Northeast Grand Prix Wraps Up With Close Wins & Momentus Achievements
IMSA has left the paddocks but the excitement that it brought here on Friday and Saturday still hovers in the valley. The Northeast Grand Prix of 2018 brought you two nail-bitting, world-class races: the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship sans prototypes and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
It was a whirlwind of excitement with multiple classes of awe-inspiring sports cars on what is the shortest track in the series, making for seemingly endless action no matter where you were watching.
"It was like a short track Saturday night," said Ford GT Driver Joey Hand after taking the win in the GTLM class of the WeatherTech Championship. "This is one of those places where you get that feeling, you have such genuine fans here. You can see them on the hillside."
Hand, his co-driver Dirk Mueller and the team at Ford Chip Ganassi Racing upset Corvette Racing, which was eyeing an historic 100th career IMSA win following what had been a dominant weekend. With 13 minutes remaining in the nearly three-hour race, Hand approached and eventually passed the No. 3 Corvette C7.R team taking with him an 11.431 second victory.
IMSA reports the winning pass came when Corvette Racing's Jan Magnussen tried to make a move on a GT Daytona (GTD) car in Turn 7. Magnussen cleared the car but ran wide, allowing Hand to slip by.
It was the third consecutive win for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in the series with Hand and Mueller winning at Watkins Glen, and the No. 67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe winning at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. With four races remaining in the season, Hand and Mueller hold a provisional points lead of a single point over the Corvette duo of Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. With another win in the GTD category, No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini pilots Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow extended their narrow championship lead.
Another significant event storyline was the momentous win for the No. 54 JDC-Miller Motorsports team as they took the TCR class victory during the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. It was the first win in the series for drivers Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson, and the first professional race victory for Johnson, who is paralyzed from the waist down.
“I've been thinking about this win, coming in professional car racing since I broke my back,” Johnson said. “I am so proud that I can show other people, and talk to them, that dreams can come true with lots of hard work.”
The next major spectator racing event at Lime Rock park will be held over Labor Day Weekend. The Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park, now in its 36th year, is staged to be one of the largest gatherings of historic Bugatti vehicles in North America, with more than 50 registered to be part of this year’s event. Held Aug. 30 - Sept. 3, 2018, the festival is the only North American classic car race and concours held in the same location and is poised to be one of the largest vintage cars events in North America with Bugatti as the featured marque.