As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and the season finale for 2019 Challenge Cup Series ran last weekend. With more growth and increased competition during 2019 the aforementioned end will only be for the winter’s rest.This season again saw large car counts, new drivers and tighter competition.
New Jersey Motorsport Park hosted the finale this year. It’s long and compound corners from turns 7 through 10 are augmented by several sweepers, and straights long enough to make the draft a significant factor.
The series welcomed 2 new drivers at this last round, Ryan Soucy and Emily Ryan. Participating in all but one round of the season Don O’keefe made the tow from Indiana.
The weekend’s 2-day format offered 2 races, but just the Saturday contest would count for year-end points.
The weather was not a factor Saturday. Crews refined their setups for just one condition which was warm and sunny all day. In qualifying Matt Clark grabbed another pole with Ian Hornish, Dean Curtis, Ray Qualls, Trevor Carmody and Sherman Engler all within a second of pole. Jack Maloney, Dermot Ennis, Greg Davis and Alex Gee completed the top 10. Frontrunner Ray Carmody suffered a failed clutch slave and would qualify at the back. Emily Ryan qualified just behind her Mom, Susan Ryan in 14th and 15th respectively.
At the end of a relatively smooth first lap for all 21 starters, Dean Curtis had taken the lead. Trevor Carmody started his charge to the front moving into third. He’d assume the lead 2 laps later as Curtis, Hornish and Clark battled for the 2nd spot, enabling Trevor to eventually gap the field. Throughout the order drafting passes occurred each lap on the main straight. A close contest developed mid-pack with Greg Davis, Dave Thompson, Ryan Soucy and Arnie Carbaugh. Meanwhile Ray Carmody had been carving through the field from his last spot on the grid. He caught the 2nd place rivals by lap 6, then led on lap 8 dragging 3 other cars with him in the fight for the lead with Trevor Carmody. Trevor Carmody held on for the win, followed by Hornish, and Curtis. Sherman Engler took the Masters win with Dermot Ennis and Greg Davis rounding out that podium.
The series hosted another paddock party and awards ceremony Saturday evening, with a dinner and company that couldn’t be beat. In the process of awarding the overall season champion, Dermot Ennis presented a new, annual trophy. He told a heartwarming story of how his parents fostered the racing careers of he and his brother Desmond. In their honor, the Kathleen and Michael Ennis Memorial Cup was commissioned. Fittingly the first recipient of the cup was Sam Ryan, who along with the support of his wife Susan, brought their 16-year old daughter Emily Ryan to compete this weekend in her first Challenge Cup race.
After overnight rains, Sunday’s qualifying took place on a damp and drying track. As a dry line evolved the times tumbled. The Carmody’s, Ray and Trevor worked together to consistently record the session’s fastest times, though when the session ended Ian Hornish split the father and son team, claiming the 2nd spot. Dean Curtis and Ryan Soucy picked up 4th and 5th on the grid.
After the green Dean Curtis used his speed and traffic skills to move up to 2nd behind Ray Carmody, leaving Trevor Carmody and Ian Hornish contesting for 3rd. A few laps in Trevor overcooked his entry to turn 5 and went off course, closely followed by Ian Hornish with an apparent gearbox fixation. Trevor recovered fairly effectively, while the entire field went by before Hornish was able to re-enter the track. This allowed Ray Carmody and Curtis to check out. After leading several laps Ray Carmody was passed, settling back into 2nd and waiting, then made a successful move on Curtis for the lead on the last lap. Benefitting from his consistency, Ray Qualls took 3rd. Behind him Trevor Carmody recovered for 4th while Matt Clark suffered an engine issue and was overtaken right at the line by Dermot Ennis.
Congratulations to our Champions, Ram Ryan (FVM) and Matt Clark (FV) on a successful 2019 Challenge Cup Series season.
Next up: Challenge Cup Series drivers have been invited to attend a Driverz Cup event at Road Atlanta in November.