OF MOMENTUM AND UNFINISHED BUSINESS * McDowell and Gidley scored the team's first podium finish in the previous event at Barber Motorsports Park. McDowell, 20, is believed to be the youngest driver ever to finish on the podium at a Rolex Series...
OF MOMENTUM AND UNFINISHED BUSINESS
* McDowell and Gidley scored the team's first podium finish in the previous event at Barber Motorsports Park. McDowell, 20, is believed to be the youngest driver ever to finish on the podium at a Rolex Series event.
* The team is currently 5th in the championship, has led four of the last five races -- including the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen on June 12 -- and is primed for a breakthrough victory this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Charlotte, NC (August 8, 2005) -- You could hardly call one second-place finish 'momentum,' even if it was a new team's very first trip to the podium, and achieved under difficult circumstances.J But if you preceded it with three 4th-place finishes in a row, and with leading four of the last five races, then the outlines of something more substantial begin to take shape.
And when you factor in the unfinished business of that same team returning to a track where, earlier in the season, they were leading with 8 laps to go before a spin during a yellow-flag restart in the rain resulted in one of those 4th-place finishes, then you begin to see a story with... possibilities.
Such is the case with the Finlay Motorsports driving duo of Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley. Two weeks ago, after hasty repairs to a car badly damaged in Saturday morning practice, they drove the team's #19 Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-Powered BMW Riley Daytona Prototype to Finlay Motorsports' first Rolex Series podium finish at Barber Motorsports Park.
In the process, McDowell, 20, became what is believed to be the youngest driver ever to finish on the podium of a Rolex Series race.
Rewind a bit further, back to the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen on June 12, and it was McDowell getting a lesson in driving bumper cars in the rain. In the lead during a full-course caution with 8 laps to go, under lowering skies and a persistent downpour, the car spun off in the first turn during the re-start and re-joined the race in 5th, making it back up to 4th before the race finally ended.
"I definitely feel like we have both momentum and unfinished business coming back here to Watkins Glen, and those are powerful motivators for both the team and the drivers," says McDowell, the 2004 Star Formula Mazda champion. "The Finlay Motorsports team has been giving Memo and I consistently competitive cars, and we've been challenging at the front at every race since the early part of the season. Last time we raced here we had the car to win, and the entire team hasupped its game up several notches since then."
This weekend's CompUSA 200 is the second of three visits the Grand American series will make to the historic Watkins Glen International track in 2005. Changes from the previous event include use of the 2.45-mile 'short course,' with all the action compressed into two hours and/or 82 laps.
"I think it's an advantage for Michael and me that this race is shorter because one of our strengths is going flat-out for the full race distance, which is something you can't really do in a 6-hour event," says Gidley, whose resume also includes 38 Champ Car starts. "All the teams have the advantage of having raced here before, but we have a really good setup for this track, and the team has a good understanding of how to adapt the car for different conditions, so all the NASCAR rubber being put down on the track shouldn't really be a problem. The Finlay team keeps getting stronger from race to race and I'm liking our chances this weekend."
Finlay Motorsports is currently in 5th place in the Grand American Rolex Series championship battle, with six races remaining in the 2005 season. This weekend's action, scheduled to take the green flag at 6:00 pm ET, will be broadcast tape-delayed on the SPEED Channel at 10:00 pm ET.
The next event on the schedule is the EMCO Gears Road Racing Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 26 -- 28.