A Matt Plumb pass on John Edwards prevented a sweep both the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge and the Rolex Series GT races for the second consecutive Grand-Am weekend.
After Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana had taken the double at the Circuit of the Americas John Edwards and Stevenson Motorsports began the CTSCC race at Barber Motorsports Park already with one win on the weekend, Edwards combining with Robin Liddell to win the earlier Rolex Series event. However, Plumb and co-driver Nick Longhi were to come between the team and Victory Lane in the day’s second race as they repeated their 2012 Barber win in Rum Bum Racing’s Porsche Carrera.
Matt Bell – driving with Edwards in the #9 Camaro – remained in the top ten after starting seventh, but it was with the team’s first stop that strategy started to pull the team towards the front. Edwards took over the car shortly before the first of three cautions. With some teams opting to make a pitstop under the caution, and more still waiting until after the race returned to green Edwards was able to make his way into the top three for the half way point in the two hour, 30-minute race.
Early in the second half of the race Nick Mancuso, in the #16 Multimatic Motorsport Aston Martin and Fall–Line Motorsports’ Charles Espenlaub both pitted from the lead of the race, clearing the way for Edwards to take the lead, with Bryan Sellers – in another of Fall-Line’s BMW M3 – and Matt Plumb in closest attention. A drivetrain failure removed Sellers from the race at the start of a 13 lap sprint between the race’s second and third cautions which ended shortly after Plumb had taken the lead at turn five on the 2.3 Alabama track.
The recovery of Sellers’ BMW, as well as that of Hugh Plumb in the third of Fall-Line’s three car entry after a gearbox problem necessitated the final full course caution of the race, leaving less than fifteen minutes of racing when the green flag was displayed again.
On the restart Plumb was able to leap into a healthy lead. Edwards’ attention was now turned to defense, holding off two Multimatic Astons in the hands of David Empringham and Scott Maxwell and the #01 CKS Autosport Camaro of Lawson Aschenbach. With a fine display of defensive driving Edwards held onto second. He crossed the line 2.4 seconds behind Plumb, with almost the exact same margin covering positions second through fifth as they fought to the line.
Rod Randall and Ken Wilden finished sixth for BGB Motorsports in their Porsche with Al Carter and Charles Espenlaub finishing seventh in the only Fall-Line M3 to complete the race. Espenlaub had taken the initial lead after starting from pole before falling back, only to retake the lead ahead of Edwards before pitting to hand over to Carter where a sticking lug nut pushed them down the order.
Auberlen and Dalla Lana, off the back of their COTA sweep, were forced into retirement with suspension damage after contact with Maxwell’s #55 Aston for which Auberlen was deemed at fault and punished with a 60 second stop-go.
Tom Long and Derek Whitis lead a Freedom Autosport 1-2 and a podium sweep for the Mazda MX-5 at the top of the ST class, with teammates Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O’Doski second and CJ Wilson Racing pairing Jason Saini and Chad McCumbee. The trio ended the race separated by less a single second, followed closely by the Burton Racing BMW 128i of Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra who missed out on the podium after losing the class win at Texas on the final lap.
The pairing that stole that win – CJ Wilson Racing’s Marc Miller and Stevan McAleer – were forced to out of contention for the win after McAleer had run in the top three during the first half of the race. Though the completed the race with the Miller running the best lap of the race they finished a lowly 24th in class.
McAleer briefly led during the exchange of pitstops under the first full course caution but it was Long who took the lead shortly after the return to green flag racing, holding onto the top spot for the final 54 of the 82 laps completed by the class winners, an even more incredible feat given that the three Mazdas that eventually formed the top three spent much of that time split by fractions of a second.