CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Oct. 18) — As Conner Kearby closed out the 2014 SCCA National Runoffs standing at the top spot of the podium, having just charged his way to the front of the Formula Atlantic pack to take the checkered flag at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, he was unaware he had just secured another championship on the same day.
Starting on the grid in the 6th position after a questionable call by SCCA leadership took him off the pole, 17-year-old Kearby charged up to third in the opening lap of the Runoffs race. Within four more laps he was in the lead and increasing the gap between 2nd place and his no. 56 GK Motorsports Swift 016a.
While a full course caution on lap 16 scrubbed his 12-second lead, closing the field for the last few laps under green, he held on to take the win; the youngest Runoffs champion of this year’s event, and the second youngest to win the Runoffs in Formula Atlantic, behind current IndyCar driver, Graham Rahal.
“I knew we had a fast car, so I just had to get out there and run my race,” said Conner. “We had a clean start, and from there it was about keeping myself on pace and making moves when they presented themselves. When the yellow came out and brought everyone back together I knew I had come this far, and that if I played it smart I could see it to the end. I couldn’t have done it without my K-Hill Motorsports team, Elite Engines, Hoosier Tire and everyone else that has helped support me this year.”
His come from behind victory also landed him the Sunoco Hard Charger Award and the GoPro Hero Move of the Race Award for his turn 11 pass that put him into the lead.
As the Runoffs were taking place in California, the SVRA was holding the US Vintage National Championship event in Texas, at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, where Gaston Kearby, Conner’s father, was competing, winning in his Lola T97/20.
“I love racing SVRA events,” said Kearby, “Tony (Parella, President and CEO) has a great organization that’s always a fun, laid back time. They don’t get caught up in the politics that can get in the way of coming out to race, which is what we’re all here to do.”
Conner and Gaston had been participating in SVRA events throughout the season in their K-Hill Motorsports-prepped vintage Indy Lights cars. Together, they had won the Endurance Championship for Group 9 a few weeks earlier.
It was a successful close to the season for the father-son GK Motorsports duo, and it was capped off with news that Conner had won yet another championship the very same day.
After the final points were tallied, Conner’s performance during the season secured the SVRA vintage Indy Lights championship, with his father following in 2nd.
“I didn’t know until my dad texted me,” said Conner. “It was really cool to find out, on top of everything else that happened that day. I have a lot of fun racing the Indy Lights car in the SVRA events, and to come away with another championship for the weekend was an awesome feeling.”
The jam-packed national event weekend was also a big win for the K-Hill Motorsports team, who pulled double duty at both COTA and Laguna Seca, fielding multiple cars. Fellow team driver, Bruce Hamilton, shared the podium with Conner after coming in 3rd during the Runoffs event.
“We knew we’d be running these two big events simultaneously and had been preparing for it,” said team owner Kris Kaiser. “I’m proud of our drivers, who have worked hard all year, and of our entire team. Everyone at the track and at the shop worked together with our vendors to build and set up some of the fastest cars in the field.”
Conner and Gaston have had a tremendous 2014 season, with multiple podium finishes in SVRA and SCCA events, including the SCCA Pro Atlantic Championship Series. In addition to the weekend’s accomplishments of winning the Runoffs, the SVRA US Vintage National Championship and a 1-2 finish in SVRA’s vintage Indy Lights championship, they finished 1st and 2nd in both the SCCA Majors Mid-States (Conner in 1st, Gaston in 2nd) and Eastern (Gaston in 1st, Conner in 2nd) Conference Championships.
It continues the GK Motorsports / KLR Group Racing legacy across multiple forms of motorsports with victories in NHRA Drag Racing’s Pro Stock division, including the first ever victory by a woman (Erica Enders, 2012), and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series XR1200 Championship (Michael Barnes, 2012).
K-Hill Motorsports, located in Abbottstown, PA, also secured the 2014 Atlantic Championship Series title with teammate Daniel Burkett behind the wheel. Conner tied for 4th, with Gaston in 6th during their inaugural year in the professional series.