PJ Groenke: Mazda Raceway
P.J. Groenke Racing completed the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season from October 7th to 9th as part of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Grand Prix Presented by Nissan and it was a battle to the finish. P.J. Groenke Racing entered the final race weekend of the year leading the 2016 PWC Touring Car B (TCB) Championship standings with the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food holding a 13 point lead over the 2nd place TCB Championship competitor, and the 3rd and 4th place TCB Championship competitors racing for double points. 11 turns, 2.238 miles, the one and only “Corkscrew”, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (MRLS) could not have been a better setting for the conclusion of our chase for the championship!
The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Grand Prix Presented by Nissan race weekend began with the PWC Official Practice Session. At the end of the 30 minute session, which involved braking issues due to scrubbed tires and cold track temperatures leading to a trip through the gravel trap in the “Corkscrew” ending in a light brush with the inside concrete wall, P.J. Groenke Racing set the 6th fastest lap time. The PWC Qualifying Session took place later that day and armed with a new set of Pirelli P Zero slicks P.J. Groenke Racing set the 5th fastest lap time, just 1.642 seconds away from Pole Position and ready to continue our charge to the front of the field.
Round 11 of the 2016 PWC season took place on Saturday, October 8th with a rolling start and P.J. Groenke Racing was as ready as ever. The very instant the green flag moved my right foot was to the floor getting an amazing jump on the field and as we entered the “Andretti Hairpin” P.J. Groenke Racing and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food had moved from 5th to 1st place! Corner by corner I worked the traffic of passing PWC Touring Cars (TC) and Touring Car A (TCA) cars building a three second lead on my PWC TCB competitors. Full course yellow just under 9 minutes into the race, no problem as I had two PWC TC cars in-between me and the 2nd place TCB competitor. Green flag just under 7 minutes later and time to work on building my lead back up. Passed/dive bombed by a slower PWC TCA car heading into Turn 6 un-sighting me at the apex and hammering the red curb on the inside of the rumble strip damaging the left front suspension causing the steering wheel to be severely off-centre to the right. No problem as I had built up almost a two second lead. Another full course yellow with 17:55 remaining in the race and the entire PWC TB field was right behind me. Green flag with 7:34 remaining and I fought as hard as I could to keep the lead, but it was a losing battle with the damaged left front suspension greeting the checkered flag in 5th place…After leading the race for over 32 minutes it all fell apart…
Great news greeted P.J. Groenke Racing later that evening as the “Final” race results from Round 11 were posted to the PWC website and I was elated to discover that the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food captured our 6th podium finish of the 2016 PWC season finishing in 3rd place due to a post-race technical disqualification and penalty to the race winner and 4th place competitor. Definitely not the way that I want to finish on the podium, but amazing news all the same!
Ready to do everything possible to get to the front of the field from our 8th place starting position in Round 12, I rolled the #25 Chevy Sonic into my starting position for the classic PWC standing start. PWC red starting lights out and we were off. Up to 4th place by the “Andretti Hairpin”, up to 2nd place on the Rahal straight, time to go for the lead! Slowed by a passing TCA competitor into Turn 6 (the very same TCA competitor that messed me up in Round 11…) allowing the leader to pull away and the 3rd and 4th place TCB competitors to catch up. Side by side through the “Andretti Hairpin”, side by side through Corner 3 and contact as I held my position on the inside of the corner exit. I instantly knew that the 3rd place TCB Competitor had hit me in such a manner that he cut down my left rear tire and radioed into Crew Chief Cody Gilbert to get a replacement ready. Agonizingly I made my way to pit lane as fast as possible and was back out without losing a lap thanks to the amazing work of the Tech Sport Racing team. As the checkered flag flew for the final time in the 2016 PWC season P.J. Groenke Racing crossed the start finish line with the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food in 8th place setting the 3rd fastest lap of the race.
Check out the Replay XD footage highlights of Round 11 from the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food:
6 podium finishes, 10 top five finishes, P.J. Groenke Racing and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Clorox Pool&Spa Chevy Sonic presented by Cabano’s Comfort Food finished 2nd in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B Championship standings!
P.J. Groenke Racing has found our home with Tech Sport Racing and I cannot wait for the 2017 PWC season to begin at Virginia International Raceway in April next year. We will enter the race season more prepared than ever and ready to capture our very first Championship!
P.J. Groenke Racing