The final points-paying race of the 2018 Challenge Cup Series was held at the fabled Watkins Glen International race course. This historic and challenging track consists of a unique mixture of elevations and curves that has tested some of the world’s best drivers for over fifty years. The twenty-one Series drivers that registered for the event were also treated to a weekend of perfect racing weather – warm temperatures and no rain.
Going into this final race, both the Masters’ and the Regular Division championships were still mathematically up for grabs. Dean Curtis nearly had the senior championship in his pocket, with Sherman Engler needing to take the pole, fastest lap and race win to beat him – and Dean would have to not come up with a single point! However, when Matt Clark, who held the second spot in the Regular Division, decided not to compete at the Glen, Canada’s Barrett Kingsborough had that championship wrapped up.
On Saturday, the Challenge Cup competitors took advantage of the SCCA’s morning qualifying and Group 1 race sessions to acclimate themselves to the track and get some seat time. Also, grid positions for the dedicated Challenge Cup race were set using the morning qualifying times.
Trevor Carmody took the pole and as a result effectively handed Dean Curtis the Master’s Championship. Curtis was not resting on his laurels however, as he nailed second fastest lap and lined up next to Carmody on the front row. While the Cup race was scheduled to take place at 4:30 in the afternoon, various on-track incidents during the day within the crowded SCCA race groups pushed back the start to nearly 6 pm.
The starter dropped the green flag and the final race of the 2018 Challenge Cup Series was underway. The field had a clean getaway and funneled into the Ninety without incident. After a few laps a lead group of three cars consisting of Engler, Curtis, and Trevor Carmody, held a slight lead over the field. These three battled back and forth among themselves for the lead, but in the process Curt Bennett was able to overtake them and get up front. Engler and Carmody worked together at this point and managed to pass Bennett around lap eight. Behind this lead pack there was also another tight knot of cars consisting of Greg Davis, Jeff Filipkowski, Alex Gee, Steve Kwasnik and Dennis Potocki that were also involved in a tight race that would go almost to the finish line.
Up at the front however, Engler, Bennett, Carmody and Curtis were soon joined by others and by the ninth lap there was an eight-car train which now included Ed Womer Tim Sager, Barrett Kingsborough and Mark Farnham. All these drivers were involved in a furious battle for the lead and the top position was changing constantly. Also Ray Carmody, who had started last after having trouble during the morning qualifying, had caught up to the rear of this group.
When the white flag flew it was still anyone’s race. At the entrance to the Bus Stop the lead drivers of the group tried to go in four, then three-wide at the entrance. In a testament to luck and skill however, all somehow made it through intact. Shortly after this Farnham, Sager and Womer were involved in contact at the toe of the boot and were then effectively out of the picture. In one of the more intense Challenge Cup race finishes, Trevor dove to the inside of Curtis on the final turn, slowing his momentum. Kingsborough tried Carmody on the inside, but was also slowed by this approach. Trevor’s father Ray took full advantage of the situation and snuck between both drivers. At the finish it was Trevor Carmody, Ray Carmody, Barrett Kingsborough, Dean Curtis and Sherman Engler in a very tight group.
On the cool-down lap new Series Champions Curtis and Kingsborough took to the wide apron at turn ten and joyously performed celebratory donuts for the crowd. All the cars then pulled into the Glen Victory Circle for an end-of-season photo shoot. After congratulatory handshakes among the drivers, the group pictures were taken. The drivers then piled back into their cars and roared off to their paddock spots to get ready for the year end banquet at the Glen Media Tower.
With the sumptuous buffet and open bar, the crowd of racers, crew and family relaxed and swapped racing stories, past and present. Some also wandered out on the expansive second floor deck to take in the beautiful view and watch the sunset. After dinner was served Master of Ceremonies Rob Murray got the program rolling and kept things moving along smoothly throughout the rest of the evening.
The plentiful product giveaways and monetary prizes was the first order of business. Tim Sager’s car number was drawn and he received the top four-hundred dollar award. After all the prizes were handed out the program shifted over to the main event -the awarding of the day’s and season championship trophies.
Saturday’s race trophies were handed out first. In the Regular Division Trevor Carmody took the top spot, Barrett Kingsborough second and Garrett Villano placed third. In Master’s Ray Carmody took home the first-place silver after his inspired drive from last place on the grid. He also deservedly garnered the Hard Charger award for the race. Holding up the second-place trophy was Dean Curtis while Sherman Engler got the third-place hardware for his mantle.
For the overall season championship awards, Dean Curtis took home the top trophy for the Master’s Division, while Sherman Engler received the second- place hardware for his season-long efforts and Sam Ryan earned the third-place trophy. In the Regular Division high points earner Barrett Kingsborough was crowned champion, while Matt Clark got the second-place trophy and Trevor Carmody received the final award by tallying enough points for third in the championship. Kingsborough, putting an exclamation point on his championship also received three Hard Charger trophies for his performances in three previous 2018 events and the Overall Championship trophy for tallying more points than any other competitor.
The 2018 Challenge Cup Series proved to be a success, both from participation numbers and in the organization’s efforts to extend its traditional track choices to offer more Vee drivers the chance to experience the many benefits and the on-track competitiveness that are the hallmarks of the Challenge Cup Series. After the ceremonies were concluded, and the racers filtered out of the Media Tower into the warm September evening, it wasn’t s a stretch to imagine that many were already planning for the 2019 Challenge Cup Series season.