Las Vegas, NV – Just barely two weeks into the 2018 year the SCCA US Majors Tour kicked off the first race of the 2018 Western Conference Division at Auto Club Speedway. The GRRRacing team was feeling confident going into the weekend with several test days and changes during the off season.
The car was dialed and they had a good plan of attack as the entered the weekend. On Friday Michele put in two practice sessions to get a feel for the high line in the Auto Club Speedway Roval. “I have been to this track so many times and never really tried taking the high line through NASCAR turns 1 and 2. Today I just wanted to focus on figuring the best line for the FRS and where we could carry the most speed”, Michele shared.
The practice session proved the team well as they earned the pole position in qualifying and 3rd place overall in the 26 car field. Everything seemed to be settling in place and as they took the green flag Abbate had a fantastic start, by the 4th turn she was leading the entire field overall. “It was an awesome feeling to take the overall lead, a feeling I haven’t experienced in a while”, Michele explained. The GRRRacing FRS continued to have a fantastic lead over the STU field throughout the race, when about 4 laps from the finish oil temps were at an all time high. The car fell into limp mode with 3 to go, and just a few turns before the checkered flag Abbate did all she could to fight to a second place finish. “It was truly heart breaking, everything had been so strong til the last couple laps, and it turns out our oil cooling system was not working properly”, Crew Cheif Anthony Philleo said.
The team searched the paddock and thanks to driver Rick of RF Racing who lent his spare oil cooler for the team to use. Anthony was able to get the new cooler set up and ready for revenge for Sunday’s race. Abbate took the 2nd green flag of the weekend with high hopes. Another great start, as she settled into 3rd place overall and 1st in class. The 2nd place STU car was not far behind when oil temps again began to rise – but not nearly as bad as Saturday’s race. The two had quite the battle, with a couple trades of positions for the lead but Abbate dominated the majority of the laps and corners throughout the race. As the two were just a few turns from the white flag, the 2nd place car over drove, losing control of his car by locking up his brakes and drove into Michele’s right rear wheel, causing her to be taken out of the race because of major suspension damage.
Abbate finished the weekend with enough points to maintain 2nd place for the start of the 2018 season. The team plans to make the repairs necessary for the next event. You can catch the in car footage from the incident on Michele’s instagram. Stay tuned for the next event from the GRRRacing team at Buttonwillow Raceway on February 17-18.