Calamity Strikes at the GlenPosted by LeagueRoad February 23, 2022 in
Tuesday February 22nd, 2022, LunatiK Racing drivers Luke Davis and Collin McKenzie were back on track looking to redeem themselves after last week’s run at the mountain. After leaving Australia the team headed to wester New York state back in the United States to take on Watkins Glen International. A crowd favorite track that has multiple high-speed corners and challenging off camber turns make this one of best tracks in the US to race at. Davis enters the race still holding 4th place in the driver championship with McKenzie in 6th. In the team championship LunatiK was still sitting in 4th place with both drivers looking to improve into the top 3. Qualifying was about to begin, and overall championship leader Jonathan Wager was not in attendance which opened the door for multiple drivers to take the race win and big points to possibly get an upset heading into the final race next week. Qualifying started and Davis was able to secure a p5 with a 1:43.913. McKenzie who has struggled with qualifying all year put in a 1:44.181 which held for p10. He tried a last second qualifying stint which would have seen him move up a couple of positions but was unable to complete the lap with time running out just as his front splitter crossed the line. Quoc Ninh who is 2nd overall in the drivers’ championship took the pole position with a 1:43.391. Little bit of disappointment from McKenzie but he knew he had more pace for the race.
#72 of Luke Davis single file on lap 1.
Ninh had control of the field as the lights went green on the front stretch to start the race as the 22-car field started barreling down into turn 1. McKenzie was able to get a good jump over p9 moving him up a spot after turn 1. The field stayed clean through The Esses and up the front straight towards the Bus Stop. The lead pack made it through the Bus Stop and down the Outer Loop single file as it remained for the remainder of the first lap. With tires starting to get up to temps the drivers were not able to start pushing a little more. Davis still held onto 5th position as he was sitting in a draft pack behind the leader. McKenzie in 9th was dealing with a very impatient Nikos Tzanidakis who tried to start fighting McKenzie for position on lap 2. McKenzie was in draft to the pack in front and had to defend against Tzanidakis which led him to start losing the pack ahead. Luckily the group ahead of McKenzie started fighting with each other the next couple laps which led to him being able to catch back up. This also led to the pack losing the top 5 as they started to pull away out of draft from the next mid pack McKenzie was in. Davis held onto 5th position through the first half of the race, as he was quietly sitting behind p4 and p3 trying to hang on when p3 started to battle with p2. This allowed the leader Ninh to start stretching his legs a little and get rid of the draft to p2 which would leave them hanging out the dry. Ninh was able to give himself enough of a lead that only if something catastrophic happened would he lose. McKenzie was still getting pressured by Tzanidakis behind but also was starting to get slowed up by the driver ahead Christopher Rines. McKenzie needed to make the pass knowing that Tzanidakis would be overly aggressive to Rines behind and that this was his chance to get some separation. McKenzie made the move going two wide into the Bus Stop nailing the entry giving him a great exit to take 8th position over Rines. McKenzie’s assumptions were right as the pass slowed the two down and Tzanidakis started foaming at the mouth to make the pass as well. McKenzie was able to start creating a gap that left the two of them out of his draft and into safer waters.
#15 Collin McKenzie holds off an overeager #07 Tzanidakis early on in the race.
With about 22 minutes left in the race p4 started to battle with p3 which led to p2 giving himself a gap and p3 made the decision to pit. Davis made the strategic call to pit with p3 to cover him off but also have a drafting buddy for the second half of the race. McKenzie moved up two positions with Davis pitting moving him up to 6th position about a second and a half behind p5. Davis almost beat p3 Pabellano who he pit with on the stop and came out side by side with him even with taking on extra fuel to make sure he finished the race. Davis and Pabellano came out in p17 and p16 after the stop and tried to start putting down some good laps to undercut the front pack. Davis held strong onto the draft of Pabellano never letting him give it up and stayed within distance until they ran into p15 who had yet to pit and did not look like he wanted to give up the position easily. The one thing both drivers did not need with their strategy was to get caught up behind a slower car for a long period of time. The #151 of Robert Gough was dead set on defending against Pabellano which in turn made Davis have to sit behind and wait as well losing valuable seconds.
#72 Davis following the #101 Pabellano and #151 Gough fighting in front.
With about 13 minutes left in the race McKenzie came in for his spit stop to fuel up for the remainder of the session. He came out back in p6 but right behind Davis and Pabellano with p5 tagging along as well. with just under 11 minutes to go in the race things started to get heated up with drivers in contention battling for position. What no one saw coming was the Ninh who was still in the lead got loose into the Bus Stop which caused him to spin on exit. 2nd position passed for the lead and Ninh decided to try and get back on track which led to Nick McLaughlin going nose first right into Ninh and sending McLaughlin into the wall. McLaughlin was somehow able to continue the race without more or less the front of his car but was multiple seconds off the pace. Pabellano, Davis, Slavonik p5, and McKenzie made it through gaining a position and quickly closing in on McLaughlin. Slavonik ended up losing it himself after passing Ninh on the Outer Loop which let McKenzie move into P5. Davis, Pabellano, and McKenzie were in prime positions to score points after a tough race at Bathurst.
#15 McKenzie makes it through the crash scene.
With Davis in 3rd place having passed Pabellano before the accident with Ninh, he was defending for his life on the front straight heading into the Bus Stop for the last 10 minutes of the race. Pabellano who was running more downforce than Davis would stick to his bumper in the corner after the Bus Stop but did not have the top end speed to make a pass on the straight just enough to be a hindrance though. With under 2 minutes and 2 laps remaining in the race Davis and Pabellano once again were battling heading into the Bus Stop. Davis had a great entry that kept him in the lead but touch a tiny bit of grass on exit that unsettled his car and he lost control on exit heading straight for the wall. Pabellano made the pass clean through the accident as well as McKenzie to move up a position to p4. One of the most unfortunate things to happen to Davis as he ran one of his best races tonight to only be taken down but a couple blades of grass. He was able to continue and finished in p8 top still take home some points but not as many as he would have liked. McKenzie was just far enough out of draft range of Pabellano to not be able to make an attack for the last podium spot but settled for p4 after starting in 10th.
#72 Davis and #101 Pabellano side by side going into the Bus Stop.
McKenzie was able to take home 28 points from his 4th place finish his 3rd, 4th place of the season. This actually moved him into a two-way tie for 7th and 8th in the driver championship. Davis finishing in 8th was able to bring home 23 points and keep him in the 4th spot in the drivers’ championship. Not the result he wanted but a well recovered 23 points leaving him only 13 points away from Ninh for 3rd in the championship. LunatiK still remains in 4th place in the team championship 20 points down from 3rd position. All will be decided next week March 1st at 9:40pm EST as the drivers head to Europe to take on the Temple of Speed of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Both drivers look to close out the season on a strong note and make a last push in the standings.