One of America’s most livable cities is home to one of the nation’s most iconic sporting venues, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which becomes a hotbed of activity as large crowds turn out for the Brickyard 400 weekend. The festivities began with an official driver’s meeting on Thursday afternoon in preparation for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series event on Friday evening. At the conclusion of the meeting, the GRAND-AM stars took center stage at the pit walk, many accompanied by family, to meet the fans which included large numbers of parents with small children who wanted to see the cars and drivers up close.
Jordan Taylor, who co-drives the #8 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP with Max Angelelli, has a good perspective on the family aspect of sports car racing. “It’s great,” he says of being in a family business. “My dad was a driver himself, and now a team owner, so (older brother) Ricky and I grew up in racing and the whole racing community has become like a family because it’s our second home. It’s a competitive environment, but at the same time these are the guys you see every week. At the end of the day, we are all having a good time and enjoying life.” Like his brother, also a driver, the 22-year-old is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Central Florida. Taylor, who said he always wanted to be a driver, started the two and a half hour endurance race from pole position. “Track position is always important in this series [the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series],” said Taylor. “As long as we can keep it up front, keep the track position… I think we’ll have a good shot at it.”
Seasoned veteran Andrew Davis is another driver with family ties to sports car racing. “My dad raced [at the club level] since I was very young, and my brother, my mother and myself were the crew basically. That’s what we did for vacations. We didn’t do Disney World or ski trips; we went to race tracks around the southeast and that’s where I grew up in the race track. Road Atlanta is my home track and I was that little kid on the fence watching Hurley Haywood, Derek Bell and all my heroes racing around in the Camel GT days.”
The versatile Davis has driven in both ALMS and GRAND-AM classes during his 10 years on the pro circuit and shared the GT class win of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series with driver Leh Keen. His current ride is in the #62 Snow Racing Porsche GT3 with 17-year old Madison Snow.
Davis knows that teamwork starts with the example of family and role models when you’re young. “Normally you’d be concerned with such a young driver, in some aspects, because they can become overwhelmed with just the competition level and the professional level of a series like the Rolex series. But Madison is spot on. He doesn’t act his age, he is even tempered and takes everything in stride. Coming to Indy for the first time can be very overwhelming for any driver, but he takes it all in stride. He’s been very impressive. Part of that is the team that surrounds him; the right motorsports guys, the top pros have worked with him, and, similar to myself, he comes from a racing family, so he’s been around it for a long time. “
“There’s a very strong correlation between having that family support as you’re growing up and being a family oriented environment in racing and how that puts you into a team aspect. You’re one member of a family; you’re one member of a team. You learn that teamwork from the support around you.”
The first race of the Brickyard 400 weekend was the Brickyard Sports Car Challenge, where the competitors in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) took to the Formula One designed road course to tackle the historic track, as well as the impending rain.
On Friday, July 26, Sellers and co-driver Mark Boden (Winnetka, Ill.) drove the No. 46 Trim-Tex Drywall Products/BCKSTGR Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3to an emotional victory on the road course of the world’s most famous racetrack. It was a victory with many challenges but the second-year driver pairing would not be denied.
“There are no words to describe the emotions we all felt at Trim-Tex and Fall-Line to win as a program at Indy,” stated Sellers. “Indy is where it all started and to have your name on the list of people to win here is amazing. No matter what the race: the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400, MotoGP or GRAND-AM, you competed in, winning is something very special. It still has not sunk in. I hope in a couple days I will be fully able to absorb it.”
After starting 13th, Boden ran the car up into the top-10 before Sellers took over driving chores with an hour and 20-minutes to go. The Team Falken Tire factory driver moved into third ten minutes later and second less than five minutes after that. When a caution period slowed the action, the Trim-Tex Fall-Line BMW was in the lead. Sellers would never relinquish the top spot again despite heavy pressure from the No. 61 Ford Mustang of Billy Johnson but the conclusion was far from certain.
