Kenny Murillo pounced when a backmarker got loose in front of leader Harry Gottsacker to move ahead and claim victory in Saturday’s Pirelli GT4 America race at Portland.
The Murillo Racing driver was running in third after the mid-race driver swaps but made up two positions to restore the pole-sitting No. 34 Mercedes-AMG GT4 out front.
Murillo, who shared the win with Christian Szymczak, got a better run than Gottsacker in the No. 28 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 when a lapped Porsche almost spun in front of the pair as they exited the Turn 2 right-hander with 23 minutes to go.
Gottsacker was later caught and passed by a hard-charging Gregory Liefooghe in the No. 19 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW for second position, while Jason Hart and Matt Travis finished fourth in their Nolasport Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
Completing the top five were Jason Wolfe and Samantha Tan in the second BMW entry from ST Racing.
At the start, pole-sitter Szymczak lost the lead to Vesko Kozarov who planted the Rearden Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 around the outside of the Mercedes into Turn 1.
Kozarov then guided a close-knit train of cars through the first 20 minutes before being granted some space when Szymczak and Jon Miller tussled over second position.
Miller, driving the No. 28 ST Racing BMW, drew up alongside Szymczak in the Turn 1 sequence but the pair remained glued side-by-side through the next few corners.
Szymczak eventually yielded the position and dropped back to fourth behind Kris Wilson, but this turned out to be a temporary fix after Wilson’s BMW was given a drive-through penalty for undercutting the minimum pit stop time.
The pit stops followed shortly after this, with clear leader Kozarov waiting until the very end of the window to come in.
However, this strategy played against the Rearden Audi which saw its net advantage disappear when Kozarov hit heavy traffic around the short and tight 1.97-mile circuit.
It meant Kozarov’s co-driver Jeff Burton emerged from the pits with both Gottsacker, in for Miller, and Murillo right on his tail at the start of the second stint.
A wide moment on the exit of Turn 6 was all that Gottsacker and Murillo needed to get a run on the Audi and draft past into first and second.
On the next lap, Murillo made the deciding move of the race past the ST Racing BMW, while a brief spin for Burton dropped him and Kozarov outside the top five.
Burton’s rotation promoted Hart to the provisional final podium spot in the No. 47 Nolasport Porsche that was started by Travis.
However, with two minutes remaining, Hart became stuck behind a backmarker and was consequently picked off by Liefooghe, who also set the fastest lap of the race.
Liefooghe, who shared the Stephen Cameron BMW with Sean Quinlan, then lunged underneath Gottsacker into the Turn 10 left-hander on the penultimate lap to grab second, but Murillo’s victory was secure with the Mercedes a further second up the road.
Murillo and Szymczak were classified overall and SprintX West Pro-Am winners, while Liefooghe’s pass on Travis decided who won the SprintX nationwide Pro-Am class.
The highest-placed Am entry was the sixth-overall No. 24 Ian Lacy Racing Ford Mustang GT4 driven by Drew Staveley and Frank Gannett, who are competing for West series points.
One place behind the Mustang in the overall order was the SprintX nationwide Am-winning No. 51 Panoz Avezzano GT4 of Preston Calvert and Matthew Keegan.