With a field of talented drivers piloting an amazing variety of machinery representing every type of platform from American muscle to European high performance, exotic luxury cars to boutique racing marques in both single and two-driver race formats, the Pirelli GT4 America series has provided race fans with exciting, action packed competition thus far this 2019 campaign. As teams and drivers head to Watkins Glen Raceway August 30 to September 1 to open the final leg of the season, the championship battles are reaching a boiling point.
The popular Panoz Racing team competing in honor of its namesake, Dr. Don Panoz, who passed away shortly after the 2018 season, has several drivers who are in the mix vying for 2019 season championship honors. The SprintX Am Panoz Avezzano GT4 driver pair of Preston Calvert and Matthew Keegan have won five races thus far this season, including a sweep of the most recent race weekend at Portland, and lead in the driver's championship standings heading to Watkins Glen, while Ian James a two-time race winner to date leads in the Pro division in the Sprint championship.
Series veterans and perennial championship contenders Blackdog Speed Shop, campaigning the McLaren 570S GT4, are again in the thick of things in 2019. Michael Cooper, a three-time series champion, sits only a few points behind James in the Pro division driver's standings. Cooper secured his first win of the season in Round 8 at Sonoma. Team owner and Am division driver Tony Gaples sits third in class – the Libertyville, IL racer has over 160 series starts.
Another well-known team – The Racers Group (TRG) – with its Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsports has talented driver Spencer Pumpelly behind the wheel in the Sprint Pro class – Pumpelly has won two races thus far and sits third in the driver's standings behind James and Cooper. In the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX west series, TRG's pairing of Kevin Woods and Chris Bellomo sit second overall in the Am class, while Derek DeBoer and James Rappaport sit third in class heading to Watkins.
Robinson Racing made a splash last year with drivers Gar Robinson and Shane Lewis, and both have competed hard this season in their Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R machines in pursuit of a Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Championship. Sitting fourth and fifth respectfully with six races remaining, both still have the opportunity to get themselves into the championship conversation in the single driver sprint series.
Andretti Autosport, a name familiar to race fans worldwide from their open-wheel exploits, has Jarett Andretti behind the wheel of their McLaren 570S GT4 in the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint and SprintX championships. The 26-year-old, who is the son of versatile driver John Andretti and nephew to team principal Michael Andretti, is an accomplished driver in his own right and has successfully made the step up to GT4 competition after debuting in the Touring Car ranks last year. Andretti started the season in the Am division and after scoring back-to-back victories at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, was promoted to the Pro division.
Another team gaining prominence in the Pirelli GT4 America series is the NOLASPORT Porsche 718 Cayman CS MR squad. The team's driver duo of Matt Travis and Jason Hart have so far dominated in the SprintX Pro/Am class winning six times and they co-lead the class' driver's championship heading to Watkins Glen. Looking to close the gap on NOLASPORT though is the Sonoma-based Stephen Cameron Racing team campaigning the BMW M4 GT4. Sean Quinlan and Gregory Liefooghe have won three races this season and are within striking distance of the leaders from NOLASPORT.
Also, from the BMW camp, Texas-based Classic BMW has team owner Toby Grahovec sharing duties with Chris Ohmacht – the pair currently sit tied for third overall in the SprintX Pro/Am class. The team's SprintX Pro/Am team of Justin Rafael and Stevan McAleer sit second in the driver's championship in the Pirelli GT4 America East division. Fellow BMW team Samantha Tan Racing (ST Racing) is back with the Bavarian manufacturer and have a strong contingent of drivers vying for championships. Jon Miller and Harry Gottsacker have four race victories in SprintX West Pro/Am competition this season and have mathematically clinched the class' driver's championship. Samantha Tan and Jason Wolfe sit second in the standings. Sitting third behind the two ST Racing teams in the championship standings is the USRD Ginetta G55 driver pair of Jeff Bader and Casey Dennis.
The Auto Technic Racing BMW M4 GT4 team of John Allen and Kris Wilson have had a consistent season to date and while they haven't won a race in the SprintX Am division, they have had numerous podium finishes and sit only a couple of points behind leaders Calvert and Keegan.
Other teams and drivers to watch include Nicolai Elghanayan driving the Marco Polo Motorsports KTM X-bow, he won his first Sprint series race of 2019 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and could make a late season charge to become a challenger. Ford Mustang GT4 driver Drew Staveley sits atop the Am driver's championship standings, in the Ian Lacy Racing entry. Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport team Park Place Motorsports has 2018 GTS (GT4) Rookie-of-the-Year Alan Brynjolfsson behind the wheel – Brynjolfsson sits behind Gaples in the Sprint Am division driver's championship standings. With four wins to date, the Rearden Racing's pair of Vesko Kosarov and Jeff Burton in the Audi R8 LMS GT4 sit atop the Pirelli GT4 America West SprintX Am division.