ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – official series release — PWC photo —
Jack Roush Jr. starred during the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class race held on Friday afternoon, winning the event held as part of the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Brett Sandberg finished second, while Nate Stacy finished third.
When the green flag flew, pole sitter Roush, in the No. 60 Roush Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302, launched cleanly and into the lead through turn one. Behind him, second starting Lawson Aschenbach went door-to-door through the opening corner with Sandberg, who had started third. Aschenbach was able to hold the position with Sandberg slotting into third.
Stacy moved into fourth, passing PWC veteran Charles Espenlaub, who was making his 92nd career series start and first since 2010.
By lap five, Stacy and Sandberg were locked in a battle for third while the top four – Roush, Aschenbach, Sandberg and Stacy – broke away from the rest of the field, with Roush Jr. holding a .856 of a second lead over Aschenbach, 1.70 seconds clear of Sandberg and 2.083 seconds in front of Stacy.
By lap 13, Roush had pulled a gap out to just over two seconds, as Sandberg had closed on Aschenbach for second. The battle for second then intensified, allowing Roush to extend his lead over Aschenbach and Sandberg. On lap 21, Stacy rejoined the battle for second with Aschenbach and Sandberg.
Back-of-the-field traffic would play a role in the battle, as the cars jockeyed for position moving through the field. Stacy and Aschenbach contacted going door-to-door through turn one and Stacy was able to slide by for second position. The contact would leave Aschenbach’s Camaro Z28 slightly wounded shedding loose parts.
As the drama unfolded behind him, Roush had built an eight-second race lead at the 35-minute mark. On lap 27, Sandberg passed Stacy for second place while Aschenbach lost fourth to Parker Chase and then fifth to Dore Chaponick.
Roush would take the checkered flag for his first career Pirelli World Challenge win, with Sandberg closing the gap to 2.6 seconds to finish second with Stacy in third place.
“Street races are really treacherous. But they are a lot of fun,” said Roush. “The shape of the street makes you follow lines that you wouldn’t normally on a race track. Dean Martin and his team really know how to set up the Mustang for the street courses. Dean was always good in the street races. I would put them against anyone. We talked about setup and strategy on the course. We wanted to finish the race well too. I knew Lawson (Aschenbach) would put on the pressure at the start and I felt it all race. I knew people would be coming at the end of the race like Brett in the X-Bow and Nate. I just went as fast as I could without putting the car at risk.”
“The KTM X-Bow was extremely consistent today, just like at COTA,” said Sandberg. “We were able to manage the tires and had a good race with Lawson (Aschenbach) and Nate (Stacy). It is very, very hard to get around the Mustang and Camaro with their straightaway speeds. Actually, I thought we would be better here at St. Pete than at COTA. But we won at COTA. The X-Bow is better suited for a tight track like here. But we learned a lot about the car at COTA. We were able to get the speed out of the car there. But here it is so difficult to overtake. Overall, I’m very happy with the second place finish.”
“I made a big run on Lawson (Aschenbach) in turn one in trying to get second,” said Stacy. “I hit the paint on the runway front straight and started sliding. On the inside, I got upside of Lawson and nudged him a little. I wish it would have been clean for the pass. I really study video a lot right now to learn about the courses and talk with Jack (Roush), Dean (Martin) and the team to learn about strategy. They are so helpful for me, even though I am 16.”
CREDIT: Pirelli World Challenge