Changeable conditions descended upon Watkins Glen International on Friday afternoon. After the first practice session for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams, a quick moving rain shower blew over the 3.4-mile road course. It only rained on the property for about 30 minutes, but that was more than enough time for the track to get wet.
Once the rains stopped, the sun came back out and it did not take long for the track to dry. Once the Grand Sport teams ventured onto the track, the track was already dry enough to allow for teams to use dry tires. That said, it did take a little while for the cars to come up to speed.
The session ended up being a back-and-forth battle between Multimatic Motorsports‘ Scott Maxwell and CJ Wilson Racing‘s Daniel Burkett. The two drivers ended up trading fast times until the final minutes of the session.
On his seventh and final lap, Maxwell turned in a lap of 2:00.514, which was good enough to take the overall pole for Saturday’s Continental Tire 150 at the Glen. It is Maxwell’s 12th career Grand Sport, tying him with Matt Bell for tops all-time. In addition, the time is officially a track record for the class.
Afterwards, Maxwell talked about the duel between himself and Burkett.
“I go by [the start-finish line] and I can see the scoreboard, which updates instantly,” Maxwell said in the Media Center. “I would go to P1, then I would come around the last corner at the end of the lap and be P2 again. We went back and forth about four or five times.
“It puts a lot of pressure on me,” Maxwell continued. “[My crew] told me on the radio initially that I was three seconds up, so I thought, ‘Ok, this is going to be good.’ Then, [Burkett] got going. You’re very aware of what the other guy is doing.”
Charlie Putnam qualified third in the No. 09 Aston Martin from Automatic Racing, but he was nearly two seconds off of Maxwell’s pace. Till Bechtolsheimer was fourth in the second CJ Wilson Racing entry, while Rob Ecklin, Jr. was fifth in the No. 99 Aston Martin.
For the Street Tuner teams, qualifying was a bit more of an adventure. The track was still fully wet at the start of the session, necessitating the use of rain tires. However, during the 15 minute session, the track dried to the point where drivers were starting to run off their front tires.
Once everyone got themselves up to speed, it was MINI Team JCW that was able to bring out the best in their mount. James Vance was able to trade fast laps with Gilsinger and was able to get the pole time down to a 2:19.498 in the closing seconds of the session. However, teammate Derek Jones was able to trump that lap with a lap of his own at 2:19.332 after time expired to take the Street Tuner pole and give MINI Team JCW their first 1-2 in qualifying.
Afterwards, Derek Jones was very happy with his car and the performance.
“I pushed my car a little early on and ended up with heat on my front tires a little more than I should have,” Derek Jones said in the Media Center after the session. “I had to take the second-to-last lap and cool them down. Then, I pushed hard. My co-driver Mat Pombo was telling me what the lap times were at. He told me that James [Vance] had hit a 2:21, so I went for a hard push and got down to a 2:19. That felt great. The MINI was all hooked up. I think our car is the best car to have out there in the rain.”
Vance ended up in second, less than two-tenths of a second back for MINI’s first 1-2. Gilsinger ended up third, three-tenths further back. Gilsinger’s teammate, Steve Eich, qualified the No. 92 Honda fourth in class, while ALARA Racing‘s Bob Stretch was the fastest of the those driving Mazda MX-5’s in fifth.
The Continental Tire 150 at the Glen is scheduled for a 12:25 p.m. start on Saturday afternoon. The race can be seen live via free streams at both IMSA.com and FansChoice.tv. The race is scheduled to air on television in a condensed form on Jul. 10 at 9 a.m. on FOX Sports 1.