Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Finale Recap
by GRAND-AM Road Racing
Paul Dalla Lana and Nic Jonsson both survived late-race challenges to capture their respective championships in the final round of the 2012 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Dalla Lana saw co-driver Boris Said drop to 10th in the final half hour of the EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank, while challenger Billy Johnson took the lead in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302R started by Jack Roush Jr.
Matt Plumb passed Johnson with three laps remaining and held on to win by .692 seconds to score the third victory of the season in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing BMW M3 co-driven by Nick Longhi. Said rallied to finish sixth in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, giving Dalla Lana the Grand Sport title in his third year of competition.
The Street Tuner battle was even closer. Sarah Cattaneo entered the race looking to become GRAND-AM's first female champion, and won the pole and led the opening 15 laps before turning the No. 198 Cruise America/Thor Motorcoach Mini Cooper S over to Owen Trinkler. Nic Jonsson entered the race with a three-point lead over Ryan Eversley, with Cattaneo and Trinkler nine points back.
With 20 minutes remaining, race-leading Trinkler was in a position to tie fifth-place Jonsson for the title, with Eversley a few points back. Within a matter of moments, though, the complexion of the championship changed. Eversley was involved in a multi-car incident driving the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si started by Craig Stanton, and fell out of the top 10 and dropped out of championship contention. Then Trinkler suddenly pulled over when he lost the clutch in his race-leading Mini Cooper, leaving the championship wide open for Jonsson.
With the pressure off, Jonsson finished seventh in the No. 10 Kia of America/Infinity Audio Kia Forte Koup, giving him the title by six points over Eversley, who finished 10th. Jonsson began his Kinetic Motorsports program with Kia 26 months ago, and it was a year of firsts for Kia - first podium (second at Daytona), first victory (Barber, backed up at Road America), and first championship.
The ST race featured a first-time winner, with brothers Mark and Mathew Pombo combined to cap their first professional season with a victory in the I-Moto No. 31 Mazda/Cybernation Mazda Speed 3. Mark Pombo lead twice for 30 laps - including the final 11 - to win over Tim Bell and BJ Zacharias in Doran Racing's No. 14 Office Depot/Intersil BMW 128i.
In addition to the drivers' titles, Turner Motorsport and Kinetic Motorsports captured the team championships. BMW captured the Grand Sport manufacturer's championship over Ford, with Mazda winning the ST title over Volkswagen.