If the Matt Connolly Motorsports team didn't believe the age-old statement that "Hard work pays off in the end", they certainly do now. After leaving a Watkins Glen circuit where the ...
If the Matt Connolly Motorsports team didn't believe the age-old statement that "Hard work pays off in the end", they certainly do now. After leaving a Watkins Glen circuit where the #21 GTO-R was clearly one of the fastest of the GT field, the team had high hopes going into this past weekend at Mid-Ohio, especially with welcoming back young speedster Ryan Phinny who had to miss the last round due to his high school graduation.
The team struggled mightily the entire weekend, and found themselves scratching their collective heads on a direction to take with the set up. For a team used to running in the Top-5 in practice and qualifying on a regular basis this year, the team never once cracked the Top-10 in any session. Each driver wanting different changes, and none proving to speed up the pace, the team decided to go with a soft set up to just make the car easy to drive for both drivers, and with a potential of rain on the way it figured to be a safe route to take.
Phinny would start the race, and straight away began picking off the competition from his 12th in class and 31st overall starting position. Luck was on the teams' side this weekend as the rains started coming down hard and heavy, and the carnage began to pick up in front of the #21 entry. The rain got so bad that Ryan had a hard time keeping the car on the track surface even under yellow flag conditions. The team brought the GTO-R in for rain tires and Ryan sped away with one goal in mind, get to the front as quickly as possible on the restart. Not only did Ryan quickly start to pick off the GT competition, but to everyone's amazement, he began picking off the Daytona Prototypes as well.
"We struggled a bit trying to get the car up to speed due to the new weight requirements for the Pontiacs and a bad run in qualifying; I knew we needed the rain." Phinny continues, "For the race we took a bit of a gamble putting the rain set up on the car and it paid off. I was able to put the MCM GTO-R into the lead and stay there for 30 laps before handing the car off to Diego Alessi". Ryan not only was leading the GT field through the wet conditions, but when he turned the car over to his co-driver, he did so in 4th overall position, and the officials and commentators alike were looking on in amazement. Diego would reenter the field in 9th position in class, but with four cars between him and the next position, he had some work to do, and did it well.
Alessi states "The team did an excellent job and Ryan's drive was amazing, especially in the heavy rain, he was able to find the limit before anyone else and just ran away from them. Unfortunately our gain became our curse as the rain brought out so many yellows that it kept the GT field too close to Ryan to really run away from them". Diego picked up the amazing drive where Ryan left off after pitting out of sequence with the rest of the GT field to bring the car home on the Podium in 3rd position in class and 13th overall. "I pushed as hard as I could, but the track was quickly drying, it was not so easy to catch the leaders on the rain tires, and had to use all my race craft and still take care of the car to come away with the result" a happy Alessi stated after the race.
For team owner Matt Connolly, he too was excited with a seasons' best result, "Again the combination of Alessi and Phinny have proved to be quite formidable. The car and team were flawless today, and we were able to use the weather to our advantage." The team will now head to Daytona for the series' annual sprint race and that too has the team excited as Alessi had already put the car in a top-5 qualifying position leading into the 24 hours, and with a similar effort the team is looking forward with one goal in mind, WIN!