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Grahovec Shines In The Heart Of Texas

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AUSTIN, Texas – Toby Grahovec, Jason Wolfe and Will Rodgers scored wins in the TC, TCA and TCB classes during round two of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday afternoon.
Carl Rydquist led from the standing start and TC pole into turn one, fending off a challenge from Friday’s winner Vesko Kozarov, who started second.
In TCA, polesitter Eric Powell slid to fifth off of the standing start but recovered nicely by the end of the lap to regain the lead over Jason Wolfe, Johan Schwartz and Elivan Goulart.
In TCB, polesitter Ted Hough took the lead over Henry Morse and Michael Johnson.
Kozarov didn’t wait long on the opening lap in TC, passing for the lead on the back straight which demoted Rydquist to fourth as Grahovec and Nick Wittmer followed Kozarov through.
TCA was equally exciting as Wolfe passed Powell to take the lead on the second lap, but Powell fought back, re-passing Wolfe shortly thereafter.
Wittmer, who ran well in Saturday’s race until a mechanical problem took him out of the race, then assumed the lead in TC in his Honda, but that didn’t last long as Grahovec then took the lead back, while at the same time Rydquist was closing from third.
The front of the field in TC continued to shuffle, as Kozarov dropped back to fifth on lap five, trailing Tony Rivera.
In TCB, Hough would drop back with P.J. Groenke, taking the lead followed by Tom O’Gorman and Rodgers. TCB would see multiple lead changes as the top four cars ran in a swarm, nose-to-tail, with Groenke, O’Gorman, Rodgers and Hough trading the lead and all four spots back and forth.
At the 10-minute mark of the 40-minute race, Grahovec was managing a nine-tenths of a second TC lead over Wittmer, with Rydquist closely following, with Rivera in fourth and Kozarov in fifth.
Rivera then got the better of his fellow Nissan driver, getting around Rydquist for third, while Grahovec’s lead was up to two seconds and growing over Wittmer as the race clock hit 16 minutes of the scheduled 40 minute race.
In TCA, Powell continued to lead Wolfe by two seconds, with Goulart in third. Fourth belonged to Joey Bickers and fifth to Drake Kemper.
Two-time and defending 2015 Pirelli World Challenge TCA champion Wolfe was able to catch Powell by lap seven, making a pass, out-braking Powell through turn 13.
In TCB, Rodgers assumed the lead with a pass over O’Gorman, with Hough back in third and Blake Thompson in fourth followed by Groenke.
With 12 minutes to go, Kozarov moved into fourth, passing Rydquist who had a reported mechanical issue, which also promoted Shea Holbook into the top five.
On lap nine in TCA, the lead battle became three wide with Goulart, Powell and Wolfe, with the three exchanging positions in two consecutive corners and Wolfe moving into the lead.
In TCB, the race continued to get interesting as Hough moved past O’Gorman into second and Morse then moved on Hough for third a few laps later while Rodgers continued to lead.
When the checkered flew, Grahovec scored his second career Pirelli World Challenge race win and claimed the first win for the new BMW M235iR in North America, with Wittmer bouncing back to finish second after Saturday’s mechanical problem and Rivera completing the podium with a third place run.
TCA saw the last lap erupt into a drag race to the line, with Wolfe winning by a mere foot over Goulart for his 14th career win, and Bickers nosing out Powell for the final podium spot across the finish line.
Rodgers secured some redemption with his first career win in Pirelli World Challenge. On Friday in round one, it appeared the driver had also secured his first career win before a post-race technical infraction took it away. O’Gorman and Morse completed the TCB podium.
“It is awesome to win close to home,” said Grahovec. “We have about 60 family and friends here today and to win is fantastic. Both races this weekend were tough. I got lucky in traffic and got a little bit of a gap. Traffic is tough here with the B Spec cars and some of the TCA machines. You really have to be on the ball with the standing starts but I had a good one today. We’ll have a great party tonight after the win.”
“We had a similar problem with fuel starvation at the end but I was able to hold on and take the win this time,” said Wolfe. “We got another half-gallon in the car for this race. And Elivan (Goulart) made it interesting at the end too. I saw him right there in my mirror and it was a little scary. I didn’t want the same thing to happen again as Friday. The crew guys were pretty bummed after that finish. I’m very glad we got the win for those guys. This is the same car I drove last year and this time the car is handling a little better now. Elivan and I are pretty balanced right now so it will be battle all year. We each have a win and a second so far.”
“We came from behind again after our issues (DSQ) yesterday,” said Rodgers. “I knew I had to redeem myself but I didn’t know how I would do in the standing start. I did them in karting but this was my first pro race doing the standing start. I hadn’t done any tests. Surprisingly, I did pretty well and passed a few cars right at the start. We were pushing each other on many laps. Finally, I thought I needed to make my move and I got it. It was the move of the race. This has been a very eventful weekend for me in my first pro racing weekend. I can’t thank the Hale Motorsports enough for their help and guidance.”

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