TOOELE, Utah – Michael DiMeo (Touring Car), Jason Wolfe (Touring Car A) and Brian Price (Touring Car B-Spec) have secured 2014 Pirelli World Challenge class championships following Saturday’s final race of the season at Miller Motorsports Park.
Wolfe won the race in TCA, while Steven Doherty (TC) and Johan Schwartz (TCB) scored the other class wins in Round 14, the Pirelli World Challenge Nissan Championship Finale brought to you by Motul. It’s Wolfe’s fifth, Doherty’s second and Schwartz’s third wins of the season.
For DiMeo, Wolfe and Price, all three championships are their first.
DiMeo, of Toronto in the No. 71 Children’s Tumor Foundation Honda Civic Si, took Compass360 Racing’s second straight TC class championship, after Ryan Winchester won the 2013 championship. DiMeo won eight races in 2014, which tied an all-time record for the most victories in a single season.
“When I got to Barber in April, I didn’t expect to have the season I had. I just wanted the rookie championship,” DiMeo said. “But we have such a strong team, group of people who are truly special with Compass360 and the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
“The biggest challenge I faced throughout the year was going to tracks I didn’t know, learning how to push the car, preserving for a 40-minute race, whether with a huge lead or someone pushing you. I had different ends of the spectrum all year.”
Wolfe, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, in the No. 36 Wolfe Trucking Kia Forte Koup, won five times in TCA, in his first year racing sports cars. He graduated from the USF2000 open-wheel championship last year.
“The season was great. It’s the best team out here and the car was never flawed.” Wolfe said. “The guys made it happen, I just sat behind the wheel. Today I learned a lot. He’s been helping me out this whole weekend and I feel like my driving style has even changed just from little tips he’s given me here and there.”
Price, of Middletown, Va., in the No. 51 Carsquare.com/Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit, won a class-high five races in TCB en route to the title.
“It was hard work. Many volunteers, crewmembers that volunteer their time to help me,” Price said. “The crew is what wins races and honestly, that’s the truth.”
For the race, overall winner Doherty, of Plainfield, Ill., advanced from second off the line in the No. 94 Nissan/GT Academy/Skullcandy Nissan Altima Coupe into the lead. Doherty controlled the race from there to take the victory in TC by 10.218 seconds, at an average speed of 80.738 mph.
“I had a fantastic start, I was in the lead before Turn 1,” Doherty said. “Sometimes it’s a little hard with the front wheel drive cars, but I made it work and it was clear sailing from there. It’s really nice to be out front and have that clean air.”
Second after starting eighth in TC was Michael Pettiford, of Louisville, Col., in the No. 41 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk Brakes Pontiac Solstice, although Pettiford was penalized all points post-race as he was found out of compliance in post-race technical inspection. Fred Emich, of Denver, Col., was third to round out the podium in TC driving the No. 30 Emich Volkswagen Volkswagen Jetta GLI. DiMeo finished fourth.
TCA winner Wolfe and teammate Nic Jonsson, of Buford, Ga., in the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup exchanged the lead three different times throughout the race, with Wolfe ultimately prevailing thanks to a final lap pass.
The win, plus additional point for pole, has netted Kia the TCA Manufacturer’s Championship over Honda on a tiebreaker. Both manufacturers tied on 94 points, with Kia scoring 10 today and Honda only scoring 3 for fourth place. Wolfe delivered Kia’s sixth win of the year to Honda’s five, and Kia took the title on Rule 126.96.36.199 of the rulebook, where number of first-place finishes serves as first tiebreaker.
Jonsson was second with Jason Cherry, of Gambrills, Md., in the No. 13 Autism Society of America/Avpro/Purposeful Architecture Mazda MX-5 third to round out the podium in TCA.
Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., filled in for Shea Holbrook, of Groveland, Fla., in the No. 67 Lucas Oil/The Center for Bone & Joint Disease/HPD Honda Civic Si for the race, but fought through various mechanical problems en route to fourth. Ernie Francis Jr., of Dania, Fla., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda MX-5 was forced to retire on the first lap and failed to score points in fifth.
The TCB battle was intense throughout between Schwartz, of Denmark, in the No. 12 Animas/ADA/American Honda Honda Fit and Andrei Kisel, of North Vancouver, B.C. in the No. 57 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com Mini Cooper, after both got by Price once he’d led the first three laps.
Schwartz and Kisel exchanged the lead five different times; meanwhile Schwartz was able to emerge ahead at the checkered flag following the ultimate pass for the win on Lap 21.
Schwartz won two specialty awards. His move for the lead was the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race, and additionally he took the StopTech Brake Late, Finish First award.
“What a battle, what a race, it was fun inside the car,” he said. “I tried Kisel a few times, got by him, but he was able to come right back on me, so I stayed behind him until it was the right time to do it. I was hoping that I could make a last lap pass before the checkers. We had a little bit of the battle there as he went on the inside and I did an over-under on him, and he pushed a little wide. I got him and we had some traffic there as well, so it was pretty exciting there at the end.”
Kisel finished a hard-luck second, although it marked his second straight podium.
“It was a great way to round off the season and it gives me confidence for next year,” he said. “I didn’t want to be too hard, I just wanted to finish on the podium no matter what. I wouldn’t be able to do it without Glenn (Nixon) and Nixon Prosports.”
Price finished third, and the result was enough to deliver Unlimited Racing the TCB Team Championship over MINI of Charleston Racing by five points (1390-1385).
The difference was Price finishing third with Tyler Palmer, of San Diego, Calif., fourth in the No. 37 MINI USA/Mobil 1/Flying L Racing/ThePainter’sFriend.com/Discount Tire Mini Cooper. Nathan Stacy, of Owasso, Okla, rounded out his season with fifth in the No. 14 MDG/Ford Racing Ford Fiesta. Stacy also won the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award.
Of note, Glenn Nixon, of Mission, B.C., also took home two specialty awards. He won the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start with a gain of eight positions off the starting line, and also the Sunoco Hard Charger for the same gain. Nixon finished sixth in TCB.