first six rounds, including both races at the season opener in March at Sebring International Raceway.
"Overall, it's a great way to end the season," Goikhberg said. "I really wanted to win at least one of the races here, and to do it in these conditions is a great feeling, especially since it's the last race of the season."
|Lites 1 podium finishers (from left): Enzo Potolicchio, Mikhail Goikhberg, John Falb|
Potolicchio, from Hollywood, Florida, earned his first podium finish of the season and also was the top Lites 1 Masters' finisher in the No. 4 8Star Motorsports Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine.
Newly crowned Masters champion John Falb, from Las Vegas, finished third overall and was the second Masters' finisher in the No. 77 ONE Motorsports car. It was Falb's second overall podium finish of the season.
Todd Slusher, from Las Vegas, swept both rounds of Lites 2 competition this week with a victory in the No. 62 ONE Motorsports entry.
Goikhberg led from pole in moderate rain at the start of the race. But he spun off track in Turn 10 in the opening minutes under pressure from Madison Snow, handing the lead to Snow in the No. 29 Extreme Speed Motorsports car. Snow, 18, from Lehi, Utah, started sixth but moved up quickly with smooth driving in the wet.
TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Daytona driver Snow expanded his lead to 5.071 seconds with 25 minutes left in the 45-minute race and appeared poised for his first career victory in the series.
Goikhberg went off and on the track again between Turns 10 and 11, allowing Snow to build his lead to 8.160 seconds. But the field bunched during a full-course caution with 15 minutes remaining when two 16-year-old young stars - Thursday's winner Matt McMurry and Snow's younger brother, McKay Snow - made contact and ended up in the gravel while racing hard for position.
Then heartbreak arrived for Madison Snow. His car lost power on the ensuing restart with nine minutes remaining, and the field sped past. Snow's race was over.
Goikhberg took the lead and powered away for victory.
"It was a little bit hectic," Goikhberg said. "We had a big handling issue, so it was a very difficult race in terms of managing the car. I feel bad for Madison (Snow), having some kind of issue there. I would have liked to fight with him."
The race for the final two spots on the podium raged over the closing laps.
Andrew Novich, from Novato, Calif., was running second in the No. 61 Comprent Motor Sports entry after Snow's car stopped. But Falb and Potolicchio passed him for second and third, respectively. And then Potolicchio passed Falb for second with just two minutes remaining.
The runner-up finish by Potolicchio was one of the recoveries of the season. He was involved in a spin with two other cars, including his son, Christian, on a restart less than 10 minutes into the race. But he stayed calm and kept all four wheels on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit for the rest of the race to earn a hard-fought podium position.
"I'm looking forward to next year," Enzo Potolicchio said. "We are getting better and better with the car. We are learning the car very quickly, and I think we have the right setups now for every track."
JDC Motorsports ended the season as the Lites 1 Team Champions.
|Lites 1 Masters podium finishers (from left): John Falb, Enzo Potolicchio, Michal Chlumecky|
The smooth driving in wet conditions and late-race battle between Enzo Potolicchio and Falb resulted in two Lites 1 Masters competitors landing on the overall podium for the only time this season.
Falb punctuated the Masters championship he clinched Thursday with his second overall podium result and ninth Masters podium result of the season.
"We weren't sure if it was going to be wet," Falb said. "A dry line was forming, but it started to come down right at the beginning and it kept raining. But it ended up being a great race."
Michal Chlumecky, from Windsor, Ontario, finished third in Masters in the No. 31 Eurosport Racing entry. Series veteran Chlumecky ran a partial schedule this season, but he stood on the Masters podium after five of his 10 starts.
|Lites 2 podium finishers (from left): Brian Alder, Todd Slusher, Jerome Mee|
Lites 2 pole sitter Slusher earned his third victory of the season and eighth consecutive podium finish since joining the class in mid-July at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
But he didn't grab the lead until the final lap.
2014 Lites 2 champion Brian Alder led the class and was running fifth overall on the last lap when he made a mistake in Turn 7 in the No. 22 BAR1 Motorsports entry. That miscue allowed Slusher to take the lead, which he kept for the final five turns.
