Guthrie Meyer Racing and Ali Jackson Rebound at Long Beach; Sean Guthrie celebrates his 21st birthday at the Long Beach Grand Prix
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Guthrie Meyer Racing entered the legendary 1.98 mile street course at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with only one goal, and that was to get back on track after a disappointing opening weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla. just two weeks earlier. Rookie Ali Jackson, 20, got off to a great start by qualifying ninth for Sunday's race.
Jackson had never raced on a street circuit until St. Petersburg just two weeks ago, and knew Long Beach would be an even larger challenge since many drivers had already raced on the course in other series. Jackson steadily improved every session prior to the race, but shined most when the green flag dropped on Sunday leading to a sixth place finish on the most famed street circuit in America.
"The car just continued to get better as the race went on," said Jackson, who now sits 12th in the overall points standings. "We made some changes between the last race, and this one that really helped our program this week, but experience is everything. The more time I get on these street courses the better I'll be in the long run."
Jesse Mason also had a solid day in his Canadian Motor Speedway/maseRace No.49 machine. Mason qualified a disappointing 20th, but climbed all the way to a 12th place finish.
"We really struggled at the beginning of the race, but as time went on we got much better," said Mason, who is currently one of the essential executives behind the current conception of the Canadian Motor Speedway. "I got past some slower cars, and really started to improve my lap times in the later part of the race. I honestly wish we had more laps!"
Jesse Mason's younger brother Nelson has become an invaluable asset in assisting Jesse with his return to major motorsport competition after a five-year hiatus. Nelson is a stellar racecar driver in his own right, so his ability to help Jesse on and off the track is key.
"We had a good weekend overall," said Nelson, who is currently seeking funding, so he could join his brother in competition. "Jesse is still getting his confidence back out there, and you could tell he has gained a lot experience already this season. I have no doubt he'll be strong at Kansas next week."
"I'm pretty happy with our weekend here at Long Beach," said Butch Meyer, co-owner of GMR. "Ali showed a little bit of what he is capable of here, and there's no doubt he'll be strong off the truck at Kansas. I'm also really proud of the way Jesse was able to move up through the field. Jesse is catching up quick after so many years away from competitive racing. I'm optimistic going into Kansas to say the least."
Sean Guthrie celebrates his 21st birthday at the Long Beach Grand Prix
New Mexico native and Firestone Indy Lights veteran Sean Guthrie celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday, April 18th the night before he drove his GMR No.4 machine to a 22nd place finish after an on track incident. With one of the toughest races of the season just hours away Guthrie kept the celebrating low key, but plans to have some fun this week in Southern California before heading to Kansas for next week's race.
"I didn't really get a chance to do much celebrating yesterday. You really have to stay focused at any event, but this track is bigger and tougher than most," said Guthrie. "I plan on staying in the LA area for a couple days to celebrate with some buddies of mine, but obviously I'm pretty excited about getting to Kansas for our first oval event next week."
Jim Guthrie, Sean's father and co-owner of GMR, was hoping for a better result for Sean on his birthday, but the team's overall performance was solid.
"I know Sean is disappointed, but he was competitive before his incident," said Guthrie. "I'm really happy for Ali and Jesse, though. Those guys worked so hard this off-season and St. Pete was not representative of what they are capable of. I am looking forward to Kansas, though. We are going to have three cars to beat next week."