IMSA: Ford’s Johnson, Maxwell break through in CTSC Road America race

Photo: Ford Performance
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – A mix of intense on-track driving, incidents and strategy headlined the two-hour, 30-minute Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Road America, but it featured two winners that have won earlier this year.

The No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Shelby GT350R-C of Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson (GS) and No. 17 Rennsport One Porsche Cayman of Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante (ST) scored their fourth and second wins of the season, respectively.

Both pairings also entered the weekend leading their respective class points standings. Johnson and Maxwell led the No. 33 CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport pair of Danny Burkett and Marc Miller by 13 points (193-180) while Pumpelly and Galante had a seven-point net on the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 of defending class champions Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer (173-166).

Maxwell and Johnson’s win, their third straight, owed as much to strategy as outright pace. They led four times for 23 laps in the race but didn’t take the lead again until the final lap.

The pairing pitted three times – twice falling behind the No. 33 Porsche – and then again for a late-race splash of fuel with 11 minutes and change to go, but were still smarter on when they pitted compared to their rivals.

The No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman looked poised to capture the win, but pitted on the 53rd and final lap after it needed a splash. The Aston didn’t opt either to go for it on outright speed or save enough fuel to make it home, and it resigned that car to a fourth place finish.

“I left the decision up to the pit box. I just did what I was told,” Johnson said, who scored an overdue Road America first win. “Then I got nervous when cars went out of fuel. “They had the strategy down. Made me really nervous! A lot of really good races. People pulled off with a lot going on.

“Kudos to team Multimatic for great strategy. Like Scott said, we always race to win… not just ride around. We were looking at a second place. Good from points standpoint. I’ve never won here. Had good runs in Continental ST and Nationwide but never had the win.

“The big question mark was the 99 on fuel. We were really happy with where we were sitting ahead of 33. Had potential to be horrible points day. We ran second ahead of 33 and were fairly content. The 99 pulling off was icing on the cake.”

The Wilson No. 33 Porsche also fell by the wayside after a nightmare day that saw the car pit four times, including twice in the final half hour of the race, and end in sixth place.

Benefiting were a pair of unlikely other Porsches, the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America entry of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Peter Ludwig, and the No. 64 Team TGM car of Ted Giovanis and Guy Cosmo in Cosmo’s first start for the team.

With the Aston fourth and the Wilson Porsche sixth, the No. 12 Bodymotion Porsche of Cameron Cassels and Trent Hindman split the difference in fifth after their strategy, as well, went awry.

Hindman launched from ninth on the grid up to fourth in the first lap and was up to second on Lap 2, but an attempted pass around the outside of Paul Holton in the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Ford Shelby GT350R-C didn’t go according to plan. The slightest of contact saw Hindman and Holton collide, with Holton then crashing into the luckless Till Bechtolscheimer in the Chicago Blackhawks-liveried No. 35 Wilson Porsche. Both cars flipped, both were out of the race on the spot, and the first of four full course cautions (all in the first 90 minutes) flew.

Subsequent cautions for incidents for the No. 34 Alara Mazda MX-5, No. 54 JDC Motorsports BMW 228i and No. 38 Next Level European Porsche Cayman jumbled the order, although drivers involved in those incidents were OK.

The ST order was jumbled because Galante had had an earlier off course excursion in the No. 17 car, but it opened the door for the Justin Bellinzoni-led RS1 team to gamble and put Pumpelly in early.

Pumpelly ran the final hour and 14 minutes after his last stop and, after losing races at Road America on fuel in the past, was able to bring it home today.

“It feels good. This is redemption from last year, running out of fuel in the same position,” Pumpelly said. “We had a really good car. Had good solid laps. I don’t know if we were the fastest over a lap. But good to get the win here today. 25 car finished well. We needed a win here and we got it.”

Pumpelly’s friends and good rivals Ryan Eversley and Eric Foss made it home on the podium in second and third, a podium that doubly changed on the final lap.

Both the No. 73 LAP Motorsports MINI JCW of Derek Jones and Mat Pombo, and the No. 92 HART Honda Civic Si of Steve Eich and Cameron Lawrence, were hoping to make it an hour and 38 minutes and change home on a single tank of fuel. But both needed a final lap splash.

It brought Eversley, who like teammate and co-driver Chad Gilsinger had carved through the field from 20th or worse positions in class in their No. 93 HART Honda, and Foss, who along with co-driver Jeff Mosing were driving a rebuilt No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman after a heavy accident on Friday, into the podium.

The pair of Freedom Mazdas were fourth and fifth, with the No. 25 car ahead of the No. 26 car of Liam Dwyer and Andrew Carbonell, in a really good run for both cars.

The next round of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season is at VIR at the end of the month.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS