Jeff Westphal called it a Hail Mary pass. Somehow, it worked.
Westphal passed Trent Hindman with 50 seconds left Saturday to take Grand Sport class honors and overall victory in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race in the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Westphal’s No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 GT4 was in fourth place with 25 minutes left in the two-hour race, but he passed two contenders and then set his sights on Hindman’s No. 7 Archangel Motorsports Volt Lighting Aston Martin Vantage GT4 shared with Alan Brynjolfsson.
As the two cars exited Turn 11 with the seconds ticking away and the white flag waving to signal the impending final lap, Westphal pulled alongside Hindman on the frontstretch and reached Turn 1 in the lead. Hindman briefly battled back, getting the nose of his Aston Martin inside the left-rear quarter panel of Westphal’s Audi. But Westphal managed to pull away from there to win by just 0.757s, sharing the victory with co-driver Tyler McQuarrie.
“It was just enough space in Turn 11 to get my nose underneath him,” Westphal said. “Typically, the Aston had so much power that it would pull away at the onset of every exit, but he got sideways, so I side-drafted him down the front straight.
“To be honest, it was a Hail Mary. He made a mistake in the right spot, and I took advantage of it.”
The win allowed Westphal and McQuarrie, the reigning GS champions, to trim five points off the lead of No. 60 KohR Motorsports drivers Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli. The No. 60 finished third on Saturday and takes a 15-point lead into the season finale.
In the Touring Car class, Gabby Chaves passed Jon Morley in the waning minutes and went on to win his class and finish 15th overall, taking over the lead in the TCR driver standings with teammate Ryan Norman.
Norman avoided the worst of a collision involving three of Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Hyundai Veloster N TCR entries on the opening lap. Norman then got the team’s No. 33 car close to the front before giving way to Chaves, who passed Morley in the track’s famed Corkscrew turn and pulled away to victory by 9.333 seconds.
“I had a close battle for a couple of corners and was able to make the overtake,” Chaves said. “I was successfully able to defend for about a half a lap. After that, I knew we had the better pace and better tires at that point. We were able to manage the pace and drive away a little bit.”
Following the No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR that Morley shared with Gavin Ernstone to the finish line in second was the No. 29 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai driven by Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman.
The first-lap melee included the No. 98 BHA Hyundai driven by Mason Filippi and the No. 21 BHA Hyundai with Harry Gottsacker at the wheel. Filippi and co-driver Michael Lewis entered the race leading the standings but finished eighth in class.
Chaves and Norman unofficially lead Filippi and Lewis by four points, with Ernstone and Morley 12 back and Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins 14 behind.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge season finale – the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 – is set for Nov. 13 during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts weekend.