A pair of penalties cost Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler a great deal of valuable track position Sunday in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway and resulted in an eighth place finish, and left the Motegi Racing wheels drivers in a five-way tie for the GT Daytona Drivers championship.
Motegi fans celebrated Patrick Dempsey’s podium finish in the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship race that featured only GT Le Mans and GT Daytona entries. And it was a good weekend for the SRT Vipers, as No. 93 SRT Viper GST-R drivers Kuno Wittmer and Jonathon Bomarito climbed to within six points of the GT Le Mans championship with a fifth-place finish.
Sweedler was penalized for jumping the start and then the team was penalized for leaving the pits with pit equipment still attached to their No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari F458 Italia.
"It obviously wasn't an ideal scenario today," said Bell. "The penalties were really a shame because the team did an incredible job to get the Ferrari not only back on track, but working so well, after the practice incident. The Ferrari was really fast. And the guys gave us a really fast first stop and a great strategy which allowed us to make up the time lost from the first penalty. In fact, the reason we had the second penalty was because they were trying to give us an even faster stop to help us pick up some more track position. We are all pushing very hard to win this championship - and we all will keep pushing for the final two races."
Entering the next-to-the-last event of the season Sept. 19-20 at Circuit of the Americas, Bell, Sweedler, Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil and VIR winner Dane Cameron are tied for the GT Daytona lead with 244 points. Keen and MacNeil drove the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America to a fifth-place finish at VIR and will be back on Motegi wheels at Circuit of the Americas.
Meanwhile, Patrick Dempsey and teammate Andrew Davis drove their No. 27 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America to a third place finish – their first podium of the season.
“It was a sense of pride and accomplishment for the guys,” Dempsey said. “I don’t think you realize how great of a team they are until you see their level of commitment. They just put their heads down and did what they had to do. Today was really important to show how much that means. After chasing the podium for so long this is a lot of fun.”
Dempsey’s crew had to rebuild the car overnight following an accident Friday that caused them to miss qualifying Saturday.
“The race was incredibly clean,” Dempsey said. “I was aggressive when I could be, but just being out here with all these guys is a tremendous honor and privilege. Andrew did such a good job Saturday and in delivering on race day. He just stayed calm. It’s what it’s all about, when you have these moments I am just grateful to have this experience.”
Pirelli World Challenge
Anthony Lazzaro won Sunday’s Pirelli World Challenge race at Sonoma in his Motegi Racing wheels-equipped No. 61 R. Ferri Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, which moved him up to third place in the championship standings, but his disappointing 21st place finish in Saturday’s race probably knocked him out of contention for the title.
"Starting with yesterday, we had a puncture,” Lazzaro said. “Bad luck. I've raced 30-odd years and it can't be more than five flats, and this year alone I've had two. The car's been perfect all weekend. Any day you're driving a red Ferrari it's a great day. Championship-wise, I don't really care anymore. I don't even know how we got to third. From here on out, it's all about race wins, and we got another one today."
Entering the season finale Sept. 11-13 at Miller Motorsports Park, Lazzaro is third with 1216 points. Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell leads with 1376 points and Mike Skeen is second with 1334.
Meanwhile, Motegi drivers Henrik Hedman and Dan Knox are still in contention for the GT-A title. Michael Mills leads with 681 points, followed by Hedman with 633 and Knox with 626.
Driving the No. 10 DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, Hedman finished fifth Sunday and eighth Sunday. Driving the No. 80 ACS MFG/Performance Speed Dodge Viper, Knox finished fifth Saturday and seventh Sunday.
Mike Hedlund made his return to Pirelli World Challenge with a season best fourth place Sunday and sixth best Saturday in the No. 77 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 running on Motegi Racing wheels.
Red Bull Global Rallycross
Motegi teams were shut out of the podium in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Supercars feature event at Daytona International Speedway, but Motegi teams swept the podium in Lites.
The highest finishing Motegi user was fourth-place Patrik Sandell in the No. 18 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST, and Tanner Foust, driver of the No. 34 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Polo R was sixth, followed by points leader Joni Wiman in the No. 31 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST.
Foust said the unique track in the International Horseshow area of Daytona was difficult. “The track was very challenging to learn for me,” he said. “It took me all day (Friday) to get on pace, and it changed a lot with the wet conditions in qualifying. But ten cars on this track was a lot—it seemed like you were fighting for parking spots at the mall for half the race. Somehow, through the dust, I ended up in third place on the inside of Bucky, but some contact put me in a half spin, and then it was just demolition derby behind me. I ended up limping to the finish with the right rear wheel literally not attached to the car at all. But somehow I still finished sixth.”
With an eighth place finish, Nelson Piquet Mr.’s four-race podium streak was snapped. However, the driver of the Motegi-equipped No. 07 SH Racing Rallycross Ford Fiesta ST maintains a 40-point lead in the series championship. Piquet leads Ken Block 245-205 with Motegi’s Scott Speed third with 190 points and Joni Wiman fourth with 188.
Scott Speed took his first heat victory since X Games Austin when he won Heat 1B in Daytona. He is now tied for second in the Supercars class with seven heat wins this season. However, the driver of the Motegi-equipped No. 77 Volkswagen Andretti VW Polo crashed out of the finals and was credited with a tenth place finish.
Motegi is the spec wheel for the Lites class, and Mitchell DeJong won in his No. 24 Olsbergs MSE marching, followed by teammate Alejandro Fernandez and Tyler Benson in the No. 60 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing entry.
Nico Hulkenberg got a post-race promotion into the points-paying top 10 at the Belgian Grand Prix Sunday. The stewards slammed sixth place finishing Kevin Magnussen with a 20 second time penalty following the Belgian Grand Prix, dropping him to 12th place and out of the points. Hulkenberg was the lucky driver who moved up inside the top ten as a result.
Sergio Perez finished ninth and was classified in eighth after Magnussen’s penalty, giving Sahara Force India another double points-paying finish.
Photo Credit: www.dempseyracing.net