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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Action Express Racing Earns 1-2 in Sahlen’s Six Hours

Going into Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen, the prevailing notion was that the race would favor  P2 entries from Mazda Motorsports, Michael Shank Racing and Tequila Patron ESM due to the incredibly smooth surface.  Times in qualifying and the race more or less backed that up.  However, Action Express Racing had strategy and skill in their favor.  That was enough to allow them to pull out a 1-2 finish in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen.  The Mustang Sampling-sponsored No. 5 of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi (Note: Filipe Albuquerque was listed as a third driver, but never actually drove in the race) pulled out the win by just seven-tenths of a second over the No. 31 of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran.

Early on, the fastest P2 entries were over a second a lap faster than the Daytona Prototypes.  Action Express Racing’s entries and Wayne Taylor Racing‘s No. 10 had trouble keeping in contact with the leaders.  However, it was the pit crew that put the No. 5 squarely in contention.  During the first caution, the No. 5 pit crew had a great stop that boosted Fittipaldi into the overall lead, jumping Johannes van Overbeek and Tristan Nunez in the process.

From that point forward, the No. 5 was solidly in the hunt.  Contenders came and went.  Mazda Motorsports’ No. 55 of Nunez, Spencer Pigot and Jonathan Bomarito was one of the strongest competitors.  However, electrical issues caused the loss of a cylinder.  Bomarito stopped on track late in the race while running fourth, ending their day.

Tequila Patron ESM led early with van Overbeek driving, and later on with the always fast Pipo Derani behind the wheel.  However, engine issues ended their day in the final hour.  Attrition took most of the P2s out of contention, then a spin for Marc Goossens cost VisitFlorida.com Racing a lap and put them out of contention.

In the end, it was the two Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DPs versus Michael Shank Racing’s Ligier JS P2-Honda that hadn’t had the pace for much of the day.  Olivier Pla tried his best to get past Cameron in the final laps, but he didn’t have the tires to get past as Barbosa drove away to take the win.

After the race, Fittipaldi stated that it was good work and effort that allowed the Corvette DPs to prevail.

“Part of the reason our cars are here is pure race craft,” Fittipaldi explained.  “At one point in the race, we were a second and a half slower than the P2s.  And then, at the end of the race, we were still one second slower than them.  We were perfect in the pit stops and really good in traffic.”

Pla, sharing with regular drivers Oswaldo Negri, Jr. and John Pew, finished third overall.  Jordan and Ricky Taylor, along with Max Angelelli finished fourth for Wayne Taylor Racing.  Mazda Motorsports’ No. 70 of Tom Long, Ben Devlin and Joel Miller finished a lap down in fifth.

In Prototype Challenge, there were two drivers who were much quicker than the rest of the pack all weekend.  They were CORE Autosport‘s Colin Braun and Starworks Motorsport‘s Renger van der Zande. CORE created a strategy in which they would save Braun for later in the race.  Unfortunately, they lacked the pace with co-drivers Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins to keep the No. 54 up in the hunt for when Braun would get in the car.

In the case of van der Zande, he was the class of the field whenever he was in the drivers’ seat.  When teammate Alex Popow was behind the wheel, it was a contest between the No. 8 and Performance Tech Motorsports‘ No. 38, shared by James French, Kyle Marcelli and Rolex 24 PC class winner Kenton Koch.

Early in the race, French had contact on the backstretch with BAR1 Motorsports‘s Johnny Mowlem, pitching the veteran race hard into the Armco barrier, destroying the No. 20 in the process.  Mowlem walked away from the crash uninjured.

For much of the race, the class turned into a duel between the Nos.  8 and 38.  Later in the event, van der Zande simply had Performance Tech Motorsports covered and was able to pull away to take their second win in a row.

Starworks’ second entry for Mark Kvamme, Richard Bradley and Remo Ruscitti was third in class.

GT Le Mans was another turbo benefit.  Richard Westbrook qualified the No. 67 Ford GT on pole while teammate Ryan Briscoe was on baby watch and kept up his form all day.  Briscoe referred to Westbrook as being “on fire all weekend.”

Ford’s main competition was the No. 25 BMW Team RLL M6 GTLM of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner.  While Auberlen and Werner both have a lot of pace, neither could keep up with the No. 67 as Westbrook and Briscoe held on to take the class victory, technically their second in a row since the GT Le Mans class skipped Detroit.

Late in the race, the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand ended up in a duel with Auberlen for second.  Turning in laps faster than the GTLM pole time, Hand ran down the longtime veteran BMW racer (a former teammate of Hand’s, no less) and raced him hard through the boot section.  Knowing Auberlen’s tendencies, Hand took a move to the outside at turn 8 with just over four minutes to go.

There was some slight contact that pushed Hand wide and nearly outside of the curbs, but the pass was deemed legal.  Hand was able to pull away to give himself and teammate Dirk Müller a second-place finish (guaranteeing Ford Chip Ganassi Racing their first 1-2 in the GTLM class).

Auberlen and Werner were forced to settle for third, while Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner were fourth.  BMW Team RLL’s John Edwards and Lucas Luhr rounded out the top-5 finishers.

In GT Daytona, Stevenson Motorsports was the dominant force early.  Despite getting their pole time disallowed, Robin Liddell drove the No. 6 to the front early on in a great run.  However, contact with Turner Motorsport‘s Bret Curtis was only the beginning of their problems.  Cut left rear tires and mechanical problems followed, ending their day.

The team’s No. 9 was very strong as well.  Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell were right up in the hunt until late in the race when pit strategy set them back.  A drive-through penalty for jumping a restart in the final hour dropped the No. 9 to a sixth-place finish in class.

That left Scuderia Corsa‘s Ferrari 488 GT3 of Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen and Jeff Segal to battle it out with the Magnus Racing Audi of Andy Lally, team owner John Potter and Dion von Moltke.  Scuderia Corsa overcame a series of early problems that left them near the back of the class while the top 10 were nose-to-tail to be in position to take advantage of pit strategy to get up front.

Balzan then held off Lally to take the team’s second victory of the year.  Magnus Racing was second, followed by Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle‘s No. 23 Porsche for Mario Farnbacher, Ian James and Alex Riberas.  Riley MotorsportsBen Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen were fourth in the Dodge Viper GT3-R while Alex Job Racing‘s No. 22 for Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette wound up fifth.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is back in action next weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix.  Coverage begins at 11 a.m. Sunday on FOX Sports 1.