CONFOUNDING CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Fast Facts -- Finlay Motorsports drivers Michael McDowell, Memo Gidley and Rob Finlay in the EMCO Gears Road Racing Classic Rolex Series and Grand Am Cup weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 25 ...
CONFOUNDING CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Fast Facts -- Finlay Motorsports drivers Michael McDowell, Memo Gidley and Rob Finlay in the EMCO Gears Road Racing Classic Rolex Series and Grand Am Cup weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 25 -- 28
--Finlay Motorsports, though a first-year team, is an emerging power in the Grand American Road Racing Series with a combined total of six races led, five 'fastest race lap', four 4th-place finishes and three podium finishes in 2005.
--All three Finlay Motorsports drivers have raced at Mid-Ohio before, and Michael McDowell won here, coming through the field from an 8th-place qualifying spot, on his way to winning the 2004 Star Formula Mazda Championship with 8 victories in 10 races.
--McDowell, 20, from Phoenix, Arizona, became the youngest driver ever to score a podium finish in the Rolex Series when he and Gidley teamed to finish 2nd at Barber Motorsports Park on July 31.
--Gidley has also won at Mid-Ohio, in 1995. In just his second year of racing, he finished first in a field of 64 Formula Ford 2000 cars, and won the Valvoline Team USA scholarship as a result.
--With the weather expected to be hot and humid this weekend, Gidley and McDowell have been participating in a special high-temperature training program designed to help them withstand the 120-degree heat inside the race car.
--The Finlay team will have a special cheering section at the race this weekend with the track providing free race tickets to all military personnel, including members of the Air Force Reserve's 445th Airlift Wing stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
Conventional wisdom has it that when a brand-new team enters a top-tier racing series like Grand American, they should expect to spend the first year toiling away toward the back of the pack while learning 'the ropes.'
Finlay Motorsports has confounded conventional wisdom with a 2005 record that -- so far -- includes a combined total of six races led, five 'fastest race lap', four 4th-place finishes and three podium finishes in 2005.
The last remaining, and most important, goal for the team -- victory -- is well within reach at this weekend's EMCO Gears Road Racing Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. All three of the team's drivers, Michael McDowell, Memo Gidley and Rob Finlay, have raced here before, and both McDowell and Gidley have scored victories on the legendary 2.4-mile road circuit. Gidley bested a field of 64 Formula Ford 2000 cars in 1995, only his second year in racing, and has since gone on to race Barber Dodge Pro series, Toyota Atlantic and Champ Cars at Mid-Ohio.
"This is a great track with a long history and fans that are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic that a driver can feel the energy out on the track," says Gidley. "And that energy will be even more powerful with all the Air Force Reserve members from Wright-Patterson that will be attending. The Finlay Motorsports team keeps coming together into a tighter, more effective unit with each race we run and I'm looking forward to qualifying the car, taking it to the front and handing it over to my teammate in first place. We're all working extra hard to make this the weekend that we score our first win in front of our fans from the Reserve."
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is extending a very special thank you to the members of the United States Armed Forces for their dedicated and heroic service to our country, as well as the families who support them.J
During the EMCO Gears Classic, Friday, August 26 through Sunday, August 28, those serving in any branch of the Armed Forces, active, reserve, and National Guard, and/or their immediate family members, will receive free admission to the weekend event. For more information contact Mid-Ohio at 1-800-MID-OHIO.
McDowell's experience with the top step of Mid-Ohio's podium is more recent; he won the Star Formula Mazda race in 2004 on his way to dominating the championship with eight wins in ten races. He also, at age 20, became the youngest driver ever to score a podium finish in a Grand American Rolex Series event when he and Gidley teamed to finish second at Barber Motorsports Park on July 31.
"I love this track, but it's going to be really hot, there's going to be a lot of traffic, and it's going to be really tough to pass," says McDowell. "I think the key to the race will be staying out of trouble for the first hour, and then going as fast as humanly possible in the last hour."
Speed, strategy and car setup will all play a large part in the outcome of this race, as they always do, but the hot, humid weather expected for this weekend will add a unique dimension to this particular event.J With temperatures in the cockpit of the Finlay Motorsports #19 Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-Powered BMW Riley Daytona Prototype reaching 105 -- 110 degrees under the best of conditions, expect Saturday's 2 0x00be-hour / 250-mile main event -- with the green flag scheduled to drop at 5:30 pm -- to be an endurance contest not only for machines, but also for the men driving them as they race at speeds of up to 180 mph for more than an hour at a time in a space the size of a bathtub heated to 120 + degrees.
"It's going to be brutal inside the car, and driver conditioning is going to be a major factor in the outcome of the race," says McDowell. "When you get dehydrated and overheated in the race car, you lose concentration, you get dizzy, it gets hard to focus your eyes and you have to slow down just to survive. Memo and I have been preparing for this weekend for the past three weeks with an extra-intense physical conditioning program. We usually spend three and a half hours a day in the gym, but now we're spending an hour and a half several times a week doing a special high-temperature training program. It feels like you've been kicked in the lungs by the time you're done, but we'll be ready to go the full race distance at top speed."
The Finlay Motorsports team also utilizes some cooling technology borrowed from NASCAR. An in-car driver air conditioning system will help lower the temperature from 120 to a mere 100 degrees, and further relief will come in the form of a system of scoops and ducts designed to pull outside air into the cockpit without disturbing the car's aerodynamic performance.
Following the Rolex Series race on Saturday, McDowell and Rob Finlay will co-drive the Finlay Motorsports #60 Commercial Defeasance / Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation BMW M3 in Sunday's 200-mile / 89-lap Grand Am Cup race, with the green flag scheduled to wave at 1:00 pm. The Finlay Grand Am Cup team actually scored Finlay Motorsports' first podium with a 3rd-place finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has also contributed three 'fastest race lap.'
On-track activity at for this weekends' race will begin on Thursday with a full-day practice and test session. The 15-minute Daytona Prototype qualifying session is scheduled for 4:55 pm to 5:10 pm on Friday afternoon, and the race will be broadcast tape-delayed on the SPEED Channel at 12:00 pm ET on Sunday, August 28. The Grand Am Cup race will also be broadcast on SPEED; check local listings for air date and time.
The EMCO Gears Road Racing Classis is the 10th round of the 2005 Grand American Rolex Series schedule. Four events remain, with the next round being the Phoenix 250 at Phoenix International Raceway, September 8 -- 10.