By Mark Robinson
BRASELTON, Ga. – If Jeff Kingsley is tired, he isn’t showing it on the racetrack. The 22-year-old drove to a methodical but dominant win Saturday in the final race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama tripleheader at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and widen his championship lead.
Kingsley won by 5.577 seconds over championship rival Riley Dickinson in the 45-minute race that ran caution-free. It gave Kingsley two victories for the weekend and nine for the season. The driver of the No. 16 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car has finished first or second in all 12 races this season.
The Canadian has been extraordinarily busy of late. He swept the tripleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the last weekend of September, had a weekend off and then made his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut Oct. 9-10 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL before taking on the three GT3 Cup Challenge USA races this weekend at Michelin Raceway.
He’ll follow the GT3 Cup Challenge USA to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., next weekend to make up the doubleheader event postponed from March. By the time that’s completed, Kingsley will have driven in nine races over a five-week span.
“It’s a lot of racing,” Kingsley said. “It’s definitely a challenge, but at this point in my career, a challenge is what I’m looking for. It’s the only way to get better and move forward and move up.”
Kingsley started from the pole on Saturday, jumped to the lead and gradually pulled away from Dickinson in the No. 53 Moorespeed Porsche. Sebastian Carazo, Kingsley’s teammate in the No. 27 Kelly-Moss entry, finished third for the second time this weekend.
Kingsley takes a 25-point lead in the Platinum Cup class for current-generation 911 GT3 Cup cars over Dickinson to St. Pete’s 1.8-mile temporary street course.
“I’m still focused race by race,” Kingsley said. “You can’t think too far ahead and get your hopes up because, in this sport, anything can happen. I’ve just got to focus one race at a time. We’ve got two coming up in St. Pete, a tricky track where anything can happen. I’ve got to keep it clean, keep the speed up and hope for a couple more wins.”
In the Platinum Masters class for drivers 45 and older, Charlie Luck was giddy after completing a weekend sweep of victories. Driving the No. 45 Wright Motorsports Porsche, Luck took the class lead when points leader Alan Metni spun halfway through the race. Metni, in the No. 99 Kelly-Moss/AM Motorsports car, recovered to erase an eight-second deficit to Luck, making a pass for the class lead with just eight minutes remaining.
Metni’s hopes for victory ended, however, when he pulled off course with a mechanical issue as the white flag waved to signal the final lap. Metni, who had won eight of the first nine Masters races before going winless this weekend, saw his points lead over Luck trimmed to 25 with four races left on the schedule.
“We have obviously never had a three-for-three,” an excited Luck said. “I just can’t say enough about all the preparation. We just tried to focus so hard on every brake application, every throttle, every apex. We had some luck with it, too, because Metni had trouble. It just goes to show consistency sometimes is what wins the race, and that’s what we did today.”
The Gold Cup class, for 911 GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016, saw its own drama between frontrunners Curt Swearingin and Efrin Castro. Starting behind Castro based on their fastest lap times in Friday’s second race, Swearingin spent most of Saturday working to get his No. 17 ACI Motorsports Porsche within striking distance of Castro in the No. 65 TPC Racing entry.
Swearingin’s opportunity came when Castro swung wide exiting the final turn of the 2.54-mile road course with 10 minutes left. As Castro’s car bounced along the front straight with two wheels in the grass, Swearingin sped past. Castro’s car sustained enough damage that he wasn’t able to finish, with Swearingin winning the Gold Cup class by 19 seconds over teammate Richard Edge in the No. 18 ACI Porsche.
“Efrin did a great job once I got to him of just keeping in front of me,” Swearingin said, “but then he made a slight mistake and it was over for him. Real glad to get the win. ACI put together a great car or I never would’ve been able to chase him down and get to him to make him make a mistake. We’re happy to get the two wins this weekend and extend our points lead. It’s all good.”
With eight Gold Cup victories this season, Swearingin takes an 18-point lead over Castro to St. Petersburg, which features races at 1:50 p.m. ET Saturday and 12:35 p.m. Sunday. Both will stream live on IMSA.com.