"My main competition, No. 22 (Brian Alder), got around me early in the race," Slusher said. "Kudos to him, great driver in the rain. But with one lap to go I found a little opening, and I went for it. It worked out all right. I passed him with one lap to go and got the checkered, so I'm pretty stoked."
Alder, from Marysville, Ohio, ended up second in class. He finished first or second in 13 of his 14 starts this season.
Jerome Mee, from Bellaire, Texas, finished third in the No. 95 Alta Velocita Racing entry for the second consecutive day.
BAR1 Motorsports ended the season as Lites 2 Team Champions.
Performance Tech Motorsports qualified ninth for the Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda after solid, steady laps from David Ostella in the Prototype Challenge class.
Team Principal Brent O'Neill decided to not participate in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship practice before qualifying due to heavy rain, with the team instead focusing on consistency - a key in a 10-hour race. Ostella made laps averaging a time around 1:17, landing him slightly more than one second behind pole sitter Jack Hawksworth.
"I think this just goes with what we've been doing by focusing on race setup," Ostella said. "It showed in qualifying. I would have like to have got a quicker lap in - I think some of that is from lack of track time. But at the end of the day, it's a 10-hour race so qualifying doesn't really matter, so I'm not worried."
Ostella and co-drivers Jerome Mee and James French received less time in the car before qualifying than hoped. Heavy rain earlier in the day led to the final practice session starting with a red flag. The session eventually was declared green, but O'Neill did not want to risk his drivers in the downpour.
"We have a good car out there," O'Neill said. "Would have liked the extra time in practice. It's a 10-hour race tomorrow, so you can qualify last and still end up on podium -- it makes no difference. We just want to come out and have a good car for the race tomorrow, and I think we do, so we'll see where we go tomorrow."
The 17th Annual Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda begins at 11:15 a.m. (ET) tomorrow Saturday, Oct. 4 at Road Atlanta. The race will be broadcast live starting at 11 a.m. on IMSA.com, with live coverage also at 3 p.m on FOX Sports 2. FOX Sports will televise a highlight show Sunday, Oct. 5. check local listings for details.
Doug Kalitta raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led their categories at the fourth of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Kalitta posted a 3.747-second pass at 326.95 mph in his Mac Tools dragster to pace the field. Kalitta, the winningest Top Fuel driver to have never won a championship, is looking for his seventh top qualifying position of the season and second at the facility.
“This is definitely the time to get going if we are going to make something happen,” said Kalitta who is currently fifth in points. “The conditions are really good here. I’m really proud of my guys getting low qualifier after day one. It was a good run. It left (the starting line) and rattled and didn’t seem like it was going to make it, then it kind of just hooked up and went. That was a big relief; so far so good. ”
Brittany Force was second after a 3.765 at 322.81 in her Castrol EDGE dragster, achieved during the same pass as Kalitta. Points leader and seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher piloted his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.766 at 324.67, good enough for third on the leaderboard.
Reigning Top Fuel world champ Shawn Langdon was fourth with a 3.773 at 325.77 in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster while Spencer Massey’s Odyssey Batteries dragster was fifth with a 3.774 at 323.19.
In Funny Car, Pedregon claimed the top spot with his 3.991 at 319.52 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, the only Funny Car to run in the three second range during the day. Pedregon, a two-time world champ and a two-time winner at the facility, is two sessions away from securing his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and third career in Reading.
“We were hoping for a low 4.0,” said Pedregon, who sits 10th in points. “The three second was a bonus. I was a little surprised [that it held]. There are some great cars. These cars are very touchy and finicky and I did feel like there would be two or three three-second runs up there, but hey we blew the motor up so we definitely go everything out of it.”
Recent Charlotte winner Matt Hagan, who is third in points, qualified second in his Rocky Boots Dodge Charger following a 4.008 at 321.50. Reigning world champ and point leader John Force is third with a 4.046 at 318.24 in the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. Del Worsham drove the DHL Toyota Camry to the No. 4 spot by means of a 4.046 at 316.15 while Robert Hight was fifth in the Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.053 at 318.17.
Courtney Force, who won the two most recent events and is second in Funny Car points, ran a 4.108 at 305.29, good enough for 12th in her Traxxas Ford Mustang.
