When the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda heads to Road Atlanta next weekend for its season-ending event, it’s likely LMP3 class champion may look at a decision made back in March as his championship-defining moment.
Coming off a second consecutive third-place finish to start the season driving the No. 30 Ligier JS P3 for Extreme Speed Motorsports, Kris Wright left Sebring second in points, four markers out of the top spot, and with a difficult decision to make about the remainder of the season.
“We didn’t really plan on doing the whole season and after Sebring we took a good look at the points, where we thought we were in terms of the other cars, and how our lineup sat,” said Wright. “We said, ‘Hey, you know, let’s run the thing. Yeah, maybe we can win.’”
In hindsight, it was the right call at the perfect time.
One race later, Wright and co-driver Yann Clairay were standing on the top step of the podium at Barber Motorsports Park, while the driver Wright was chasing in the standings, Austin McCusker, finished 16th.
Wright took the LMP3 class points lead that day and hasn’t looked back, finishing second at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and returning to victory lane at VIRginia International Raceway to extend his points lead to what is now a comfortable 23 points over, 162-139, over McCusker.
It would be the first professional sports car championship for Wright, but he isn’t letting himself look too far ahead.
“We’re just trying to focus on us and we’ll worry about what happens after the race,” he said. “We’re focused on making sure the crew doesn’t make a mistake, making sure the drivers don’t make any mistakes. We haven’t won it yet.”
Wright will have an assist at Road Atlanta in sports car veteran Nic Jonnson, who will co-drive the No. 30 entry for the race.
The duo will have a delicate balancing act in keeping the car clean to win the championship, while Wright also tries to become the only IPC driver this season to finish on the podium in every race.
“It would be a nice feather in the cap to podium in every race, but at the end of the day that’s all it really is, and the championship matters more than anything,” he said.
“We haven’t finished off the podium yet so our speed is there, but we’re not really too worried about it. We’re just worried about finishing the race and keeping it clean. We are going to try to win, but our number one priority is obviously to finish the race.”
A total of 27 cars are entered for the season finale at Road Atlanta, 17 in the LMP3 class and ten in the MPC class. Unlike LMP3, the MPC championship is anybody’s guess with seven cars within nine points of the class lead.
The championship-deciding race will go green on Friday, Oct. 12 at 8 a.m. ET and can be streamed live on IMSA.com.