Abbate races her FR-S as the sun sets for the 2 hour USTCC Endurance Race Photo by: Richard Pochop

Abbate’s First Night Enduro Race in USTCC Season Opener

April 18th, 2015 marked the season opener of the US Touring Car Championship series at Buttonwillow Raceway.  The team had been anticipating this event with excitement because it would be the first endurance race they’ve ever entered.  Michele has only ever raced in sprint races for up to an hour length, so the 2 hour enduro was something new for everyone.

In addition to the length of the race, Michele also would be adapting to the new experience of racing at night.  With help from Dennis at Urban Metal Works (the local Las Vegas off road shop that custom built Abbate’s 6 point cage) and Taylor Wilson from Snail Performance, the FR-S was equipped with a mean light set up – one full 30 inch light bar and two cube lights.

Qualifying went well with the Fr-S in the season opener for the USTCC. Photo by: Richard Pochop

The team had two practices and one qualifying session before the race and Michele was able to lay down a 2:05.2 when it counted.  This placed her 8th out of the 12 car field for the standing start.  Maintaining her position and trading back and forth with a few of the competitors, she worked to keep her times consistent within a few seconds of her fast lap.

As the sun began to set, the car was getting low on fuel quickly and the team prepared for the fuel stop.  Thankfully, Gian from Monaco Racing came out to help support the team for the entire day and race.  Before pitting for fuel, Michele was running as high as 5th place in the USTCC field.  Just as she was about to pit the caution came out with the pace car for numerous laps.  This was cutting it real close for the team, but with great strategy they managed to get into the pits for a smooth top off.

Crew Chief Anthony Philleo and crewman Gian Cardinale provided great teamwork with Abbate. Photo by: Richard Pochop

Michele was able to see after the sunset because of the light set up, and she increased her focus during the last hour of the race.  Managing the track was a challenge, and if you were watching the livesteam feed, you could see the massive dust clouds that periodically appeared throughout the entire race.  One cloud just after Phil Hill sent Michele on a short off roading experience, but with no one else around, it was a clean on/off and she continued to pursue the checkered flag!

As the white flag came out, Abbate was ahead of the majority of the field, but truthfully had no idea.  Unfortunately, during the last lap of the race, the faster cars caught up and battled their way past Abbate in the final turns.  Michele stated, “you really cannot tell who or what is behind you, or how far away they are. It is actually pretty dangerous out there if you don’t have confidence in yourself and are without a spotter.  Thankfully my team was able to supply me with some amazing spotting letting me know where cars were at and when I would be entering a turn side by side”.  Crew Chief Anthony concluded the race saying, “This was definitely a learning experience for our team, but we had a blast and now know that our car is absolutely reliable even when pushing it to its limits for endurance racing”.

Abbate chases down fellow USTCC drivers throughout the 2 hour endurance race. Photo by: Richard Pochop

The team finished in 6th place due to several disqualifications on the podium finishers.  As always, we send major ‘thank you’s’ to all of our partners for helping make this possible.  Abbate’s next race will be next weekend, April 25th, at Irwindale Speedway for her debut in the NASCAR Whelen All-American series in the #88 Performance P1 Motorsports late model.  Check out the action Saturday night, racing starts at 7pm.

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