Most of the leaders in Saturday’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 were on a fuel-saving pit strategy that forced to them to run the second half of the race without a stop. Until the final lap, all was good. With just two corners to go, Rennsport One’s Dillon Machavern ran out of fuel. That allowed TeamTGM’s Hugh Plumb to sneak past and take the team’s second consecutive victory. The team also expanded their points lead with just one race remaining.
Plumb gave credit for the victory to general manager (and former driver) Joe Varde.
“When Joe Varde tells you to do something, you do it because it is probably the right thing to do,” Plumb said after the race. “And it was today. I just can’t say enough about Ted Giovanis and the group that he has put together. Owen [Trinkler] did a fantastic job. It was tough at the end to save fuel, and not pass anyone and then with two laps to go I got the—‘ok go get ‘em!’ Everyone started to run out of fuel and the 15 car was catching me but then at the end, I was like, ‘I think we just won!”
Provisionally, the victory leaves Plumb and Trinkler with a 31-point lead with only one race remaining Realistically, they’ll likely only have to achieve minimum drive-time (45 minutes) in the FOX Factory 120 at Road Atlanta to win the championship.
Motorsport in Action’s Jesse Lazare led from the pole in his McLaren 570S GT4 early on while Rennsport One’s Spencer Pumpelly gave chase. On Lap 23, trouble struck. The left rear wheel nut worked itself loose and flew off the car. As a result, Lazare’s left rear wheel left the car. While Lazare’s McLaren ended up in the gravel, the wheel hit the tire barrier and cleared a catchfence. It came to rest at the bottom of a hill in front of a grandstand. No one was injured, but Lazare’s chances at winning were completely kaput. The failure put him out of the race, forcing Lazare and teammate Corey Fergus to settle for a 34th-place finish.
The race’s sole full course caution brought everyone to pit road, but not until the 45-minute mark was reached. That meant that it was the fourth lap under yellow before the stops were made. A number of teams, including the Pumpelly/Machavern No. 28 and the Plumb/Trinkler No. 46 made a second stop with one to go before green. That stop forced the frontrunners to stretch their fuel for the final 66 minutes of the race. It would require a significant amount of fuel conservation to make it to the finish.
In the final 20 minutes, a Smokey and the Bandit-esque situation came into play. Machavern lapped the Porsche of teammate Jan Heylen. Heylen then placed himself directly in front of Wimward Racing/HTP Motorsport’s Christian Hohenadel and ran blocker, much like the Bandit (Burt Reynolds) did for the Snowman (Jerry Reed) in the 1977 film. Had the aforementioned fuel mileage issue not occurred, this likely would have been the story of the race since Heylen prevented Hohenadel from making a run at Machavern.
The fuel mileage strategy really jumbled the order at the finish. Plumb and Trinkler won by one-third of a second over Multimatic Motorsports’ Scott Maxwell and Ty Majeski. Maxwell and Majeski were on an alternate strategy and had 10 extra laps of fuel at the finish. CarBahn Motorsports’ Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal were third, followed by VOLT Racing’s Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman. Murillo Racing’s Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing were fifth.
Machavern was able to coast across the line to finish seventh. Hohenadel, who was second at the start of the final lap, also ran out of fuel. He was unable to make it back to the start-finish line. As a result, he and teammate Bryce Ward were not classified as finishers. The No. 57 Mercedes was still scored in 17th.
In TCR, the proceedings were dominated by Compass Racing’s Britt Casey Jr. and Tom Long. Tom O’Gorman started from the pole in his eEuroparts.com Racing Audi, but Casey was able to get the lead away from O’Gorman on Lap 4.
Pit strategy allowed the No. 12 to regain the lead early on, but Casey and Long were able to regain the advantage. Over the final 30 minutes of the race, Long was able to pull away from the rest of the TCR field to claim their fourth win of the year.
Casey and Long finished 11 seconds ahead of JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson. O’Gorman and Kenton Koch were third, followed by Compass Racing’s No. 75 Audi for Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing. Kuno Wittmer and Rodrigo Sales were fifth.
The victory allowed Casey and Long to regain the TCR points lead with only Atlanta to go. The advantage is five points over Sales and Wittmer.
In Street Tuner, the race came down to a duel between MINI JCW Team’s Mat Pombo and BimmerWorld Racing’s Devin Jones. With 18 minutes to go, Jones was able to get past Pombo for the lead. From there, he opened up a small gap. Any chance at a MINI victory ended when Pombo was spun out with two laps to go by Maxwell when he was lapping him. Jones was able to hold on to take the victory, the fourth of the year for Jones and Nick Galante.
The BMW 328i finished 9.221 seconds ahead of Pombo and Mike LaMarra. Bodymotion Racing’s Max Faulkner and Jason Rabe finished third. The victory gives Jones and Galante a 16-point lead entering the final race. With the low car counts, just reaching the minimum drive-time will give the championship to BimmerWorld Racing.
The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season comes to an end on Oct. 12 with the FOX Factory 120 at Road Atlanta. Frontstretch will be on-site to bring you all the action from the 2.54-mile undulating road course.
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