After years of coming oh-so-close, Spencer Pumpelly finally became an IMSA champion at Road Atlanta last weekend, winning the ST championship in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
Along with co-driver Nick Galante, the 41-year-old Atlanta resident won the Road Atlanta season finale, in the No. 17 RS1 Porsche Cayman. It was his fourth win of the season, adding to Daytona, Watkins Glen and Road America.
“I’ve always been a guy who likes to win races, and doesn’t really care much about championships,” Pumpelly told Sportscar365 after the race.
“As we got through the season we realized this would be a really big deal if we could bring these guys to the top of the championship. Sure enough, as it got closer and closer, it looked better and better.
“We had two disaster races, and a little issue with pass-arounds at VIR and then we had the cables at COTA. I thought for sure that at that point it was lost.”
Pumpelly even took to his Twitter account following mechanical problems at COTA, admitting that his championship hopes were looking very slim.
Nevertheless, problems for his championship rivals Freedom Autosport allowed RS1 to take the victory in Atlanta.
“We came here thinking we can win the race and if we do, we’d see where the cards fall,” he continued. “We took the lead but I knew the No. 25 was P2 and that was well within their margin of error to win the championship.
“But sure enough, they had some bad luck. Those guys have been great all year, and they’re good competitors on track.
“We had a lot of good on-track racing with them this year, and the No. 56, the No. 93 and No. 44.
“There are a lot of really good cars in this championship so it would have been great to settle it on the track, but it came down to who could keep the cars together in the last three rounds.”
In a season in which the top GS class has received criticism for its low car counts, the ST class has flourished with thrilling racing all year.
Even as someone with considerable GS experience in previous seasons, Pumpelly is quick to praise the second tier for the quality of competition this year.
“ST times are about where out GS times were when we were doing GS,” he said. “It’s kind of the new GS. The teams and the drivers are just phenomenal. Every car gets around the track differently.
“We’ll never win at Laguna or Lime Rock, but we have a really good advantage here on the back straight. It’s fun to see how everyone gets around the track differently, and it’s certainly some pretty good racing.”
It has been a packed season for Pumpelly, including rides with Change Racing and RealTime Racing in GT Daytona and Pirelli World Challenge, respectively, on top of his Continental Tire Challenge effort.
He says that doing both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well as Continental Tire Challenge has brought some difficult clashes over the course of the season.
“[It has been difficult] at times, especially with the series not really designing the schedule for the guys who are doing both,” he admitted.
“Back when I was doing this ten years ago, I never had any conflicts, but now I’m missing a lot of drivers’ meetings because I’m doing the GTD practices.”
Looking ahead to next season, while nothing is confirmed yet, he would consider the chance of a third year with RS1, following a successful run this season.
“We don’t have anything in writing and there’s a lot of other things on the table,” he said. “Certainly I hope to continue with Nick, and Phil, who runs logistics and was a huge supporter of us all year.
“I’d love the opportunity to arise to continue.”
John Dagys contributed to this report