Michai Stephens made a banzai move to the outside of AutoTechnic Racing’s John Capestro-Dubets in turn 13 on the final lap Sunday (April 30) to take the lead. Capestro-Dubets was able to stay with him and just barely beat Stephens to the line to win the sole Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race of the weekend at NOLA Motorsports Park with teammate Zac Anderson.
“I was told that we had two [laps to go] and I knew that Michai [Stephens] had a stronger car than us in the technical sections [of the track],” Capestro-Dubets told SRO America’s Amanda Busick. “I had a rear tire going down, so I was hanging on for dear life.
“[Stephens] gave me so much room, so much respect. I know he’s heartbroken to not get this one. It was a drag race to the line and a heck of a challenge.”
Stephens and Jesse Webb were forced to settle for second by the slimmest of margins. STR38 Motorsports’ Harry Gottsacker and Chandler Hull finished third on the road, but violated the minimum pit lane delta and were moved back to seventh.
As a result, Copeland Motorsports’ Tyler Gonzalez and Tyler Maxson ended up third. The Heart of Racing’s Roman DeAngelis and Gray Newell were fourth, while Chouest-Povoledo Racing’s Ross Chouest and Aaron Povoledo were third.
The top three overall finishers were also the top three teams in the Silver class. Gottsacker and Hull were fourth, while Hanley Motorsports’ Daniel Hanley and Parker Thompson were fifth in their Supra.
Normally, Pirelli GT4 America SprintX weekends consist of two races. Race No. 1 was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET Saturday, but heavy rains and standing water resulted in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS race being pushed back by more than two hours. As a result, SRO America officials made the decision to cut back to one GT4 America race for the weekend since it was after 8 p.m. ET by the time the 90-minute Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS race finished. This race was technically Saturday’s race, while the Sunday race was postponed to an undetermined weekend later in the season.
GT4 cars do come equipped with headlights, so vision may not have been a problem, but no one came to NOLA Motorsports Park expecting to race at night. Had the race run after the primary event Saturday, it would finished in the dark.
Webb led the 42-car field to green in his Mercedes-AMG GT4, but almost immediately lost the lead to Anderson. The safety car came out shortly afterwards for a three-car crash in turn 3 involving Archangel Motorsports’ Todd Coleman, SMOOGE Racing’s Joey DaSilva and NOLAsport’s David Peterman. All three drivers were done for the day.
Later on, Zotz Racing’s Chris Ruppel spun his Porsche into the gravel trap in turn 6 to bring out another yellow. That resulted in the 10-minute period around the midpoint of the race being reached during the interruption. In order to prevent quirky situations where a driver could get a lap on the field during the sequence, the window was slightly delayed.
One of the quickest teams all weekend in Louisiana had been the Random Vandals Racing No. 92 BMW of Kevin Boehm and Kenton Koch. On the second restart, Boehm was able to get past Gonzalez to get up to second before all the leaders pitted for their mandatory stop.
Koch was still quick after the stop, but his BMW M4 GT4 had an electrical issue that forced him to stop on-course and recycle the system. As a result, Koch ended up down in 33rd overall. He would eventually recover to finish 17th.
Capestro-Dubets took over for Anderson and was able to pull out a three-second lead. Meanwhile, Hull and Stephens had a fierce battle for second. Stephens was able to take the spot with 16 minutes to go. Shortly afterwards, Rob Walker in the second AutoTechnic Racing BMW stalled on the outside of turn 4 to bring out the third and final safety car period.
This set up a nine-minute sprint to the finish. Capestro-Dubets had to hold off both Stephens and Hull. He had the pace early on, but his car began to slow. That allowed Stephens to pounce. Ultimately, Capestro-Dubets just had enough to hold on.
The Pro-Am class saw The Heart of Racing’s Gray Newell start on pole in his Aston Martin, but his time at the front was short-lived. On the first lap, ACI Motorsports’ Curt Swearingin was able to get past and take the lead in sixth overall.
Swearingin was able to hold onto the advantage for the entire first half of the race until the mid-race stops, where he handed over to defending Porsche Carrera Cup North America champion Kay van Berlo.
Unfortunately, van Berlo was not able to do much with it. Race officials determined that Swearingin had jumped the restart prior to the pit stops. As a result, van Berlo had to serve a drive-through penalty.
Van Berlo’s penalty gave the Pro-Am lead to Roman DeAngelis in the No. 24 Aston Martin for The Heart of Racing. DeAngelis was making his series debut in place of team principal Ian James. Due to The Heart of Racing taking over NorthWest AMR’s entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, DeAngelis will share the GT4 Aston Martin for the remainder of the season.
The caution for Walker’s stalled BMW brought NOLAsport’s Jason Hart into the hunt at the team’s home track (they’re literally based on the property). Hart got a massive restart and managed to sweep DeAngelis entering turn 1 to take the class lead. He then put Maxson in between himself and DeAngelis.
This move was also short-lived as Hart was forced to serve a drive-through penalty after officials determined that his pit stop did not meet the minimum pit lane delta time. That put DeAngelis back in the class lead, one that he would not relinquish as he took the class win.
Chouest and Povoledo ended up second in Pro-Am, then BimmerWorld Racing’s James Walker and Tyler McQuarrie. Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Andy Lee and Elias Sabo were fourth, while SMOOGE Racing’s Kevin Conway and John Geesbreght were fifth.
In the Am class, BimmerWorld Racing’s Charlie Postins qualified on pole in eighth overall and ran extremely well early on. However, their pit stop was not so great. That allowed STR38 Motorsports’ Robert Mau to take over the lead.
James Clay was able to run down Mau and retake the lead prior to Rob Walker bringing out the final yellow. From there, Clay was able to hold to take the class victory in 12th overall.
Clay and Postins’ margin of victory was 3.127 seconds over NOLAsport’s Nelson Calle and Juan Pablo Martinez. KRUGSPEED’s Anthony Geraci and Jaden Lander were third, followed by RENNtech Motorsports’ Michael Auriemma and Tommy Johnson. Rennsport One’s Austin and Roland Krainz were fifth.
Pirelli GT4 America SprintX teams will take a couple of weeks off before traveling to Texas’ Circuit of the Americas. Round No. 5 is scheduled for May 20 at 6 p.m. ET.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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