Title drama occurs in penultimate Porsche Supercup race at Austin

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AUSTIN – Nicki Thiim (Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup) and Mark McKenzie (Ferrari Challenge) have taken the victories in the first of each of their two races during the United States Grand Prix weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

But the story was behind Thiim in the Porsche race, as last-lap contact between the two Porsche Supercup title contenders – Kuba Giermaziak and Earl Bamber – will have serious championship implications.

Giermaziak had fallen from second down to fourth during the race. When attempting to defend against Bamber on exit to Turn 11, Giermaziak was to the outside with Bamber on the inside. The two made it about halfway down the straight before Giermaziak’s car was turned around into the outside retaining wall.

Bamber made it home in fourth, while Giermaziak slipped to 11th. Photos below from Will Santiago in the stands, who did a great job to capture the drama as it happened.

The Pole had been poised to close what had been a five-point deficit to the New Zealander (123-118) heading into the race. But unofficial projections now have Bamber 14 points up (137-123) after the contact.

Such a gap can be overcome if Giermaziak was to win (20 points) and have Bamber end 10th or worse (6 points). Giermaziak has three wins to Bamber’s two this year, so would have the tiebreaker.

The task for Giermaziak is made all the more difficult because Bamber has the pole for Sunday’s second race, courtesy of a 2:08.508 set in the morning qualifying session, the top second fastest lap in the field. Ammermuller and Thiim start second and third; Giermaziak starts fifth.

Thiim’s win in the 14-lap Supercup race was a flag-to-flag drive from pole position, and good for his second win this season (Hockenheim in Germany). Michael Ammermuller was second with Klaus Bachler third, the latter up from sixth on the grid.

Bamber was fourth with Phillip Eng rounding out the top five.

Americans struggled in the race with Sean Johnston best of the lot in 12th, one spot behind Giermaziak. Madison Snow suffered a spin at Turn 11 and wound up 26th; IMSA Porsche GT3 USA champ Colin Thompson suffered either a brake failure or stuck throttle as he lost control of his car on the run to Turn 12, and ran straight into Pepe Massot at the corner. Heavy damage took both cars out of the race.

The Ferrari Challenge race saw McKenzie pass polesitter Ricardo Perez on Lap 6 and hold the lead for the remainder of the race through to the checkered on Lap 10. Gregory Romanelli was third and Scott Tucker, making his first overall race start of any kind since this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, finished fourth.

In the CS class, James Weiland won from Robert Herjavec and Ross Garber. Garber, an Austin local, set the fastest lap in his class and was also a supporter of NBCSN’s Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash Thursday night. The trio finished seventh through ninth overall.

Second races for both series are Sunday morning, at 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. (Ferrari Challenge) and 11:15 to 11:50 (Porsche Supercup) local time, respectively.

Juncos Racing to field single car entry in Indy 500

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Part-time NTT IndyCar Series entrant Juncos Racing will announce their attempt to qualify for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 within the next few weeks, according to RACER.

The team, which made its Indy 500 debut in 2017, ran 12 of the 17 IndyCar Series races last season, but has only made a start in one of the four events so far in 2019, finishing 18th in the inaugural running of the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas with Kyle Kaiser behind the wheel.

Though no driver has yet to be announced for the single-car entry, Kaiser is expected to be the leading candidate for the ride. The 23-year-old Californian has raced for the team since 2014, where he won the 2017 Indy Lights championship.

One of the top teams in the Road to Indy ladder system, Juncos Racing has over 50 wins between Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 competition. The team’s most recent victory came in the second Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg this year with Rinus VeeKay behind the wheel.

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