Watkins Glen: Heritage Motorsports race report

Heritage Motorsports wears down competition - Wins GTS Watkins Glen 6 Hours Dave Machavern, Tommy Riggins and Scott Lagasse won the GTS class at Watkins Glen yesterday afternoon (checker at approx. 4:30PM EDST). For the Heritage Motorsports...

Heritage Motorsports wears down competition - Wins GTS Watkins Glen 6 Hours

Dave Machavern, Tommy Riggins and Scott Lagasse won the GTS class at Watkins Glen yesterday afternoon (checker at approx. 4:30PM EDST). For the Heritage Motorsports no.48 Mustang GTS and team success at this 6 hour endurance race was a matter of determination to finish coupled with mechanical skill. A speedy transmission replacement kept them in the points lead. The three drivers put in approximately equal time behind the wheel, Riggins started and finished the race, taking advantage of the first full-course yellow to top off fuel and swap the driving seat with Machavern.

At the end of the first hour the Heritage team was running in second place, but toward the end of hour two came the report on team headsets from driver Lagasse that he was having trouble with third gear. Immediately crew chief, Joe Harrell, alerted his crew to make ready for a gearbox change. Within a lap-and-a-half after Harrell's heads-up, Lagasse reported that all he had left was fourth and fifth gears. Already prepared for quick action when Lagasse pitted the crew began a choreographed replacement. The SPEED Channel filming crew was so impressed with the team's fight to return the Mustang to the fray that they kept a camera on the entire operation. As it turned out, some of the gears exploded and actually burst the cast aluminum wall of the transmission case.

The Heritage Mustang dropped from second in the GTS class to third at the beginning of hour three, the 06 Corvette and the 31 Mosler already out and doomed to finish a respective fourth and fifth. A fortunate turn of events and determination brought the race back to the Machavern team. By hour four the 48 Mustang was back in second place, ahead now of the no.18 Camaro, but with seeming little hope of making up the difference on the leading GTS 05 Corvette. However, that car was to have its own set of mechanical woes and with a persistent trashing, the Mustang had caught up to the Corvette by the end of hour five. When the Corvette withdrew from the race, the Heritage team assumed the lead and celebrated a hard-fought victory.

"This is really and truly a team victory," Machavern said. "These guys (gesturing to his crew) worked their hearts out today. We weren't sure we should even try to go back after it (get back in the race), but they replaced the transmission so quickly, it allowed us to have the hope to at least be competitive, (smiling broadly) and I'm sure glad we did!" This win helps Dave Machavern to retain the car owner's points lead, 22 points to the next best GTS effort of 14 points. With help in the form of troubles for the Mosler team, the drivers' point have narrowed to:
190 - Barbosa (Mosler no. 31 GTS) in the drivers' points lead
182 - Machavern (Mustange no. 48 GTS) second place drivers' points
182 - Riggins (Mustang no. 48 GTS) second place drivers' points

Immediately after the race, last night, Tommy Riggins and Dave Machavern drove to Mosport Raceway in Canada to test the new Daytona Prototype designed and prepared by the folks at Multimatic of Markham, Ontario. The test should be occurring at about the time of this writing. We'll have a report on that activity in the next release.

The next race is less than a week away, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, one of the finest road courses on the continent. Find out more about it at: www.grandamerican.com/events/event48.html

The race starts at 6:00PM Saturday, June 28 and is a 250 mile event. Televised coverage of the event will occur SPEED Channel at 12PM (noon) EDST. It ends at 3PM.

TEAM MEMBER CAMEO (4th in a series): Joe Harrell is the crew chief for the Heritage Motorsports Mustang. Harrell is also a full-time employee of Riggins Engineering, Tommy Riggins' race engineering business in Jacksonville, Florida. Harrell has been working for Riggins full-time since March of 1995. Harrell's father is probably the reason for his eventual career in motorsports. His dad's name. Albert "Red" Harrell, one of the few "have-to-race" types who raced the old beach-road course at Daytona, a contemporary of Bill France, Sr. Joe Harrell speaks fondly of his dad, but didn't catch on to racing as a youth, preferring first baseball, then girls, but it finally caught up to him, and he says he stays in it because it satisfies a deep competitive urge.

Harrell actually started in his crew chief capacity with Riggins in 1997, now in his sixth season with this responsibility. He's been working with now team owner, Dave Machavern, through his association with Riggins since 1998 when they won a SCCA National. Harrell has also crewed for Kevin Doran in NASCAR Truck, ASA and with the Momo Ferrari team with Arie Lyendyk driving at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1999. In speaking with Harrell, he makes it very clear just how much his working for Tommy Riggins has meant, "Tommy has taught me a lot. When it comes to racing, more than anyone else." You get the impression that he's very thankful to Tommy for the mentoring he's received at Riggins Engineering.

Harrell says 95 percent of what he does for Tommy is fabrication and he speaks proudly about a thorough knowledge of the 48 Mustang, through the building of much of the car. He brought experience of aircraft fabrication to his work at the Riggins shops, having worked on 747's.

In this writer's opinion, one of Joe Harrell's finest qualities is his cool presence during the pressure of the race. He is able to calmly address those recurring crises of heated competition and talk his driver through all the options. He's got a way with people. Joe has a wife, Wendy, and a ten-year-old son, Andrew, both of who he misses very much when traveling the racing circuit, and speaks frequently about.


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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Tommy Riggins , Scott Lagasse Jr. , Kevin Doran