2022 USTCC season finishes in exciting fashion
The United States Touring Car Championship 2022 season was once again filled with action and drama and it took the last race of the season to settle all of the championships. Only one of the four classes was settled before the last race of the season. That meant that the double header weekend at Thunderhill Raceway would be the decider after a long season that started in April.
The easiest class was GT with Bob Accardo clinching the class Championship at the previous round. Accardo’s Accurate Arms Chevrolet Camaro was the quickest car at most races and he managed to win 4 out of 6 races that he entered.
The Super Touring class was a battle between several machines. Viktor Czapla and Matthew Rivkin have been pretty dominant in the ST class this season in their CoolBoxx Audi R8s. Czapla has won 6 of 8 races this year. Looking really fast have been Rob Harper in his BMW 335i as well as Reto Baumann in the Red Panther Motorsport Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Both have had reliability problems that has cost them a chance to win the championship. Jean Meynet’s Chevrolet Corvette has also been fast with a couple of second place finishes but he missed half the season.
At Thunderhill, the two Audis of Czapla and Rivkin went at it and at Round 8 they were neck and neck for the entire race. At the end of the race, Rivkin finally managed to edge out Czapla and scored his second win of the season. Unfortunately for Rivkin, Czapla finishing in second place meant that he had enough points to win the championship. So at the end it was 805 for Czapla and 745 for Rivkin. The team of Rob Harper and Art Nersisyan finished third with 334 points.
The Touring Car class battle was also extremely tight and everyone knew that a small mistake could cost the season. Going into the last race weekend, the team of Gary Trudeau and Dave Brown were ahead by a very slim margin in their Gary’s Air Bag Service/ACS Hyundai Genesis. In second place was the team of Gary Sheehan and Reza Arsham in the GoGoGear.com/ Konig Wheels Hyundai Genesis. They knew that to beat the Trudeau/Brown team all they had to do was win both races, a task easier said than done.
At the green flag of Round 7, Sheehan jumped to the lead while Brown fell to third place. Brown charged back and worked his way up to second and on lap 8 he tried to get under Sheehan at Turn 10. Sheehan kept the pressure and the two touched causing Brown to spin and fall again to third place. This time he drove ferociously and started catching Sheehan once again when with two laps to go he reported to the Red Panther Motorsport team that he was out of gas and had to watch the rest of the race from the sidelines. This was a huge blow for them but after the race Sheehan received a penalty for not leaving enough room and was dropped to third place. Ali Arsham, driving the GoGoGear.com / Konig Wheels Hyundai Genesis took the victory with Marion Engelke finishing second in the Red Panther Motorsports Mitsubishi Evo.
In Round 8, it was simple. Win the race and you will win the championship. Sheehan once again started up front and took the lead. This time his teammate was behind him in the Hyundai Genesis, driven by Ali Arsham. Brown quickly passed Arsham and went looking for Sheehan but the plan did not work as planned since he had to contend with Arsham who would not leave him alone. Arsham harassed Brown for the entire race and managed to take the focus away from Brown who had to play defense. At the finish it was Sheehan first, Brown second and Arsham third. Sheehan thought he had the championship but after a post-race audit of the points it was discovered that there was a calculation mistake in the points and the Brown/Trudeau team had actually accumulated 5 more points over the course of the season.
The Sportsman class was always where most of the action happens but at Thunderhill it was fairly quiet with only two participants. The two would affect the championship in a big way however. With a first place and a second place finish, the team of Tom Lepper and Michael McColligan, driving the GoGoGear.com/ Konig Wheels Honda Civic, would win the championship over all of their rivals with Lepper scoring his fifth USTCC Championship. He would also become the oldest driver ever to win a USTCC championship.
With a first place and second place finish, Ben Penn managed to jump from fourth place into second place in the championship in the GoGoGear.com/PathToReadingSuccess.com BMW 325i. Chris Evertsen and Charlie Frank finished third in the Speed Traveler/GoGoGear.com BMW 328i.
The Plastex Top Rookie of the Year was packed this year with 18 rookies trying to win the title. At the end, it came down to a battle between two drivers who really wanted it. Marion Engelke in the Red Panther Motorsports Mitsubishi Evo managed to collect 680 points over the course of the year which was 69 points more than Ben Penn who collected 611 points and finished second. Matt Million finished third in the Palomar Racing BMW 330i.
The Top Team is perhaps the most coveted of the awards and the Red Panther Motorsport team was first going into the last weekend by a slim margin. But after what happened at Thunderhill, the GoGoGear.com team managed to jump into first with 2110 points. Second was the CoolBoxx team with 2040 points and Red Panther Motorsport finished third with 2035 points only five points behind.