© 2019 by Andy Pilgrim

Miller Motorsports Park - Playing in the sandbox

May 28, 2007

Mathematically, it is almost impossible to have your worst finish of the race season and yet leave the track closer to the points lead than when you started the race.
I’m not sure how I did that, but I did.

 

I came into the World Challenge GT race at Miller Motorsports Park 22 points out of the Drivers Championship lead, qualified only 14th, jumped the start and was penalized for that by dropping back to 29th place, spun myself out when I tried to avoid taking out another competitor, finished 11th, and left town 11 points out of the lead.

 

Whew!  And it was a blast doing all that!

 

The Team Cadillac CTS-V crew was a little worried all weekend for what we suspected was some major sandbagging going on by our competitors from Dodge, Porsche and Corvette.

 

Our worries were justified after I qualified 14th after being the first car out on a freshly-brushed track.  Rest assured we will not be the first car out there next year if we see the truck cleaning the desert grit off the track.

 

I congratulate Eric Curran’s guys for pulling him out of line ahead of me and moving him to the back after suspecting there may be a problem for the first car out.

 

I accept the consequences of my blowing the start. It was an honest mistake, but I'm in control of the clutch. Last year the five-second board was in the middle of the track, and with everybody’s foot on the floor waiting to drop the clutch, I was still looking for it frantically and radioed to my crew for help. They said they could not see , Kathy, the girl who holds the sign, either.

 

Then I noticed something move at the side of the track and it was Kathy.  SCCA had moved the start back and she could not safely have been in the middle of the track.

 

The moment I saw Kathy, the lights came on red and they were right next to her in my line of sight, although she was 100 feet further away.

 

I was so itchy to get a good start after our lousy qualifying, my mind said, 'Go!' I know better - I've never jumped the lights in four years in the World Challenge series, my fault.

 

I told Kathy about my mistake after the race and she was nice enough to say that they should have told the drivers she would be on the pit wall.  I noticed that for the Touring race later in the day they had Kathy run up to the top of the starters stand so there was no trouble for them.

 

The stop-and-go penalty by SCCA took me from 14th place on the first lap back to 29th place. I had no doubt this was a hole I wasn’t going to dig myself out of, not in a 14-lap race, not on a track like this where a full course yellow was very unlikely.

 

I worked myself up to 16th place by lap eight, got inside the Corvette of Tony Gaples, but he didn't see me and turned in. I didn't want to take him out, so I turned hard inside, touched him a little, spun myself but thankfully not him.

 

Luckily it only cost me a few seconds and I was able to get back to 11th place by the time the race ended.  Even without the spin I would not have done better than 11th as there was a 20 second gap there I could not have made up.  I was very happy with the way I drove and also obviously very disappointed with the start.

 

The race was a green-to-checkers lead for Tommy Archer’s Viper, which moved him to second place in the points behind Eric Curran, who had problems with his Corvette on the third lap.

 

That puts Eric at 84 points after four races, Archer at 79, Mike Galati’s Porsche at 75, and myself at 73. And there’s your 11 points difference, despite everything.

 

Chevrolet’s Manufacturers Championship lead over Cadillac is now eight points, 24-16, but there’s plenty of time left.Now, all the haulers have only a few days to get the cars back to Charlotte, N.C., where this coming Thursday night, May 24, we’ll have what may forever be known as the most unique World Challenge race, at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where we will support the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 Thursday night qualifying program.There will be two races, each 20 minutes apiece, and we change tires between the two.

 

If that isn’t unusual enough, consider that during this intermission period, a ceremony will be held involving the “wheel of inversion” to determine the restart order.

 

Numbered with positions one through five, the number that is landed on will indicate the position of the car that will make the restart in first place. If the wheel lands on one, there will be no inversion.

 

For the second session, cars will be lined-up in their order before the intermission, plus any inversion, and lapped cars will be placed at the back. The second session will commence with a double-file rolling restart.

 

I hope you understand this because there will be a test later.

 

Ok, so this event is quite outside of World Challenge series tradition.  I am very hopeful that a good bunch of NASCAR fans stick around to see us as both Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne will be driving in our race, with Jimmie in our third Cadillac.   Jimmie did a stellar job while testing the car in Sebring and Charlotte.  The guy is obviously fast in anything on any kind of track.

 

 

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