Automatic Racing learns a lot in first ever pro race; even with adversity and a early-race crash, the team comes away from The Glen positive. WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 22, 2002). Jep Thornton crashed on lap 15 of today's Grand-Am Cup Street Stock...
Automatic Racing learns a lot in first ever pro race; even with adversity and a early-race crash, the team comes away from The Glen positive.
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 22, 2002). Jep Thornton crashed on lap 15 of today's Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series event, part of the Sports Car Grand Prix at the historic Watkins Glen Raceway. Normally a driver would be very upset with that kind of performance; however, not only was Thornton driving in his first ever professional race, but he also was able to learn a lot from the experience that he is ready to use in his next event already.
Thornton was at the wheel of a BMW M3 prepared by his new Automatic, LLC / Land Air Honda-Suzuki / Engine Studios Racing Team which had had its full line-up filled the day before the transporter left from Orlando, Florida, where the team is based. Just to get to The Glen the team had to overcome a blown tire in Maryland as well as Thornton's Thursday motorcycle accident on which left him with a badly bruised left knee/leg.
"We were really getting the hang of driving this car with this much traffic today," he said. "Bob Turnage and all of the guys did such a great job, even while not knowing what to expect from me. It is hard to believe that they were able to set that car up and completely dial it in for me to use in this short of an amount of time. The car was fantastic today."
Co-Driver David Russell was able to pull double duty over the weekend as a coach for Thornton. On the team's two-way radio, Russell told him to "calm down" and "wait before you take chances" and all throughout the weekend's practice sessions, it worked. Thornton's lap times got steadily shorter each time around the 3.4-mile, 15-turn track.
"He did really well especially when you consider the fact that he was running in there with guys that have twice the experience as he does, not to mention that he is also having to worry about the faster GT-I cars coming up behind him," commented Russell, who is a Skip Barber Racing School Instructor as well. "My goal this weekend was to at least take the checkered flag and although we didn't quite get there, we all learned a lot about the car, the preparations, and what it is like out there on the track. I am very happy with Jep's work here."
Highlights of the race can be seen on broadcast television on July 6, 2002 from 5 6 PM on the Speed Channel.
While working lap 15, Thornton made a successful pass of the #45 Pontiac Firebird. Just after finishing that pass cleanly, he went just a bit too deep into the breaking zone, spun the car and made contact with on of Watkins Glen's Styrofoam "soft walls" ending his race for the day.
The Automatic, LLC / Land Air / Engine Studios BMW sustained damage covering the entire right side of the car and, following assessment of the extent of those damages, the team will get to work on repairs in order to have it ready for the next race at Virginia International Raceway next weekend.
Automatic Racing competes as part of the Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series. For more information, please visit www.grandamcup.com.