Haacker (Platinum), Shahi (Platinum Masters), Woods (Silver), and Goldman (Silver Masters) also take victories in Pirelli GT3 Cup USA Trophy Race 9 at Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif. (3 July 2016) – Dino Crescentini of Crescentini Racing had clear sailing from pole position today until a late-race caution brought Russell Ward within striking distance. As the green flag fell with two laps remaining, Crescentini managed to hold off Ward and take the victory in Race 9 of the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA at Sonoma Raceway.
Crescentini, who earned his first series victory last month in the first of two races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, lost the chance to earn the double when a late-race incident with a back marker cost him the lead. Crescentini kept out of trouble throughout the 35-minute event on Saturday, leaving the incidents to his competitors.
Bryce Ward, Russell Ward’s father and Kelly-Moss Road and Race teammate, started alongside Crescentini but was passed by his son, who started third, on lap 6. Contact between the elder Ward and Competition Motorsports Michael Zuieback coming out of Turn 12 put Ward out of the race and damaged Zuieback’s Porsche GT3 Cup Car. The beneficiary of the incident was Ward’s Kelly-Moss teammate Patrick Laughlin, who held third until late-race contact between he and Platinum Class leader Alex Kirby put him back to fifth, with Competition Motorsports’ Mike McAlister moving up to the final podium position.
“My team went overboard to set the car up the way they do, so I owe them a lot,” said Crescentini. “It was fun at the end with Russell Ward! I thought the race would end under yellow and then the pace car lights went out and I realized we had to keep going! I thought Russell would take it away and deservedly so, since he was more on top of his game toward the end of the race and had really managed his tires. But I managed to bring it home and that was great. When there’s no one in front of you and the car feels good, you’re just clicking off laps. I was having a great time – I love to race and I love to drive the car when it feels so good.”
Alex Kirby, making his race debut in Porsche GT3 Cup competition for Aasco Motorsports, started on the Platinum Class pole and had begun to move into the lead pack late in the race when contact with Laughlin coming out of Turn 12 sent him back to third position. Mother’s/TruSpeed pilot Tom Haacker was there to take advantage, earning his sixth Platinum Class victory and finishing third overall, but with Annand Sharma from Cameron Racing charging hard at the finish.
“There was a lot of attrition out there,” said Haacker. “Alex took off and was running really well but I was able to get around him when he spun. A couple of the Diamond class guys spun in front of me as well, so I finished third overall. Annand was really coming at the end but he dropped a couple of wheels off at the Carousel and that gave me just enough breathing room on that last half lap. The car was not as good as it could have been, but sometimes, you just get lucky.”
It was an all-TruSpeed Autosport Platinum Masters podium, with Ray Shahi earning his fourth class victory in his Sterling Collision/Newport Porsche entry. But this win required an early pass of pole sitter Larry Schnur, and keeping an eye on teammate Jim Slavik near the end of the race.
“Larry had the pole, but I was a little more aggressive than him at the start and passed him,” said Shahi. “I drove a little defensively and made sure he stayed behind me. He’s a good driver and I wanted to make sure I stayed ahead of him! I wasn’t happy to see a yellow, but I made sure to keep a good gap to him. But seeing as it’s my first time at Sonoma, it feels really good to come home with the win! This is turning into one of my favorite tracks – I was apprehensive about coming here but now I love it. It keeps you on your toes, there’s no place to relax. You have to be on it every single lap or you’re going to pay the penalty.”
Kevin Woods with BR Racing, based 90 minutes away in Los Gatos, held the Silver class lead from wire-to-wire, but it was not as easy as it sounds. Woods had his mirrors full of NOLA Motorsports’ Keith Jensen, who had passed Competition Motorsports’ Sean McAlister early in the race. Woods was happy to take the victory on his hometown track, having raced here numerous times
“It was fairly unadventurous, especially compare to my recent races!” said Woods. “We had pole and I earned my first fastest lap of the season. The second yellow made me nervous, but I was able to hold Keith off for those last two laps. I was able to avoid the chaos in front of me and I was happy to take the win. This is my home track, I’ve raced here at least 15 to 20 times, plus test days. That knowledge really helps, since this is a very complicated and technical track.”
In Silver Masters, Competition Motorsports’ Steve Goldman made it look easy again today, taking his seventh class victory, with teammate Chris Vivolo second and Flying Lizard Thomas Mayerhoffer third.
“I started fourth in the Silver Class and on pole in the Masters division,” said Goldman, “and the car was good. It was a pretty clean race for me, in among the Silver Class cars – there were some incidents and some yellows, but I stayed away from them. It was fun!”
The Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA will return to the Sonoma Raceway for Race 2 on Sunday with the green flag set to fly at 2:55 p.m. PST. Live timing and scoring can be followed at: https://racehero.io/events/sfr-double-reg-7-8-spec-miata-festival.