The final race of the 2013 American Le Mans Series season sees a number of championships and final positions in the season standings on the line here at Road Atlanta.
As the second longest race on the ALMS schedule at 10 Hours/1000 Miles, Petit Le Mans awards additional championship points.
The ALMS class winners receive 24 points and that ratchets down the class finishing order with 20 points for second, 17 for third, 14 for fourth and 12 points for fifth place. Points continue to scale all the way down the class order but there is a kicker.
A car must complete 70 percent of the race winner’s distance to be eligible for points. At the full race distance of 1000 miles (394 laps) that means a car must complete 276 laps to receive points.
To some teams, that means taking a slightly more conservative approach in the first half of the race, then going all in once the magic 70 percent threshold passes.
Each team will assign an engineer or strategist to constantly monitor race time, leader distance, class standings and competitor positions.
For the crews, it means they must be immediately prepared to make whatever repairs, replacements or even rebuilds are needed to get the car back on track and into the points should they experience a mechanical failure or damage from contact.
Ties in season ending championship points are broken first by wins, then by second, third and subsequent finishes.
In 2011, the ALMS PC class Driver championship went to the fifth tie-breaker and yet was still a tie. The drivers from two different teams had the same number of wins, second, third, fourth and fifth place finishes. A single position change in any race would have won or lost the championship.
In recent years, ALMS Championships have literally come down to the last half of the last lap of the final race.
And that is why here in the darkness of Saturday evening, as the race heads into its final hours, veteran race fans know that the race within the race actually just begins.