Scott Smithson does the double as Maxson’s winning run ends
Scott Smithson secured a brace of race wins in the latest rounds of the TC America season at Road America, as championship leader Tyler Maxson saw his stunning run of victories finally come to an end.
Friday’s qualifying session in wet conditions saw Maxson storm to pole at the wheel of his Hyundai Veloster, going more than 1.4s quicker than Victor Gonzalez in his Honda.
In total, more than six seconds would cover the six cars to set a time to show how challenging conditions were on track, with CJ Moses unable to log a timed lap after going off track.
When the lights went out to kick off the opening 40 minute race, Maxson was beaten by both Gonzalez and Tim Lewis Jr on the run to turn one, with Lewis getting the best start from the second row of the grid to lead in his Alfa Romeo.
Maxson would manage to find a way ahead of Gonzalez into second spot by lap three and then followed Lewis until the fifth lap, when the KMW Motorsports driver was forced into the pits with a mechanical issue.
A safety car called for a heavy accident involving the TCA class MINI of Mark Pombo, with Maxson then maintaining his lead at the restart from Smithson, who was able to jump ahead of Gonzalez into second spot.
However, before Smithson – who would post the fastest lap of the race – was able to launch a bid to end Maxson’s winning run, Joseph Federl put his Nissan 370 into the wall at the Kink, bringing out another caution that would run until the finish.
It meant Maxson made it nine wins in a row from Smithson and Gonzalez, with Smithson securing pole for the second race of the weekend by virtue of his fastest lap.
Smithson duly held the lead when the race kicked off with a fast-starting Lewis Jr jumping to second and Maxson coming under pressure from Olivia Askew for third.
Into turn five however, Askew lost the rear of her Honda whilst trying to defend from Gonzalez and went into a spin, being hit by team-mate CJ Moses and bringing out the safety car.
The field circulated behind the safety car with Smithson leading from Maxson, who had jumped ahead of Lewis Jr just before the end of the opening lap.
Maxson had however passed Lewis Jr under yellow flag conditions and had to allow the Alfa Romeo back through, with Lewis launching a bid for the lead on the restart as he swept past Smithson into turn one, with Gonzalez pulling a similar move on Maxson for third.
Just as news came through that Maxson would be handed a drive-through penalty, the championship leader would retire to the pits with a suspension issue – ending his winning run.
That set up a three-way battle for the win, with Gonzalez making a fine move around the outside of Smithson for second when the DXDT Racing man was delayed whilst trying to make a move for the lead.
Gonzalez then made his move for the lead on Lewis Jr around the outside at turn six and quickly started to break away from the fight for second, which looked to be going the way of Smithson when he also got ahead of the Alfa Romeo.
With a first win of the year seemingly in the bag however, Gonzalez suddenly slowed with a puncture and was forced to dive into the pits, handing the lead to Smithson.
He would hold off Lewis Jr through the final ten minutes to take his maiden win in the series, with Moses a distant third and Gonzalez left to wonder what might have been in fourth.
The final race of the weekend started in dramatic fashion, with a multi-car accident in the TC Class forcing officials to throw out the red flag, with a long delay before the action could get back underway.
Gonzalez had held the lead on the initial start but would take the restart from the back of the TCR field having spun before the red flag was thrown, which meant it was Lewis Jr who led the field away through the early laps.
Pressure from Smithson behind resulted in the pair making contact at turn one and whilst the Honda would eventually manage to get ahead into the lead, Lewis Jr would be forced to pit with damaged suspension on the Alfa Romeo and retired.
It left a charging Gonzalez to try and prevent Smithson from repeating his race two win, but the American held on to take victory, with Roy Block rounding out the podium ahead of points leader Maxson – who struggled for pace throughout in the Hyundai.