Shane Lewis snaps Ben Keating's SRT Viper Cup winning streak.
It isn't often that the celebrity entries in a motorsports event compete for the win against the series regulars. That is unless the celebrities happen to be Shane Lewis and Tommy Kendall.
It isn't often that the celebrity entries in a motorsports event compete for the win against the series regulars. That is unless the celebrities happen to be Shane Lewis and Tommy Kendall. The two road racers displayed their skills Saturday on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn Virginia International Raceway road course.
Kendall grabbed the pole for the SRT Viper Cup Series event and Lewis took the win in the 25-minute timed event, ending Ben Keating's four-race domination in the series. Keating, the defending series champion, swept both races at Road Atlanta and Road America (two races at each venue) and was looking to keep his record unblemished.
Keating started second and used a quick reaction from the standing-start to grab the early lead. Meanwhile, Kendall had mechanical issues early. That left Lewis to take up the chase. He pressured Keating lap after lap until he got the break he needed on Lap 6.
A slight miscue in Turn 17 kept Keating from returning to full throttle on exit as normal. That was the opening Lewis was looking for as he motored past for the lead. Keating gave chase the final six laps but couldn't get in position for a serious challenge for the lead. He finished second. Jim Booth finished third.
"This SRT Viper was awesome," said Lewis. "This series is amazing. I had no idea it was this much fun. Ben did a fantastic job. After Tommy dropped out, it was time to go and chase Ben. All I did was pace him. I wasn't going to get around him; I was just hoping he would make a mistake. Unfortunately for him, he did make a little mistake. If it hadn't been for that, I would have been second to Ben. This car on any track would be great. I would be comfortable in this car on a street course or any track in the world. Anywhere, put me in."
Keating missed Friday's six 30-minute practice session. His first lap on the track was Saturday morning in the final 30-minute practice session. He still qualified second and finished second.
"I got a great start, better than I could hope for," said Keating. "I got out in the lead and it was my race to win. I pushed wide in 17 one time and had to slow down just enough that Shane got by me. The last three laps, I was about four-tenths faster than he was trying to track him down. I was pushing as hard as it could be pushed. I slid wide a couple of times. I really enjoyed racing with Shane. It was a fun race; it's fun to have a rabbit to chase down."
The field for Sunday's 35-minute timed race will be set in reverse order of finish from today's race. That means Kendall will start on the front row.
"We lost oil pressure early which was a surprise," Kendall said. "From what I'm told, it's really rare. There was no noise, no drama. I smelled a little oil smoke and thought it was tightening up, so I was off the gas. No oil pressure, so I shut it off.
"I've never raced one of these cars, I've never raced at VIR and I've never done a standing-start, so I've checked a bunch of boxes today. Qualifying was fun. I really like qualifying, always have. This was a tall order, Ben sets a pretty high mark – he's been perfect this year. He had a big target on his back. We were trying to out-qualify him and beat him as well. When you have someone that's setting such a high level, everybody wants to beat him. I remember that when it was on my back. This place is fast. These cars with the downforce, they take a lot of commitment. I didn't fully commit until it counted. I'll have to admit I was a bit surprised by that lap time."
The SRT Viper Cup Series presented by Pennzoil Ultra consists of two events at each of five hosts tracks. Tomorrow's finale at VIR will be a 35-minute timed event.
Race Results SRT Viper Cup Series presented by Pennzoil Ultra Virginia International Raceway Saturday, July 7, 2012
Points Standing (After 5 of 10 events)