In the center of the infield at West Virginia’s road racecourse there’s a wooded cove that looks more like a park than a race car paddock. This cozy nook sheltered the teams supporting another 28-car field for the Challenge Cup series round 4 event.
Friday was a full day with 3 sessions, all of them wet which produced a lot of drifting, a few spins and fortunately no serious incidents. A strong performance in the slick conditions found Gary Grubb P3 in the second practice.
Qualifying 1 took place on a damp but drying track. As a spun car led to a black-flag-all, the remaining 2 laps with improving grip re-arranged the order significantly. Jeff Filipkowski was quick to locate the grip and took the pole, 7 tenths clear of Ian Hornish in P2. The next 8 spots were covered by just over 1 second.
Race 1 was scheduled for mid-day with sunny conditions and mid 70s temperatures.
At the start, the field spread out to 3-wide with 4-wide being squelched by the braking area. The inside lines had the advantage exiting one with Trevor Carmody taking the lead followed by Jeff Filipkowski, Ian Hornish and the entire 28 car field completing the first turn in relatively civil fashion.
Sam Ryan who started 11th was up to 6th by the end of lap 1 and continued toward the front. “I was worried about that race, starting 11th. With these cars, these tires, you can draft and pass, so I was able to draft up, draft up, draft up.” Ryan had taken the lead by lap 4 then exchanged it several times with the Carmody’s, both Ray and Trevor.
After difficulties in qualifying had him gridded 17th, Sherman Engler cut through the field until catching up with Tim Sager on the eventful lap 8. Matt Clark spun collecting Trevor Carmody which slowed Mark Farnham causing him to also lose several spots.
Meanwhile, Jack Maloney made use of his home track advantage and entered the top 10 fray. “I was running better than I have most weekends, making my way up the field, said Jack. “We ended up having 14 cars in the same second (of fastest race laps). In this series there’s a deep field. No matter where you are there’s someone to run with. Saturday, it was just a wild race.”
Ryan took the checkered with a margin of just .096 seconds over Ray Carmody, with Filipkowski and Hornish right behind. Ryan recalled, “Ray helped me win that race because when he went by me, he would pull right back in front of me so whoever he was dragging, sometimes it was Ian (Hornish), sometimes it was Jeff (Filipkowski). He’d pull in front of me and they would die there. He was doing it for his own purposes, but it was helping me out a ton. On the last lap he made a little mistake in 5. If he didn’t make that mistake, he might have got me since we finished only a half car length apart.”
Filipkowski and Hornish were right behind, taking the 3rd and 4th spots. Engler and Sager changed places several times in the later laps with Engler claiming the 5th spot and the weekends hard charger award.
Saturday evening the park-like paddock was the setting for another great awards ceremony and dinner party where driver’s received trophies and awards from the series’ sponsors.
Luke Testerman’s local knowledge helped him to the pole in Qualifying 2, followed by Sam Ryan, Matt Clark, Jeff Filipkowski and another fellow from nearby, Jack Maloney.
By the end of lap 1 a 12-car pack had assembled at the front. On lap 3 Ray Carmody was off at the outside of turn 3 and suffered a rear suspension failure, re-entering the track and dividing the field a bit. A mid pack battle developed led Garret Villano, Arnie Carbaugh, Dave Thompson, Alex Gee, Steve Caruso, and Susan Ryan who charged up 10 spots from her 24th grid position.
On lap 5 polesitter Luke Testerman was shuffled into the gravel in turn 1 which prompted a full course yellow. With help from the course crew he was able to resume but was relegated to the back of the field.
The race went back to green for 2 laps then an off-course excursion at the chute for Ryan Donaghy brought out the pace car for the remaining 3 laps. Meanwhile Mark Farnham had worked his way up to lead and battled with Filipkowski, Sam Ryan and Clark at the front. They would finish in that order.
With the overall win and the 3rd on Sunday, Sam Ryan has clinched the overall championship. Congrats, Sam! Five other drivers are in contention for the next 2 spots.
The final round for 2019 will be at New Jersey Motorsport Park, September 13-15.