Cadillac Racing's O'Connell an Inspired Eighth at Sonoma
O'Connell 8th, Pilgrim 10th
SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2014) - Cadillac Racing drivers Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim finished race two of the Pirelli World Challenge Series for the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma in eighth and tenth places this afternoon.
O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga) was able to hold onto his GT drivers points lead, by only 11, following the first race of the weekend on Saturday when he finished fifth and chief protagonist for the championship, Mike Skeen winning in his Audi. O'Connell started race two from the fifth row in tenth, five places behind Skeen, based upon his fast lap from race one. Teammate Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla) took the standing start lights from the sixth row in 12th.
At the start of the 50-minute race O'Connell got a clean lane on the outside into Turn One moving from his tenth place grid position to fourth. More importantly he drove by Skeen who slotted in behind in fifth. The 50-minute Wine Country chess match began. From that point forward O'Connell and Skeen raced into nearly every corner side-by-side, sometimes swapping positions. A full course caution flew on lap eight, allowing the two time World Challenge GT Champion the time to cool his tires and catch his breath. When the race went green on lap 14 the match elevated. Skeen tried several moves - a couple which involved contact with the No.3 Cadillac CTS.V.R of O'Connell. While the two car battle ensued two cars behind them, passed and pushed the wannabe champions back to eighth and ninth respectively. On lap 20 Skeen slowed with a flat-tire, checkmate O'Connell. Cadillac Racing leaves Wine Country with O'Connell leading by 42 points heading into the two final rounds at Miller Motorsport Park in two weeks.
"There is a lot on the line," O'Connell said. "I came into this weekend knowing that I had to execute and drive the wheels off this Cadillac hot rod. We have a team that doesn't quite. I am really proud of the whole team effort this weekend. I was able to get a clean run into Turn One and put Skeen behind me. We battled the whole race. When the Bentley and the Ferrari got by us they really did it with their top speed. They put good moves on me to get past. Mike (Skeen) never was able to get a position on me and we had some contact. I raced a good, hard, clean race. We touched a few times and he came up with a flat. I am proud of the drive. It was fun. We will have to settle it at Miller in two weeks."
Andy Pilgrim (Boca Raton, Fla) had handling issues that thwarted his race.
"We took a shot at making the car better for the race and we really just missed the set-up," Pilgrim said. "It was a gamble worth taking and we just didn't hit it right. It is tough because we didn't have a warm-up to try it out. The car was a handful all race. It was difficult to drive and it took all I had to keep it on the track. A very tail happy car."
The weekend's races will air on NBC Sports Network, Sat., Aug. 30 at 1 p.m. and are streamed live at worldchallenge.com.
The Pirelli World Challenge Series will travel to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah for the final two rounds of the season Sept. 12-13.
Courtesy of Kyle Chura