Cadillac Wins WeatherTech 240 at The Glen
Smart strategy and deft fuel saving on a wet track led to the first victory of the season for Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani.
Their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi V.R took the lead Friday during pit stops shortly after the end of a 46-minute red flag for weather late in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at The Glen. Nasr then stayed ahead of the field after a late restart to conclude an emotional victory.
“It was just awesome,” Nasr said. “That’s what racing is about. It’s hard. When you pull it out, it really amazes you.”
The strategy, to which Action Express Racing committed before the race, allowed the team to take fuel only during the final pit stop while others were receiving full service. That let Nasr leap the field and take the lead.
One problem. Nasr wasn’t sure if he had enough fuel to reach the end of the race.
“Once we got that second yellow after the restart, that helped us a lot,” Nasr said. “But I was still saving fuel. We are so limited on the capacity that we don’t have the luxury to go flat out all the time, but that second yellow helped us out big time.”
Nasr crossed the line 1.473 seconds ahead of Renger van der Zande in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi V.R he co-drove with Kevin Magnussen. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura DPi ARX-05 driven by Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor finished third, increasing its lead in the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class to 81 points over the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi and drivers Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis.
The IMSA WeatherTech 240 at The Glen was already a sprint race. After a red-flag stoppage for lightning midway through, Antonio Garcia and Jack Hawksworth showed they were the best sprinters in the GT classes.
Garcia won the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class in Friday night’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Watkins Glen International, with Hawksworth taking honors in GT Daytona (GTD), which paid points toward only the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings. Both did so by getting the jump on the competition on a final restart with 28 minutes to go.
The total race time was two hours, 40 minutes, but the cars were stopped in pit lane for nearly 45 minutes when lightning struck near the track an hour into the event on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course. Per IMSA rules, the race clock continues during red flags, so green-flag racing resumed with just under 37 minutes to go. After a short full-course caution for debris on the track, the green waved again at the 28-minute mark. That’s when Garcia and Hawksworth took over.
Finishing the race that co-driver Jordan Taylor started in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, Garcia ran second to teammate Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette until the last restart.
Given a shot of confidence after turning a couple green-flag laps before the red flag, Garcia zoomed around his teammate coming out of the last turn on the restart and pulled steadily away to win by 1.895 seconds over Milner and co-driver Nick Tandy in GTLM. It is the third win in four points-paying races this year for Garcia and Taylor.
“I knew before the restart that I could switch on the tire a little better than (Milner), so I was all out,” said Garcia, who now has 25 IMSA wins. “He got caught on the last corner with some (prototype) car and I got past. After that, you just had to close your eyes and trust that the grip would be somehow there.
“The first two laps, I knew that would be the main thing of the race. That’s where I pulled out those two seconds and kept the distance from that point on. I just took a little bit more risk than Tommy did and opened up the gap.”
Garcia and Taylor made it a sweep of the two Watkins Glen weekends, taking the GTLM pole position and race win in both. Corvette Racing now has 117 wins in IMSA competition.
Like Garcia in GTLM, Hawksworth made his decisive GTD move on the first lap of the last restart – except the Brit launched past two cars in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Running third when it went green, Hawksworth overtook Jeff Westphal in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 and Vasser Sullivan teammate Zach Veach in the No. 12 Lexus on the same lap.
Though Veach harassed his teammate the rest of the way, Hawksworth held fast despite being down on straight-line speed after a piece of left-front bodywork came loose from the car to bring out the final caution that set up his double pass for the lead. Hawksworth won by 0.707 seconds, earning his seventh career win and the fourth for co-driver Aaron Telitz. It’s the first win for the No. 14 and Vasser Sullivan since Mid-Ohio last September.
“That race was a roller coaster of emotion,” Hawksworth said. “We obviously had the wrong tire choice in quali yesterday and started eighth. Aaron did a great job to get us to fourth. We had that (bodywork) damage and at one point I thought we were going to be done. Then to win the race is amazing.”
Hawksworth attributed the deciding passes to his ability to generate higher temperatures and pressures more quickly in his Michelin tires.
“The Lexus generates a lot of tire temperature,” he said. “I made a big lunge into Turn 1, which worked, and then Zach was struggling a little bit on cold tires and I was able to nip him as well.”
Veach and Frankie Montecalvo finished second in the No. 12 Lexus, with Ross Gunn and Roman De Angelis taking third in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
The GTD race counted solely toward the WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings and not the season-long class championship. Gunn and De Angelis unofficially leave The Glen with a 27-point lead over Montecalvo. Hawksworth and Telitz – the defending Sprint Cup champions – advanced to third in the Sprint Cup standings, 142 points behind the leaders.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season resumes July 17 with the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. The GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes will be the sole competitors.