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Penalty gives Marcelli, Stacy win at VIR

SoVaNow.com / August 26, 2019
Saturday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Virginia International Raceway delivered plenty of action, a mini-crash fest, and a dizzying final, one-lap shootout.

At the end, Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy emerged with the win.

With mixed weather conditions throughout the race and a series of full-course cautions in the final 30 minutes, the field took the green flag for one last sprint around the 3.27-mile circuit with just over two minutes remaining in the two-hour race.

Jesse Lazare led the way and was trying to fend off a hard-charging Trent Hindman. That team had jumped from seventh to second in the final half-hour.

The two drove into Turn 4, but Hindman inched the nose of his Porsche a bit too deep on the inside, making contact with Lazare’s McLaren and causing him to spin.

While the No. 7 Porsche went on to cross the finish line first, a post-race penalty was assessed for incident responsibility, and the win was awarded to second place team of Marcelli and Stacy.

“I was a bit surprised to see it go green, to be honest with you,” said Marcelli, who had an intense battle of his own with Lazare for the lead before the final caution. “I knew it was going to be high risk. You’re either going to come out a big winner or a big loser, so I was kind of in survival mode. I just wanted to bring it home and get a respectful result. At the end of the day, we crossed the line second. Sometimes you’ve just got to be there, that’s racing they say. You’ve got to go to the end until the checkered flag.”

The win is the first of the season for Marcelli and Stacy and the duo’s second podium after a runner-up finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

“It really came down to letting me know we were going to switch to rain tires and just kind of tough it out until we could get to a point where we could change and get to the pit stop,” Stacy said. “It was super tricky and one of those things where you have to tiptoe around and make the best of it. It was a crazy end of the race, but it couldnt have gone any better, it was super awesome.”

After starting from the pole position following Friday’s canceled qualifying session due to weather, championship leaders Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal expanded their points lead with a second-place finish. They now lead Fergus and Lazare by 24 points, 230-206.

Sneaking onto the podium in third place was Ari Balogh and Mike Skeen. The pair started sixth on the final restart but moved up to give Skeen his best finish to date, while Balogh matched his own previous best.

Park Place Motorsports got hit with the penalty that ultimately dropped them to 12th in the final running order.

Hindman, co-driver of the no. 7, said, “First off, I need to apologize to the Motorsports In Action team; Corey, and Jesse for being caught in my mistake today. That one is 100 percent percent on me. I feel terrible for Alan (Brynjolfsson) and my Park Place Motorsports family. These guys put forth a tremendous effort all weekend and especially in the race. That’s what put us in position to win and I wish I could have given us that win today by waiting a moment later.”

Everything Goes Right for FAST MD Audi to Score First Win with Galante, Vance on Final Lap at VIR

Ask Nick Galante and James Vance how the season has gone, and it’s been a tale of ‘what ifs,’ that is, until Saturday at VIR.

This race had all the ingredients to be the same given the mixed weather conditions throughout the entire race, but the team chose a bold strategy at the start - to race on slick tires in the on-and-off rain - while all but a handful of other teams made the switch.

While the strategy paid off and the No. 23 Audi was ultimately at the front at the end - featuring an unexpected last-lap pass by Vance for the lead - it was both a physical and mental battle for the drivers.

“We’ve been fast all year, but little mistakes just kept popping up, and I think we just ran out of mistakes to make,” Galante said. “The first four laps, I thought we made a wrong choice but then it slowly started to dry out and I started clicking off laps and started catching the leaders.”

Vance sat second behind Jonathan Morley ahead of a final-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Vance ultimately made the move midway through the final lap to the inside of Morley who, with his co-driver Gavin Ernstone, was also seeking a first win in the series.

“At that point, I think my nerves were fried,” said Vance. “I thought, ‘Might as well go for it, we have a green-white checkered coming up.’” The win was Galante’s ninth in the Pilot Challenge and was the first for Vance.

“It feels great,” said Vance of his first Pilot Challenge win. “The series does an amazing job putting these events on. I feel like we earned this. We should’ve been here a few times this year. We’ve just had some bad luck and I think today, everything that could go right went right and the little things that could go wrong didn’t.”

Relegated to second place, Morley found himself in the middle of a three-wide battle between the No. 21 of Mason Filippi and the No. 54 of Stephen Simpson. Contact between the three would force Morley off track and into the tire barrier, finishing eighth.

Filippi and co-driver Harry Gottsacker finished second - one race after their first win at Road America earlier this month - and closed the gap to just five points, 224-219, over teammates and championship leaders Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins. Simpson and Michael Johnson finished third for their second podium finish of the season.

The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge heads west to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, Calif., for its penultimate round of the 2019 season on Sept. 24.





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