Las Vegas - Jack Willes sat in Epic Racing's BBQ Smoke House sponsored Ford Mustang for the first time this past Thursday, just prior to the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series race in Las Vegas. By the end of the weekend he was comfortable enough in the car to capture 3rd place in the Johnson Controls 100, part of the Grand Prix of Las Vegas Presented by SEMA weekend.
Willes' 3rd place finish was his second visit to the podium this year, the other being at Charlotte where he also finished in the 3rd position. This was Epic Racing's first visit to the Winner's Circle.
Friday's practice sessions were a wash-out due to the rain storms that hit the desert town in the morning. As a result, the Epic Racing crew was still trying to find the proper set-up to suit Willes' driving style when the field qualified on Saturday. Willes' best lap time was 1:20.682, 20th best among the 37 entrants.
"Team Manager Gary Johnson and the crew kept working with me to make adjustments to the car," commented Willes in the Winners' Circle. "They were persistent and did a great job of prepping the car for Sunday's race."
The rain started coming down again at the same time that the green flag was thrown to start the race. Willes had moved from his 20th starting position to 8th when the black flag was displayed on lap 29 so that all teams could pit and change to rain tires.
As a result of live television coverage that required the race to be time certain, there were only five minutes left in the race after the black flag period. The green flag flew on lap 30 and Willes aggressively moved forward, capturing the 5th position by the end of the lap. The white flag was shown the next time by and Willes had passed Jeff Altenburg for 4th place and trailed Willy T. Ribbs by seven car lengths. As the cars came off the final turn and headed for the checkered flag, Willes pulled along side Ribbs and drag raced him to the finish. Willes captured the 3rd place position by just eight thousands of a second.
Willes will finish the season with Epic Racing, driving the #9 Mustang at the finale in San Diego on November 5.