- 29 April 2017
Alton, VA - Keith Grant won the season-opening Atlantic Championship Series race on a wild restart with four laps to go at VIRginia International Raceway on a hot Saturday afternoon. Grant was sitting third in his No. 40 Polestar Swift 016, and when David Grant and Peter Portante went wide while battling for the lead in turn one on a restart, Keith Grant dove inside taking first place and the win at VIR.
For Keith Grant, it was an anonymous race until late in the going. He started second and ran second for most of the 22-lap race, eventually getting passed by a charging Portante. However, a full course caution packed the field and changed everything, giving the 2015 Champion the first win of 2017.
"I was definitely in the right place at the right time today," said Keith Grant. "David had me before the caution came out. I was fortunate for the caution to come out and have both of them go for it in one."
David Grant, meanwhile, has won both pole positions thus far at VIR, and looked to be in control of the race with a two-second lead late in the going, having led every lap from pole. After sliding back on the restart, he had his hands full with Portante, fending him off for the final four laps of the race.
"The car was great today. It was a great race until the safety car," said David Grant, who has been quick all weekend in the No. 29 Swift 016/Mazda from Polestar. "We went into one and Peter was beside me. We were going for it and I wasn't going to brake until Peter did. We went straight and turned late and Keith snuck by on the inside."
For Portante, it was an encouraging Atlantic debut in the No. 24 from K-Hill Motorsports. He qualified second but was sent to the back of the field with a technical infraction. From there, the F1600 runner-up in 2016 stormed through the pack.
In a handful of laps he was third, and eventually got past Keith Grant for second before the caution. On the restart, an outside attempt for the lead on David Grant saw both cars run wide, with Portante settling for a third place finish.
"It was a good run. I was second on the restart and gave it my best shot. I'm super happy with the car and the K-Hill boys," said Portante.
Rich Zober from Comprent Motorsports won the Masters Class with a fourth place run, while a hard-working Comprent also gave Lee Alexander a fifth place finish with most of Friday spent changing a engine in the No. 48 entry,
Lewis Cooper Jr. was sixth for Polestar, ahead of Bruce Hamilton and Jenna Grillo , who ran as high as third but went off mid-race.
Bob Corliss was next in line, in ninth, while Spencer Brockman completed the top 10 in the first pro race for the Swift 014/Mazda.
Chris Ash spun heading into the Oak Tree corner on lap two, ruining a promising race that saw him running as high as third in the early going. The Comprent driver was able to get going again, taking his No. 67 home to a 11th place finish.
Other retirements included Mike Jacques, who pulled off with a mechanical issue on the No. 52 entry on the second lap of the race. Blake Mount also retired with a technical issue in the early going of the 22-lap race.
The Atlantic Championship weekend at VIR concludes on Sunday morning with a 9:10 a.m. race start, race two of the 14-race 2017 season. David Grant and Peter Portante will lead the field to the green flag from the first row.