IPS: Phoenix: Hemelgarn/Johnson Racing race report

Ave third, Witherill crashes in Phoenix 100. Avondale, AZ 0x2022 Rookie driver Tony Ave earned a podium finish in his first Infiniti Pro Series event while Hemelgarn/Johnson veteran driver Cory Witherill crashed in Turn 1 after the checkered...

Ave third, Witherill crashes in Phoenix 100.

Avondale, AZ 0x2022 Rookie driver Tony Ave earned a podium finish in his first Infiniti Pro Series event while Hemelgarn/Johnson veteran driver Cory Witherill crashed in Turn 1 after the checkered flag dropped for the Phoenix 100 on March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"It was a lot of fun," Ave said of his first Pro Series experience. "The guys did an excellent job. We just got way too tight. I drove the thing as hard as we could go, and that's where we ended up. Third is great, but I really wanted to win the race."

Ave, of Hurley, WI, got off to a bumpy start, crashing during practice Friday. He quickly rebounded to turn in a strong qualifying effort, posting the fifth quickest time in the No. 91 RFMS entry.

"I made sort of an uncharacteristic mistake on Friday, set us back and we missed a bunch of laps. Had we not done that, we'd have been in much better shape."

Teammate Witherill also kept things interesting during the 100-lap event. His No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone chassis was involved in two incidents. On Lap 21, he spun exiting Turn 2. Luckily, he made not contact and continued racing at the historic 'Desert Mile'.

However, he and rookie Jonathan Urlin made contact with the outside wall in Turn 1 at the conclusion of the event. Witherill, 31, was unhurt and released from the infield medical center.

"Arie Luyendyk Jr. was slowing down in Turns 3 and 4," explained Witherill. "A few cars in front of me split him. I went to the far left. Next thing I knew someone, I guess, bumped me from the rear. The race was all right for us. It was going quite well for us, but this kind of put a damper on our whole weekend."

Highlights of the Phoenix 100 will be televised at 1 pm (EST) Friday, March 28 on ESPN2.

The next Infiniti Pro Series race is the inaugural Freedom 100 on May 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

-hjr-

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