What began as a “clean and green” beginning for the second round of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama doubleheader at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, rapidly turned into a dogfight that culminated in a five-car incident just before the checkered flag fell on the weather-shortened 40-lap race today.
And while foggy, inclement weather may have affected the day’s start, the subsequent “Snow storm” that ensued at the end was a welcome one. Sixteen-year-old Madison Snow and his mother Melanie swept under the checkers this morning to take the victories in the Platinum and Gold Classes respectively, which certainly seemed like a fitting way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend in the Snow family.
The young Snow was glad to reclaim the top spot from yesterday’s winner Sean Johnston, but he enjoyed the competition all the way.
“We had a good start,” he said. “And I stayed in the lead with Sean right behind me. We didn’t check out, just pulled ahead and tried to stay there as much as we could and kept gaining. It was really fun because we were right next to each other. It would have been nice to have avoided the last yellow so we wouldn’t have to worry about the others packing up with us, but in the end, we stayed in the lead and are really happy with our win!”
The laps after green ticked off quickly and efficiently, and ran incident free until lap 22, when a late full-course caution was thrown to recover the 02 car of Wesley Hoaglund, who had stalled out at the exit of Turn 6. This caused the field to pack up before the green and white flags were thrown simultaneously, triggering a chain reaction that spun out the No. 50 car of Marc Drumwright, which in turn collected the cars of Ludovico Manfredi, Scott Tucker, Mitch Landry and Franck Silah.
The incident radically altered the finish for the Gold Class, as Melanie Snow squeezed through the mayhem to take the win.
“Happy Mother’s Day is all I can say,” she laughed. “Winning together is definitely more fun than qualifying on the pole together! I had a bit of understeer yesterday and we made the adjustment for today and my car just couldn’t have been any better. Everything came together and I had built a little lead, but then when the last yellow came out I thought ‘Oh NO, this has all been for nothing,’ but we held it together and did some fancy dodging through all the insanity to make it through to the end.”
Yesterday’s winner, Sean Johnston, stayed hard on the heels of Madison Snow’s No. 62 Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports entry, but was unable to overtake him during the course of the race. He ultimately settled for second on the Platinum podium, putting the Wright Motorsports team in the top two spots today.
“It was a great race with Madison the entire time,” said Johnston. “I was trying to ride that fine balance between pushing and trying to conserve my tires. So there were times when I would push up and get right on his bumper and times when I would back off and mind the gap between us. I wished we had pushed a bit harder given that last yellow, but overall I am very happy with the result. It was a great close battle between us the entire race. I just can’t thank the team and Driscoll’s enough for getting me here and I am loving it.”
The really hard drive came from D. Bryce Miller today and the No. 35 car of GMG Racing. The 21-year-old started the race from the eighth position on the grid and began a hard charge toward the front. In the last few laps of the race, he steadily gained ground through the traffic to dive into 3rd place with a brilliant pass on Fernando Pena near the end of the race. It was a welcome finish after a challenging performance in yesterday’s race.
“We had a pretty unfortunate race yesterday,” he said. “My guys just worked their butts off all night to get me a car to run today, and we weren’t even sure we would be able to get started. I just tried to make every lap count and push my way forward and I am really happy to be able to pull a third out of this weekend. We can’t get too distracted by this and need to continue to focus on the championship. We have struggled in the early stages, so we need to make some changes and get back on top.”
Standing just below Melanie Snow on the Gold Class podium was the Competition Motorsports entry of Fred Poordad, and the No. 22 of Franck Silah, despite being involved in the last lap incident. Silah’s charge to the podium resulted in a presentation on the Podium for the Yokohama Hard Charger Award.
“That was a fairly uneventful race,” said a bemused Poordad. “But the last lap was certainly very interesting. I got a bit lucky, but as an opportunist I stayed there until the end. I just took advantage of the gap that opened and at the end of the day I am up here and that’s all that matters.”
The top five in the Platinum class were rounded out by Wright Motorsport’s Fernando Pena in fourth and Sloan Urry in his TruSpeed Motorsports entry wrapping up in fifth.
David Calvert-Jones and Mitch Landry closed the fourth and fifth place positions, respectively, for the Gold Class.
The next event on the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series schedule is the Grand Prix du Canada at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal, Quebec on June 8 – 10.