WATKINS GLEN — After a 7-week break in the 2017 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the RS1/Legistics/@RickieFowler team was eager to attack the track at Watkins Glen International Raceway in beautiful upstate New York.
Leaders in the point standings – and winners of the Watkins Glen race in 2016 – drivers Nick Galante and Spencer Pumpelly got off to a blazing start in practice. Not only were the drivers looking fast, the car was looking fast too, with a bold new livery promoting the nonprofit Racing to End Alzheimer’s initiative*.
Rain was in the forecast and on everyone’s mind. Just before Galante headed out for the qualifying session, a light shower soaked the track, but it was drying quickly as Nick aggressively used the curbs to lay down some good laps. Nearing the end of the session, driving all out, Galante set a new qualifying lap record! Beating the record previously set by Marc Miller in 2014 by .17 seconds, this was Nick’s first professional pole position – and a great start to the weekend!
On race day, the #17 and the #56 of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss battled early for position, slightly gapping the remainder of the field. About 45 minutes into the race, the rain came back with a vengeance. Cars started to slip and slide, struggling to stay on the track. After a couple of cars crashed, race officials brought out the red flag, halting the race until the deteriorating conditions improved.
Within 10 minutes, the race resumed under a standing yellow caution as the cars navigated the track and tested the conditions. At this point, the pits were opened and most of the drivers, including Galante, headed in. The team decided to forego a tire change in a bold attempt to grab the lead from the #56. Spencer Pumpelly was belted in, the car was quickly fueled, and the #17 beat everyone out of the pits and into the top position.
The track was now dry and the restart was underway. Pumpelly was in the lead for the next 8 laps. After a couple of good passes from the #56 and two of the top Mini Coopers, Pumpelly was pushed back to 4th. Running solidly towards the end of the race, with just 3 crucial minutes remaining, the car started to slow. A low fuel pressure alarm came on, and the #17 was unable to continue – a tough end to a promising start.
The team still scored valuable points and was only pushed back to 3rd place in the overall Championship rankings – with many an exciting race still to come!
*Dedicated to raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research and care, Racing to End Alzheimer’s was set up by Legistics CEO Phil Frengs, with support from pro golfer (and fellow #17 sponsor) Rickie Fowler. The organization is providing donors with a unique opportunity to honor loved ones who are battling or have battled Alzheimer’s disease.
With a $250 donation on the website r2endalz.org, the name and hometown of each honoree will be emblazoned on the #17 during the penultimate race of the series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 23rd.