By ROB HAMILTON
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course saw its race season end with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 Saturday.
The 90-lap race was won by a rookie driver claiming his first win in the series, as Chris Buescher was able to hold off Regan Smith and Brian Scott, who led a race-high 39 laps, to take the checkered flag.
Buescher had some local help behind him. As part of the affiliation with Children’s Hospital, drivers had “patient champions” on hand. Buescher’s patient champion was Luke Benner, a six-year-old Mount Gilead leukemia patient.
Early on, it looked like Ohio native Sam Hornish Jr. might have another strong day at Mid-Ohio, as he earned the pole and was in contention for most of the first 50 laps before being sidelined by engine problems and finishing 30th.
After the lead got jockeyed between a handful of drivers, Buescher jumped into first on the 68th lap and was able to hold on to it the rest of the race to pick up his first win.
The rookie moved up a spot to seventh in the season points standings with his win. Chase Elliott, who took fourth on the day, maintains a 10-point lead over Smith, with Elliott Sadler in third place.
Also being contested was the 3Dimensional Services Next Dimension 100 race in the Trans Am series. A total of 58 cars scattered through four groups participated in the 40-lap event.
Doug Peterson was the both the TA champion and overall winner, as he finished 1.345 seconds in front of Cliff Ebben and nearly two seconds in front of Simon Gregg. Peterson now has a 33-point lead in the standings over Gregg, with Ohioan Amy Ruman (Kent) in third, one point behind Gregg.
Finishing in 10th was the top TA2 car, driven by Adam Andretti. Ron Kelly was 12th overall and Job Ebben 14th to provide the second and third cars in this group. With 26 vehicles in this group, the TA2 class was the largest in the race. With his win, Andretti moved within 17 points of series leader Cameron Lawrence, who placed 10th in the group.
The TA3A and TA3I groups were the smallest, with fewer than 10 cars in both. Ernie Francis Jr. won the TA3A group by placing 22nd overall. The top TA3I care was driven by Lee Saunders, who ran 27th overall. In the season standings, Francis used his win to open a 13-point lead over Chuck Cassaro, who placed fifth in the group. The TA3I group is still led by third-place finisher Russ Snow, who has a 29-point advantage over the pack.
Reach Rob Hamilton at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807, or on Twitter at @SportsMCS