WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., July 2 — Kris Wright posted his first professional auto racing victory on Friday and was also on the podium on Saturday at historic Watkins Glen International following a doubleheader by the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series.
The races were part of the prestigious Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen program. With the double podium finishes, unofficially Wright rose from seventh to third in his class's point standings with six races down and eight remaining.
The complexion of the two separate 45-minute Prototype Challenge races on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course was very different.
Wright, of Wexford, Pa., started second out of 15 drivers in his class (Mazda Prototype Challenge) in Friday afternoon's 45-minute race with his JDC MotorSports No. 7 Elan DP02 sponsored by the Hyundai Motor Corporation and PPG. He remained in second through a caution on lap three and a second caution on lap seven.
The race restarted on lap eight with 20:44 remaining. Wright was still in second place, 0.487 of a second behind the class leader, Kyle Masson, on lap nine, and a whopping 2.026 seconds ahead of third, Michal Chlumecky. On the next lap the leader, Masson, spun at the toe of the track's famous "Boot," dropped to 14th place in class, and Wright inherited the lead.
He was able to retain the top spot the rest of the way, which included another caution on lap 15 when the driver who had been second, Chlumecky, stopped at the entrance to the esses and needed a tow back to the pits. The green waved again on lap 17 and three laps later Wright posted his first Prototype Challenge victory. He had a 2.597 seconds advantage over the driver who finished second, Tazio Ottis, his JDC teammate, at the line. Masson regrouped to finish third.
Masson set the fastest lap of the race for the class on lap 19 with a 1:46.854, but Wright set the second-fastest on lap 20 with a 1:48.009.
"Friday was my first professional win, and hopefully the first of many,” said 22-year-old Kris Wright. “It was the most consistent race I've ever driven. I didn't make any mistakes, and when that happens you usually do well. We ended up with a victory and I’m excited about that.”
Wright again started second to Masson in Saturday’s 45-minute contest, although that event started under yellow due to a driving rain. There were only a few seconds of green-flag racing due to the rain, numerous spins and a few crashes until things really got underway on lap 10 with 9:29 remaining.
The green didn't stay out long that time either, as another JDC driver, Joel Janco, went off into a tire wall on lap 11 to bring out yet another yellow. There was only 1:49 on the clock at the restart on lap 13, but that was enough time for Chlumecky to wiggle by Wright for second and relegate him to third when time ran out on lap 14. Masson won and Wright was 0.466 behind Chlumecky at the line.
"Saturday's race was very slippery. We didn't have many green-flag laps with the rainy weather. I got passed on the last restart going down into Turn 1 because I couldn't see anything in front of me due to the spray from the other cars. It made for a challenging race so I’m happy to get a podium.
"I want to thank the JDC MotorSports team, Hyundai Motor Corporation and PPG for a great race weekend. Hyundai is a new partner for us and we’re glad to have shown them some good race results here at The Glen. I can't wait to come back to Watkins Glen in the Pro Mazda [Sept. 2-3]. It will be fun to come back and try for another victory.”
“I’m really proud of Kris and the job he did this weekend,” said his driving coach and trainer Nic Jonsson. “Kris had never driven this car in wet and rainy conditions before, so it was a very steep learning curve to face pouring down rain and very poor visibility. However he stayed very calm and did a great job to bring it home in a podium position. It’s been a very good and successful weekend, with lots of great first time experiences for Kris and he learned a great deal that he can take into future races.”
The next Prototype Challenge event is next weekend, July 7-9, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport) in Bowmanville, Ontario. The series then travels to Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., July 21-22. The following weekend, July 29-30, Wright's focus will shift to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, where he's scheduled to compete in a tripleheader for the Pro Mazda series presented by Cooper Tires.
The Watkins Glen races will air on a tape-delayed basis from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, July 13 on FOX Sports 2. The broadcast will also be available on YouTube 24 hours later.
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