Nissan GT Academy U.S. champion Steven Doherty won the recent Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) race at Road America. Photo submitted
A couple of years ago, a special Nissan Altima made an appearance to the Nissan plant in Smyrna.
Of course, what made this one different was it was a winner on the race track. The car is a part of the Skullcandy Team Nissan team, which races in one of the premier Sportscar series in the United States.
The team is run by Utah native Lara Tallman, who has proven she is one of the few women who can get it done on the track. A few years ago, she was named Utah Athlete of the Year. Today, she runs the team on the sidelines, while her drivers Vesko Kozarov, Derek Jones, Steven Doherty and Bryan Heitkotter are competing in two different racing series -- the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
Last month, the team competed in its first PWC race of the year at Road America in Wisconsin, and the No. 94 driven by Doherty won the first of two races on the weekend in their first time out in 2014. His teammate, Heitkotter, finished third weekend in the No. 93 on a wet four-mile race course.
What makes this series unique is it has several different makes of cars, including Honda, Cadillac, Porsche, Kia and many others. The cars are much like the ones you will see on a dealership showroom floor. Of course, a few modifications have to be made to make them race ready.
The races are broken up into several divisions depending on the type of car. This team competed in the Touring Car division, in which the cars can reach 230 to 260 mph. Even though this was the first race for the team in the PWC this season, the series has raced at several of the best road and street courses in the nation, mostly on the same weekends as the Verizon Indy Car Series. The next race for the PWC is next week on the street course in Toronto, Canada.
As for the other series, the team races in is the CTSCC, which has a few differences than the other one. For example, only two divisions make up this series, Grand Sport and Street Tuner. The team runs in the ST class, which includes cars with four and six cylinders of many different makes. Each race is two hours and 30 minutes long, and each car has two drivers sharing a ride with as many as 60 on the track at one time.
Last season, the team won the season opener at Daytona, but this season has been one full of ups and downs. During the race last weekend at Watkins Glen, which included 59 cars total, both of the Nissan’s finished 21st and 30th in the ST class after suffering trouble in the event.
Its previous best finish this season was at the roval at Kansas Speedway in early June. The No. 33 driven by Jones and Kozarov finished sixth in the ST class, while its sister car No. 34 driven by Doherty and Heitkotter finished right behind them in seventh.
This past weekend, the CTSCC raced in Bowmanville, Canada, at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park as the team was hoping to bounce back from a tough weekend a couple of weeks ago in New York.