Lee Runs Sixth for More than Half Of Sunday's Atlantic Race in Houston HOUSTON, April 22 - Matt Lee qualified fifth and ran in sixth place for more than half of Sunday's Champ Car Atlantic race at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park here.
Lee Runs Sixth for More than Half Of Sunday's Atlantic Race in Houston
HOUSTON, April 22 - Matt Lee qualified fifth and ran in sixth place for more than half of Sunday's Champ Car Atlantic race at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park here. Unfortunately he then did a 180-degree spin in Turn 7 on lap 24 of the 43-lap race. He didn't hit anything and regrouped, but with no yellows to tighten up the field the Syosset, N.Y.-based teen went on to finish 17th in the Conquest Racing/Integrated Structures No. 44.
Lee, the second-youngest driver in the field, was competing in only his third race ever in the series, which is presented by Cooper Tires and powered by Mazda. It was also the 17-year-old's first race ever on the 1.683-mile street course. The event, called the Fast Trac 100, was part of the Grand Prix of Houston.
Jonathan Bomarito, who started sixth, got by Lee during a hairy standing start, but Lee quickly settled into sixth place in the field of 27. By lap 10 he was just 0.718 of a second behind the fifth-place driver, Franck Perera, and 1.06 seconds behind the leader and eventual winner, polesitter Raphael Matos.
Five laps later he was still just 1.689 seconds behind Perera and he had a 2.239-second advantage over Alan Sciuto, who was in seventh place with 28 minutes remaining.
Lee was trying his best, setting his fastest lap of the race on lap 17 until he bettered it on lap 20 and then again on lap 23. That time he did a 1:05.779 for an average speed of 92.108 miles per hour, which was the third-fastest lap of anybody on that trip around the 10-turn street course.
Seconds later unfortunately bad luck struck when he hit a bump and spun on lap 24, pushing him back to 20th spot. He passed Joe D'Agostino on lap 29 to move into 19th place, but with no yellows to close the field it was hard to pass anyone. With 10 laps to go he was running by himself in 19th, with 18th place 13 seconds ahead and 20th position 11 seconds behind him.
Tom Sutherland had contact in Turn 3 on lap 35 to cause a local yellow and give Lee 18th place. Lee ran his fastest lap of the event, a 1:05.738 (92.166 mph), on lap 38, which was the sixth-fastest lap of anyone on that circuit. He was able to run down and pass Mike Forest on lap 40 to take 17th place, and that's where he was running when the checkered waved three laps later.
"I just hit a bump the wrong way and spun in Turn 7," Lee said afterwards. "It was a 180-degree spin. I didn't hit anything, and kept on going.
"The car was pretty good," he continued. "I tried to make a hard charge back through the field, but the field was spread out so much that I only passed one car after that. I was praying for a full-course yellow, but it didn't happen.
"I have to thank my team, Conquest Racing. They worked really hard, and the engineers gave me a good set-up," he added.
On Saturday Lee's fifth-place qualifying lap was timed in 1:05.204 (92.921 mph), just 0.684 of a second off Matos' pole-winning time. Matos led every lap Sunday to post his third straight victory. Carl Skerlong, James Hinchcliffe, Bomarito and Perera rounded out the top five.
The race is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern this coming Thursday, April 26.
After three races in three consecutive weekends, Lee and his colleagues will have a break in May before their doubleheader at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore. June 9-10. That event will be Lee's first at that facility too.