PJ Groenke: Lime Rock Recap
P.J. Groenke Racing competed in the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, presented by Audi from May 19th to 22nd in front of hometown race fans and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food did not disappoint. Heading into our “home” race weekend, P.J. Groenke Racing and Tech Sport Racing definitely felt the pressure to deliver solid results and continue our momentum from the opening race weekend at COTA.
The Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food was supposed to take to the track for the first Promoter Test Day session, but we had a unique issue which we first experienced at COTA while on mock-grid, the steering wheel would not lock onto the quick release hub. Not wanting to take any un-necessary risks I opted to forgo the session and asked the team to dis-assemble the steering wheel hub assembly, clean and lubricate the locking mechanism, and make sure we did not have any further issues for the weekend. With the steering wheel firmly locked into place I headed onto pit lane and rolled out of pit exit for the second Promoter Test Day session and the Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic felt great. The PWC Official Practice Session took place later that day, but something had changed. The Chevy Sonic was suddenly very twitchy through the corners and I was only able to set the 6th fastest lap time of the session. Definitely not the lap time I expected to set, but I knew the team could get the set-up on the Chevy Sonic where I needed it to be in time for qualifying.
The PWC Qualifying Session took place on Friday, May 20th and we were back. At the end of the 12 minute session, which was cut in half due to a red flag, I secured the 4th fastest lap time and our best PWC qualifying result of the season. With speed left in hand I could not wait for the racing to begin.
Round 3 took place later that day. Settling into the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food on mock-grid with 5 minutes to go, seat belts secured, radio plugged in, steering wheel secured…no, not again…the steering wheel would not lock onto the hub! I could not believe it, and you could not imagine the words going through my head…As the PWC Touring Car grid rolled out Crew Chief Cody Gilbert and Team Manager Keith McDonnell struggled to get the steering wheel locked on. WD-40, motor oil, hammer, whatever we could use to get the steering wheel to lock into place, and nothing was working…My last hope was that we did not go a lap down. “YES!” steering wheel on and locked into place (never to be taken off again). Released from pit lane as the field rocketed past I was in 9th and last place. At the end of the 40 minute action packed race I managed to pass five PWC TCB competitors and bring home the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food to a 4th place, and best finish of the season to date. Wow that was fun, but definitely not the way I envisioned the race to unfold.
Round 4 took place on Saturday, May 21st with a standing start. Clutch out, gas pedal to the floor and the Verax.ca,
Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food rocketed off the line and up to 2nd place. Passed by two competitors and back to 4th place through Corner 2, full course yellow as the field entered Corner 3 and passed under yellow, passed up the “Mario Andretti Straightaway”, I was suddenly in 6th place from a 4th place starting position. Determined to turn this race around I battled for the remaining 30 minutes and crossed the finish line in 3rd place securing the first podium finish of the season for the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food. What a race weekend full of ups and downs, but even more so, what a feeling to be back on the Pirelli World Challenge podium!
Six days later and it was time for the Memorial Day weekend Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Lime Rock, presented by Bentley from May 27th to 28th. Competing at Lime Rock Park for the first time since 2013 and in back-to-back race weekends since that time as well, P.J. Groenke Racing looked forward to taking on the challenging 7 turn, 1.5 mile Lime Rock Park road course better known as the “Bullring”.
The PWC Official Practice Session took place on Friday, May 27th and P.J. Groenke Racing set the 2nd fastest lap time of the session. PWC Qualifying took place later that day and for some reason P.J. Groenke Racing and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food lost time setting the 4th fastest lap time.
Regrouped and ready for Round 5 the green flag flew for our rolling start. Charging into “Big Bend” I was pushed wide and back to 5th place. Quickly recovering I regained the position on “No Name Straight” and began my chase after the top three cars. Up to 3rd place through “Big Bend” on lap 4, up to 2nd place on lap 10, back to 3rd place two corners later, up to 2nd place on lap 14, back to 3rd place on lap 17, up to 2nd place on lap 19 and not a mark on the car, “This is how racing should be!” As the checkered flag flew P.J. Groenke Racing and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food crossed the finish line in 3rd place bringing home our first ever back-to-back podium finishes in PWC while setting the second fastest lap of the race!
Round 6 began with the traditional PWC standing start. P.J. Groenke Racing and the Chevy Sonic rocketed off the line and up to 1st place leading the race for the first 9 laps. Passed in “Big Bend” for the lead I stuck to the rear bumper of the leader until I was hit by a passing TC car while heading into the “Uphill” corner dropping me down to 3rd place, pushed wide while heading into “Big Bend” by a passing TC car and spun dropping me back to 4th place, there was no way I was going to let a podium finish slip through my fingers due to that. Three laps later while heading into “Big Bend” made the pass back for 3rd place to bring the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food across the start/finish line with the checkered flag flying to capture our 3rd straight PWC podium finish! “I cannot believe it, and I would not be here without the support of my amazing sponsors!”
Special thanks goes out to the Tech Sport Racing team and everyone involved. They have given me a great car every weekend and it’s an awesome feeling to know that I have the potential to run up front every time I’m on track. Next up is Road America and the second half of the PWC season, fingers crossed we can continue this amazing run!
P.J. Groenke Racing
About P.J. Groenke
P.J. Groenke has been racing professionally in Canada since 2001 and across North America since 2013. Highlights of Groenke’s racing career include winning the 52nd Annual Indian Summer Trophy, finishing as a semi-finalist on Discovery Channel Canada’s Star Racer in 2006, and sweeping the Canadian Touring Car Championship races at the Vortex Brake Pads 200 race weekend with back-to-back victories in 2011. Most recently, Groenke finished 6th in the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship with one top five finish,15 top ten finishes, and an Invisible Glass “Clean Pass” of the race award.
P.J. Groenke is sponsored by Verax.ca, Tundra Technical Solutions, Clorox Pool&Spa, Cabano’s Comfort Food, Clairhaven Ltd., Martinrea International Inc., Pelto Agri Investments, Ro-Ro Property Management Corp., and Warp Speed Computers Inc. Other sponsors include ARS Access Restoration Services, Affinity Luxury Car Rentals, Alpha Laboratories Inc., Amsterdam Brewery, Desson Manufacturing Ltd., Diplomat Trucking Ltd., Eventscape Inc., Payne Capital Corp. & Hawthorn Equity Partners, and Proprint Services Inc. For more information, please visit www.pjgroenkeracing.com.