ELKHART LAKE, WI – Once again, the Continental Tire Sports Car Championship saw a race dominated by caution flags and wrecked cars, unfortunately including the #16 Multimatic Ford Focus ST-R of Frank Montecalvo and Nick Mancuso. The #15 car of James Gue and Gunnar Jeanette, after qualifying a strong Q4 and leading a portion of the race, narrowly escaped the same incident, but lost a number of positions in the process. They would go on to finish a disappointing P16. Despite good practice sessions and great qualifying efforts from Gue and first time Focus driver, Montecalvo, who was filling-in for the absent Bret Seafuse, the Multimatic team again suffered from the bad luck that has dogged them all season. Road America is a track known for its long straights and high speeds, with a four mile lap and mile long front stretch, but all the space did not help in spreading out the incredibly competitive, 60-car field. At least a dozen incidents led to six caution periods and never allowed the race to stay green for more than half a dozen laps at a time, putting a damper both on the team’s strategy and on the drivers’ chances to make up positions. Highlights of the weekend were as follows:
The Multimatic Ford Focus team once again demonstrated their race engineering expertise during the practice sessions, improving their times in each subsequent session, moving from the middle of the pack into the top five. The #15 car gained a second and a half from the first practice session to the third, moving up from P16 in the first session to P12 in the second and P4 by the third. Despite a slight lack of power in comparison to the top competitors on the extremely long straights, the crew set the car up perfectly and Gue expertly qualified in Q4 at a 2:32.709. Although it was Montecalvo’s first time in the Focus, he proved his natural skill and qualified the #16 car in Q13, a mere second slower than Gue; an incredible achievement in the ridiculously competitive 35 car ST class.
When the green flag flew it was immediately followed by a yellow as a multi-car incident occurred before the start finish line, a trend that would continue for the duration of the race. Due to the long length of a lap, the typical caution period took a minimum of 15 minutes and made it very difficult for any of the drivers to get a rhythm. Gue and Montecalvo both enjoyed good opening stints, holding top ten positions, despite only getting six and ten laps of green flag racing respectively. The team opted for two different strategies and when the second caution period occurred, only 30 minutes in, the #15 car pitted for a driver change and fuel, fully expecting that they would need to stop again. The #16 team decided to stay out in hopes that there would be more yellow and that they would only need to pit once. Their opportunity came only four laps later with another caution. As the #16 pitted with the majority of the field, Jeanette cycled up to P2 and as the race went green, he took the lead.
The #15 car led until the fourth caution period when Jeanette came in for a final splash of fuel to ensure he could make it to the end of the race. The stop dropped him well down the order, but with some green flag racing the team knew most of the cars ahead would still need to pit. Unfortunately, and quite similarly to Mid-Ohio, the cautions kept coming and the #16 proved to have the better strategy, Mancuso would not need to pit again.
With 40 minutes to go, both cars were just inside the top 15 when a multi-car, chain reaction crash occurred in the notorious corner 6. Jeanette miraculously managed to stop just before colliding with the back of a crashed car but lost a dozen positions trying to get around the incident. Mancuso was even less lucky, weaving through the chaos only to be collected from the side by one of the scattering cars and consequently thrown off the track and into the wall. Jeanette managed to battle the #15 back up to P16 by the finish but the #16 would have to be towed home in a heap. Mancuso fortunately suffered no injuries except a sore neck. Despite yet another unlucky weekend, the Multimatic Ford Focus team looks forward to chasing down a win at Watkins Glen on June 29-30.
The Road America race will be broadcast on SPEED channel July 8 at 12:00 p.m. EST.
From Multimatic Motorsports