Team on pace early but late stop brings heartbreak After running near the front most of the day, the AIM Autosport team had to settle for eleventh place when a late race spin and problems in the ensuing pit stop put the CONSOL Energy No 61 Ford...
Team on pace early but late stop brings heartbreak
After running near the front most of the day, the AIM Autosport team had to settle for eleventh place when a late race spin and problems in the ensuing pit stop put the CONSOL Energy No 61 Ford Riley two laps down in the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.
Leading up to the race, the big concern would be the heat. Temperatures were in the mid nineties and the track temperature was much higher. Tire wear and driver fatigue could be issues and fuel consumption is always at the top of everyone's list of things to watch.
Burt Frisselle started the race having done a fantastic job to qualify the car in fourth place. From the drop of the green Burt would go on a charge working through to third. He was on pace with the leaders when an early yellow allowed the team to pit for fuel and cover the mandatory pit stop in the forty-five minute window. The crew also changed the nose that had sustained damage when a competitor tried an aggressive move on the course making contact with the car. Burt was running in fifth when the second of the day's four full course cautions came out. The Team called the CONSOL Energy No 61 Ford Riley to the pit for fuel, a scrub set of Pirelli P-Zero tires and a driver change.
Mark went back on track in ninth place and would be on pace and record the car's fastest lap, a 1:44.024 just seven laps into his stint. Mark was within six seconds of the leader when a car spinning off course had the front-running DP teams anticipating a caution and coming in for quick stops to assure track position. A pit stop for fuel, sticker tires and a clean windshield for Mark but the car stalled and Mark lost seconds and positions getting it restarted. The caution did not come out and the race ran green for a long stretch. Without the yellow, AIM and other teams were forced into a fuel-saving strategy as they had taken the stop outside the normal fuel window. Mark was back up to seventh spot on lap seventy-one when the wheels fell off -- figuratively at first, then literally.
The drink bottle in the car was not working properly and Mark was affected by a lack of hydration and eventually a lack of concentration. He would go spinning off course at the end of the back straight but gathered it up and brought the car in. The high track temperatures had also affected tire wear so it was decided that a fresh set should go on the car and at the same time take a splash of fuel. The unscheduled stop caught the crew a bit off guard and a problem with the air wand caused the car to drop before the right-front wheel was secured. The usual cue to leave the pits is when the car comes down off the jacks so Mark hit the gas. As he left the box, the wheel came off leaving him to come to a stop near the end of pit lane. The crew gathered up the wheel and a new wheel nut and headed down pit lane where the Michael Shank team offered assistance to secure the wheel. Mark was back on track but the car was now two laps down.
The race ran the full time limit of two hours and forty-five minutes covering eighty-one laps. The CONSOL Energy No. 61 Ford Riley was recorded in eleventh at the checkered.
The team sits thirteenth overall after two rounds in the championship going into the next race at New Jersey Motorsport Park where the No. 61 Ford Riley took the pole. AIM was fourteenth after two rounds last season.
The Verizon 250 at New Jersey Motorsport Park starts at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday May 3rd. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED TV.