Enders-Stevens is going for her fifth No. 1 of the season in Pro Stock following her performance of 6.513 at 211.76 in the Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. Enders-Stevens, who was second-quickest during the first session, has been the top qualifier during two of the first three Countdown events.
“All those little bonus points are definitely helpful at this crucial point in the Countdown,” said Enders-Stevens, who sits third in points. “I’m really excited and proud of my team. We had a good baseline run the first session and stay No. 2. I’m really proud of my crew chiefs, they did a really great job.
Shane Gray was the quickest in the first session of Pro Stock and currently sits second with a 6.521 at 211.43 in the Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray, who won the regular season ending event at Indianapolis and finished runner-up to Gray Motorsports teammate Dave Connolly in Dallas, is fourth in points.
Jonathan Gray, who recently claimed his first career Pro Stock win at the Carolina Nationals, ran a 6.541 at 210.97 to put him in the provisional No. 3 spot in the Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro. Reigning world champ Jeg Coughlin is fourth following a 6.542 at 2110.20 in the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart and Chicago winner Vincent Nobile is qualified fifth in the Mountain View Tire Camaro with a 6.554 at 211.36.
Savoie, who claimed his first Pro Stock Motorcycle win at St. Louis last weekend, sits in the top spot after a 6.860 at 194.66 on his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki.
“We went out first session and we really should have run quicker,” Savoie said. “The bike wouldn’t go in high gear. I had to hit the button three times and it finally went in. Second pass, the conditions were a lot worse than they were the first pass. To go .86 means we actually went in the right direction.”
Points leader Andrew Hines was second on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, running a 6.870 at 194.02. Hines’ Harley-Davidson teammate Eddie Krawiec was third with a 6.877 at 190.40. Hector Arana Jr.’s Lucas Oil Buell was fourth following a 6.888 at 195.76 and Chaz Kennedy was fifth with a 6.899 at 190.78 on the Star Racing Buell.
Qualifying for the NHRA Nationals continues Saturday with sessions at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Eliminations are schedule for 11 a.m. Sunday.
IHRA's Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series will wrap up the 2014 season with some intriguing battles and some great racing entering the final event of the year at the Summit Racing Equipment World Finals October 10-11 at Memphis International Raceway.
Three of IHRA's five Nitro Jam classes have already sewn up their championships with Jason Rupert (AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car), Ron Maroney (Nitro Altered) and Elaine Larsen (Jet Dragster) claiming the championship Ironman in their respective categories. What is left is a four-man race for the Nitro Harley championship and the finale to a spectacular season in Mountain Motor Pro Stock, combined with the championships for IHRA's 10 sportsman classes, during IHRA's biggest race weekend of the year.
"This season we have seen a lot of great performances in a lot of classes. We have seen records reset in Nitro Funny Car, Pro Stock and Nitro Harley and some new stars emerge in each of our classes," said Scott Gardner, President of IHRA Motorsports. "In Memphis, we will culminate an amazing season with our first champions under the return-to-racing format. We will also see some of our biggest and best fields of the season during the Summit World Finals, which should make for one of our most exciting events of the year."
AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car will take center stage at the Summit World Finals with one of IHRA's best lineups to date. Current champion Jason Rupert will bring the "Black Plague" 1969 Camaro into the event having won four races this season as he goes head-to-head against three-time defending IHRA champion Peter Gallen in the "Poverty Stricken" Vega, multi-time DRO champion Shawn Bowen in the "Violator" Pontiac and 2014 race winners Mike McIntire Jr. in "McAttack" and John Hale in the "Mike Burkhart" tribute Camaro. Hale, Bowen and McIntire have one win apiece.
Others in competition in Memphis include Bruce Litton in "U.S. Male," Mark Sanders in "Mr. Explosive," Tim Boychuk in "Forever Forward," Ronnie Young in "Blue Max," Mike Smith in "Hard Guys," Jake Crimmins in "Crazy Jake" and Greg Jacobsmeyer in "All-Star Dodge."
While Rupert has already sealed up the championship, there is still plenty of positioning to be obtained. Two points races will take place during the Summit World Finals weekend, with the drivers remaining in competition from a rainout at Pittsburgh Raceway Park earlier this year completing their race on Friday, followed by eliminations for the World Finals on Saturday.
