Watkins Glen, NY – It was a familiar sight in Watkins Glen victory lane as Action Express Racing claimed the team’s second consecutive Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen victory when Christian Fittipaldi fended the charge of another Corvette DP through the closing stages of the race to cross the stripe with a .265-second margin over the pursuing field.
The No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Burt and Brian Frisselle also showed strong pace throughout the six-hour event as the brothers each ran among the top-three with Burt taking the point for three laps. But the promising podium run was slowed when a flat tire forced Burt to make an unscheduled pit stop with just under an hour remaining.
After the grid order was set by championship points when qualifying was rained out on Saturday, Fittipaldi opened the six-hour endurance race from fourth in the No. 5 Corvette and Burt Frisselle started from eighth in the No. 9 Corvette.
Both Action Express Racing machines were immediately strong around the legendary 3.4-mile Watkins Glen road course with both cars running in the top-five just over an hour into the race.
Though a chance of rain was forecasted for the entire six-hour event, the rain didn’t fall at the Watkins Glen circuit until the fifth hour of the race. Just before a full course caution was displayed as several cars went off course, Action Express Racing brought both team cars to pit lane for rain tires, fuel, and driver changes.
Fittipaldi took over from Barbosa and strapped into the No. 5 and Burt Frisselle took the controls of the No.9, but the rain stopped just as soon as it began and the track surface began to dry.
The track quickly developed a dry line as the field circulated under the yellow, and the team made the call to bring both cars back to pit lane for dry tires prior to the restart.
The No. 5 Corvette DP returned to the track second while the No. 9 slotted into sixth, but Burt Frisselle faced a setback when a flat tire on the No. 9 machine forced him to pit for a new tire as the rest of the field went roaring back to the green. He returned to the track eighth in the order with about an hour remaining and worked his way back through the field to take fifth at the finish.
Meanwhile, Fittipaldi ran second throughout his final stint behind the wheel of the No. 5 but when the leading car made its final pit stop with 13 minutes remaining in the race, Fittipaldi took over the point.
But it wasn’t clear sailing for Fittipaldi as the second place No. 3 Corvette Daytona Prototype was hot on the tail of the No. 5 machine through the final lap. But Fittipaldi masterfully defended to hold off the last-lap charge to take the victory by .265-seconds.
"People didn't realize it, but we turned a corner with the team at Road Atlanta and things were starting to really feel right and now we are building on that,” said team manager Gary Nelson.
“We are really excited about winning two 6-hours in a row with Joao and the group. But we are also very excited about the No. 9 car of the Frisselles’. They led a lot of laps and showed a very strong performance after a flat tire. So our 1-2 finish is coming!"
“It’s hard to describe - this is really, really big,” said team owner Bob Johnson of the victory. “We were really working hard. The team did such a phenomenal job again. To have two in a row and to defend our win last year, is really big for us. So we’re going to enjoy this one a great deal!”
The team will be back in race action at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway in just four weeks as the Brickyard Grand Prix set the stage for the final round of the North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com. Action Express leads the championship entering the event, and holds a provisional fourth in the GRAND-AM Team Championship standings with the No. 5 entry.
Joao Barbosa, No. 5 Corvette DP: “This was a great points day for us. We led at the three-hour mark. We led at six hours. We won the race overall. It is looking great for us in the points now. This Action Express team, man, the chemistry we have right now is unbelievable. The car is running excellent. Christian did a fantastic job.
This team has done a tremendous job, and the car drove awesome today. Every pit stop was great and we were able to bring the car home again in first place. Two wins and a second-place in the last three races and it is looking good. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Christian Fittipaldi, No. 5 Corvette DP: “I knew that the No. 3 car had a very strong piece. They showed it a couple of times during the race, but I think we played the game better than they did. And we, as a team, won the race today. Hats off to Joao, who drove an outstanding stint. And man, I’m very happy. Two in a row is a very nice feeling. We led at the three-hour mark and won the race, so it couldn’t have been a better weekend.”
Brian Frisselle, No. 9 Corvette DP: “I’m very happy for the 5 guys, really a great race for them. But this has got to be one of the most disappointing fifth place finishes I’ve ever had. We gave away track position at the end of the race. And it hurts, we could have won this race very easily and had a 1-2 finish for the team so it’s a painful one to swallow. A great team performance that we were hoping would result in a bigger finish but if we focus on just doing what we have been doing as a group we know the results will come.”
Burt Frisselle, No. 9 Corvette DP: “It was a series of unfortunate things for us today. Our car was very fast. I’m really confident that we could have won today. I never thought that fifth place would feel like we finished last, so it’s a shame. Hat’s off to the five car guys, another big result for the team and now we will just look ahead to Indianapolis to see if we can come home with a result to go with the performance we’ve had. ”
Action Express Racing