As the Touring Car categories of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Championships went to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it was Ernie Francis Jr. who took the round 10 win, whilst Vesko Kozarov led the remaining two races.
Two weeks prior, the series’ GT classes had raced at the circuit located near Lexington, Ohio, but on the weekend of August 14-15, it was the turn of TC, TCA and TCB to have three races supporting the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The first race was held on Friday morning, and Ernie Francis Jr. led Corey Fergus to the chequered flag by a margin of just 0.438 seconds after 25 laps and 40 minutes.
Leading at the start was polesitter Corey Fergus who managed to create a gap in his Porsche Cayman over 2nd-placed Vesko Kozarov. It was only on lap 6 when Kozarov moved past Fergus into the overall lead. Jeff Altenburg also passed Fergus, who was now in third. However, he was able to regain the lead when the two cars ahead of him made contact on lap 9. Kozarov gained substantial damage and was forced to retire.
Just after mid-way through the race, Fergus had made a lead of over a second over Altenburg, who was now being pressured from behind by Francis Jr. The Mazda driver had made his way through from sixth on the grid into the podium positions.
Lap 18 saw Altenburg and Francis Jr. go side-by-side for second place, with Altenburg eventually losing out. He was soon passed by John Weisberg who later made a failed attempt to pass Francis Jr.
With three laps to go, Francis Jr. successfully took the lead from Fergus and did so when the Porsche suffered from traffic. Francis Jr. held onto this position for the remainder of the race, and survived multiple attacks from Fergus to win.
Points leader Adam Poland started from fifth on the grid but was given a drive-through penalty for contact early in the race, pushing him down the field to ultimately finish eighth.
“We didn’t qualify as well as we wanted,” said Francis Jr. “So I played it patiently and waited for the other cars to come back to us. The tire wear was important today. Traffic was really a key for us. I wanted to run consistent laps and see if the leaders would come back towards us. And that’s what happened.
“I actually didn’t get a good start and dropped back to eighth or so. Then I had to pick my way through the field.”
Behind Francis Jr. and Fergus were Weisberg and Altenburg. Alex Welch completed the top five.
Friday afternoon’s race saw Vesko Kozarov win with Ernie Francis Jr. behind the Nissan.
Kozarov got a fast start from pole position and instantly built up a strong gap over Jeff Altenburg and Corey Fergus. Altenburg was able to make a pass on Kozarov for the lead on lap 3. Fergus, Francis Jr. and Poland followed the pair.
Fergus lost two positions over the next few laps and soon found himself in fifth, whilst Altenburg lost the lead to Kozarov three laps later. The Volkswagen driver then began to lose more positions and was forced to pit with a mechanical issue.
By the chequered flag, Kozarov had a lead of 1.234 seconds over Francis Jr. and Weisberg who had passed Fergus with a few laps to go. Once again, fifth position went to Alex Welch.
Adam Poland’s luck went from bad to worse when he made contact with a TCA car, picking up substantial damage on his Eastex Motorsports Mazda.
“It was pretty predictable to grab the lead at the start into turn one,” said Kozarov. “Jeff (Altenburg) didn’t really respect my solution to the turn one problem and got into my rear bumper. But we got the lead.”
Kozarov took his second victory in the final race of the weekend, which took place on Saturday morning.
Weisberg led the field from the start but was passed by Alex Welch a few corners in. The Volkswagen driver’s teammate Altenberg also overtook the polesitter. By the end of the lap, Kozarov was up to third position having started fifth.
Welch lost out to Altenburg on lap three when he was challenged for the lead at the Carousel, but this overtake was reversed just two laps later. Altenburg brought out the only full course caution of the weekend when his Volkswagen Jetta GLI pulled off to the side of the track with a mechanical issue.
Welch and Kozarov maintained the first two positions at the lap 14 restart but Fred Emich and Adam Poland both made bold manoeuvres to complete the top four.
Two laps later, Kozarov used traffic to create a buffer between him and Welch once he had made a pass for the lead. Welch later found himself in a battle for second position with Adam Poland who was having a much better race than previously.
Kozarov won by a margin of 0.787 seconds over Welch and Poland. Francis Jr. and Fergus completed the top five.
Corey Fergus goes back into the TC points lead ahead of Adam Poland, who is now 54 points behind.