Kranz Tops Prototype Challenge Qualifying; Priaulx Clinches Porsche Carrera Cup Title; Another MX-5 Cup Thriller
By Mark Robinson
BRASELTON, Ga. – He’s the reigning IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge champion, but before Thursday, Kyle Marcelli had never won a Motul Pole Award in the series. Now, with that under his belt, Marcelli isn’t sure if he’ll race in Friday’s Fox Factory 120 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Marcelli topped the Grand Sport (GS) class in qualifying Thursday at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Michelin Raceway road course with a lap of 1 minute, 25.922 seconds (106.421 mph) in the No. 59 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4. It earned Marcelli a first Motul Pole Award in a rare qualifying stint.
“I think this is my second qualifying attempt,” Marcelli said. “I don’t usually get to qualify in this series so it was a first for me and a bit of a learning experience.”
So is the fact that the pole sitter isn’t sure if he and co-driver/team owner Dean Martin will compete in Friday’s two-hour race. The KohR Mustang hasn’t raced since the season opener at Daytona International Speedway when it crashed after just nine laps. The plan coming into this weekend was to log as many laps as possible in practice and qualifying, with an eye toward the 2022 season.
“It’s kind of a rebuilt race car and we just wanted to see how this Ford would stack up against the competition,” Marcelli said. “We don’t have budget to do the race; we never were planning on that. It was just going to be a practice-and-qualify sort of weekend.”
Asked if winning the pole would change the scenario for the race, Marcelli replied, “I really don’t know at this point. We’ll see what the boss (Martin) says.”
Ryan Norman led a Hyundai 1-2-3 qualifying sweep in the Touring Car (TCR) class. Driving the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR that he shares with Parker Chase, Norman turned a top lap of 1:28.014 (103.892 mph) to lead the 17-car class field. Harry Gottsacker was second in the No. 33 BHA Elantra at 1:28.460, with Tyler Gonzalez third in the No. 27 Copeland Motorsports Hyundai Veloster N TCR at 1:28.619.
Friday’s two-hour race airs live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio, with the green flag at 1:10 p.m. ET.
Kranz Collects Pole Position for IMSA Prototype Challenge Finale
The contenders for the IMSA Prototype Challenge championship locked up the front row Thursday in qualifying for Friday’s season finale. Moritz Kranz turned a lap of 1:16.312 (119.823 mph) in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08, edging by 0.108 seconds Josh Sarchet in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320. Sarchet and co-driver Dakota Dickerson lead Kranz by 100 points heading into the one-hour, 45-minute race that streams live at 8 a.m. ET Friday on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
Priaulx Wraps up Porsche Carrera Cup Championship with Race 1 Win
Seb Priaulx left no doubt in Thursday’s opening race of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America. The driver of the No. 15 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car, type 992, started from the pole and led every lap to win and clinch the Pro class championship in the series’ inaugural season. Priaulx won by 0.623 seconds over teammate and top title contender Kay van Berlo (No. 3 Porsche).
Van Berlo won Thursday’s second race by 0.384 seconds over Priaulx. Efrin Castro (No. 65 Team Hardpoint) won both Pro-Am class races on Thursday, as did Dimitri Damakos (No. 96 Goldcrest Motorsports) in Pro-Am 991. The Carrera Cup season finale starts at 11:15 a.m. Friday and streams live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
Wagner Takes Checkered in Mazda MX-5 Cup Thriller
Gresham Wagner edged Jared Thomas by a miniscule 0.015 seconds in Thursday’s opening race of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires doubleheader at Michelin Raceway. Wagner (No. 5 Spark Performance Mazda) moved from third place to first in the final turns as Thomas (No. 96 JTR Motorsports Engineering) and Michael Carter (No. 08 Carter Racing Enterprises) battled ahead of him. Wagner slid wide exiting the 12th and final corner but hung on to win in the sixth MX-5 Cup race this year with a victory margin of less than two-tenths of a second.
Carter finished third and trails Wagner by 150 points, with only Friday’s race (10:05 a.m., TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold) remaining this season.