Winchester & Francis Do Austin Double
Starting from the Motul pole, as a result of winning Round One, Winchester completed the Saturday sweep in Touring Car, winning the second sprint race of the day. Winchester was able to take the win in much more comfortable fashion, keeping at least a two-car length lead over his teammate Sandberg throughout the race.
“It’s pretty special to win my first races in World Challenge here at Circuit of the Americas,” Winchester said. “It’s such a great facility. It means a lot. The guys worked really hard all day in testing. In qualifying we were able to put it on the pole, which was huge. I think being on the pole was very important, especially with our cars, because when you catch the B-Spec pack, if you get them in the Esses you’re stuck for a while.
“It’s great to be back with Compass360. I think they are the best team in the paddock. They put great Hondas on the track every time. This is a strong start compared to last year. Last year, I got taken out in the first race at St. Pete and didn’t even get to compete in Round Two. I started 2012 in a huge hole, and was able to make it back to third in the points but that was the best I could get. This year, starting off with two wins and a pole position means a lot. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Sandberg was able to make the most of his fourth place starting position, getting around Martinson and his teammate Ruscitti in the first couple laps of the race. From there, he went on to score his best-career finish in second place.
Martinson again looked to spoil the Honda sweep, but Ruscitti was able to pass the Solstice on the final tour of the 10-lap race for third, a move that garnered him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race. The Compass360 podium sweep was the first for the team in Pirelli World Challenge competition.
“The first race was cool,” Ruscitti said. “I almost got Ryan at the beginning and the TCB cars just got in the way of us a little at the end. In the second race, I had to make a pass on the last lap to get back to third. It was cool to get the podium sweep for Compass360. I raced with Ryan once before with the team and I just met Brett this weekend. They’re great guys and it’s a lot of fun racing with them.”
Martinson finished just off the podium, in fourth, followed by Sarah Cattaneo in the No. 43 IDoBorrow.com Honda Civic.
In Touring Car B-Spec, the race was just as close as it was in Round One. Francis Jr. added to his racing resume, doubling up on Saturday, taking Race Two.
James led the majority of the race, but the high school student set up the winning pass coming out of Turn 20, leading onto the front straight. He pulled up on the rear bumper of then-leader James, and won the drag race to the line, taking the victory by inches.
“It feels great so far,” Francis Jr. said. “I’ve only won some amateur races up until now. The first pro win, it’s really exciting.
“[James] was in front for most of the second race. I couldn’t make the pass on the inside of the final corner, so I had to duck on the outside of him in the last turn and go through the grass. It was a drag race to the finish and I got him by about a foot.”
James enjoyed the close battles with Francis Jr. in both races and was complimentary of the young winner.
“Junior drove a great race,” James said. “It was fun racing with him; I had a good time the whole time. His car just had a monster third gear, and he had a really good pull and he got me at the line. Most other laps, I was able to get him back into Turn One, but the finish line is where it is and it worked for him.
“We definitely bumped a few times. He hit my back, I hit his back. We touched mirrors a time or two. We had some real hard racing, no hard feelings.”
Davis took the third step on the podium, and was a factor until the last lap, as part of a four-car group that was able to break away from the rest of the field. Joel Lipperini, of Pittston, Pa., was the final car in the lead pack, and finished fourth in No. 81 Race Labz/Honda/HPD/Raceshopper Honda Fit.
Mike Asselta finished fifth in his second Pirelli World Challenge start, in the No. 7 SafeRacer Mini Cooper.