DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – MLT Motorsports’ Steven Aghakhani took the lead away from Cody Ware with 10 minutes to go Sunday (Jan. 21) and held on late to score the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge weekend sweep at Daytona. It marks two wins in as many races.
By virtue of the fastest lap on Saturday, Aghakhani started from pole and opened up a small gap. Meanwhile, Ware bombed his No. 51 into West Bend too quickly with cold tires and cold brakes.
The move allowed Ware to move up from fifth to second. Thienes then ran into the side of Ware’s car and spun himself out. Thienes was able to continue, but lost a lot of ground.
Ware was determined to be responsible for the incident. However, instead of a pass-through penalty, he was accessed a 10-second penalty that would be added to his race time at the end of the event. The argument here is that Ware didn’t cause the spin, but Ware placing his car in the fashion that he did contributed to the incident happening.
Ware was every bit as quick as Aghakhani and held on Aghakhani’s tail until they encountered slower GSX traffic. 20 minutes into the race, Ware made the move entering West Bend to take the lead.
At this point, Ware was already aware of the penalty against him, so the goal for the remainder of the race was to try to open up a 10-second lead on Aghakhani.
Much like how Ware got the lead, lapped traffic came into play once again. Ware got held up by Angus Rogers and Jim Jonsin exiting the International Horseshoe. That allowed Aghakhani to get a run. The two drivers split Rogers, but Ware was balked by Jonsin entering the Kink, which allowed Aghakhani to get the lead back with 10 minutes to go.
Shortly afterwards, Performance Tech Motorsports’ Alex Kirby went too hot into the Le Mans chicane and spun into the grass. He was then unable to get restarted, forcing IMSA to put out the full course yellow.
There was only time for a one-lap shootout once the incident was cleared. Aghakhani was able to get a good jump over Ware and pulled away to clinch the weekend sweep. Ware ended up finishing second on the road, seven-tenths of a second behind Aghakhani.
Due to the penalty, Ware ended up being classified eighth, the last driver on the lead lap. Afterwards, Ware was clearly crushed and spent time in the garage by himself, thinking about what could have been.
In GSX, KohR Motorsports’ Luca Mars started from pole in his new Ford Mustang GT4. When the green flew, Mars was able to open a small gap over Michael Cooper‘s Porsche. Meanwhile, Marc Miller dropped down the order, dealing with a lack of speed on the banking. He would eventually retire from the race with mechanical issues.
Mars was able to open up a two-second lead over Cooper with Stephen Cameron Racing’s Greg Liefooghe giving chase. The trio drove away from the rest of the class to settle the race among themselves.
The caution brought everyone back together for the shootout, but Mars was able to hold on for the win. The margin of victory was 1.322 seconds over Cooper. Liefooghe was third, while Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare was fourth. Split Decision Motorsports’ Patrick Wilmot was fifth.
This race will air via tape-delay on CNBC on Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. ET.
VP Racing SportsCar Challenge teams will take a month and change off before returning to action on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Race No. 1 is scheduled for March 9 and will be streamed live on Peacock.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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