The Matt Connolly Motorsports team continues their second half stride in the 2008 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Coming into the New Jersey Motorsports round in the GT class, the team was coming off a podium finish in Montreal, and for the...
The Matt Connolly Motorsports team continues their second half stride in the 2008 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Coming into the New Jersey Motorsports round in the GT class, the team was coming off a podium finish in Montreal, and for the first time the MCM driving pair of Diego Alessi and Ryan Phinny would be on the same page as their competition. All season the duo has been learning circuits that were new to them in one way or another, and New Jersey was new to the full field this weekend.
The conditions of the circuit weren't ideal with all the dust and dirt off line and the run off areas of the unfinished facility, but the team was still confident in their machine and their drivers. The tandem was quick straight away as evidenced by their Top-5 time in the first practice. Phinny would be handed the qualifying and starting duties and popped off an early time that had him P1 when he came in during the 15 minute qualifying session, only to end up P5 and within 0.03 seconds of 2nd place. An issue in post qualifying scrutineering made them start at the back of the 25 car field however.
The team put up a race strategy of pitting Ryan in the opening laps, and took advantage of the 45-minute rule early on. "The team set a winning strategy with the early stop, and was very fast in the pits to allow Ryan to run to the front, the team has been fantastic in the second half of the season." Diego exclaims. Before you know it Ryan had driven through the GT field and led 34 laps before turning the #21 Lucy Plast/Baha Cantina Pontiac GTO-R over to co-driver Diego Alessi in the lead. Ryan states: "Talk about a weekend! The car was great in qualifying but due to a ride height issue we were forced to start from the tail end of the field. I saw this as more of an inconvenience than an obstacle as I knew the car my team had given me would allow me to drive to the front."
There was confusion on the pit stop with Diego exiting the pit box at the same time a rival Porsche was coming by, nearly touching and drawing the attention of the officials that led to a drive through penalty for the Italian. Being handed the car in the lead, only to end up in 12th position after the penalty, Alessi began a fierce charge through the field on the restart, picking off some 5 cars on the first green lap. "Watching Ryan's stint, I was thinking 'Today we can do it'. Then with the penalty it was more like 'Another win thrown away'. I was very upset, but the yellow laps allowed me to calm down and concentrate on the task." Alessi continues, "I had a good restart, gaining 5 positions thanks to timing things just right and the fight ahead brought the competition back to me allowing me to take advantage, and then just settled into a good pace."
A very happy Team Owner Matt Connolly, with his team taking three podium finishes and five Top-5's in the last eight rounds of the series mentions: "Again the teaming of Ryan and Diego showed what this team is capable of. Ryan's drive was spot-on perfect, going from dead last to the front in just 20 minutes. Diego took over and drove brilliantly, especially the last few laps to put us on the podium again. I'm afraid my team has developed a case of podium-it is, and it's a disease we can live with!" Phinny concludes "The MCM crew did a fantastic job all weekend. The #21 Pontiac GTO-R handled the new circuit with no problems, and I would like to thank Matt, my sponsors, parents, and mostly my crew for working as hard as they do for me!"