AUSTIN, Texas — Second chances do not come often in racing, but race two at Circuit of the Americas presented many second chances for the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda participants.
Ryan Booth, who had a mechanical issue in race one with his Performance Tech Lites 1 machine, was able to take the checkered flag first after flying by the rest of the field. In the Lites 2 category, newcomer Jerome Mee took the top step of the podium after being forced to retire early from yesterday’s race. And despite a few spins, Lites 1 Masters driver Lamont Harris brought home a podium finish in his category at International Sports Car Weekend.
The 45-minute sprint was clean at the start, allowing for passing opportunities early. JDC Motorsports’ Mikhail Goikhberg made his move from fifth position to third in just the first lap. Not to be outdone, Richard Fant of Ferrari of Houston also impressed on lap one, gaining three positions right off the bat.
Polesitter Booth turned his fastest lap of the day in his fourth trip around the circuit. With a time of 2:03.895, Booth bested the new track record he recorded yesterday. By lap 11, the Charleston, S.C.-native had built up a significant 14-second lead on the rest of the field, making today’s win even sweeter.
“Glad to take the win today after yesterday,” Booth said. “We had an unfortunate race due to a mechanical. I was just stoked the Performance Tech boys could get the car running again. It was awesome throughout the whole race and I couldn’t ask for a better way to end the weekend.”
On lap 12, a yellow flag brought the field back together and created more drama and action on the patriotically striped circuit. Home town hero Jim Garrett went off track at turn 14, bringing out the safety team for six minutes before going back to green.
On the restart, Booth proved his No. 18 Élan DP-02 entry was the car to beat by pulling quickly away from the rest of the group, finishing six seconds ahead of points leader Sean Rayhall, who had mixed emotion regarding his weekend performance, and is already looking toward the road ahead.
“It feels good but obviously we didn’t have the car to win today,” Rayhall said. “Ryan and the Performance Tech boys did a great job but my Comprent boys worked all weekend. We were struggling on the straight lines, got to figure some stuff out there a well as a shock issue so hopefully we’ll get those bugs worked out for the Petit weekend.”
Directly behind Rayhall was 8Star Motorsports drivers Enzo and Christian Potolicchio. Christian kept it close with his father Enzo as the two made their way around the 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit. And while Enzo ultimately took the third place finish, Christian made him work hard for it, despite settling for fourth place. But no hard feelings were shared between the two, as Enzo deferred the celebration, having Christian step up on the podium on his behalf to join his driver coach Rayhall in the festivities.
“It was crazy because I started fourth then spun and the car was really difficult to drive,” said Christian Potolicchio. “I went to eighth place and came back somehow. Thank you for Sean (Rayhall) for helping me. He is a really good coach and thank you to my team.”
Christian dropped back as far as tenth place, but inched his way back up to the top of the field. After the green flag restart on lap 12, he made his way up to fifth position from seventh in just one lap.
Mikhail Goikhberg and Daniel Goldburg, currently third and fourth in the points standings, both had issues during the race that pushed them down the final standings. Goikhberg was comfortably in third before a spin in Turn 15 on the final lap diminished his shot at podium in Round 12 of the 2013 season. Goldburg had a setback early on with a transmission issue that kept him out of the top 15.
Mee of Alta Velocita Racing joined the series for the first time this season and won his race in the L2 category. The Texas native was pleased with his performance after being unable to finish Race One at COTA.
“I feel relieved, very relieved,” Mee said. “I made it through the first turn safe and everything else from there was pretty bumpy but good.”
Mee bested 2012 L2 Master Champion Alan Wilzig.
As the season moves into the final event of the season, points possibilities and calculations are coming down to the wire.
With his fifth win of the 2013 season, Booth moves within 20 points of series leader Rayhall. The two have been neck-and-neck every round this year and it is only fitting the champion will be determined in the season’s final event.