CJ Wilson Racing duo of Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer earn the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner driver titles, and CJWR takes the team title.
Mazda drivers Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer, teammates in the CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5, won the drivers championship for the ST class in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series. The duo earned the championship with an eighth-place finish in a rain-splattered, two-hour, 30-minute race in the lead-up to the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
“We wanted to execute what we’ve done week-in, week-out, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Chad McCumbee of his opening stint, where he pulled out a 12-second lead in the class. “We were fortunate to start on the front row and that helped a lot with vision. I got into a rhythm early, and that rhythm happened to be the [quickest] pace in the field. I opened up a big lead, and gave it to Stevan without a scratch on it. The guys worked so hard and really improved our rain balance and the car was phenomenal in that opening stint. I just can’t thank everyone enough… it’s pretty awesome bringing this championship home for everybody.”
Entering the race, McCumbee and McAleer were only one point ahead of Mazda’s Freedom Autosport team and driver Andrew Carbonell. But, in very wet conditions while giving everything he had to catch the No. 5 and get back on the lead lap, Carbonell suffered a major crash in Turn 12. He was released from the care center with no serious injuries.
“I was pushing really hard – maybe too hard,” Carbonell said. “We had a big gap to when I got in the car and we were really closing-in quickly. We were down just a few seconds [to getting back on the lead lap]. I just got the left-side tires on the inside curb and it sent me to the outside. Once I hit the paint there, it was gone. It was a big hit – maybe the hardest I’ve ever had.”
With Carbonell, and later another championship contender, out, McAleer could relax a bit once he took over from McCumbee.
“Chad did a good job giving me the car with no damage, but I was the opposite,” McAleer said. “The first restart was a little bit exciting as I got a tap in the rear and I think it messed something up in there. It was a really tough race, and it certainly wasn’t easy. We knew where the contenders were, and unfortunately the 26 car [Carbonell] and what happened to them – we wanted them up there to battle with them. But it took a lot of the pressure off and I just tried my hardest to stay out of trouble. CJ Wilson Racing has been improving our car every week. The last half of the season, we were one of the strongest cars out there to earn this championship.”
The duo also secured the team championship for CJ Wilson Racing. Wilson, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, was in attendance to see his team secure the titles. In 10 races this year, they won two races, had five top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes with an average finish of 6.1.
This is the first Mazda driver and team championships in the series since SpeedSource won the title with drivers David Haskell and Sylvain Tremblay in 2005.