Round 2 of the 2019 Challenge Cup season visited the very technical Mid-Ohio circuit. Track time all weekend featured clear skies with fairly usual warm temps for Mid-Ohio in summer.
Friday afforded 2 practice sessions in preparation for the races Saturday and Sunday. 26 cars made the grid, among them were 2 cars invited from the southern Driverz Cup series.
Qualifying for Saturday’s race revealed once again that a large pool of drivers have very competitive programs this year. Just 8 tenths of a second separated pole from 10th on the grid.
After the start a big group of front runners broke away forming a nose to tail 10 car train that, for the most part stayed on the rails lap after lap. Meanwhile the mid pack featured battles with Arnie Carbaugh, Greg Davis, Gary Grubb, Garrett Villano and Alex Gee.
At the front, the 10-car train was still hitched when the white flag waved. Many spectators mentioned what a great race it was to watch, and that a product of great, close racing is often some drama. The last lap delivered on the climax factor as the top 10 took their best shots at moving into trophy positions. 4 of the 10 were shuffled out with some collaborative off course excursions. Dean Curtis survived a nudge from Matt Clark to hold onto the lead and took the checkered. Fortunately all the cars involved were able to continue on Sunday. Sherman Engler and Jon Adams finished right behind Clark. 17 year old, Ian Hornish has vigorously returned this year with an improved Wasserman Racing prepped ride and finished 5th overall.
Don O’Keefe moved up 9 spots on the grid to receive the Hard Charger award.
The sunny summer weather continued into the evening for the Challenge Cup awards ceremony and party, right in the paddock, sponsored by Tim Elliott (Happy Birthday, Tim!!). Nearly 100 people attended and were treated to a great barbecue, buffet and beverages prepared by Trina Carmody and her crew.
Sunday qualifying had the same top ten with the order shuffled a bit. After the start Dean Curtis and Sam Ryan were both off course, spinning at Madness which separated the front of the field a bit. Ryan was able to re-enter the track without losing too many spots, but later suffered a penalty for the mishap. Curtis rejoined much further back unable to re-connect with the leaders. Barrett Kingsborough dropped out with a mechanical issue. A battle for first developed with polesitter Matt Clark and Mark Farnham. Sam Ryan eventually caught up while a lead pack of 8 re-formed, the top 3 eventually broke away. On the last lap Sherman Engler’s car slowed costing him 2 spots and separating the field a little further. Clark took the checkered with Farnham and Ryan very close, followed by Trevor Carmody, Jon Adams and Ian Hornish. The stewards docked Ryan with a 5 second penalty for the first lap issue which demoted him 2 spots overall, but he still made it onto the podium for the Masters division.
With 2 very strong finishes again this weekend, Matt Clark has extended his points lead. After this weekend Dean Curtis appears to be the closest opponent in the Overall division though we have 3 rounds left. In the Masters division Sam Ryan leads Sherman Engler. The series continues with round 3, August 2-4 at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.