Daytona Prototypes survive storms to complete Sahleen's Six Hours of The Glen Watkins Glen, NY (June 4, 2006) -- Storm clouds swirled over Watkins Glen this weekend as the No. 40 Preformed Line Products Pontiac Riley got ready for the Sahlen's...
Daytona Prototypes survive storms to complete Sahleen's Six Hours of The Glen
Watkins Glen, NY (June 4, 2006) -- Storm clouds swirled over Watkins Glen this weekend as the No. 40 Preformed Line Products Pontiac Riley got ready for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. Derhaag Motorsports drivers Randy Ruhlman and Hugo Guenette, who was filling in this week for Chris Bingham, were set to get on track for the first practice sessions Thursday afternoon. But the teams soon found out, the stormy forecast was for more than just rain clouds plaguing the track.
Before the cars ever got on the 3.40-mile long course at Watkins Glen International, all Grand American Rolex Cup Series racing activity was halted as a Court battle determined one driver's eligibility to compete in the event. For the hundreds of participants associated with the race, teams, sponsors, drivers, media and officials, the only thing to do was to stand by and wait, all day Thursday and Friday morning, for some news of a breakthrough.
The legal point being contented appeared to be part of the highly complex Tobacco Settlement that prevents anyone under the "legal smoking age" from participating in events with prominent tobacco sponsorship. Since both IRL, its Marlboro sponsored Indy 500 winning teams, and the Grand American Rolex Series were running this weekend at Watkins Glen, as they did at Homestead, any driver under the age of eighteen would not be eligible to compete in any series during the event.
But this weekend, a legal battle ensued for the Grand American Rolex Cup Series, as Krohn Racing, an independently financed team owned by sportsman racer Tracy Krohn, tried to get a ruling to allow one of their drivers, Colin Braun, a seventeen-year-old, permission to drive at Watkins Glen. Until that ruling was finalized, all Daytona Prototypes stayed in the paddock and off the track.
The precedence of not allowing under age drivers at these events has been in effect since the Settlement. Current NEXTEL Cup driver Kyle Busch was unable to drive at Fontana when he was seventeen, because of Winston Sponsorship of the NASCAR event, even though he was leading the Craftsman Truck Series. At Homestead earlier this year, two young Grand American Daytona Prototype drivers did not compete, including Colin Braun, whose team owner was now involved in trying to get him back on track at Watkins Glen.
By Friday afternoon, the legal battles were done and driver's age precedent was upheld--Boris Said took the seat vacated by Braun--and everyone was able to finally get on track. The Grand American Rolex Cup Series was able to salvage much of the track time before the six-hour endurance race by extending practice to two hours on Friday evening and setting the grid order by points for Saturday's race.
Randy Ruhlman took to the grid in the Preformed Line Products Pontiac Riley in the tenth row for the start. Conditions were wet, but Ruhlman cleanly made his way to 9th by the end of the first hour and a half, avoiding the many problems and crashes on track. Hugo Guenette took over and continued to drive fast and safely in the precarious conditions. The difficult track conditions of light rain, on and off, then drying in places, made the selection of slicks or rain tires a tricky one. Both were tough to drive on--the rain tires overheated without standing water, and the slicks were very slippery in places.
The team got out of sync with the tires, but managed to bring the car home without incident, losing a few laps in the process with needed green flag pit stops. The #40 Preformed Line Products Pontiac Riley ended the six-hour endurance classic, a race that had more than a few lengthy caution laps for damaged race cars, in 18th place in class and 18th overall in the 46 car combined DP and GT field.
The Grand American Rolex Cup teams head next to the road course at Mid Ohio for the three-hour race on Saturday, June 24th. The race will begin at 5:30 PM ET and will be shown tape delayed on shown on the SPEED channel Sunday, June 25th.
Hugo Guenette took over driving duties at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen for full season driver Chris Bingham, who was unable to make the race due to prior business commitments. Guenette was a full-time driver in Grand American Rolex Cup last year in the #15 CB Motorsports Daytona Prototype with Bingham and has a wide variety of racing experience.