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Peter LaRose Claims Great Lakes Factory Five Challenge Title

Mt. Meridian, IN - At the final event for the Great Lakes Region in 2009, three Challenge Series drivers showed up with two shooting for the Championship title and one as a spoiler. Peter LaRose (Northville, MI) came to Putnam Park with a twenty-two point lead followed by Brian Sanders (Cincinnati, OH). Greg Wellinghoff Jr. (Dayton, OH) sat in a distant third in his rookie season but could play a significant role in determining the Champion.

Prior to the racing, all were looking at how things could play out. Basically, Peter must finish in second place or better both days to secure the title. Brian had to win both days and hope for Peter to finish third at least once. This meant Greg would have to have the race of his season and beat Peter. Both Peter and Brian accomplished what they had control over with the edge going to Peter. This is not to say that Greg did not put in his best effort of the season.

The near summer like weather greeted the drivers as they arrived at the track early Saturday morning. Cars were unloaded, paddock space was set up, and cars were prepared for the morning practice. Those of you that have followed the season know the problems that have plagued Brian since losing his engine at Road America in August. Now on essentially his fourth engine this season, he was a little apprehensive of the first session out. But everything held together and he set the fastest time for the session. In Qualifying, it was Brian taking the pole by only a tenth of a second over Peter and Greg only marginally back as this was his first time to the track.

As the green flag flew Brian assumed the lead into turn 1 and never looked back. Peter spent his race in second, closing and falling off as traffic dictated. Greg was forced to retire early with an overheating car. Race one complete. Brian had won and Peter was second. Both had done what they had to do. Yet nothing had changed for Sunday. Peter still had the series lead with twelve points and Brian would have to win again and Greg would have to beat Peter.

After the race, dinner plans were made and Greg and Brian headed out to their hotels to clean up and cool off. Peter remained to look over his car and take care of a few things. When the phone rang, Brian thought it was Peter calling to tell him he was ready for dinner but the news was different. Peter found a cracked rotor on his car and had no spare. Brian told him not to worry; there was a spare in his trailer. So everyone met for dinner and shared stories.

Sunday morning, upon arriving at the track, all three drivers set to work on both Peter and Greg’s cars. Greg was the only one to go out in morning practice and once again the car pushed out water and overheated. In Qualifying, Peter used his time to bed in the brakes on the new rotor, Greg tried a new fix but still pushed water yet managed to out qualify Peter, and Brian again took the pole.

Sunday’s race was similar to Saturdays. Brian took an early lead and lost site of the others. Just a little past half-way, Brian looked in the rearview and it was full of a silver Challenge car. This meant Greg was ahead of Peter. My first thought was, “I may win the region yet.” However, a couple corners later, I could not see the silver and Peter’s red car was back in the picture. Once again, Greg’s temperature spiked and he was forced to retire. Brian won his second race of the weekend and Peter finished second securing his region title.

This was the closest region points battle in the history of the Great Lakes Region. In the end, only two points separated Peter and Brian. This was a well deserved Championship for Peter. He has improved over the years to be a true front runner and runs better than most in the rain. Cheers and congratulations!!!

As for 2009, it should prove to be the biggest year for the Challenge Series. With new drivers coming on board, we should see eight cars at every event with a few more nearing the end of their builds. Until then, we will have to endure the long winter and get the cars ready again.

Brian Sanders

Great Lakes challenge Series Director


Page last updated: 10/13/2008

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