As darkness set in on NASA’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by Hawk Performance, teams geared up to run in the dark for the next 14 hours on the winding 3-mile-long road course.
Several teams bolted on additional lights in the pits as the sun was setting to improve visibility for the night session. The goal for all the teams is to run fast, consistent laps in the dark until the sun rises at 7:11 a.m. The 25-hour race concludes at noon Sunday.
- Crowdstrike/One Motorsports took the overall lead, pulling two laps ahead of fellow ESR competitor Eastern/Turn 3 Motorsport.
- Few teams have been sent to the penalty box for infractions, such as fuel spills or excessive speed in the pits.
- Battle of attrition: About a half-dozen cars are in the paddock undergoing repairs. Most of the teams are expected to return to action.
Class leaders at 5 pm:
Crew chief Christina Brady was talking about how well the team’s Nissan 370Z was running and then moments later the car pulled into the pits with small flame coming from the right front brake pad. Welcome to 25 Hours of Thunderhill where luck can change at a moment’s notice.
The team jumped on the problem and the Toyo Tires/Valkyrie Autosport car was back on the track with its two-lap lead trimmed significantly by the mechanical issue.
“We’re feeling good right now. My driver is out there being consistent, the car is running beautifully, which has been great. It’s handling awesome,” Brady said.
Steady, smooth and no mistakes is the mantra crew chief Gary Rubio has for his 2018 – ART Racing team. His drivers have taken it to heart as the team has taken the lead in the E1 class after spending most of the day in the middle of the pack.
The team is going into the night hoping it will consist of normal fuel stops, tire and driver changes. “Everybody feels good, but it’s early on yet,” Rubio said. “So far we’re prepared and holding up well.”
HQ Autosport Racing team co-owner Paul Quattrocchi credits the team’s seasoned drivers for extending its lead in the E2 class.
“We’re actually being consistent with the car,” Quattrocchi said. “They’re doing an excellent job, they went out there and basically saving on fuel and running excellent lap times.”
Steyn Motorsports is leading the E3 class, with three teams all within two laps of each other. The team climbed into the lead through some steady driving. The team consists of all military veterans, who served in the Air Force and Navy.
“I was just trying to make consistent laps out there, just kind of trying to manage those and staying on my line and be consistent,” said Chris Belieu, a 20-year veteran of the Air Force. “I haven’t been on this track since April, so I had to relearn it.”
Chasing the Steyn Motorsports team was A+ Racing Same as Before, which trailed by less than a lap.
As of this update, the Ford Performance Racing School team had the lead but was hit with a sound penalty and had to go into the pits to rectify the issue. That allowed the No. 74 Toyo Tires/Flying Lizard Motorsports to jump into the lead and Ford Performance Racing School dropped to fourth place.
With the Eastern/Turn 3 Motorsports team going down for repairs, it allowed the CrowdStrike/One Motorsports to take over the lead. The class is filled with fast cars and all the teams expect several lead changes during the night.
“We’ve got a deal here, which is protect your car,” said Mike Johnson. “Under no circumstances do you put your car in danger, and they’re doing a really good job.”
Johnson is looking weary at the Eastern/Turn 3 Motorsports, which was reportedly having engine problems. “When one car goes behind the wall, they’ve got the same motor we do built by the same guy,” Johnson said. “You can’t get too confident.”
The only team running in GT Challenge, Jester & Babbitt Motorsports, keeps putting down some of the best lap times on the 3-mile-long course. The team has already clipped 1 second off its best lap, posting a 1:52.894 lap. The team was running in seventh overall.