IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge - Wright Motorsports Race Report
TOOELE, May 3, 2012: Wright Motorsports’ Madison Snow, 16, and Sean Johnston, 21, dominated both races in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama series last weekend at Miller Motorsports Park.
The Batavia, Ohio-based team had three drivers in the top-five positions in both races overall, and another one posted a class win and a second to cap an incredibly successful weekend for the powerhouse team.Snow, of Lehi, Utah, led every lap of both races on Saturday and Sunday from the pole after he set a new track record in qualifications on Friday with his Porsche, which is sponsored by Universal Industrial Sales.
Johnston, who was also under the former track record in qualifying, started second and finished second in both events. Driscoll’s Berries sponsors the Mt. Shasta, Calif.-based driver.
Another Wright Motorsports driver, Fernando Pena of Minneapolis, finished fourth in both races with a Porsche sponsored by Colours, Inc.
Kasey Kuhlman brought a sixth and a ninth-place finish home to Cincinnati for his sponsors, Kuhlsport and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati.
Snow’s mother, Melanie Snow of Pleasant Grove, Utah, was on the podium both days too. She won the series’ Gold Cup division on Saturday and finished second in that class on Sunday to give the team and her sponsor, Universal Industrial Sales, two more podium finishes.
Two other Wright Motorsports drivers also did a great job and gained valuable experience. John Ellis of Charlottesville, Va., finished 18th on Saturday and 21st on Sunday in the Sage Water No. 8.
John Baker of New York City finished 15th on Saturday in another Porsche under the Wright Motorsports awning, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to start Sunday’s race.
Madison Snow carved a full second off the previous track record in quals with a lap in 1:53.759 (96.457 miles per hour) for the 3.048-mile, 15-turn road course near Salt Lake City. He also set a new race lap record of 1:54.891 on lap five of Saturday’s 45-minute/24-lap race, which gave him the pole for Sunday’s race too.
Snow had a 4.3-second lead over Johnston by lap 18 on Saturday. His Yokohama tires were going away near the end due to his torrid pace but he still had a comfortable 0.991-second margin of victory over his teammate. Johnston ran with no pressure either, as he was 11 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher, Bryce Miller. Another 13 seconds back was Pena in fourth place.
Pena started sixth beside another one of his teammates, Kuhlman. Pena got fifth at the start and then got fourth when Sloan Urry spun working lap four. That also vaulted Kuhlman from sixth to fifth place. Kuhlman ran in the top five until Michael Mills passed him on lap 18, and then he slipped to seventh on lap 19 when Tim McKenzie got by him. Kuhlman got McKenzie back on lap 21 to regain sixth, which he held until the finish.
“It was almost a DNF, as one of my competitors used me for a guardrail late in the race,” Kuhlman said later. “I kept it pointed straight and recovered the lost position. It wasn’t what we wanted but considering the circumstances I’ll take it. Wright Motorsports still picked up four of the top-six positions.”
Melanie Snow qualified second in the Gold Cup division to Angel Benitez Jr., who built up a 10-second advantage over her during the course of the race. He spun on the last lap, however, and Snow capitalized on his misfortune to take the class victory over Fred Poordad and Benitez. She finished 13th overall.
Baker battled his teammate, Ellis, and several other drivers before he finished 15th on Saturday. Ellis had a strong race too, as he started 21st but finished 18th.
The story was similar on Sunday, as Madison Snow and Johnston started first and second and stayed in those positions throughout the race. Snow had a 2.2-second lead over Johnston by lap 10 but his margin of victory was only 0.510 of a second on Sunday.
Snow set the fastest race lap again too with a 1:55.152, but Johnston was only 0.118 of a second off that with a 1:55.270.
Kuhlman started sixth and Pena started seventh on Sunday. They both moved up one spot right away when Tim McKenzie had problems and didn’t complete a lap, and they had exchanged positions by the end of lap two.
Bryce Miller stayed in third place throughout the event so Pena and Kuhlman’s main competition was Urry. Pena was right on Urry’s back bumper on lap three and he passed him on lap four for fourth to nail down that finishing position, although they had another tussle on the very last lap.
Kuhlman was in sixth place until he spun on the exit of Turn 4 working lap 14. He recovered nicely but dropped to ninth position, and that’s where he finished. There’s in-car camera footage of the spin at youtube.com/watch?v=bnug1XuV5gY&feature=youtu.be, and he also posted a video of some wild first-lap action.
Melanie Snow started second in Gold Cup on Sunday and she finished in that position for another class podium. She was 15th overall on Sunday.
Ellis started 21st and finished 21st. He was up to 18th but he spun working lap 18 and Wesley Hoagland and Franck Silah slipped by.
The next two 45-minute races will be held on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, Calif. The complete schedule can be found on the series’ Web site at imsachallenge.com.
Additional information is on the team’s Web site at wrightmotorsports.com and its Facebook page.