Six drivers and three teams have scored an identical 212 points with two ST races remaining in this year’s GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Jesse Combs, one of the championship contenders, doesn’t mince words.
“It’s never been this close as long as I’ve been in GRAND-AM,” said the driver of the No. 56 RACE EPIC/Murillo Racing BMW 328i he shares with co-leader Jeff Mosing.
He’ll get no argument – especially from rivals Terry Borcheller, Mike LaMarra, Ryan Eversley and Kyle Gimple, of Minden.
Something’s got to give. But the question remains – when and by whom?
Borcheller and LaMarra’s No. 23 Burton Racing BMW 128i has the best record – two wins and four podium finishes. But finishes of 23rd and 28th have brought them back to the pack.
Eversley and Gimple’s No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si likewise has been atop the podium four times. Three finishes outside the top 10 have kept the duo from putting the competition in the rear view mirror.
Combs and Mosing, meanwhile, have motored along with two podiums blemished by a single poor performance – 20th.
“Our focus is to keep out of trouble,” said Combs. “Top-10 finishes in the last (two) races can win you the championship. One of the three will have bad luck; hopefully not us.
“If we can (finish) in the top five or six we can wrap this thing up.”
Eversley expresses concern about the coming Sept. 8 stop at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“Laguna does not suit our cars nearly as well as it does the BMWs,” he said. “It’s a low grip circuit that the rear-wheel drive cars simply work better at – which is why we expect the Mazda MX-5s to be very strong there.
“We have to be careful with taking too risky a strategy and stop really early because we’ll need to be sure we can go to the end on fuel and haven’t taken all the life out of the tires. Reliability, heads-up driving and great pit work from our crew is what will keep us in the hunt at Laguna.”
Experience would seem to favor Borcheller, who’s won and lost close championship battles in the past. Borcheller won the former SRP championship in 2002, was second the following year and lost the next season’s title on a tie-breaker to Craig Stanton. Stanton won six times; Borcheller three.
He fears his BMW lacks the speed to challenge the Mazdas in Monterey but feels his Burton Racing team is up to challenging the other co-leaders.
“We just have to do the best our car will do and stay ahead of the 75 and the 56,” he said. “It’s going to come down to (who performs best at) Lime Rock. We need to put some space between us and them.
“We’ve just got to do the job.”
Eversley agrees that no one will have an insurmountable advantage entering the Sept. 27 finale.
“The ST championship will probably go right down to the last half hour of the last race,” he said.