Sean Johnston Clinches the Platinum Cup Championship at VIR
Young Star Steals The Limelight and Platinum Cup Championship in First Year of Competition
Alton, VA, Sept. 15, 2012--It was the right ending to what has truly been a "Cinderella Story" today at the close of IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama competition at Virginia International Raceway.
Twenty-one-year-old Sean Johnston stepped onto the top spot of the Platinum Cup Podium this afternoon with the knowledge that he was not only a GT3 Cup race winner--he was truly a Champion of the sport.
In a battle of numbers and odds, the Wright Motorsports pilot captured yet another BBS Pole Award and his fourth consecutive race victory. The California native held off championship rivals and teammates Madison Snow and Fernando Pena to provisionally clinch the Platinum Cup Championship in only his first year of on-track competition. Final results will be released on Monday, but no changes are currently anticipated by IMSA Officials.
Snow proved that he could tame the 3.27-mile fast track to the podium today by taking his fourth consecutive second place podium finish. With 189 total points leading into the Petit Le Mans weekend coming up at Road Atlanta, he leads Pena by 10 points, ensuring that the Platinum battle will continue to wage moving into the last race of the year.
The No. 20 car of Sloan Urry and TruSpeed Motorsports found their rhythm through the high speed esses of VIR, and chose to challenge the veteran wiles of Pena as the two ran bumper to bumper in an all out war for fourth position through much of the race.
Urry's teammate Miles Maroney played it cool while the skirmish played out just behind behind him and remained consistent to take the final spot on the Platinum podium.
A late race spin due to the dogfight with Urry ultimately settled Pena just outside the podium in fourth, but still well in contention for second place in the overall Championship with 179 points.
Having already provisionally clinched the Gold Cup Championship, Ansa Motorsports' Angel Benitez, Jr., had to find another goal today and he was not merely content to win yet another consecutive race.
The young Venezuelan driver poured on the speed in his quest to take the win, and collected yet another Official race lap record to prove that there was still more to accomplish after his recent success.
Scott Tucker of Level 5 Motorsports and the No. 12 Norton by Symantec Porsche 911 of David Calvert-Jones locked horns to contend for the last two positions on the Gold podium. Calvert-Jones was able to sneak his Competition Motorsports entry under Tucker and held him off in the final laps to take second place and build a 23-point lead over Melanie Snow in the overall points with 156 to his credit.
Tucker, who started 18th on the grid, ran a truly impressive race, slicing his way through the competition to firmly establish himself on the podium in third, which earned him the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for improving the most positions.
NGT Motorsports Pilot Henrique Cisneros joined his compatriots at the podium ceremony following the race to be justly rewarded for his BBS Pole position for the start of today's GT3 Cup competition.
IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama drivers and participants are looking forward to culminating the season at Road Atlanta on October 17-20.
What the Drivers are Saying:
Sean Johnston, Platinum Cup Provisional Champion, Race Winner, Wright Motorsports:
“There just isn’t enough time and words to thank all the people who have helped me get here. The overwhelming feeling of gratitude is so humbling right now. I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about where I was a year ago and where I am now. I never dreamed that we would be able to do this in our first season and I certainly never expected it, and to be here now is just so humbling and grateful. It’s pretty remarkable.
I don’t know know what's next, but I am sure everyone will be finding out in the next few months. We are working on it right now and we are not sure yet. I love Porsche and I love the GT3 Cup Car and I would love to continue to be a part of their brand.”
Angel Benitez Jr., Provisional Gold Cup Champion, Race Winner, Ansa Motorsports:
“We want to establish some records now. So I went out to see if I could get the race lap record and we really had a good race! It was hard at the start because we had a lot of Platinum traffic, but I am happy with the finish and now I am concentrating on racing well in the GTC category later today.”
Madison Snow, Second Place Platinum, Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports:
“It was a good run. I got Sean in Turn 1 on the outside, he was on the inside and once we got through I held it as long as I could and was gaining a little gap, but he caught me and I chased him for awhile but he just kept pulling away. So we were aiming for the podium and happy with where we finished.”
Miles Maroney, Third Place Platinum, TruSpeed Motorsports:
“I have mixed emotions. You know it’s always great to come and be on a podium anywhere, but it’s amazing how twisted expectations can get in such a short period of time. At Road America I would have been thrilled with third and now I am looking forward to Petit to keep improving.”
David Calvert-Jones, Second Place Gold Cup, Competition Motorsports:
“I am happier today! I am still not happy that I just couldn’t get out here to test though. I feel like the car was just not properly set up for this track, and with only two sessions to set it up it’s tough! Coming out here from California is nearly impossible, but hey, I got second place!”
Scott Tucker, Third Place Gold Cup and Yokohama Hard Charger Award, Level 5 Motorsports:
“It was a great race! GT3 Cup is always just a good fight from the start and running with these guys is like a five rounder heavyweight championship fight! I had nothing for these guys today and I am proud of my third place finish. I did the best I could so it was a great day!”