With the 2017 season coming to a close, eight Southeast Region 944 Spec racers gathered at Road Atlanta for the last event of the year. Over 60 cars took to the track in the Lightning run group alone. Even with all the traffic, Kyle Kimball qualified on pole only a tenth off the track record that had been set back in March by Jason Stanley, who qualified second only .3 seconds back. Tim Pruitt and Brian Evans filled out the top four for the double-point season finale race that afternoon.
Kimball leveraged pole position to take the lead up the hill after Turn 1. Pruitt and Evans started the race side by side on row two and continued that formation over the hill through Turn 3 and down the famous Road Atlanta Esses until Evans got the better line into Turn 5. On lap three, Pruitt got a good run out of Turn 12 using his momentum and late braking to take the inside line from Evans in Turn 1. Evans tried to execute the over-under, but wasn’t able to match Pruitt’s momentum uphill to Turn 3.
Back up front, Kimball was doing just enough to keep Stanley in second, often with less than a car length between the two. At one point Stanley had a drafting opportunity that could have led to a pass down the long back stretch, but faster traffic arrived at the wrong time, forcing him to stay tucked behind Kimball for a bump draft rather than a slingshot. By the end of lap three, Kimball and Stanley already were in the tail end of the Spec Miata field, changing the race from one of outright speed to traffic management. Corner after corner, Kimball picked off another Miata at the same time as Stanley, keeping an out-of-class car between the two. By this point, the race for third had been decided in Pruitt’s favor when Evans had a quick off track in Turn 5.
By the start of lap 10, Stanley was back on Kimball’s bumper after an ST4 BMW passed the pair, but then held Kimball up through the following corners.
One final stroke of luck benefitted Kimball when a standing yellow came out in the Turn 10 complex, which allowed Kimball — but not Stanley — to complete a pass of slower traffic heading into the chicane, widening the gap again to the point where Stanley couldn’t recover. The final margin of victory favored Kimball by just over a second.
Congratulations to Kyle Kimball for taking the 2017 season championship for the Southeast region.