The 11th event of the sixth season of the Monday Night Racing (MNR) league was held on Monday, January 23rd at Watkins Glen using the Porsche 911 RSR. This was the elimination race for Round 1 in the playoffs.
For the first time this season, I finally had a stress-free race! I am locked into Round 2 of the playoffs via my win last week at Daytona, so I was one of only two playoff drivers that had no points worries going into the Watkins Glen road course race.
The league held a practice race on Sunday night, but I couldn’t participate in it due to work. I went into Monday night mostly blind regarding other drivers’ pace.
Everyone’s pace was quickly apparent in the pre-race practice session on Monday night. I was solidly a 7th-13th place car on speed in practice and going into qualifying. My qualifying lap could definitely have been better. Two mistakes in the bus stop put me 14th on the starting grid.
Watkins Glen was the one race this season with a standing start. I took the first handful of turns cautiously, but still almost found carnage when the two cars in front of me collected each other in the essays.
The first 10 minutes were tough because of how hard it was for the field to spread out. The Porsche RSR has an incredible amount of draft on the straightaways, which meant escaping the tow was difficult.
The field finally began to spread out and I settled in right around 10th position. The racing was very fun, with battles all throughout the field.
Since it was a road course race, cautions were limited to only track-blocking incidents and one scheduled break at 35 minutes. As the end of the fuel run approached, myself and my spotter/crew chief duo Robert Dorman and James Pike had the decision to make: do we take tires or do fuel only? We knew we would need tires at some point, so we decided to do fuel only at the first green flag pit stop and save the tire call for the scheduled caution.
A problem on the first stop dropped me from just inside the top 10 to just outside the top 20. I followed Adam Cabot into pit road, and since I was unable to see the pit cones as we were entering the pits, I just mimicked what he was doing. That proved to be an issue because Adam was speeding in the pits and then checked up early to make pit speed. This gave me a speeding penalty and slight damage to the front end.
I was aggressive enough on the restart to gain several positions back and was slowly but surely making my way back to the top 10. Everyone was stacked on top of each other from 8th-20th in the last half of the race.
The racing was hectic, especially for the playoff drivers who weren’t locked in on points. Everything was mostly clean until a track-blocking crash with 25 minutes left brought out an unscheduled caution. I lost a few positions on the pit stop and restarted 18th with 15 minutes remaining.
Everyone’s patience had run dry at this point, and drivers were making moves wherever they could find them. Lots of drivers ran into trouble because of their aggression, and I gained several spots because of it.
I slowly but surely kept picking up positions one by one as the laps wound down and now found myself in the top 10. I was pushing hard the last few laps to gain as much time as possible on the drivers in front and managed to get 8th on the last lap. Overcoming the pit road incident to finish 8th felt like a win for me, especially considering the mayhem I typically find myself around at road courses.
Monday Night Racing begins Round 2 of the playoffs next Monday, January 30th, with the Next Gen cars at Pocono. I enter Round 2 as the number one seed in the standings. Eight drivers remain in the playoffs and four will advance out of the 2nd round to the Championship 4. All of the action can be caught live on Eric Estepp’s YouTube and the Podium eSports socials at 7:45PM EST.