2016: Season Opener, Podiums, and Awards
February 1, 2016 (Las Vegas, NV) – This past weekend Auto Club Speedway and Cal Club hosted the SCCA US Majors Tour season opener sponsored by Porterfield Brakes. This was the debut race for our newly equipped Edelbrock E-Force Supercharged GRR Racing FRS. The weather had some rain promised in the weekend, but we weren’t sure when it would it and how much.
Saturday morning we qualified 2nd in the STU field with the lap time of a 1:52.394 . Running a full grid with the SCCA GT cars and American Sedans, it was a full track when the green flag dropped. The 25 minute race provided great excitement especially on the livestream feed. Viewers watched as Michele maintained her consistency in lap times and crossed the finish line taking the win for the first race of the year! The SCCA interviewed Abbate just as she came off the scales (see video here: http://www.scca.com/videos/2025748).
That night, in reflection of the 2015 year, the SoPac/Cal Club held their Annual Awards Banquet. The GRR Racing team was in attendance and it was a fantastic evening with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and great company. As the awards were presented Michele received her 2015 2nd Place Overall STU Championship Trophy, an honor from the races in the prior season. “The So Pac/Cal Club racing division offers a great place for us to race in additional to our other events of the year. I would recommend the series to all club racer’s out there, it is always a great time!”.
As the night came to a close, the final award was to be announced. The 2015 Lindley Bothwell Cal Club Driver of the Year Award is presented to the driver who shows outstanding sportsmanship, exemplary improvement, supports the Club, and shows potential as a Professional Driver with the highest of standings. The Cal Club Committee members selection criteria is chosen from a combination of present achievement plus future promise, and always poses a real challenge to the members as they make the final selection. With a fantastic introduction of Michele’s history with racing it was her name announced to be presented with the Driver of the Year Award! “It was such an absolutely pleasant surprise”, said Abbate, “What a prestigious award to be presented with! I am so grateful for the opportunities I have earned and this is truly an honor to accept”. Regional Executive Penny Coy announced that Abbate is the first female to earn the award in the 66 years of Cal Club’s existence. Ending the night on a high, the team was in full force and ready for what Sunday’s race had to bring!
With that said, Sunday’s weather brought on a whole new monster. “I’ve never seen so much rain pouring down at Auto Club Speedway. We knew it might come, so we were fully equipped with our Hoosier H2O tires, mounted and ready to go”, Crew Chief Anthony Philleo stated. With hopes of relieving foggy window issues, Anthony and Jason quickly mounting a spare Mishimoto fan to the dash. In addition, the team also gave Michele a stick with a rag on the end, in case it was needed as a last resort.
Needless to say, when the field took the green it was still pouring like crazy. Abbate most certainly had visibility issues right from the start of the race. Even the livestream audience was worried about how she was able to navigate. “There were huge puddles everywhere, and the more rain there was the worse the window would fog,” Michele recalls. Halfway through the race, Michele could tell the exhaust didn’t sound right – with a strong lead ahead of 3rd Abbate dialed back her pace to ensure a clean finish. Dispute the issue and fighting the new struggle of heavy rain, Michele was able to finish the race in 2nd Place in the STU field.
A fantastic way to start off the season, and a huge thank you to Delicious Tuning, Edelbrock, and Action Sports Canopies for their awesome trackside support! Very excited to welcome back Sgt. Jason Philleo from his deployment overseas, we are so grateful and happy to have you back! (Side Note: This year the roof of our FRS is an IR Flag to represent, thank, and show gratitude to all of our soldiers serving overseas). Teamwork like we have is what truly makes a winning team! Catch out next race February 20-21 at Willow Springs Raceway for the 3rd and 4th Rounds of the SCCA US Majors Tour Western Conference Division.