With a nasty crash on the Pirelli World Challenge season’s first weekend and a team withdrawal that forced him to switch teams mid-season, Patrick Long has had absolutely terrible luck all year long. Sadly, that luck continued on his very last lap of the season.
An unusual points adjustment before the season finale worked in Long’s favor, narrowing Alvaro Parente’s drivers’ championship lead to only two points over Long. The series determined that they had incorrectly awarded Alvaro Parente seven points for pole position at Lime Rock, according to NBC Sports.
Thus, the battle for the championship came down to the absolute last lap of the season. Cadillac driver Johnny O’Connell was in the lead, but wasn’t really a contender in the 2016 drivers’ championship. Behind O’Connell, Long was trying to play keep-away from Parente’s K-Pax McLaren in hopes of winning the championship.
On the last lap, O’Connell went wide into the dirt, allowing Long to get a nose ahead. That nose didn’t last for long, though, as O’Connell stuck his nose on the inside of Long as Long turned in for the next corner, nudging Long (and Long’s championship hopes) off the track. O’Connell went on to win the race, and Long finished fifth.
After the race, stewards handed O’Connell a 2.1-second penalty for avoidable contact that moved him down to a fifth-place result behind Long, per a Pirelli World Challenge statement. This gave the race win to Parente and moved Long up to fourth place, but Parente still ultimately won the championship by 28 points. Ouch.
Better luck next year, Pat.
UPDATE: The final championship points standings had not been updated to reflect O’Connell’s penalty at the time of this writing. We originally reported that Parente won the championship by two points, but after post-race penalties had been assessed, he won the title by 28 points. This has been amended above.