by Tim Collier
As the sun was setting on Daytona International Speedway, the Champion Motorsports GT3 Sprint Series was wrapping up a tremendous season of racing with one last race to decide the season champions.
Coming into the race, Michael Parker held a 11-point margin over Miguel Colon, with Chris Brunnemer not out of the hunt for the Pro title. In the AM class it was Steven Yanni with consistent finishes throughout the season holding off Nick Kuhn who was only 16 points back. With the race length of 75 minutes, it was important to not only finish but finish well.
As is always the case at Daytona whether it’s a stock car or sports cars, the margins were slim in qualifying with Victor Tanaka taking the pole position by 0.171 seconds over AM pole sitter Scott Kessel with Parker and Richard McClure also in the 1:43’s in the second row.
As the sun sets, the field takes the green flag one last time for Season One
Heading into Turn 1 at the start is always tight, and there was a lot of cooperation as the field worked thru 1 and 2 and into the horseshoe. The field started to spread out and at the end of the first lap it was Tanaka holding onto the lead for the first two laps, but behind him the battle for second was won by Parker and a charging Colon moved up from fifth. On Lap 3, Tanaka was off pace with damage which moved Parker and Colon into the 1- and 2-spots, which they would hold until 17 when Kessel would take over at the front and begin to pull away.
With Kessel leading the AM class from the very front, Edward Nelson moved up from the 13th overall starting spot and hold the AM class second place position with a gap back to third, a position that changed hands but by Lap 7 was help by Daniel Saleem Howard. The racing was tight, and as the window opened for pit stops it was now down to who could make the fewest mistakes and make their move into the endgame.
Up front, Tanaka pitted on the edge of the pit window repairing early damage, but it wasn’t long until everyone else started taking turns hitting pit road for fuel. The cycles covered many laps as some waited until the tank was nearly empty (yes, we’re looking at you JT Tami) and when it all shook out, Colon, who had taken the lead over Parker on lap 25, was back out front never relinquishing the lead during the pit stops. Parker was still close enough to give Colon concern, but as they crossed the line it would Colon winning his fourth race of the season. However, it was not enough as Parker crossed the line in second place and captured the season Pro Championship by 8 points! Parker’s average finish of 3.3 on the season was the difference in the end, even with Colon’s four wins and 6 podiums. In third place in the Pro class was Marc Nistor, who started in 8th place and ran in the Top 7 almost the entire race.
Scott Kessel flies past the Ferris wheel to his first win of the season
Finishing in third place overall would be the AM Class winner, Kessel, who ran up front all night. Behind him in the AM class second place and fourth place overall was Nelson, having another great run, his fourth class podium of the season. Shane Norton, who started in 20th place overall had a very consistent run of his own and moved up to 12th place overall and grabbed the third AM class podium spot. Yanni had a rough night, having to battle back thru the field and in the end would finish in 26th place overall, but combined with Kuhn’s 17th place overall finish, it was enough to keep the top spot in the points and claim the AM Class Championship for Season One.
With his fourth win of the season, Miguel Colon is the favorite heading into Season Two
With Season One (almost) officially in the books, it’s time to reflect on the success of this season. Over 9 races, we had 4 different winners in Pro and 7 in AM! The combined field of cars averaged nearly 44 drivers starting each race, with the AM class averaging just over 25 starters per race!
In the end, the Championships were close and with Season Two not far away, it’s time for everyone to take a deep breath, maybe hit the beach or the slopes for some rest, and then get ready as the pre-season starts on March 15th at Okayama!
Remember, you only need to register if you have not raced with us this season. If you’re not a member and want to join us, head to the GT3 Sprint Series page and follow the registration instructions!
Also, a big round of applause and a chorus of thank you to both David Anderson and Ryan Thompson who handled steaming of our races this season, with commentary that was both entertaining as well as helping everyone get to know your fellow racers a little better along the way. In case you missed it, here is a video of the race broadcast:
Now let’s head off into the sunset, and towards Season Two!!