WATKINS GLEN: REWIND
For the second consecutive race, CJ Wilson racing had all four of its drivers on the podium and for the second consecutive race, those drivers were left surrounding the top step. While it would be churlish to bemoan two more Top 3 finishes, it is also fair to suggest that the nature of the 'defeat' at Watkins Glen International was such that the drivers will not forget it any time soon. Having controlled almost entire two and a half hour race, Marc Miller's #33 Porsche Cayman was heavily baulked by a slower ST car as he exited the Esses, this allowed both the #12 Bodymotion Porsche and Miller's teammate Tyler McQuarrie to get by. With barely four minutes remaining, there was no time for the ONE Capital/Motor Oil Matters car to recover.
The week started with Thursday's opening practice on the completely resurfaced Watkins Glen International circuit. The updated eleven turn, 3.4 mile 'Boot' layout was met with universal acclaim by the veteran drivers and for rookie Till Bechtolsheimer it was love at first sight. "Like every other track this season, Watkins Glen is completely new to me. I only spent about 25 minutes on the track today but I think this may end up being my favorite of the circuits here in the US. There is a ton of elevation change and it has a really nice feel to it, it’s exciting to have to get close to the walls on the exit of some of the corners and it’s just really a lot of fun to drive."
Things got a little bit more serious on day two as CJ Wilson Racing cars finished the 45 minute session in P1 and P2 with Tyler McQuarrie's #35 New Balance/Safecraft Safety Equipment car heading the sister car of Marc Miller. To further emphasize the team's dominance, Danny Burkett finished his stint in the #33 car with the third fastest time of the session.
An intense battle in qualifying between the #33 car and the Multimatic Mustang of Scott Maxwell saw Danny Burkett break the existing lap record only to be pipped on the final lap by his fellow Canadian by less than one tenth of a second.
Burkett made up for the disappointment of missing out on pole by taking control of Saturday's race after two early caution periods. The native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, took the lead from Maxwell on lap 14 and did not relinquish it until it was time to pit for fuel and a change of driver some 13 laps later. At the same time Till Bechtolsheimer was impressing everyone with his lap times and his race craft as he battled back and forth with Paul Holton's Compass 360 Mustang. On Lap 27 he pitted from fourth position handing the New Balance/Safecraft car over to Tyler McQuarrie for the run to the finish.
With just over 30 minutes to go the CJ Wilson Racing cars were now running one-two at the head of the field with a comfortable lead. That advantage quickly evaporated as the full course yellow flags flew giving the rest of the field the break the it was looking for. The Green flag fell once again with just over 22 minutes to go and it set in motion a titanic two and three-way fight between the CJWR team cars and the #12 Bodymotion car of Trent Hindman. McQuarrie and Hindman battled back and forth swapping positions on multiple occasions over the ensuing laps. Ultimately this gave Marc Miller the cushion he believed he needed to seal what would have been the first victory for the Austin based team in the GS Class. That 'cushion' was cruelly taken from Miller as he hit the brakes hard to avoid serious contact with an errant ST Class car handing the lead and victory the the #12 car and second place to his teammate and friend, McQuarrie.
Post race, Miller summed up both his feelings and those of the entire CJWR crew. "Not a good feeling, because we had a great car. This was a tough one to swallow. When I got slowed and watched those two cars go by, it was like losing my puppy.”
The drivers and crew of the #33 Cayman have little time to dwell on the result as they are back on track on Friday, July 8th with two practice sessions and qualifying at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.