Watkins Glen: Finlay Motorsports preview

INTENDED ACCELERATION Twelve Months Ago, Rob Finlay Drove His First Professional Race At The Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen; This Weekend He Returns Not Only As A Driver, But Also The Owner Of Two Of The Most Competitive Teams...


Twelve Months Ago, Rob Finlay Drove His First Professional Race At The Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen; This Weekend He Returns Not Only As A Driver, But Also The Owner Of Two Of The Most Competitive Teams In The Grand American Series

* Finlay Motorsports owner/driver Rob Finlay drove his first professional race at this event last year. He returns this weekend as owner of the #19 Air Force Reserve / Make A Wish Dinan-powered BMW Riley Daytona Prototype driven by Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell, and co-driver (with McDowell) of the #60 BMW M3 in the Grand Am Cup series.

* This 'intended acceleration' is reflected in the team's results so far in 2005; Finlay and McDowell were on the podium at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the Prototype team's stunning comeback from three laps down to finish 4th at Mont-Tremblant has lifted the team to 7th in the championship and made them a leading contender at Watkins Glen.

* The Finlay Motorsports Rolex series and Grand Am Cup cars will both be displaying the all-new logo of the Air Force Reserve for the first time this weekend at Watkins Glen. Visit www.afreserve.com for an advance look at the new logo and information about the Air Force Reserve.

What a difference a year makes. On this weekend in 2004, Rob Finlay was a new graduate of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving making his first start in a professional race, co-driving in the Saturday Grand Am Cup race with his racing school instructor, Michael McDowell. After leading the race, then running out of gas on track, the duo finished 8th.

Fast forward to the same race in 2005, and Rob Finlay is now not only podium-finishing driver, but also owner of Finlay Motorsports, which fields two of the top teams in the Grand American series.

"To have my first professional race at a legendary track like Watkins Glen was overwhelming and exciting and the fulfillment of a life-long dream," says Finlay. "That experience was the launching pad for my motorsports ambitions, and we have moved forward very quickly in developing a team of top professionals capable of fielding front-running efforts in both Grand Am Cup and the Rolex series while attracting major sponsors like the Air Force Reserve and the Make A Wish Foundation. More major changes are in the works, including an expansion of the team and the addition of new sponsors, but it will be a pleasure to put all the business details aside this weekend and get back to the uncomplicated pleasures of driving a race car."

Both Finlay Motorsports cars competing at Watkins Glen this weekend will feature the new logo of the Air Force Reserve. Consisting of the traditional Air Force star surrounded by a pair of stylized wings, the new logo is already in use at the Air Force Reserve web site at www.AFRreserve.com.

Finlay and McDowell will co-drive the #60 BMW M3 in Saturday's Chemung Canal Trust 200 for Grand Am Cup event. The 200-mile / 59-lap / 2 0x00bd-hour event is scheduled to take the green flag at 2:00 pm ET, and will be broadcast on the SPEED Channel at 5:00 pm ET, Sunday, June 19. A re-broadcast will air on SPEED at 1:00 pm ET, Tuesday, June 21.

"I got a lot of seat time at this event last year that should help us hit the ground running this weekend," says McDowell, the 20 year-old phenom who dominated the 2004 Star Formula Mazda championship. "Rob Finlay and I co-drove on Saturday, and then I ran in the six-hour on Sunday as well. It was the drive of my life because we were able to come from several laps behind to finish fourth, just like Memo and I did at Mont-Tremblant a couple of weekends ago. That kind of achievement really motivates a team, and this weekend we're going to focus on using that experience to take the next big step forward and go for our first victory."

McDowell's co-driver, Memo Gidley, also has some experience at Watkins Glen, although a bit further in the past. Right at the beginning of his career, in fact.

"I finished second in a Shelby Can-Am car here, in the rain, in 1993, my first year in pro racing," says Gidley, who's resume also includes 38 Champ Car races. "And I was working with the same crew of Steve and Rick Cameron who are our team manager and engineer for Finlay Motorsports. We were staying in seedy motels and towing around on a trailer that was so small we had to put on really skinny tires to make the car fit. Watkins Glen is a track that's loaded with history, so you always feel something special racing here, but it's also a technically challenging track with long, fast straights, high-speed turns and elevation changes. It's a circuit that suits us, and I'm with Michael in feeling like this is the weekend we have a good chance to make a breakthrough."

Teams will begin setting up in the Watkins Glen paddock on Wednesday, June 8, with a day of Rolex and Grand Am Cup testing on Thursday and Friday. Qualifying for the Rolex series cars will take place from 1:25 to 1:40 pm Saturday, June 11.

The Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen for the Rolex Sports Car Series is scheduled to take the green flag at 10:00 am ET Sunday, June 12. The race will be broadcast live, in two parts, on the SPEED Channel. Part 1 begins at 10:00 am ET, with Part 2 airing at 12:30 pm ET.


Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Bob Bondurant , Michael McDowell , Rob Finlay