IHRA's popular Nitro Harley class will also feature two points-paying races in Memphis. The riders of the nitro-powered motorcycle class will make up the Pittsburgh rainout from earlier this season on Friday, followed by regular eliminations on Saturday.
Entering the event, four drivers are eligible for the Nitro Harley championship with Louisiana native Randal Andras bringing a six-point lead over Canadian Mike Scott into the event. Mark Cox, atop the Bojangles-backed bike, sits third 89 points back of the leader and IHRA veteran and North Carolina native Jay Turner is fourth.
Pro Stock will feature IHRA's only other un-claimed championship, as Oklahoma native Cary Goforth brings a healthy 99-point margin over John DeFlorian into the final event of the season. Goforth, in the Dean's Casing Service 2014 Chevrolet Camaro, has amassed three wins in 2014, while DeFlorian, in the AMSOIL-sponsored Black Diamond Motorsports Camaro, has one win and reset to IHRA Pro Stock elapsed time and mile per hour records earlier this year.
The pair will be joined in Memphis by Goforth Racing teammates Todd Hoerner and Dean Goforth, Black Diamond Racing's Kevin Bealko, Scott Hintz, Brad Waddle, Matt Bertsch, John Konigshofer and more.
Finally, both Nitro Altered and Jet Dragster will enter the World Finals with their championships already decided.
Ron Maroney, in the "Blind Faith" Altered, wrapped up the championship in the nostalgia class off the strength of three wins in 2014. He will be joined in Memphis by Kyle Hough in "Nanook," Mike Hilsabeck in "Arizona Thunder," Don Blackshear in "Bullet Bob," Troy Martin in "Missing Pieces" and Ron Hope in "Rat Trap."
In addition to incredible, side-by-side competition that this class is known for, for the third time this season Ron Hope will bring back the legendary fire burnout during Saturday night's Nitro Jam final round. Hope will light up the sky with a spectacular fire show prior to his run.
Finally in Jet Dragster, Larsen Motorsports' lead driver Elaine Larsen enters the final race of the season having already clinched the championship in the Miller Welding jet-powered dragster. She will be joined by popular racers Marisha Falk, Allison West and Kat Moller.
The IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals will take place October 10-11 at Memphis International Raceway. For more information on the IHRA season finale, visit www.nitrojam.com or call Memphis International Raceway at (901) 969-7223.
Rain was the name of the game Friday morning during the final Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered By Mazda race of the 2014 season. But wet conditions did not stop Jerome Mee of Alta Velocita Racing from picking up a third-place finish.
"The off-and-on rain and conditions were horrible," Mee said. "The car felt better today, and I was just happy with keeping the car intact and coming home clean."
Round 13 of Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda competition was cut short for Mee on Thursday, Oct. 2 after the No. 95 AVR machine encountered electrical problems on the opening lap.
After two sprint races through Road Atlanta's famed 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit, Mee secured third place in the Lites 2 season championship.
"It's been a great experience for me to participate in five of the seven Prototype Lites races this year," Mee said. "Some races were tougher than others. The win at Watkins Glen was great, and Brian (Alder) and I had a great race in Canada. It was a good learning experience, and it's a great platform to advance as a driver. There's a lot of great people in this series, and it's been fun."
Alta Velocita Racing's Mee will switch gears Saturday, as he prepares to race in his first career TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event, the famed Petit Le Mans.
Mee will co-drive the No. 38 Dash Neighborhood/Phillips 66 Prototype Challenge (PC) car for Performance Tech Motorsports. He experienced valued seat time through three TUDOR United SportsCar Championship practices Thursday.
"Practicing with Performance Tech has gone very well," Mee said. "I'm being coached well, and they are having me go out on bad tires so it replicates what race conditions will be like. It's busy out there, but at the same time you have to be appropriately assertive to get around traffic as efficiently as possible.
"I'm spending time finding the right places to pass, knowing where to draft, how to brake in certain turns and get around. Overall I feel very comfortable and confident in the car."
The 10-hour endurance event is scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m. (ET). The race will be broadcast live on IMSA.com and at 3 p.m. on FOX Sports 2. FOX Sports will broadcast a highlight show Sunday, Oct. 5. Check local listings.