Pilgrim Grabs First Win of 2010; Teammate Pobst Earns Championship at VIR

ALTON, Va. – In a thrilling day of World Challenge Championships action during the Race-Keeper VIR Grand Prix presented by MTM Special Ops Watch at VIRginia International Raceway, Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., shook a frustrating season with a GT win, while Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., wrapped up the GT Drivers’ Championship and Volvo was crowned Manufacturers’ Champion.

Pilgrim started on the pole in the No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, pulled away from the field, and never looked back en route to his first win of the season. It capped a perfect day for Pilgrim, who led all 22 laps, turned the fastest race lap in a time of 1:58.410 (99.417 mph), and averaged 88.389 mph over the 71.94-mile race on his way to a 1.392-second margin of victory.

“It’s been a funny year and this weekend has been the funniest part of the year,” Pilgrim said. “Last night, we determined that there was something wrong with the car all year. The team worked so hard and they haven’t been able to fix it. It’s just been so frustrating for everyone. Yesterday, we overheated the gearbox to the point that they would have had to have changed the gearbox. That’s like a nine-hour job and they looked at the data and said, ‘you know what Andy, if you don’t mind, we’d like to put you in last year’s car.’ I said ‘okay, let’s do it.’ We’d set it up as a back-up car in case Randy or I had a problem with our main car, so we knew it wouldn’t be that far off if at all.

“It was like getting back in your favorite pair of slippers. It felt very good. It felt very similar to the other car, but it just ran better overall. My only fear was that we didn’t have a race setup on it but it held together.”

Pilgrim grabbed his first win of 2010 at VIR.

There were only two real moments of concern for Pilgrim throughout the race. The first came early in the race when Kuno Wittmer’s No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper, running in second, was charging hard and closing the gap to Pilgrim. The two raced into VIR’s famed Oak Tree Turn on lap 13, where Wittmer spun and allowed the Volvo to race away.

The second came on lap 17, when a full-course caution bunched the field behind the safety car for corner workers to retrieve a piece of metal on the racing surface. Pilgrim again pulled away from the field on the lap-20 restart and raced the remaining three laps to his 10th career GT victory.

“Kuno would have gotten me for sure,” Pilgrim conceded. “He was coming. He was on me. Kuno got balked in some traffic in the lower esses. I just flew through as hard as I could and threw it into Oak Tree as late and as hard as I could. As I was exiting, I could just see him fly straight off going in. I think he was probably frustrated from getting balked because he knew how close he was to me and he just overdid it. It was slick. You had to be really careful. I was like ‘what a shame, and thank goodness!’ There’s no way he wasn’t going to get me.

“I dedicate this race to Jeremy [Smallwood], my crew chief. He has worked so hard all year long on that car and never gave up on it or on me. Always a great attitude. He was in tears after the race. This one is definitely for Jeremy.”

Pobst earned his fourth-career World Challenge GT Drivers’ Championship with his runner-up finish in the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60. Pobst started third, spent the early stages of the race chasing Wittmer, and then settled in several car lengths behind his teammate to the checkered flag.

The runner-up finish clinched the GT Drivers’ Championship for Pobst, who previously won the honor in 2003, 2007 and 2008. The sweep of the top two positions by K-PAX Volvos also clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship for Volvo with one race remaining.

“I feel relief,” Pobst said. “Winning the Manufacturers’ Championship for Volvo was our mission. Winning a Drivers’ Championship was a bonus. The role for Andy and I was to do our part of the job—to help K-PAX Racing win this Championship for Volvo. We got some breaks yesterday with the weather. We got some breaks today with our competitors making mistakes. This is really important for Jim Haughey, who is the principle of K-PAX Racing. It is important for Volvo. We feel like we climbed to the top of the mountain and today we got to the summit.”

James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., earned a third-place finish from his fourth position on the grid but certainly passed more than just one car to do it. Sofronas made a mistake entering Turn One for the first time in his No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 after the standing start, and began lap two in ninth place. As Sofronas worked his way through the field, he ran off the track several times, hindering his progress. Among his many passes, Sofronas slipped past Jason Daskalos in the No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper for fifth position in Turn Two on lap 12 to earn the MTM Special Ops Watch Move of the Race.

He restarted with three laps to go behind teammate Jeff Altenburg in the No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3, and made his way into the final podium position on the race’s final lap.

“It was definitely not meant to be today,” Sofronas said. “On the start, I saw the inside clog up. I decided to take the outside line in one and went a little too deep and got two wheels off and fell to the back. I shook my head and said ‘this is gonna be a long day.’ I just needed to be patient and stay focused. I started picking off guys and then I’d make a mistake and fall back. I think I passed seven cars…twice. That’s not really how I like to drive. The car was more than capable but I was just not driving in my limits. I’m pretty lucky to finish third. It’s a testament to this GMG team and the Porsche.”

Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., the 2007 Touring Car Champion and four-time TC race winner, earned his career-best GT class finish in his first race weekend of the season in World Challenge.

Rob Morgan, of Conway, Ark., earned his second-consecutive fifth-place finish in the No. 46 TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3. The top-five matched Saturday’s for his best career World Challenge finish. Morgan was penalized 10 driver points for his role in an incident with Jason Daskalos, which led to his Dodge Viper’s retirement.

With only race wins and bragging rights on the line, the World Challenge Championships GT, GTS and Touring Car classes return to action in two weeks for the Toyo Tires World Challenge Utah Grand Prix presented by Bondurant, October 1-3, at Miller Motorsports Park.

For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com. The race will be broadcast along with the season finale from Miller Motorsports Park Saturday, October 30 at 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Versus.

Follow World Challenge on Twitter @WCRacing.

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