Doug Smith Grand-Am Cup Debut Wet and Wild at VIR ALTON, Vir., April 25, 2006 -- Doug Smith made his Grand-Am Cup Series debut on Saturday at the rain-soaked (Alton) Virginia International Raceway (VIR). From the start of his two-day weekend, ...
Doug Smith Grand-Am Cup Debut Wet and Wild at VIR
ALTON, Vir., April 25, 2006 -- Doug Smith made his Grand-Am Cup Series debut on Saturday at the rain-soaked (Alton) Virginia International Raceway (VIR). From the start of his two-day weekend, it was a wet and wild ride for the Plantation, Fla. racing up-and-comer. While showing himself among the quicker drivers in the paddock, Doug's race day would end on a disappointing note. The open wheel and sports car standout shared the No. 55 Hyper Sport Engineering Ford Mustang GT presented by Hawaiian Gold Coffee with Rick Skelton (Atlanta). Doug, who was originally entered to race with Joe Foster (Lawrenceville, Ga.), would start the Hyper Sport Mustang turning over driving chores to Skelton for the second portion of the race. The two would finish 42nd in GS class, 75th overall, after being collected in a major, unavoidable incident on the second restart of the 49 lap event. The incident would require lengthy repairs and remove any chance for a podium finish in his first Grand-Am Cup race.
The accident put a damper on what was shaping-up to be a strong showing for the Panoz Racing School instructor. By virtue of the lone qualifying session being rained out and the grid set on car points, Doug started 11th in the field of 83 cars. He got a strong start in the wet, but drying, conditions. Entering turn one, while driving on slick racing tires, the Mustang bobbled under braking. The brief slide allowed a string of competitors to sneak under the No. 55 as Doug searched for a safe way back into the freight train of race cars. He would get back into line having lost several positions. Doug's fight to regain those positions was slowed by a rash of yellow flags beginning at the end of lap one. With all the cars now bunched together and the track still wet, the restart was precarious.
Doug took the re-start with a number of cars and began working his way to the front. Included in the long line of cars was the No. 54 Mustang GT team car of Hyper Sport Engineering being driven by Scott Maxwell (Toronto, ON, Can.) and Foster. As Smith crested the hill immediately following the long back straightaway, directly behind the No. 54, his windshield was coated in a white spray. The field began to check up in the brake zone for the roller coaster turn. Doug successfully cleared the accordion-style accident just to be collected by a driver further back in the pack that did not get his entry slowed in time. While Doug was able to be towed back to the paddock, damage included a bent left-rear rim and lower, left control arm and ball joint of the front suspension of the Mustang. No other significant damage occurred. Repairs took over an hour to complete and Doug turned the ride over the Rick Skelton. Skelton would take the checkered flag. The team car he was following went on to finish sixth overall leaving the question of "what might have been?" For now, with his strong showing, Doug is working to answer the question of "what can be?"
"Another rain soaked weekend at VIR," said Doug. "This one didn't go quite the way I had hoped for the folks at Hawaiian Gold Coffee and Hyper Sport. But as they say, 'That's Racing'. We had a great car right off the truck, credit to the crew, and their preparation. Rick did a great job driving as well. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time during the race. Hopefully, we can get something put together to take another shot at the podium. Thanks again to everybody for their support."