World Challenge - Shea Holbrook Takes Historic Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Win
DAYTONA BEACH, April 21, 2011: Shea Holbrook joined an exclusive group last weekend at the legendary Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach where the 21-year-old Florida driver became just the second woman in series history to earn a Pirelli World Challenge victory when she captured Touring Car (TC) class honors in her Shea Racing No. 67 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters/MyPluggz.com Honda Civic Si.
The win was by far the biggest to date in Holbrook’s emerging career and came on a Long Beach circuit that is nothing short of hallowed ground in North American road racing history. Holbrook joins only Melanie Snow, who earned the S1-class win in a Porsche on October 5, 1996 at Infineon Raceway, as the only women drivers to score a World Challenge victory in the 22-year history of the production-based sports car series.
Holbrook, who turned 21 earlier this month, also became just the fourth overall and third-youngest woman to win a professional race at Long Beach, trailing Simona de Silvestro’s win in the Atlantic Championship at the age of 19 in 2008 and Danica Patrick’s Pro/Celebrity race win just after she turned 20 in 2002. Katherine Legge won at Long Beach at the age of 24 when she captured the 2005 Atlantic Championship race.
Holbrook’s maiden win included some dramatic moments, both on and off the track. She originally finished second on the race track to Rafael Navarro IV, but Navarro’s car was later disqualified in post-race technical inspection for being non-compliant. The runner-up finish was already the best finish in Holbrook’s two-year professional career, but the dream weekend was clinched with the win.
“I officially found out around 6:30 p.m. that I was the Long Beach winner,” Holbrook said. “It was unfortunate for Navarro who also just experienced an emotional rollercoaster. It was an odd feeling because I experienced it differently. At first I literally thought, okay… but when the official looked me in the eye and said ‘Shea, you won the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Not many people can say that.’ Everything changed. It went from a high to an ultimate high. I was living what I dreamt about over the past five years.”
The victory was also celebrated by Holbrook’s primary sponsors Lucas Oil and K&N Filters, as well as one of Shea Racing’s newest partners, MyPluggz.com. Along with sister corporations SPEEDCOM Communications and VisionX Sportswear & Custom Graphics, MyPluggz.com is owned by Toto Lassally and based in Daytona Beach. The company is a specialized ear plug manufacturer offering custom form fitted ear plugs for a variety of applications, such as MP3 players, hands free cell phone devices, swimming plugs, hearing protection and, of course, motorsports. Holbrook races exclusively with MyPluggz.com products.
“I have supported Shea and her family since I first met her a couple of seasons ago and realized she is not only a great spokesperson for our companies but also a talented competitor on the track,” Lassally said. “I knew her first win was just waiting in the wings but for it to happen in Long Beach is a dream come true. All of us at MyPluggz.com, SPEEDCOM and VisionX, were honored that Shea and her great team and family brought us along for the victorious ride. We look forward to many more wins together in the future.”
Qualifying seventh in the Touring Car class, Holbrook managed to avoid a number of issues that plagued drivers at the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit that weaves through the streets of Long Beach. Three Touring Cars came together on the standing start, ending the day for polesitter Lawson Aschenbach’s Compass360 Honda Civic and Ron Zitza, but Holbrook picked her way through the debris and chaos.
Now in the open, Holbrook had moved to third after the opening lap, earning her the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award. Holbrook fell to fourth on lap two after being passed by Navarro, but she was back in a podium position again on lap 10 after getting by Eric Meyer’s Mazda RX-8. Holbrook moved past Devin Cates’ Volkswagen GTI on lap 15 to run in second place and had only Navarro ahead of her.
“The practice and qualifying sessions did not showcase our talent,” Holbrook said. “On the grid, something got into me. It must have been the ocean air! I had an awesome launch off the start and was able to gain a few positions. I made the pass on Devin Cates in turn one, which turned out to be for second place. I wasn’t even sure who was ahead of me, but I knew I was in the top four and it was a career best. I didn’t know how high I was until my dad told me over the radio, and what a feeling!”
Holbrook turned her fast lap of the race on lap 19 while chasing Navarro, but couldn’t close the gap on the track during the 26-lap race.
“The cool down lap was the hardest lap of the race because I was screaming, fighting back tears of excitement, and all I could think about was what this means to the team and my family,” Holbrook said. “I saw so many people running down pit lane as I was getting out of the car. It was absolutely the best moment of my career so far. This experience has been unreal.”
The win capped a dramatic few weeks for the full-time University of Central Florida (UCF) student, who was driving her third different Honda Civic in as many races after being collected during the season opener. Holbrook used a back-up car from Compass 360 in Round Two, and drove a Honda Civic Si prepared by Branden Peterson Racing at Long Beach.
“This race win means so much to so many people that are a part of Shea Racing, but this first race win is especially dedicated to my cousin Matthew who passed in 2008 from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Being an advocate for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy has become a huge and life changing part of my life.”
Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy is a charity directly benefitting a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne MD claimed the life of Holbrook’s cousin Matthew at the age of 20, and another cousin, Jordan, is also fighting his own battle with the disease. Using donations from fans and corporate partners both at and away from the track, Holbrook and Shea Racing have raised more than $20,000 for the cause in just a little more than a season in World Challenge, and the effort will continue for the rest of 2011 and beyond.
Holbrook, Lucas Oil, K&N Filters, MyPluggz.com and the No. 67 Honda Civic Si return to action for Round Four of the Pirelli World Challenge Championship May 29-30 at Miller Motorsports Park with Holbrook 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship Holbrook has 252 points, trailing Aschenbach (367) and Cates (278). Holbrook’s win also boosted Honda to the lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship by three points over Volkswagen.
The Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach featuring Holbrook’s win will be televised in high definition on Versus, April 30, at 2:30 p.m. EDT.