Alton, VA – After an aborted start, Jimmy Simpson ended up on the top step on the podium in round five of the Atlantic Championship Series in his Atlantic Creations Swift 016. K-Hill Motorsport’s father-son duo, The Kearby’s, made their first joint trip to the podium with Conner finishing ahead of his father Gaston, both driving Swift 016 Atlantic cars in a hard-fought 15-lap event. This race marks the halfway point of the Atlantic Championship Season and a pivotal point in the Championship battle. There is one more race at VIR on Sunday, then events at Mid-Ohio and Thompson later in the summer.
On the pace lap, Championship points leader and the only race winner so far this season until VIR Daniel Burkett, pulled off into turn 14. After having engine issues during practice, it was his steering rack that broke on the pace lap, causing him to miss the entirety of the race.
Simpson said: “It was a shame to see Daniel (Burkett) pull off on the pace lap because I was hoping to have a good race with him.”
Simpson led all laps of the race and set the new track race record with a time of 1:42.993, to add to his track records at Watkins Glen. Simpson didn’t take all the credit for his win.
“I owe it all to the team, the car was amazing today and we’ve gained so much ground since Road Atlanta,” he said.
With Burkett out of the running for a podium finish right from the start, the fight for the win was toss-up between a large number of drivers who qualified near the front. This intensity caused multiple competitors to attempt to jump the start, and the officials made the decision to waive off the green.
The following lap was a clean formation and the field went green. Unfortunately, the clean formation lasted only until turn one of the 17-turn Virginia International Raceway track. Tyler Hunter, who had qualified in third in his Swan Racing Swift 014, spun in front of the field and dropped to last place.
With Burkett out, Ethan Ringel and the Kearby’s had the fight to catch Simpson and gain their spots on the podium. Ringel held tight to second place for the majority of the race. Unfortunately for the COMPREP driver, he had an issue on lap 12 and did not finish the race.
Conner finished ahead of his father and took a familiar spot on the podium. A driver of few words he stated that “the car was awesome and the race worked out well.”
His father, Gaston, made his first trip to the podium finishing third.
The good humored K-Hill driver said: “I’m the old guy here and we can win occasionally, it is fun beating the kids and keeping them honest.”
Keith Grant of Polestar finished fourth, with Matt Miller of COMPREP rounding out the top five of the Atlantic Championship Series. The top three finishers of the Atlantic Challenge for non Swift 016 cars were Conner Burke, Bruce Crocket, and Bruce Hamilton.
Qualifying for race two of the VIR weekend starts at Noon on Sunday, with race twi starting at 4:10 local time.