Watkins Glen International played host to the IndyCar Series and SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 and 12:10 PM Eastern, respectively.
The first SST race held in the northeastern United States, it is also the first series event held at an American closed circuit.
“If there is anything that can add even more excitement to our IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen race weekend, it’s Robby Gordon and his series,” WGI President Michael Printup stated upon the event’s creation in early August.
“This is going to be unlike anything that our fans have ever seen at Watkins Glen International. I’m very curious to see how those trucks get around America’s fastest road course.”
SST founder and 2003 NASCAR Cup Series Watkins Glen race winner Robby Gordon also expressed excitement, adding, “For Stadium Super Trucks to visit the state of New York and the Northeast for the first time, I cannot be more excited. I’ve had a lot of success at Watkins Glen throughout my career and have built a large fan base in that region. To bring the door-to-door action and big air of Stadium Super Trucks to The Glen for the first time, the fans are going to be ecstatic for SST racing.”
While IndyCar ran the full course (including the Boot layout), SST ran the short course used by NASCAR. Four jumps were placed on the track at the frontstretch, shortly past turn one, the Bus Stop, and the final straight leading into turn 11.
Steve Kendall, a friend of Gordon, made his series debut in the #213 SPEED Energy truck, thought his weekend began on a rough note as he suffered mechanical problems and set a qualifying time of 1:59.369 on Friday, over 16 seconds slower than Shaun Richardson (1:43.424).
Paul Morris had the fastest time in qualifying as he lapped the track with a time of 1:39.047. Gordon was 2nd-fastest with 1:39.227, followed by Gavin Harlien (1.39.389), Matt Brabham (1:39.729), Jeff Hoffman (1:40.870), Aaron Bambach (1:41.280), and Erik Davis (1:43.247).
Courtesy of a field inversion, Richardson started 1st for Saturday’s race. Davis also had a front-row start, with Hynes, Bambach, Hoffman, Brabham, Harlien, Gordon, Morris, and Kendall in tow.
Richardson led the early portion of the first lap before Davis passed him in the Bus Stop. While Davis led the first lap, he was shuffled back as Hoffman took the lead in the same area on lap two, with Harlien also passing him and applying pressure on Hoffman. Behind them, Brabham gel off the pace for mechanical problems.
On lap three of the nine-lap race, Race Control prepared to put out the competition yellow flag until a race-related incident took place: while maneuvering through the sand barrel chicane at the entrance of pit road, Hynes collided with a set, causing them to explode. Proving the durability of Stadium Super Trucks, Hynes’ #57 was undamaged in the wreck. Race Control elected to wave the red flag to facilitate track cleanup; in the series, red flags are akin to a kiss of death for races, especially as a support event, since SST is restricted to approximately 30 minutes of racing and red flags frequently cause races to run overtime.
Due to lengthy cleanup causing the race to go over its allotted time slot, the remainder of the event was postponed until 6 PM Eastern.
The race resumed as scheduled, though in rainy conditions and with the frontstretch jump removed. Instead of continuing from where the race last left off, it was restarted with the same grid as the start of the day and the lap count was reset to zero, nullifying the one-thirds run earlier in the day. As such, Richardson led the field to the green and led the first lap, though Brabham took the lead a lap later. Richardson eventually spun out into the infield in turn one.
The first competition caution came out on lap three. Brabham paced the field to green on the restart, but Gordon quickly charged to the inside on the straightaway to make the pass, while Brabham spun into the infield. Morris challenged Gordon for the lead, with the wet surface providing an additional level of struggle as the two slid into the turn one infield before recovering without losing any positions. Behind them, Brabham battled with Harlien and Hoffman for 3rd, including a move in which the Australian sliced through the grass in the Bus Stop to take the spot.
A second competition caution was waved a lap later. At the green, Gordon Morris, and Brabham comprised the top 3 positions, and remained in that order for the lap. Moments before the white flag, Richardson made contact with Hoffman after landing off the final jump entering the final turn, causing the two to spin. On the final lap, Brabham slid past Gordon for the lead as they drove through turn three, but Gordon committed to the inside to enter a drag race with Brabham on the backstretch. Morris eventually joined the fight, cutting through the Bus Stop grass to take 1st before Gordon retaliated with a pass on the inside. Gordon held off the two to claim his fourth win of the season; Morris finished 2nd, while 3rd-placed Brabham’s rear end broke during the lap, but was able to finish on the podium.
Harlien finished 4th, followed by Bambach, Hoffman, Hynes, Davis, Richardson and Kendall.
For Race #2, Kendall was once again on the pole alongside Richardson. Behind them were Davis, Hynes, Hoffman, Bambach, Harlien, Brabham, Morris, and Gordon. Kendall led the first lap before Brabham and Hoffman passed him in the Bus Stop; Harlien spun shortly after. Gordon later took 3rd upon passing Morris, while Richardson bypassed the Bus Stop, presumably due to technical problems.
After the first competition caution, Gordon ran wide in turn one and lost four spots as Brabham continued to lead. By the next caution, however, Gordon was able to move his way back up the field to restart 3rd. At the green, Morris jumped to the lead on the inside line, while Harlien spun once again. Brabham retook the lead as he entered the track’s Outer Loop. On the following lap, Davis fell victim to the turn one infield as he sailed off course. Hynes also had problems of his own as he pitted to remove his hood.
Points leader Brabham would go on to win his fifth race of the 2017 season. Gordon took 2nd to end a solid weekend, while Morris once again joined the two on the podium. Hoffman finished 4th and Bambach in 5th, followed by Harlien, Davis, Richardson, Kendall, and Hynes.
The next race on the 2017 schedule, the FB Life Festival from Alxa, China, takes place on October 6–7.
Featured image by @WGI