by Ryan Donaghy
As day broke on the morning of Friday, October 16th, the drivers of Challenge Cup Series prepared for our final race weekend of the season. We all enjoy preparing our cars, driving to the track, and getting ready for another great weekend with our extended family. But then we all have to face the cruel reality that after this weekend, we won’t have the chance to race for several months.
However, to remedy that pain, we all collectively decide to put on a fantastic show for those watching! When we showed up to Pittsburgh International Race Complex, everyone was so eager to get going after nearly a month and a half of not racing.
Let’s talk about the venue, the beautiful Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Located in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. PittRace provides great challenges to all the drivers, but conversely offers up some of the best racing of the year! With major elevation changes, 19 corners, and little room for error, this 2.78 mile road course is one like no other!
As the drivers took to the track on Friday afternoon, we were greeted with a somewhat unconventional obstacle, visibility. No, it was not due to rain, or fog, but from a blinding sun that was unrelenting for the entire 25 minute session. This made the drive into turn one, and coming up the hill at turn five very difficult to navigate. While the session was fairly uneventful, we all learned quickly that it was definitely going to be a weekend for sunglasses!
As we stepped out of our trailers and motorhomes on Saturday morning, we were all met with a bone chilling cold air that had descended upon western Pennsylvania. This made pre-session warm-ups just a bit longer than usual. The first session of the day was a practice session, and this would be our last chance to get everything right before qualifying that afternoon. Temperatures were cold, but the cars were hot! Jeff Filipkowski banged in the fastest lap time of a 2:08.235, followed closely by Trevor Carmody, and Dean Curtis.
Qualifying for race one was next on the table, and in typical Formula Vee fashion, times were close. Dean Curtis took pole position, putting down a great lap, a 2:07.616! Tim Sager would line up alongside Dean with a time less than 0.2 seconds off the pole time. Trevor Carmody started third, just 0.061 off of Tim’s lap time. Ray Carmody would start next to his son in the fourth position. Just a hair over 0.1 seconds off Trevors qualifying lap and Jeff Filipkowski would start fifth with a qualifying time of 2:08.674.
As the time ticked away and final preparations were made for the final points race of the season, one thing was already certain, nobody would be challenging for the Overall Championship. Sam Ryan had already secured the title, the race before at Summit Point Motorsports Park. Sam drove absolutely phenomenally all season, but his success did not come out of nowhere. Sam was also the 2019 Challenge Cup Series Overall Champion! Winning a championship is difficult to begin with, but to come out and go back to back in a class like Formula Vee is very difficult. Great job Sam!
As the drivers lined up for the start of the final race of the 2020 season, we experienced a spout of déjà vu. Much like the 2020 National Championship Runoffs just a week prior we also got a second pace lap, due to a stranded car parked on the outside of turn five. However, once we came around a second time we got the green flag. As the pack barreled down towards turn one Dean Curtis remained in the lead, Trevor Carmody slotted into second, and Ray Carmody took third, Jeff Filipkowski moved his way up into fourth, Chris Elwell grabbed fifth off of Tim Sager who slotted in behind Chris for sixth. This pack of six drivers would go back and forth for the entire race. As the race came to an end Ray Carmody crossed the line first, barely. Jeff Filipkowski crossed the finish line just 0.039 seconds after Ray, and Trevor Carmody was just 0.089 seconds behind Jeff. Dean Curtis came home in fourth, followed by Chris Elwell in fifth. The midfield battle between Sherman Engler, Matt Carper, Ryan Donaghy, and Greg Davis was an exciting battle as well. As the four crossed the line in that order there was less than one second separating them. That is the kind of racing to expect in Formula Vee.
On Saturday night we gathered for our final social gathering of the year. We all got a chance to reminisce about this great season, and enjoyed another wonderful event prepared by Katrina Carmody! After seconds were received and more and more laughs were shared, the trophies for the final race were presented. In the Overall Division the podium went, Ray Carmody in first, Jeff Filipkowski in second, and Trevor Carmody in third. In the Masters Division, Dean Curtis took the top step, Tim Sager in second, and Sherman Engler in third. Great job to all the podium finishers from Saturday’s race.
Now onto the yearly awards, as mentioned earlier Sam Ryan drove great all season and secured his second Overall Championship, followed by Ray Carmody finishing second in the Championship, and Trevor Carmody finishing third. In the Masters Division the Championship three were Sam Ryan, Tim Sager, and Mark Farnham. The Young Guns Division Championship three were Ray Carmody, Trevor Carmody, and Ray Qualls.
Next, Ryan Donaghy was awarded the Challenge Cup Series 2020 Most Improved Driver award. Ryan did a fantastic job since his rookie season in 2019, making huge improvements in his driving and race craft. For example, Ryan improved his lap time at Summit Point Motorsports Park by over nine seconds from his rookie season to the 2020 season! He also had many on track battles with the series’ best drivers all season long, gaining the approval of many. We expect to see continued improvement from Ryan in 2021! Great job this year, Ryan!
Lastly was the Challenge Cup Series 2020 Rookie of the Year award, who was presented to Emily Ryan. Emily has proved to everyone that she is going to be highly successful in her racing career. In her first season alone she took on all comers, and never backed down from any competition. Her skill behind the wheel is evident, and we expect to see her continue her upward trend in 2021! Great job, Emily!
On Sunday, Challenge Cup Series held its annual “fun one” qualifying and race, as a final send off to another great season of racing.
In qualifying, the drivers were greeted by beautiful conditions, and it showed. Tim Sager stormed to pole setting a 2:08.367 lap time, with Ray Qualls close behind in second. In third we have Chris Elwell setting a time of 2:08.772, with Garrett Villano just 0.034 seconds behind in fourth and backing up his Most Improved Driver Award, Ryan Donaghy would start the race fifth following an impressive lap of 2:08.965. This would also be Ryan’s highest starting position to this point in his career.
As the race began, all 23 drivers completed the first lap, but then some hard racing incidents began to occur, a collision at turn one on lap three between Sherman Engler and Garrett Villano cased them both to be out of the race, and subsequently caused a slippery turn one for a few laps, that caught a couple drivers by surprise. All that were involved were unharmed, and the race remained green from flag to flag. Trevor Carmody checked out from the rest of the field and ended up winning by over seven seconds. Chris Elwell came home in second with a four second lead over Tim Sager who took third. Ray Qualls came in shortly after Tim, to finish fourth. Behind was a close battle between Dean Curtis and Ryan Donaghy for fifth. Dean took fifth place, and Ryan came in just 0.103 seconds behind for sixth.
Congratulations to all the drivers on another great season of racing! We hope to see everyone back again in 2021!