TOOELE, Utah – Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y. scored his third GTS win of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season in Round 14 at Miller Motorsports Park and the Ford Grand Prix presented by VP Racing Fuels. Salt Lake City’s Vesko Kozarov finished second, while Ben Clucas, of Northampton, England was third.
From the standing start, pole-sitter Cooper driving the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z28 got the launch he needed to take the lead heading into turn one, as Ben Clucas, of Northampton, England driving the No. 36 Kinetic Motorsports/Kia Racing PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima slotted into second ahead of Jack Baldwin of Marietta, Ga. in the No. 73 GTSport Racing Umphrey’s McGee Porsche Cayman S.
One victim of the standing start was GTS points leader coming into the race Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pa. in the No. 32 Phoenix American Motorsports Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302, who failed to get away cleanly and fell back through the field to finish in 12th.
Through the Black Rock Hairpin on the opening lap it was Clucas moving on Cooper to take the lead, with Baldwin following closely in third and Vesko Kozarov of Salt Lake City, Utah in the No. 23 Nissan/Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z. Clucas’ earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start award for moving into first after starting fourth.
By lap five, it was Clucas and Cooper setting the pace and pulling a slight gap over Baldwin’s Porsche. Baldwin then closed, as Cooper hassled Clucas, and the Porsche driver was able to drive into second. Cooper wouldn’t let the pass stand though as he moved back around Baldwin on lap nine.
Cooper in the Black Dog Camaro then closed in on the race leading Kia, with Cooper making the move through the Attitude complex of corners to take the lead on lap 13.
Kozarov was on the move too, as he got past Saturday winner Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, Ont. in the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports/Kia Racing PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima for fourth and continued his momentum on lap 16, moving into third place around Baldwin.
Then the focus shifted to the battle for second, as Clucas was holding off Kozarov and Baldwin in a three-car fight for second place. On lap 22, Kozarov found his way around Clucas for second with a move in turn four. The pass gave Kozarov the Cadillac Best Move of the Race Award.
Coming to the line and checkered flag, it was a photo-finish for the final podium spot with Clucas edging Baldwin by sixth thousandths of a second. Wilkins would complete the top five after a late race duel with Andy Lee of Colorado Springs, Colo. in the No. 20 BestIt Racing Chevrolet Camaro, who finished sixth.
Tony Gaples of Libertyville, Ill. in the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shot Chevrolet Z28 won the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award with his multi-corner move on lap 19 to get around Nathan Stacy, of Owasso, Okla. in the No. 14 Rehagen Racing Folds of Honor Ford Mustang Boss 302. In addition, Gaples earned the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger honors by advancing four spots during the race.
“Yesterday’s consolation prize in the GTS race was having fastest race lap and we were able to start on the pole today,” said Cooper. “These Blackdog Speed Shop guys stayed late last night trying to figure out what was going on with car in Saturday’s race. They were combing through data and my feedback. And they sorted it out for today. And, obviously, we had a great car. I knew from last year that was about the only place on the track that I could get by Ben (Clucas for the lead). I just stayed on the throttle and ran it to the outside. Then as they try to get back to the right, I was able to stuff it down on the inside of the turn for the pass. I was planning it for awhile and he defended it once. I thought he knew it was coming. He waited just a little bit too long to defend it. And I was able to move in there and get the pass.”
“I’m not sure I had enough for Michael (Cooper). It was about all of the car I had,” said Kozarov. “The guys don’t make very many mistakes in the GTS division. The GTS class is fantastic competition. All of the cars run about the same times. You really have to scrap at it to run up front. That’s what we want. We don’t want it easy. We just didn’t have enough for Michael today. So we’ll take second and move on to the next race.”
“I got a good start and a good first lap. Then I was trying to hang onto the lead but just couldn’t quite do it,” said Clucas. “It was nice to have a really, good clean race with Michael (Cooper) and the Nissan (Veski Kozarov) and Jack (Baldwin) too. It was fun but, when you are leading, you obviously want to win. Michael tried to make a move a couple of laps earlier but I knew he might try it right there. But I really didn’t want to go defensive into that corner. It would really slow me down then. It was still pretty early in the race and I couldn’t defend every corner. He made a good clean move and I had to concede it to him.”
Results are provisional until posted final. With the win, Cooper takes the lead in the driver championship with 1220 points, with Aquilante in second with 1188, and teammate Kurt Rezzetano, of Phoenixville, Pa, in the No. 37 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 in third with 1186. GTS drivers now head to Sonoma Raceway August 28-30 for Rounds 15 and 16 of the Championship. Watch Rounds 13 and 14 on CBS Sports Network Tuesday, September 1 (time TBA).
TOOELE, UT – Results from Sunday’s 26-lap 79.248 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GTS Round 14 race, part of the Ford Grand Prix presented by VP Racing Fuels at Miller Motorsports Park, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GTS, (1), Michael Cooper, Syosset, N.Y., Chevrolet Z28, 26.
2. GTS, (2), Vesko Kozarov, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nissan 370Z, 26, -1.869.
3. GTS, (4), Ben Clucas, Northampton England, , Kia Optima, 26, -7.441.
4. GTS, (5), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 26, -7.477.
5. GTS, (3), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, KIA Optima, 26, -19.592.
6. GTS, (6), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 26, -19.688.
7. GTS, (8), Dean Martin, Westland, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 26, -25.127.
8. GTS, (9), Kurt Rezzetano, Phoenixville, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 26, -29.295.
9. GTS, (13), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Z28, 26, -30.953.
10. GTS, (10), Nathan Stacy, Owasso, Okla., Ford Mustang Boss302, 26, -40.524.
11. GTS, (12), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 26, -41.564.
12. GTS, (7), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 26, -1:30.740.
13. GTS, (14), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 26, -1:33.422.
14. GTS, (15), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 26, -1:38.887.
15. GTS, (16), John Allen(R), Aurora, Colo., Porsche Cayman, 25, -1 lap.
16. GTS, (11), Mark Klenin, Lone Tree, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 8, -18 laps.
17. GTS, (17), Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, Texas, Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 0, DNS.
18. GTS, (18), Bryan Leonard, Birmingham, Ala., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 0, DNS.
19. GTS, (19), Jack Roush Jr, Livonia, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 0, DNS.
Time of race: 51 minutes, 58.918 seconds.
Average speed: 91.471 mph
Margin of victory: 1.869 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-12, #36 Ben Clucas; laps 13-26, #10 Michael Cooper
Fastest race lap: #38 Mark Wilkins, 1:58.330 (92.730 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #10 Michael Cooper, 1:59.257 (92.009 mph)