SKI Autosports’ Johnny O’Connell took the lead when pole sitter Jason Daskalos was balked by a slower GT4 car at the worst part of the track, then nosed into the tire barrier. O’Connell was able to hold on to win GT America powered by AWS Race No. 1 in Nashville Saturday night (Aug. 5).
“We got a break,” O’Connell told SRO America’s Amanda Busick. “Jason [Daskalos] was probably a little bit stronger than us, but you have to take every opportunity you get.”
Heavy rains in Nashville wiped out qualifying Saturday morning. As a result, the grid was set using times from a rainy practice session from Friday. As a result, Daskalos started from pole in his Mercedes by virtue of being fastest in the second practice session on Friday. A number of withdrawals leading up to the weekend saw the grid size shrink from 22 on the entry list to 14.
Daskalos was able to get out in front and open up a small gap. Meanwhile, O’Connell was able to take second from Schultis at the first corner.
Daskalos seemed to be having an easy go of things on the 2.17-mile street course. Then, he ran across the GT4 Aston Martin of The Heart of Racing’s Grey Newell. Newell was having a unrelated mechanical issue and attempted to pull off directly in front of Daskalos.
Newell’s move forced Daskalos to effectively stop in a very narrow portion of the track. He then nosed into the tire barrier while trying to get restarted. That was all O’Connell needed to take the lead away.
O’Connell had Schultis right on his tail in the Callaway Corvette C7/GT3. The two appeared to be evenly matched, but Schultis ended up going too hard into turn 4 and ended up in the runoff. That cost him any chance of winning.
When Daskalos recovered from his meeting with the tire barrier, he was about 18 seconds behind O’Connell. Daskalos had been more than a second faster than anyone else in practice and was able to maintain that pace in the race.
As a result, he was able to cut the lead to under 10 seconds when he ran down Memo Gidley for second. The two then fought for multiple laps until Daskalos took the spot with 12 minutes to go. By that point, the lead had ballooned back to 12 seconds.
Despite the big lead, O’Connell had his share of problems as well. For instance, the position indicator fell off of the windshield during the race. Since O’Connell was the leader, the display would flash and blind him in corners. Despite this issue, O’Connell was able to hold on for the win.
In GT4, Rotek Racing’s Robb Holland started on pole in his Porsche was able to open up a reasonable gap over Jason Bell in the opening laps. Over time, Holland continued to increase the gap as the sun continued to set.
Unlike in the GT3 class, Holland had an easy go of it. He was never seriously threatened and led flag-to-flag to take his fourth class win of the year.
By virtue of setting the fastest lap of the race, Daskalos will start from the overall pole in Race No. 2. That event is scheduled to go green at 4:50 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon. The race will be streamed live on both the GT World YouTube channel and on SpeedSport1.
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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