Koch Clinches IMSA Lites

Kenton Koch Secures the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites crown with two races left to run; John Falb wins Lites 1 Masters.

Continuing his march up the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy ladder, Kenton Koch scored first- and third-place finishes at VIRginia International Raceway, more than enough to claim the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda championship with the Road Atlanta rounds left to run

It’s Koch’s fourth championship in as many years, having won the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge, MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge and Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires. Koch, of Glendora, Calif., has won nine races out of 12 rounds so far.

In addition, John Falb captured the Lites 1 Masters championship for the second straight year.

Koch entered the weekend with a 54-point lead over JDC Motorsports teammate Clark Toppe. He needed to leave Virginia with a 40-point lead to claim the championship, and left ahead by 52.

That’s thanks largely to winning the first race of the weekend, leading a JDC Motorsports podium sweep of Round 11. Toppe, from The Woodlands, Texas, cut short Koch’s chance for a weekend sweep by taking the Round 12 victory.

Koch had to pull off some last-minute heroics to win. He ran most of the race in second in the No. 60 JDC Motorsports entry behind teammate Matt McMurry.

McMurry, leading from pole in the No. 20 JDC Motorsports car, had a solid start to lead the field through the 14-turn, 2.25-mile road course. He and Koch ran nose-to-tail through the first 27 minutes of the 30-minute sprint race.

With three minutes to go, the two leaders approached lapped traffic going through Turn 1. McMurry drifted wide, Koch went to the outside and dove underneath to take the lead.

McMurry spun trying to get around another car in the next turn, giving up second to Toppe in the No. 10 Élan DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine. McMurry, from Phoenix, finished third to complete the JDC Motorsports podium sweep.

Toppe earned his third win of the season in Round 12 with a dominant 8.157-second victory over McMurry. McMurry led the field from pole for the second consecutive race. In Turn 1, he and Toppe made contact; McMurry was pushed sideways, and Toppe took the inside for the lead. McMurry dropped to fourth behind Robert Alon and Koch.

As Toppe extended his lead over the next 45 minutes, Alon, Koch and McMurry battled for the final two podium spots. The three ran within a half a second of each other until 10 minutes to go in the 45-minute sprint race.

Koch, in second, went to the outside of Alon in Turn 1. Alon went wide, and McMurry dove underneath for second place. In the next turn, Koch passed Alon, sealing the weekend podium sweep for JDC Motorsports.

With the championship, Koch not only has earned a test in a Mazda SKAYCTIV Prototype, but he also earned the IMSA Scholarship awarded to the Lites 1 series champion to advance to the Prototype Challenge class of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season.