Round 3 of the 2019 Challenge Cup Series visited Pittsburgh International Race Complex.
Complex may be a good description as the 2.8 mile circuit features 19 corners and a fair amount of elevation change. It also offers a slalom-like section, 3 significant straightaways and a great hilltop spectator location.
The series welcomed 2 new drivers to Pitt Race, Matt Carper and Ashley Graaf amidst 27 entries. Weather was warm and clear all weekend.
While qualifying wasn’t quite as tight as Mid Ohio’s round, a fairly condensed 1.5 second spread separated the top 10. The newbie, Carper, with setup help from series veteran Chris Elwell, qualified 14th in his first ever road race, solidly in the mid pack.
After the field took the green for race 1, most of the drivers were determined to maintain a two-abreast scrum into turn 1. A couple cars took a very wide agricultural line on the outside. Overall the field was bunched up mid corner and exited off the pace, with one exception. 2nd qualifier Ian Hornish found a hole for a clean exit and assumed a significant lead. By the end of the first lap the gap to Sam Ryan in P2 was over 3 seconds. Ryan led a pack with Sherman Engler, (polesitter) Jeff Filipkowski, Mark Farnham, Dean Curtis, Trevor Carmody, Chris Elwell and Luke Testerman. Within that group fighting for 2nd, positions changed several times a lap, with occasional 3 abreast events entering turns 3 and 17.
On lap 4, Dean Curtis was off at the outside of the entrance to turn 7 and the slalom section. He recovered in the grass runoff but lost at least 10 spots. Points leader Matt Clark retired on lap 7 with an engine issue.
Meanwhile Hornish, taking advantage of the clear track maintained a gap of about 4 seconds. Farnham, Filipkowski and Ryan looked ready to break away and hunt down Hornish but this dancing tryst could not decide who should lead.
Hornish finished over 5 seconds clear of Farnham, with Ryan, Engler, Filipkowski, and Carmody taking the rest of the trophy positions.
Capping off the day, in the Pitt Race paddock, drivers, crew and family attended another great series party and awards ceremony with catered dinner and beverages.
In Sunday’s qualifying, Hornish showed that his race 1 performance was not just the luck of a good start. He took pole by a commanding 7 tenths, followed by Engler, Farnham, Carmody and Filipkowski.
After the start the front row was shuffled back with Hornish and Engler completing the lap in 4th and 10th respectively. Farnham led Filipkpwski and Ryan. On lap 6 Hornish made his way to P2, then took the lead on lap 6 followed by Filipkowski who fought into P1 during lap 9. Hornish took the point back on the last lap, taking the checkered. Ryan and Farnham followed with Elwell charging to 4th overall. Ray Qualls and Engler took the remaining trophy positions.
Hornish left with the two biggest trophies and a convincing double win for the weekend. He now sits 5th overall in the championship. With a difficult weekend for both Dean Curtis and Matt Clark, Sam Ryan has assumed the overall points lead.
Round 4 of the 5 event series will visit Summit Point, August 23-25.