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- Corey Fergus
- Jeff Kingsley
- Paul Holton
Hard-fought win puts team back in contention for third consecutive championship
(Danville, Virginia) -- This past weekend the rolling hills of picturesque Virginia International Raceway were the scene of an epic battle between two drivers at the top of their game. Although the two-and-a-half hour race was marred by a number of caution periods, the last twenty minutes featured the top Street Tuner-class cars trading places on nearly every lap, leading to a dramatic conclusion in the Continental Tire Sports Car Championship event and seeing two-time series' champions Compass360 Racing taking their first win of the season.
With Ryan Eversley's regular co-driver Keith Carroll unable to make the event due to business commitments, Team Principal Karl Thomson was drafted to start the #75 HPD / Racing4Research.org Honda. He qualified 20th, with team-mates David Thilenius in the #74 HPD / JC Concrete Honda ahead in 8th, and Dan Rogers in his #77 HPD / Speed Secrets car close behind in 29th.
With the team still struggling to overcome a Grand-Am-mandated restrictor fitted to the Civics at the beginning of the season, Technical Director Ray Lee knew calling pit strategy would be the key to a good result. "We had to roll the dice today, go for a really early stop to gain track position, and hope for enough caution periods to extend our fuel window," he explained.
Rogers was caught out when a competitor's engine blew, covering the track at the end of the front straight with oil. The #77 car slid on the slick surface, and tagged the wall at the outside of corner one. He was able to return to the track and pit, but unfortunately lost a lap in the process. His co-driver Andrew Novich then turned laps on par with the leaders but despite some great strategy by Crew Chief Steve Wheeler, was never able to get his lap back.
At the first yellow flag, Thomson handed over to Eversley, setting up a flurry of fuel calculations in the C360R pit. Thilenius pitted at the second yellow, giving #74 to Zach Lutz. This put both cars in close proximity on the track and meant a steady move to the front as other teams pitted for fuel on a less risky strategy.
Fortunately, the gamble paid off and as the final caution of the race was lifted with 20 minutes to go, Eversley and Lutz were ready for heated battles well inside the top ten. In the closing stages Lutz and one of the Minis tangled while battling for 7th, resulting in a drive-through for Zach, putting him back to 18th position. Eversley, meanwhile, was in the midst of that aforementioned epic battle with the BMW of Nico Rondet, a fair fight between two drivers showing great respect for each other. Lap after lap the lead would swap between the two, with Ryan having a small lead through the downhill esses on the last lap. He finished narrowly ahead, giving C360R it's first win of 2011.
"Thanks to Keith, Karl and Ray and the whole team," exclaimed Eversley. "It was a great fight with Nico, he was fair and we gave each other room. He really made me work today, and this is a sweet win."
Eversley and Thomson were joined on the top step of the podium by Cameron, the young man being an honoured guest of the team's charity, the Children's Tumor Foundation. "Cameron's a really sweet kid who is living with neurofibromatosis, a life-threatening illness," explained Ryan. "It was very special to share our win here with him and his family." Donations can be made at http://racing4research.org.
The win puts Eversley and C360R back in the championship hunt, with just 13 points separating the leaders and Ryan, now sitting in fourth place. "We've still got to deal with the performance affect of the restrictor, " noted Thomson, "but the win means we're still in the fight. This whole team is trying harder than ever to get a third straight championship."
The race will be televised on SPEED at 1:00pm on May 22nd.
(Photo credits: Sideline Sports Photography.)