SCCA NEWS: Pilgrim Leads Cadillac One-Two In SPEED GT At Charlotte

Photo by John Thawley CONCORD, N.C. (May 24, 2007) – Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., led a Team Cadillac one-two finish Thursday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway during Round Four of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship. Lawson Aschenbach, of W. Palm Beach, Fla., and Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., completed the top three.

Driving the No. 8 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V, Pilgrim qualified fourth but started third on the grid after second-starting Michael McCann withdrew his Dodge Viper due to a blown engine in qualifying. The 2005 series Champion moved to second when early leader and polesitter Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, spun in the back-straight chicane.

At the race’s intermission, scheduled after the first 20-minute half, the Lowe’s Motor Speedway “Wheel of Inversion” was spun, with number two coming up, meaning second place Pilgrim would start the final 20-minute half first, with first half leader Pobst lining his No. 22 K-PAX Racing/Jim Haughey Porsche 911 GT3 second.

At the restart, Pilgrim got the jump, earning the B&M Oil Coolers Coolest Move of the Race as the field went two-by-two into the turn one chicane, and slowly pulled away from the field. Pobst ran hard for the first three-quarters of the final segment, but his handling went off in the end, allowing Aschenbach’s No. 1 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V by into second.

Pilgrim captured his sixth-career win by 11.558 seconds, averaging 99.004 mph in the 66.6-mile race around Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s modified super speedway.

“The car was phenomenal, Pilgrim said. “We knew we had a good car. We have a heavier car, so we knew brake fade would probably be our only issue if we could hold the setup. In the first session, with Michael [Galati] spinning in that small chicane it’s a miracle that he [Pobst] or I got through there. There was only inches between me, the wall and Michael. Three times cars spun in the small chicane and I managed to squeak through.

“I thought he [Pobst] might try to get me on the restart. I had a bit of a plan there and luckily it worked out and I managed to get out of there clean and push as hard as I could. My right foot is burned. I think it has blisters on it, because I was pushing so hard on the brake and the pedal was getting so low and the car was getting so hot, that my foot was just burning up. I pushed as hard as I could and the car ran flawlessly.

“Today was definitely my day and Cadillac’s day and I’m thrilled for the Cadillac team. This one was a tough one. We came in here thinking a top five was more than we could hope for, but it turns out we get a one-two, so what can I say?”

After starting 13th, Aschenbach finally caught a break at the start. Two races ago, it was the defending series Champion who lost out in the standing start and opening lap chaos. Today, the 23-year old capitalized on others’ misfortunes, moving up eight spots on the opening lap and into third place by lap three.

“We were pretty upset about qualifying,” Aschenbach said. “I ended up switching cars right before qualifying and got into a car I didn’t know and didn’t quite fit in. But I got it in the field, found out what was going on with it and I knew it was going to be a good car. I trusted my guys for sure.

“The biggest thing was just keeping my nose clean. I believe I had a really good start. I think I passed five or six people just into Turn One. I just kept it clean and I think I was sixth after the first lap. I just kept my head down and kept picking people off one by one. I knew we didn’t have a good shot to get up to the front so I was just biding my time and kept the car on the track.

“The main thing is just how amazing Team Cadillac is. They did such a great job getting the car up there and they gave me a great car to drive through the field. We were pretty comfortable with third and when I saw Randy slowing down I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I had to get after him and see if I could get second and get us a Cadillac one-two and thankfully we did.”

Pobst took over the lead from teammate Galati on lap six and held a commanding lead when the first session ended. But a win was not in the cards for the 2004 series Champion.

“We had quite a challenge running at Charlotte on the oval,” Pobst said. “It was pretty exciting the first couple of laps, my teammate had a little problem going into the chicane. He spun while I was running second. I tracked out and just made it through. Then Andy [Pilgrim] and I ran hard for a long time, but he faded, he might have had a little bit of a brake problem.

“I was feeling great until we got to the pit stop in the middle of the race when we did the tire change. My right-rear was toast, so the team advised me to be much more conservative in the second half of the race. Then about two-thirds of the way through I began feeling a vibration and smelling something, so that’s why I started to conserve it.

“There was a lot of attrition in this race. A lot of the guys I’m trying to catch in the championship fell out of the race and a couple of them didn’t, but the K-PAX Racing/3R team did a great job with my Porsche. It was a bloody fast car and we brought it home third.”

Rob Foster, of Phoenix, Ariz., finished a career-best fourth in his No. 17 LTI Contracting/Foster Motorsports Dodge Viper, also capturing the Toyo Tires Cup in the process.

Jeff Courtney, of Slinger, Wis., completed the top five with his career-best finish in the No. 99 Kenda/MPI/Badger/Karavan Dodge Viper.

NASCAR Nextel Cup star Kasey Kahne finished sixth in a guest-star run in the No. 9 Kicker/Woodhouse Auto Family Dodge Viper. Kahne started ninth and ran in the top four for much of the race before being forced to go straight through the back-straight chicane by a hard-charging Galati on lap 24.

Galati moved to the inside to out-brake Kahne as they entered the corner, with Kahne not being able to get the Viper maneuvered through the tight chicane.

Galati’s charge from 15th after his spin ended while battling Aschenbach for third on lap 32, when he clipped the end of the second chicane, breaking his left-front suspension.

Tony Gaples finished seventh in his No. 34 Blackdog Racing/Kleinschmidt Chevrolet Corvette after starting 20th, thus earning the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions in the race.

Sonny Whelen (Chevrolet Corvette), Jefferey Robbins (Dodge Viper) and Robb Holland (Porsche 911 GT3) completed the top 10. Robbins was the Piloti Rookie of the Race in his No. 6 RSIG Security Dodge Viper for being the highest-finishing rookie driver.

Pilgrim’s win moved him into first place in the Drivers’ Championship, with 112 points to Aschenbach’s 100. Pobst is third, with 99, followed by Tommy Archer (94) and Galati (93). Eric Curran, who won the first two races of the season, had his second-straight DNF of the season after making contact with the Porsche of James Sofronas, who was rebounding from contact with the back straight chicane on the opening lap. Curran is now sixth, with 84 points.

The one-two finish also put Cadillac into the lead of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, 25 to 24 over Chevrolet. Dodge and Porsche are tied for third, with 15.

Today’s race will be broadcast Saturday, June 2 at 4 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED.

The series has a week off before traveling to Watkins Glen International for a race on June 10.

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