BRASELTON, Ga. – official release — Ted Rossino Jr. photo — Billy Johnson wanted no part of the Grand Sport (GS) championship battle taking place behind him Friday at Road Atlanta, pulling away on a pair of late-race restarts to win the final Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race of the season in the No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports/Miller Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R started by Ian James.
It was Ford’s first victory in the 2014 Continental Tire Challenge season.
The race had a pair of cautions in the closing minutes that set up a head-to-head battle for the GS title. Robin Liddell captured the advantage when he took the lead on a restart with 30 minutes remaining, driving the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R started by Andrew Davis. Meanwhile, John Edwards was running fourth in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 started by Trent Hindman, who entered the race with a five-point lead over the Camaro Z/28.R duo.
Liddell’s advantage was short lived. Johnson needed one lap to regain the lead from Liddell, while Edwards managed to hold on to fourth despite steady pressure. The moment of truth came with two laps remaining. Mark Wilkins, driving the No. 8 Mantella Autosport Aston Martin Vantage, spun after contact while attempting to pass Liddell for second. Edwards managed to get by both cars in the confusion, taking over second.
At the checkered flag, Johnson won by 2.186 seconds, while Liddell fell to 10th. In the final standings, Hindman won the championship by 15 points over Edwards (328-313), with Liddell and Davis taking third with 312 points after winning a season-high three races in the debut of the Camaro Z/28.R.
“Both Fall-Line and Stevenson asked us before the race to be mindful of the championship,” Johnson said. “Ian and I felt the best way to be mindful was to finish ahead of both of them, and it was great to be in that position to get a win and not affect the championship. This win has been a long time coming, and it’s nice to finish the season like this.”
Hindman joined the series with five races remaining in the 2013 season. He scored his second victory of the season in the most recent race at Circuit of The Americas, winning on the eve of his 19th birthday.
“I think the last 55 minutes of this race were absolutely the longest of my life,” Hindman said. “It was an incredible race. The championship came down to two minutes to go, and the emotion was up and down, up and down. It was like our whole season was packed into one race, and I don’t think the fans could have asked for a better race.”
Matt Plumb finished third in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 911 started by Brandon Davis. Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell in the No. 15 Multimatic Ford Mustang Boss 302R and Tim Bell and Bryan Ortiz in the No. 28 Tim Bell Racing Nissan 370Z rounded out the top-five.
Street Tuner (ST) followed a similar storyline. Kyle Gimple and Ryan Eversley led all but a handful of laps in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si for their second consecutive victory – and third of the season – while Eric Foss and Wayne Nonnamaker battled for the title behind them.
While Eversley beat Andrew Carbonell to the stripe to win by .403 seconds, Foss finished sixth – one position behind Nonnamaker – to take the championship. Foss finished the year with 317 points, eight more than Nonnamaker and 11 more than his co-driver Jeff Mosing.
Knowing he could not finish on fuel if the race stayed green, Foss pitted during the second caution period just over 75 minutes into the race and fell back to 14th in the No. 56 Murillo Racing/Mosing Motorcars Porsche Cayman started by Mosing. That gave the championship advantage to Nonnamaker, driving the No. 42 Team Sahlen Porsche Cayman started by Michael Valiante. The advantage swung back with 90 minutes remaining when Nonnamaker lost second and Foss took seventh, putting him back in the points lead.
“This is something I couldn’t even dream of,” Foss said. “I know we look like one of the smaller teams in the series, but the engineering behind our car is quite special. I started coaching Jeff in 2008 and we have a special relationship – like brothers – so this is really special for us. We made that stop so if we needed to push at the end, we’d have a faster pace when everyone else would be in fuel-save mode.”
Carbonell was looking to take his third victory of the season, but finished second in the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 started by Randy Pobst. He was followed by Tom Dyer and Corey Fergus in the No. 88 Rebel Rock Racing Porsche Cayman, and defending ST champions Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra in the No. 23 Burton Racing BMW 128i.
Jason Rabe led five laps in the No. 31 Bodymotion Porsche Cayman started by Cody Ellsworth when the winning Honda pitted, but Eversley took back the lead on Lap 37 and stayed there the final 90 minutes.