30-minutes from the end a yellow flag again slowed the CTSCC field and left Sellers as a sitting duck down the long front straightaway at “The Speedway”. However, the 2012 American Le Mans Series Most Popular Driver Award winner is recognized as one of the strongest re-starters in the series and he again executed to precision gaining a good gap entering the road course’s first turn.
“Restarts are not the strength of the BMW,” Sellers continued. “We do not have nearly enough torque to fight off the Mustangs and high displacement cars so I had to try and be creative. I was able to catch all of them off a couple times but the more restarts you do the more they catch on to your tricks. The restarts are where I was most worried about being susceptible to being beaten. We were able to make the most out of all of them.”
Johnson would shrink that gap as two final cautions brought the two leaders nose-to-tail. Each time, the caution waved it put the BMW under threat but each time Sellers answered. When the last caution flew with two minutes remaining, Sellers and Boden were guaranteed their second CTSCC career victory and their second win in a row in the road car-based series that saw 56 cars on track at Indy.
“We have always been strong but to win everything has to align and these last two races everything has,” Sellers concluded. “Both Watkins Glen and Indy have been great team victories for Fall-Line. Strategy has worked and the pit stops have been fast. The wins belong to everybody on the team because it has been a group effort.”
The Indianapolis victory follows an equally pressure filled chase to the checkered flag for Sellers at Watkins Glen International on June 30. The win at the historic New York track came due to a last lap pass in wet conditions. While the weather played no part in the Indiana race, the magnitude of winning any race at the track which dates back to 1909 is a milestone career accomplishment for Sellers and Boden.
Fans who want to see how the on-track action unfolded can catch the television broadcast of this race on SPEED, Saturday, August 3 at 4 p.m. ET.
In the second race of the weekend, Scuderia Corsa’s two Ferrari 458 Italias, #63 and #64, crossed the famed brickyard finish line in fifth and sixth place on Friday at the Grand-AM Rolex Brickyard 500 on the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Bringing both his cars across the finish line in such a competitive field and at such an historic track led team principal Giacomo Mattioli to observe, “another top five finish for the #63. I’m also satisfied with the result for our #64. I think Dr. Randall and Ken Wilden did very well with a limited amount of time in practice. The #63 was extremely competitive during the race but unfortunately we had an issue in the pits that slowed us down. I’m very pleased with our drivers. Alessandro drove a great race and Leh fit in very well with the team in his first weekend. Looking forward to the next one!”
Alessandro Balzan, looking to regain his Grand-AM GT driver points lead, started the #63 in 5th position and immediately began fighting his way through the top of the field. Balzan drove blistering lap times in a crowded field that saw four full course yellows and led the GT pack for 12 laps before handing the wheel to Leh Keen. Balzan, who managed a spectacular first half shared his disappointment of the final outcome, “I’m a bit upset considering how strong we were in the first part of the race. Pit stop issues and unlock compromised the race. The fifth position is tough considering we had a car that could win this historic race but it makes me eager to win the next one!”
Co-driver Leh Keen who stood on the podium in last year’s Brickyard 500, and has two GT championship titles was pragmatic about today’s result, his first with Scuderia Corsa, “the Scuderia Corsa team is a really good group and we’re determined to go after the Championship. It was nice seeing Balzan in the car the first part of the race. He did an awesome job and I think we will be strong the rest of the year. We had a tough race; some issues in the pits and some bad luck cost us some positions and that added up. We definitely had a car that could finish on the podium or even win the race, it just didn’t go our way in a sense, but I really enjoyed my first weekend with Scuderia Corsa and am looking forward to the next four races.”
Dr. Rod Randall, driver of the #64 car, shared his thoughts on his first race under the Scuderia Corsa banner, “it was a thrilling experience and great operations team. We are looking forward to future opportunities with Scuderia Corsa.” Co-driver Ken Wilder added, “a thrill for Scuderia Corsa and a good first weekend with these guys. The #64 was a very comfortable car to drive and finishing 6th at Indy was great!”
Next up for the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series is the Visitflorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on August 10, 2013.
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