SALINAS, Calif. – College student Scott Heckert of Ridgefield, Conn., took time off from the books Sunday to capture his second GTS race of the season in the No. 54 Racer’s Edge Sin Car GT4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships presented by Nissan.
Heckert, a 22-year-old engineering student at Miami, Ohio, University, started on the pole Sunday in the 50-minute Round 19 event and held off a spirited challenge from veteran Andrew Aquilante of Chester Springs, Pa., in the No. 37 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 in the second half of the 31-lap contest at the legendary 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit near the Monterey Bay. Sixteen-year-old Nate Stacy of Owasso, Okla., rounded out the GTS podium Sunday in a great drive from last to third place in the No. 14 Roush Performance Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302.
The standing start for the 20-car field made for an interesting turn two down the hill at MRLS Sunday with Heckert grabbing the lead from four-time PWC series champion Lawson Aschenbach of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro followed by Aquilante and 16-year Parker Chase of New Braunfels, Tex., in the No. 19 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4.
Early in the event, Brett Sandberg of Allendale, N.J., the 2016 GTS point champion, spun his No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-Bow off the track in turn five to slow the field. Sandberg, a three-time 2016 GTS winner, was able to return to the field and finish 16th.
Aschenbach, battling Stacy for the runner-up spot in the GTS point standings, was forced to retire on lap 16 with a mechanical issue in the Chevrolet Camaro.
On the restart, Aquilante pressured Heckert in a nose-to-tail battle before Heckert pulled out the win by 1.101 seconds.
Stacy and Chase, both 16, put on a tremendous race for third in the second part of the 50-minute event before the Mustang driver collected the final podium placing by six-tenths of a second. Chase’s fourth place bettered his 17-year-old Performance Motorsports Group teammate Harry Gottsacker, age 17, who took the No. 29 Ginetta GT 4 to fifth at the checkered flag.
“We had been struggling with (starting line) launches all year and worked on it so much we’ve gotten it to where it’s pretty good,” said Heckert. “After some contact yesterday when the car was sputtering, there was no rear-view camera so I couldn’t tell where I was in turn one so I just blocked inside anyway and tried to build a gap. I knew Lawson didn’t have the pace that some of the other cars did this weekend. So even though he was second and I was pulling away from him, I knew that if some of the other guys in the Ginettas came up they could run us down, especially in the long run. Then the caution came out and it was a total dogfight between me and Andrew there. I gave it all I had in every corner, and the car was all used up at the end, but it was worth it.”
Aquilante said, “It’s good to be back. The GTS landscape has changed quite a bit. Thanks to Meg and Preston Calvert, Calvert Dynamics, for letting us have this opportunity. Congrats to Nate on the second and getting Ford the championship. We didn’t realize it was in play when we came out here so we’re glad that they sealed it up. I don’t know what happened on the restart, it just started running a little rough and I started throwing switches. After three laps, my crew came over the radio and said just shut it off and turn it back on. I did that and all of a sudden I’m in a big pack of cars and it comes back to life and I figured, ‘Ok – sorry, I have to go, I have some leaders to catch here.’ I don’t know if the caution was good or bad for us, we were chewing up the tires pretty good before that but we probably would have run out of tire before we caught them. So overall it was a pretty good race.”
“The race went surprisingly well even starting in the back,” said Stacy. “I told everyone I was going to “Seabiscuit” beforehand. Coming from last to first. I didn’t quite get first but something happened with (Aquilante’s) car and we caught up to him rather quickly. I didn’t know why but then he was gone again. Scott (Heckert) stayed in front the entire race and didn’t really do anything wrong; We just worked Scott Dollahite in the Lotus and we worked the field and got all the way up to fifth. I thought, ok, we have third place and then I saw Lawson (Aschenbach) break and I thought we have second place in the points. I thought to myself that the podium sounded really good.”
Unofficially, the 2016 GTS point standings saw Sandberg take the championship followed by Stacy, Aschenbach, Chase, Heckert and Scott Dollahite of Austin, Tex., in the No. 46 SDR Motorsports Lotus Evora.
GTS Round 19 awards were issued for the following:
The Optima Batteries Best Start award was given to No. 37 Andrew Aquilante in the Calvert Dynamics Ford Mustang Boss 302 for his two-position gain off the starting grid.
The KIA Turning Point was determind to be the retirement of the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro driven by Lawson Aschenbach.
Cadillac Best Move of the race award was given to race-winner No. 54 Scott Heckert.
The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger was awarded to No. 46 Scott Dollahite for his 13-position gain throughout the race.
Catch GTS action from the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Round 19 competition on CBS Sports Network. This episode premieres Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings for channel information and encore broadcasts.