© 2019 by Andy Pilgrim

A podium finish from the tough streets of Long Beach

April 22, 2008

I brought home a second podium finish for Team Remington Cadillac in my Cadillac CTS-V race car with a third place finish in Long Beach.  As you will see from the story, I am glad to be out of Long Beach with good points; the streets take no prisoners.   

Long Beach is a street race and as most fans know, these can be very tough on race cars and drivers.  This year’s Long Beach GP was a tough one and we certainly had our fair share of yellow flags due to crashes and oil being laid down.  

That said, the yellows were short and there was certainly plenty of tough and close SCCA Speed World Challenge racing.  That close, tight racing is what makes thousands of the great Long beach fans stay after the ChampCar race finished.  We had tons of fans come around after our race to tell us the World Challenge race is THE race of the weekend - which is way cool.

I had a good qualifying - ending up in 3rd place, within two-tenths of the pole time and less than a tenth out of 2nd.  I had Mike Galati a couple of hundredths behind me in 4th, so I knew it was going to be a very close race.  

The only problem I had in qualifying was oil laid out by someone on the track and I was very, very lucky not to slam the wall in turn number 8 as there were no oil flags out when I got there on my first flying qualifying lap.  Everyone pitted for five minutes and then we had our qualifying runs. 

As for my race, I had a great start and managed to hold onto my 3rd place qualifying spot.  Holding onto my qualifying spot is a big deal as the Cadillac’s long wheelbase doesn’t make it the best drag race car, and at Long beach we basically have a third of a mile drag race to turn one.

Randy Pobst had an amazing start and went straight by Brandon Davis in his Mustang as Brandon got some wheelspin.  I actually thought I would go past Brandon, too, but as soon as he got his wheelspin under control, that Mustang just ripped away from me.  

The Mustang Brandon drove is a beautiful new car just finished over the winter. It is very trick with inboard rear suspension and ABS brakes.  The SCCA doesn’t really have a handle on its performance yet, and the car was weighted 200lbs lighter than the Cadillac, but I think after this weekend they will have some good data and will make some changes.

Going into turn one on the first lap at Long Beach is one of the most hold-your-breath places in all of racing.  As I said, it’s a third of a mile drag race with 30 cars trying brake from 150 mph to 45 mph on cold tires.  

Randy waited really late to break after getting his great start and just couldn’t get turned on the dusty inside line.  He ran wide and lost five positions, so I gained 2nd place for a while.  We had an instant yellow flag a few turns into the race as one car failed to get off the start line.

The short yellow had us going again soon and we were still on basically cold tires.  I was amazed to see Randy gained three positions on the restart and was right behind me from 6th place in just four corners.  The Cadillac takes a while to get it’s tires up to temp and Randy was coming so fast I let him go into turn six and concentrated on fending off his teammate, Mike Galati, who was right on my tail pipe.

I continued to lose time on the Mustang and Randy’s Porsche until about the 5th lap when I seemed to hold on to a two second gap and was about one second ahead of Mike.  We got about seven laps into it when another yellow came out.  Again it was a fairly short one for oil and car parts on the track.
Every restart was going to be chaos and they usually were, especially in turn one.  I ended up being stuck in the back of the lead three most of the time, just trying to keep up.  The Cadillac’s mandated 3,200 lbs  - the heaviest car in the series - was really hurting me coming off the corners. 

The only way I could keep close was to take chances in the very tight twisty parts of the track by leaving six inches between me and the walls.  I could close on Randy in these areas but once we got out in the open track I could not hold the gains so I ended up with a one-to-two second deficit to Randy.  I didn’t get much pressure from Galati; he was having a great battle for 4th place.  The three of us leaders would steadily pull away during the green runs.     

For the rest of the race we only got about seven lap runs between yellows and I was barely able to hold onto those guys the longer we went.  I was a bit frustrated we could not go green longer, but that is certainly the nature of street racing.  We ended up running the last five minutes under yellow and that’s how the race ended.  

Congratulations to Brandon Davis for his first win in World Challenge GT; he had previously won in the World Challenge Touring class – also on a street circuit.   Randy ended up second, and is still leading the championship points race.  I’m a close third in the points after Long Beach.

My teammate, Michael McCann, did really well to bring his #16 car home in 15th place after dealing with a failing gearbox for the whole race.  Something broke in his shifter mechanism on the formation lap.  He did a great job to stay out of trouble and still get a top 15 finish. 

May 18-20 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah is our next World Challenge race, isn’t likely to be a repeat of either Sebring or Long Beach in the sense of rain or concrete.  The track there is flat, rather featureless and very technical, hopefully we can get a race in with no yellows.

 

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