Jason Saini raced to the top of the podium in his Mazda6 this weekend, during the SCCA’s SPEED World Challenge Touring Car series event at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Raceway. Saini placed third in qualifying but quickly made it to second place off the standing start, and spent much of the rest of the race fender to fender with defending series champion Peter Cunningham in his RealTime Racing TSX.
Saini passed Cunningham on the third lap but only secured some distance when Cunningham got tied up defending his position from Andrew Aquilante in the Phoenix Performance Inc. Subaru WRX.
When the checkered flag flew, however, Saini had secured an almost three second advantage after Cunningham, giving him not only the race victory but also the lead in the points race.
“I raced with Peter a couple of times last year. We had some side-by-side battles. He came out on top last year. This time, I came out on top. It is a dream come true to race with a guy like Peter,” said Saini. “I looked at where his strengths and weaknesses were and tried to push him. I tried to stick the nose in every once and a while to see. I just had a bit of a stronger car at that point and I was able to get down on the inside. I tried one time. I didn’t make it stick. I tried again and it did.”
As for the third-place Aquilante, he managed the last podium spot in just his third World Challenge race. Initially much of the credit can be handed to Subaru’s all-wheel drive system, which allowed Aquilante to race from a standing-start grid position of 8th to 3rd overall in just one lap.
“The start was good,” Aquilante said. “It was kind of wild the first couple of laps, with Jason and P.D. going back and forth. Jason got around him and things settled in single file. Then, about halfway through the race, I started to try to pick it up and the tires started to go away.”
“I finally caught up to them. I had a few runs at Peter down the front straightaway. We went side-by-side. He knew what I was going to do, so he protected the inside well. There were a couple of times he let me on the inside, but I couldn’t quite make it stick. I tried not to run him off the road. It was a good race.”
Finishing out the top five were Cunningham’s teammates Kuno Wittmer in 4th and Pierre Kleinubing in 5th.
As for the points race, as mentioned, with the win Saini takes the lead, with Kleinubing in 2nd and Seth Thomas in 3rd with his BMW 328i.
The race will be broadcast on SPEED Chanel Friday, May 22 at 2 p.m.. The next race is scheduled for Mosport International Raceway on May 16th and 17th
[Photo Credit: Mark Weber/SCCA]
Complete race results after the jump:
MILLVILLE, NJ – Results from Saturday’s 27-lap, 60.75-mile SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship Round Two race, part of the Verizon 250 Weekend at Thunderbolt Raceway, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps complete, distance behind winner and reason out (if any).
1. (3), Jason Saini, Ft. Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 27.
2. (1), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 27, -2.967.
3. (8), Andrew Aquilante, Phoenixville, Pa., Subaru WRX, 27, -3.496.
4. (5), Kuno Wittmer, Montreal, Quebec, Acura TSX, 27, -5.895.
5. (6), Pierre Kleinubing, Coconut Creek, Fla., Acura TSX, 27, -6.210.
6. (10), Eric Foss(R), Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 27, -11.364.
7. (7), James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., BMW 328i, 27, -23.379.
8. (11), Toby Grahovec, Chicago, Ill., Acura TSX, 27, -34.052.
9. (9), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., BMW 328i, 27, -1:17.608.
10. (15), Alex Ratcliffe(R), Berryville, Va., Lexus IS300, 26, -1 lap.
11. (2), Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, Fla., MAZDA6, 26, -1 lap.
12. (13), Carl Hober, Cape May, N.J., Acura TSX, 26, -1 lap.
13. (12), Matt Lang(R), Bedminster, N.J., Dodge SRT 4, 13, Mech.
14. (4), Seth Thomas, Cumming, Ga., BMW 328i, 0, Mech.
SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Standings
Pos., Driver, Car, Points (Wins)
1, Jason Saini, MAZDA6, 224 (1)
2, Pierre Kleinubing, Acura TSX, 195
3, Seth Thomas, BMW 328i, 192 (1)
4, Peter Cunningham, Acura TSX, 172
5, Eric Foss(R), MAZDA6, 161
6, Andrew Aquilante, Subaru WRX, 160
7, Kuno Wittmer, Acura TSX, 160
8, James Clay, BMW 328i, 148
9, Nick Esayian, BMW 328i, 144
10, Toby Grahovec, Acura TSX, 125
World Challenge Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER
Pos., Manufacturer, Points (wins)
1, Acura, 16
2, Mazda, 14 (1)
3, BMW, 9 (1)