With so much of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship focused on the merging of assets and various rules and regulations changes, there hasn’t been nearly as much focus on the points standings themselves.
But with two races remaining in GT Daytona, an intense three-way battle has emerged in the fight for the class title.
Alex Job Racing’s Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen, AIM Autosport’s Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler and Turner Motorsport’s Dane Cameron are all deadlocked on 244 points heading into the Lone Star Le Mans at Austin.
Cameron and co-driver Markus Palttala have a class-high four wins but don’t have the lead in part due to a disastrous Rolex 24 at Daytona, when they failed to finish in the debut of the No. 94 BMW Z4 GT3.
That left them with only one point, and in need of a major comeback to even be in position considering neither MacNeil/Keen nor Bell/Sweedler has failed to score less than 19 in any other race this year.
“I didn’t even envision this, once we were flying home out of Daytona, to have two races to the end of the year and be tied with two other teams,” Cameron told Sportscar365. “It put a damper on the beginning of the program.”
However, wins at Mazda Raceway, Watkins Glen and the last two races at Road America and Virginia have propelled them back into title contention. This weekend, as Turner Motorsport makes its 300th professional start in racing, the team switches to No. 300 on the car.
For AIM, the story’s been a tad different. Bell and Sweedler made a last-minute team switch to the Ian Willis-led squad after their win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, then under the Level 5 Motorsports banner.
Since the switch, Bell and Sweedler have had a pair of runner-up finishes (Sebring and Watkins Glen, both Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races) but only posted two other top-five results. Luck hasn’t quite been on their side, with various penalties.
“We just need to minimize the mistakes. Virginia was painful, being a really fast car,” Bell said. “That was tough coming out of there, but we’re still tied and just need to string it together.”
Bell, a former Indy Lights champion in 2000, hasn’t raced much full-time since 2003 and is relishing the prospect of a season-long title.
“Honestly we’ve been thinking about the title since the start of the year,” he said. “It’s nice to be in a position to win races and race a full championship again. We have to make the most of it.”
Keen and MacNeil have been the measure of consistency in the No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America with seven top-fives and eight top-10 finishes in the first nine races of the year, despite not having a win.
A pre-race BoP adjustment should enhance the Porsche’s chances; the 911 GT America received a 10 kg weight break and a series of aero adjustments (50 mm front splitter, 25 mm wheel arch extension and the addition of a single dive plane).
“It came late, but it came at the most important time for us going into the last two races,” Keen said. “The changes on the front should produce a competitive package.”
Keen, who co-drove with MacNeil during the first of MacNeil’s back-to-back American Le Mans Series GTC titles in 2012, spoke highly of his growth and development in that time period.
“We’d had a killer year that year, but Cooper’s just grown since, both literally and physically,” Keen said. “He’s taller than me, and he’s the only guy in the series that is! He gets better every year. It’s great to have WeatherTech on board in terms of support.”