Indianapolis, Ind. - TCR driver Tristen Herbert won a wild, action-packed TC America race Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mat Pombo won in TC, while Kevin Boehm scored the victory in TCA and clinched the division driver's championship.
CJ Moses and Victor Gonzalez Jr. finished second and third respectively in TCR, while Toby Grahovec and Johan Schwartz completed the top three in TC. Mark Pombo, and P.J. Groenke finished second and third respectively in TCA.
From pole, Smithson in the #17 DXDT Racing Honda Civic Type-R led the combined 34-car field to the line to start the 40-minute contest and right off the drop of the flag received a challenge from KMR Motorsports w/ TMR Engineering's Lewis Jr. in the #55 Alfa Romeo who swept around the outside of turn 1 and into the lead. Behind them drama ensued as contact between a number of competitors resulted in spins through turn 1 for TCR driver Roy Block in the #5 KMR Motorsports w/ TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta and TCA driver TechSport Racing's Eric Powell in the #22 Subaru BRZ tS. When the dust had cleared, LA Honda World Honda Civic Type-R driver Pombo in the #73 machine had deftly weaved his way through the carnage and into the TC lead with Schwartz, in the #31 Hard Motorsport BMW M240iR slotting into second, leaving the two TC championship protagonists, pole sitter Clay, in the BimmerWorld #36 BMW M240iR and Grahovec, in the #26 Classic BMW BMW M240iRs to duke it out in third and fourth respectively.
At the end of a hectic lap 1, Lewis Jr. led Smithson and Herbert, in the #44 New German Performance Audi RS3 LMS, while Pombo led Schwartz, and Clay. TCA Pole sitter Boehm, in the #9 Boehm Racing Honda Civic Si led his respective field, with Mat Pombo's brother Mark, in the #61 MINI JCW Team MINI Cooper JCW slotted into second and Groenke, in the #25 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ tS slotting into third.
By lap 3, Herbert had moved around Smithson and up into second and looked to hunt down Lewis Jr. But Smithson fought back and re-passed Herbert for position at the end of the long front straightway at the beginning of lap 4. Then a multi-lap battle began between Lewis Jr. and Smithson with each holding the lead at various stages. Herbert closely pursued in third. By lap 7, Pombo had built an 8.7 second lead over Schwartz in TC as the driver of the #31 machine held off heated challenges from Clay. In TCA, Boehm built his lead to six seconds over Mark Pombo.
TCA championship implications came to bear on Lap 10 as #60 MINI JCW Team MINI Cooper JCW driver Tomas Mejia, who sat second in the championship to Boehm coming into the race, came into the pits with a mechanical issue and in doing so gave Boehm the opportunity to keep his nose clean and bring his machine home to seal the championship.
Up front huge drama soon ensued as Smithson looking for a late braking maneuver through turn 1 cut down on leader Lewis Jr. Both cars sustained race-ending damage and officials issued a full-course yellow to clean up the carnage. Both drivers walked away from the incident. The incident promoted Herbert into the lead.
On the lap 16 restart with under nine minutes left in the contest, Herbert led the field to green and successfully launched down the long front straight and through turn 1. Behind him Moses, in the #04 DXDT Racing Honda Civic Type-R and Gonzalez Jr. in the #99 VGMC Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR slotted in behind him, while in TC Pombo led Clay and Grahovec, who both had moved around Schwartz just before the incident between Smithson and Lewis Jr. Boehm brought the TCA field to green and launched successfully over Pombo and Groenke.
Looking to keep his TC division championship aspirations alive, Grahovec passed Clay for second and the division championship leader would then drop more back into the pack in the late stages of the race.
By lap 19, Herbert led over Moses, while Olivia Askew, in the #29 DXDT Racing Honda Civic Type-R TCR passed Gonzalez Jr. for third and the two began a late race battle for the final podium spot in TCR.
Herbert then fended off a late race surge from Moses and crossed the line .280 second ahead of the driver of the #04 machine. Gonzalez Jr. moved back up into third and finished 2.3 seconds behind Moses. Pombo finished 3.3 seconds up on Grahovec who kept his slim TC driver's championship hopes alive heading into Saturday's finale race. Clay finished 8th on the day and unofficially holds a 20-point advantage (239 to 219 points) over Grahovec heading into Saturday.
"To be able to come out here and show how well my Audi DSG machine is still competitive in the TCR class, it just goes to show you anyone can get into this car and win," said Herbert. "I am by no means a professional full-time driver. Anyone can get in this car and anyone can win."
"It was wild today," said TC winner Pombo. "At the start there was a bunch of checking up and I happened to time it perfectly and I got around everyone on the front straight."
"Just to be here was a dream season," said Boehm. "To start pulling out some wins and then podiums made it even better. And then to be able to pull it together to clinch it one race early. Honestly, it's unreal. I'm an engineer, I took a ton of math classes, and still I almost don't believe the math right now. I'm absolutely thrilled!
Results are provisional until posted final. Drivers now get set for Saturday's final TC America race of 2020 scheduled for a green flag start of 11:10 Eastern. Follow all of the action live at https://www.tcamerica.us/live.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS - PDF Link