Ben Keating Nearly Forced Out of Sunday’s Race in Dodge Viper Cup Presented by Pennzoil Ultra, but Still Wins Season Championship
Daytona Beach, Fla., October 23, 2011 – A.J. Morgan, running third entering the second lap of the deciding race of the Dodge Viper Cup championship, made a late-braking move for the front going into turn one at Daytona International Speedway and almost took out championship leader Ben Keating. Morgan banked off the side of Keating’s Dodge Viper ACR-X, turning Keating around and out of the lead.
Morgan emerged in first place and was immediately under attack by Kuno Witmer, driving Dave Fiorelli’s #81 car as an impromptu Celebrity Driver. Witmer took advantage of the melee to get by Farnbacher into second. Morgan held the front for a short time, but a cut front tire from the contact with Keating forced Morgan into the pits and out of contention for both the race. Keating also pitted to change a tire, but did not have time to repair his left side exhaust, which was almost completely closed by the contact. He charged back out in pursuit of the championship, sounding more like a jet than an ACR-X.
Farnbacher was soon at Witmer‘s back bumper with Craig Stanton right behind, the three closely followed by Jeff Courtney. The race among these four professional drivers was shaping up to be a war, but Farnbacher suddenly exited to the pits with unknown problems after taking a couple of runs at Witmer.
Now it was Stanton’s turn and he dogged Witmer for the rest of the race but could not get close enough to make a move. A small misstep could have changed the order, but Witmer did not put a foot wrong. The two pulled away from Courtney who finished two seconds ahead of Dave Fiorelli at the end.
Celebrity driver and Mopar-sponsored NHRA Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson finished 12th in his Lux Performance ACR-X. Both he and his teammate Craig Stanton were enthusiastic about the opportunity to drive a Viper. Daytona was Johnson’s second drive in the Dodge Viper Cup Presented by Pennzoil Ultra. Johnson said he is getting better at road racing and enjoys the challenge. Stanton compared the ACR-X favorably to his regular Porsche GT ride.
“With the Porsche, you have to make about 13 corrections into the apex—your arms are sawing away at the wheel because its handling is so complicated—but the Viper is smooth and easy to get into the turn and then get back on the power.”
After his tire change, Keating charged around the track, making up time and positions as insurance for his title quest. He came up to Morgan on the infield section, and Morgan slowed to give up the position, and then cruised around for the rest of the race. After the finish, he approached Keating and apologized.
Keating made it to fifteenth place, but only needed to start the race to claim the championship. He was 58 points ahead of Morgan at the start. A win was worth 60 points, so he just needed four points to clinch. With 18 cars in the race, last place would have paid 6 points and he got 12. Keating’s consistent performance during the season put him in charge for the final race. He was emotional at the championship podium, inviting his entire family and crew to share the ceremony with him. He joins Ryan Schimsk, the 2010 champion, on the Viper Cup perpetual trophy.
|Pos||Car #||First||Laps||Total Time||Best Time|
|9||19||Michael von Quilich||10||20:54.140||1:55.229|