BRASELTON, Ga. – Johnny O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., scored a win in Friday’s Cadillac World Challenge Road Atlanta Grand Prix, the final Round of the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge Championship. Eric Foss, of Dallas, Texas, and Toronto’s Aaron Povoledo won the GTS and Touring Car class races, respectively.
Starting from the pole in his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, O’Connell got the jump on the GT field at the standing start and sped away on the opening lap. Two separate Touring Car incidents brought out the full course caution as the first lap was completed. But, even after the lap-six restart, O’Connell was never seriously challenged, scoring a 0.901-second victory behind the Volkswagen Golf R safety car over the No. 2 CRP Racing/Cragar Wheels Chevrolet Corvette of Charlotte’s Mike Skeen.
O’Connell completed 29 laps (73.66 miles) of the scheduled 31 laps, in a race that ran against its 50-minute time limit, averaging 88.489 mph.
“You always want to win your home race, and the biggest thing is the accomplishment of the team,” O’Connell said. “We’re improving the car, we still have a lot to learn but I’m so excited about what everyone is doing at Cadillac.”
Skeen started second but got away slowly, allowing O’Connell to comfortably lead the opening lap as the caution came out. O’Connell similarly pulled away after the restart, until lap 14, when Skeen closed the gap in traffic to less than a second. As the lead paid got back to clear track, O’Connell was able to stretch the gap, leaving Skeen all by himself in second. It was Skeen’s sixth podium finish.
“I’m really proud of Cragar and CRP Racing to be back up front again,” Skeen said. “We started second and finished second, it was kind of a boring race as these World Challenge races go. We got close to Johnny a couple of times in traffic, but the Cadillac was just way too strong for us this weekend. Congrats to Johnny and those guys for getting a win here at the end of their first season, but we’ll back next year and go after it then.”
O’Connell’s teammate Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., won the race-long battle for third with Patrick Lindsey, putting two Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V cars on the podium in the race that their brand sponsored.
“We had a bit of a problem in qualifying and the guys made a massive change to the car for the race,” Pilgrim said. “I’m very, very happy we’ve got such a great crew. They made a big change and it worked, so I got something to work with. I had a good run with Patrick, I had a good run with Eric Curran at the beginning and Randy Pobst. This car almost stalled on the freaking line, so I dropped back to sixth. It was really a fun race. I couldn’t see these guys out front once I got by Patrick, but congratulations to Mike and Johnny. It was a good run, and a great weekend.”
Lindsey brought the No. 12 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette home fourth, giving General Motors a top four sweep. Patrick Long, of Bellaire, Fla., was able to finally get his No. 45 TruSpeed/Privacy Star/EnTrust Porsche 911 GT3 around the similar No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 of James Sofronas, a move that earned him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race, to finish fifth.
Long clinched the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge Drivers’ Championship one race ago, and finished the season with 1,327 points. O’Connell’s second win of the season moved him to second in the Championship, with 1,222 points. Skeen finished third, with 1,197 points, followed by Sofronas (1,112) and Pilgrim (968).
Like Long, Porsche clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and finished with 78 points, followed by Cadillac, with 58, Volvo (31) and Nissan (1).
Today’s Pirelli World Challenge season finale—the Cadillac World Challenge Road Atlanta Grand Prix, will be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 29 at 4 p.m. on Versus.