SONOMA, Calif. — Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y. won Sunday morning’s Round 16 GTS race at Sonoma Raceway, at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Kia. Kris Wilson, of Monument, Colo. finished second, while Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pa. finished third.
From the standing start, pole sitter Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., in the No. 20 BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro launched cleanly to take the lead through turn 1, with second-on-the-grid Cooper, in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28 in second. Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 73 GTSport Racing/Umphrey’s McGee Porsche Cayman S slotted into third.
At the end of lap 1, Cooper passed Lee for the lead through the turn 11 hairpin. The pass earned Cooper the Cadillac ATS-V Move of the Race Award.
Shortly after the start, Race Control issued a drive through penalty to Baldwin — the driver of the No. 73 machine had spun during the formation lap and moved to regain his starting position for the standing start, contravening the rule outlined in the series rule book. Baldwin served his penalty and fell to the back of the
On lap 2, Kurt Rezzetano, of Phoenixville, Pa., in the No. 37 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 made contact with Ben Clucas, of Northampton, England, in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.Org Kinetic Motorsports / Kia Racing Kia Optima at the bottom of the turn 6 carousel resulting in both cars going off the track.
Race control issued a full course yellow to remove the cars. Both drivers were not injured.
At the yellow, Cooper lead Lee, with Wilson, in the No. 07 Royal Purple/Orion Energy/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in third. Aquilante, in the No. 32 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Phoenix American Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302 slotted into fourth while Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, Ont. in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kinetic Motorsports / Kia Racing Kia Optima slotted into fourth.
On the lap 5 restart, Cooper launched cleanly to lead Lee, Wilson, Aquilante and Wilkins through turn 1.
On lap 9, Lee closed the gap on Cooper, while the two leaders led both Wilson and Aquilante by roughly a 30-car gap. As Lee entered the carousel, his No. 20 machine experienced a mechanical issue and he pulled his Chevrolet Camaro off the track behind the wall at turn 7a/7b. Lee’s day was finished.
Cooper now led Wilson, Aquilante, Wilkins, with 15-year-old phenom Nate Stacy, of Owasso, Okla., in the No. 14 Folds of Honor Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302 into fifth. Cooper built a 6-second lead on Wilson and Aquilante, who ran nose to tail. A hard charging Baldwin was on the move up into 7th.
On lap 14, Stacy moved into 4th around Wilkins through the hairpin. Baldwin, on lap 17, moved into 5th through turn 7a/7b passing both Wilkins and Nicolas Hammann, of Elkhart Lake, Wis., in the No. 23 Nissan GT Academy/Nissan/Nismo Skullcandy Team Nissan 370Z.
Through lap 19, Cooper had built a 7.5 second lead over Wilson, while on lap 20 Baldwin closed on Stacy and passed him through turn 7a/7b for fourth.
At the checkered, Cooper won his 4th GTS race of the season ahead of Wilson and Aquilante. Baldwin finished fourth and Stacy fifth.
“We made some changes over night, and that really helped with the first lap, because it looked like Andy (Lee) was struggling really badly, so once we got down to the end of the lap I knew somewhere I could get him,” said Cooper. “I more or less took a chance and stuffed it down on the inside because I knew from yesterday that it was going to be hard to pass him after the first two laps once everyone got settled in. So I really wanted to make that move early and got it done. Then the caution came out and the restart was a little iffy, I was wondering what was going to happen. Andy put some pressure on me for the first few laps, then I looked up at my mirror coming down one of the straights and he was completely gone. From there it was smooth sailing because these guys (Wilson and Aquilante) were battling.”
“Miller was definitely the low point of the season,” said Aquilante. “Sonoma Raceway, it’s a ton of fun, it reminds me of the tracks out east. The Mustang was pretty good over the bumps, that has been where we are strong, we just weren’t quite as strong as the Camaro and that has put a bit of a dampening on the championship here.”
An emotional Kris Wilson dedicated his race to friend Justin Wilson. Wilson, the popular British IndyCar Series driver, was fatally injured last week in an accident in the 500-mile IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway.
Of note, the Optima Battery Best Standing Start was awarded to Paul Holton, of Tallahassee, Fla., in the No. 78 AERO Advanced Paint Technology/Children’s Tumor Foundation Compass360 Racing Audi TT-RS for gaining nine positions when the lights went out for the start. Stacy earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award for his move past Hammann on lap 5. Wilson won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining eight positions during the race.
Results are provisional until posted final. With the two wins at Sonoma, Cooper continues to lead in the Drivers’ Championship with 1,475 points over Aquilante with 1,368, and Baldwin with 1,320. GTS drivers now head to the finale weekend of the 2015 season Sept. 11-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Round 17 of the championship. Watch Rounds 15 and 16 on CBS Sports Network Wednesday, September 9, at 9 p.m. Eastern.
SONOMA, CA – Results from Sunday’s 27-lap 64.395 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GTS Round 16 race, part of the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Kia at
Sonoma Raceway, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GTS, (2), Michael Cooper, Syosset, N.Y., Chevrolet Z28, 27.
2. GTS, (10), Kris Wilson, Monument, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 27, -5.496.
3. GTS, (6), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 27, -10.254.
4. GTS, (3), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 27, -16.527.
5. GTS, (11), Nathan Stacy, Owasso, Okla., Ford Mustang Boss302, 27, -20.806.
6. GTS, (9), Nicolas Hammann, Elkhart Lake, Wis., Nissan 370Z, 27, -22.683.
7. GTS, (13), Dean Martin, Westland, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 27, -27.603.
8. GTS, (4), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, KIA Optima, 27, -35.481.
9. GTS, (12), Kevin Marshall, Incline Village, Nev., Lotus Evora GT4, 27, -36.064.
10. GTS, (17), Derek DeBoer, Ashland, Ore., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 27, -44.664.
11. GTS, (15), Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 27, -45.280.
12. GTS, (14), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Z28, 27, -57.766.
13. GTS, (19), Jeff Huber, Menio Park, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 27, -58.721.
14. GTS, (16), Mark Klenin, Lone Tree, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 27, -1:07.477.
15. GTS, (21), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 27, -1:25.789.
16. GTS, (18), Jason Alexandridis, Novato, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 27, -1:27.873.
17. GTS, (24), Paul Holton, Tallahassee, Fla., Audi TT-RS, 27, -1:30.930.
18. GTS, (23), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 27, -1:32.085.
19. GTS, (25), John Allen(R), Aurora, Colo., Porsche Cayman, 26, -1 lap.
20. GTS, (1), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 9, -18 laps.
21. GTS, (8), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 7, -20 laps.
22. GTS, (5), Ben Clucas, Northampton England, Kia Optima, 1, -26 laps.
23. GTS, (7), Kurt Rezzetano, Phoenixville, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 1, -26 laps.
24. GTS, (22), Geoff Reeves, Cleveland, Ohio, Chevrolet Camaro Z28, 0, -27 laps.
25. GTS, (20), Jeff Harrison, Grapevine, Texas, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, 0, DNS.
Time of race: 50 minutes, 16.104 seconds.
Average speed: 76.861 mph
Margin of victory: 5.496 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-27, #10 Michael Cooper
Fastest race lap: #10 Michael Cooper, 1:41.717 (84.410 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #20 Andy Lee, 1:42.398 (83.849 mph)