It was hard to tell who was the happiest driver following Sunday's Toyota Atlantic Championship race in Denver, as rookie Ronnie Bremer earned his first-ever Atlantic victory, and Ryan Dalziel closed to within one point of the series lead with two races remaining after taking the runner-up spot.
Bremer, Dalziel and Atlantic point leader Jon Fogarty battled it out on the 1.657-mile street circuit and, as the race hit its home stretch, the fight got rather heated. Fogarty, who started on the pole and led the majority of the event, found himself desperately trying to fight off both Dalziel and Bremer late on and, on lap 32, made a defensive move in turn nine when both pursuers got a run on him. Race officials determined that the move was an illegal block and flagged Fogarty for a drive-though penalty, allowing both Bremer and Dalziel to take advantage of the infraction.
Bremer seized the lead and held off his Scottish rival to win by 1.283secs, while Dalziel earned enough points to draw to within one of Fogarty in the title race.
"We were struggling a little when we came into the first qualifying and, in the second session, we spent too much trying to change some things on the car in the pits," Bremer reported, "We only got a few laps to improve my times, but not enough.
"Polestar did an awesome job this weekend. It's been a hard season for me, running for different teams, leading the championship early on, then falling down to sixth and struggling to get back up there. I was the first rookie to win a race this year and maybe I was a little lucky but I still felt I had the car to do it."
The result concluded a turbulent week for the Dalziel. He and his Sierra Sierra Enterprises team were penalised for a shock absorber part that was out of compliance with series specifications following his win at Road America last week. Dalziel was docked five championship points and the team fined $15,000 for the violation but, after Sierra Sierra protested the infraction, a panel of judges overturned the ruling and the points and money were reinstated.
"It's been a week-long struggle," Dalziel admitted, "We just wanted to come here and focus on the race. We were quickest on Friday, when we had a good car, but we kind of lost our way a little bit with the track conditions in qualifying.
"In the race, we had the car to win. Jon broke the rules. He blocked me and justice was served. [The result] is not great as far as the championship goes for him, but
absolutely awesome for me. We've had a great car all year, but we've had bad luck. That's why we've been chasing Jon the past few races. We proved all weekend that despite the questions people may have about our car, we weren't cheating and our car is still the fastest car."