Jeff Segal and No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT Team Ready to Start Championship Run in This Weekend’s Watkins Glen 200
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 9, 2011) – Returning to the site of what he considers his career-best race win two years ago, reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT champion Jeff Segal, and co-champion teammate Emil Assentato and the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team, will bring their best points position of the season to Watkins Glen International this weekend for the annual NASCAR short-course race.
Segal out-dueled eventual series champion Dirk Werner to win the 2009 race on The Glen’s fast short course and finished fourth last year after an intense lead-pack battle to the checkered flag. Another win or top-five result this weekend should keep Segal and his team in the hunt for repeat GT titles after he joined Assentato and the No. 69 FXDD team in capturing both the driver and team championships in 2010.
Segal, Assentato and the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team rank a season-high fourth in both the 2011 driver and team championships with 228 points heading back to The Glen. They are just one point out of third place and trail the class leading No. 59 Brumos Porsche team by just 13 markers, the closest Segal and the No. 69 team have been to the top spot all season.
“I'm still amazed that we're as close to the championship lead as we are,” Segal said. “Compared to last year, we've had such an up and down season and it's remarkable that we're still very much in the hunt and only 13 points from the lead. Last season we were the model of consistency and the championship was still very tight. This year we've had what I would consider a much more trying season yet the big win is still totally within our reach.”
The biggest win so far in Segal’s successful but relatively short driving career was the 2009 Glen short-course race. He also joined Assentato and the No. 69 team in scoring their first major career victories in the 2008 Sahlen’s Six Hour race on the more traditional Watkins Glen long course. Segal and company also finished third in this year’s Sahlen’s Six Hour this past June.
“Watkins Glen is always a highlight of the season, and we are very fortunate to be able to go there twice a year,” Segal said. “The six hour has a real historical significance and it definitely has a lot of sentimental value for me as the place of my first Rolex win, but the short course race is my favorite. The track is the ultimate adrenaline rush, and the racing is always incredibly close. It's the kind of track where you get out of the car shaking after a really fast lap, and I love that. The win there in 2009 was probably my favorite win to date, the race was incredibly tight with the Porsche of Dirk Werner, and we swapped the lead several times over the closing laps. When you win one like that, there's an extra sense of accomplishment.”
An even bigger accomplishment for Segal would be a late-season rally to lock down repeat GT championships, a scenario that is far from out of the question. Saturday’s sprint at The Glen kicks off a three-race stretch run to the 2011 GT championships that includes Montreal next weekend and the season-ending race at Mid-Ohio next month.
“Watkins Glen, Montreal, and Mid Ohio are three of my favorite tracks, and our added confidence boost can only help push us forward as we try to close out the season well,” Segal said. “Our car has been getting better and better, so the timing and momentum is really encouraging. A few races ago I would have told you that the championship was out of the question, but now I feel pretty racy. I'm totally amped for this weekend. It is going to be a huge battle to keep the Mazda in contention against the V8s and Porsches, but I'm ready for it!”
In addition to third in the Sahlen’s, Segal’s other podium finishes have been a pair of season-best second-place finishes at the Grand Prix of Miami in March and last month at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
This weekend’s tight, two-day schedule opens with practice, late-afternoon qualifying and final practice early that evening on Friday. After that, no other GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series activity is scheduled until Saturday’s race at 6 p.m.
Noteworthy: Segal has been coming to Watkins Glen since he was a little boy. “Watkins Glen was the first race track I remember going to, probably around 1995 when I was 10 years old,” Segal said. “I was there for a Ferrari Club of America National Meet, and it was my first time on a race track when I rode as a passenger for some touring laps. I remember loving it from the onset, and begging to go faster and faster! I rode shotgun in a GTP-spec Tiga Ferari, and it was an unforgettable experience. The track was so intimidating with the banked corners and huge elevation change, and to some degree it still is even when I drive it today! I spent a lot of time there over the next few years as my dad raced, but didn't get to drive the track until much later because of the laws requiring drivers to be 18 years old there. It didn't matter though, by the time I could drive it I had enough laps in the passenger seat to know the place really well.”