The 6 Hours Of Mid-Ohio
Andrew S. Hartwell

I spent the past weekend at the beautiful Mid-Ohio racecourse. I was there to catch the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand Am Cup races.  Both series ran 3-hour endurance events on the undulating, curvaceous and technical track.  The GA cup cars went at it early in the morning on Sunday, while the Rolex cars took over in the afternoon.

But one team got little rest as they ran one of three team cars in the "6-Hours of Mid-Ohio".

Phoenix American Motorsports, out of Pennsylvania, filled their transporter with 4 racecars and made the trip across state lines to run in both events.  Let me clarify that a bit.  The team qualified their #32 Corvette to start in the Rolex and in the Cup race.  They also ran both the #35 Corvette, and the #37 Firebird in the Cup event.  That makes 1 car in the first race and 3 cars in the second race.

And the #32 Corvette finished third in the first race and 24th overall, 12th in class in the second race.  The #35 car finished 5th in the Cup race.  And they qualified the #39 car but had no one to drive it in the race so they left it in the paddock. 

And the #37 car?  Well, they almost lost that one to a fire!

With me so far?

Let's review. 

First, the Grand Am Cup race:  The Phoenix American Corvette #32 finished in 3rd place overall.  In that same race, its sister car, the #35 Corvette, finished 5th overall, but not before having lead the race for awhile, and after jockeying back and forth with another car for second place several times throughout the race.  A remarkable showing to have two team cars finish in the top five positions.  Even more remarkable when you consider there were 62 cars in the race!

In that same race, the #37 Firebird was not quite so lucky.  That is, not so lucky on the track, but very lucky in the paddock.  Because of mechanical woes, it was driven into the paddock after 58 laps of the 104-lap event.  While the car was parked in the paddock, and as the driver was getting out of his suit, the team truck driver, Bob Gorman, noticed flames under the rear end of the car.  He quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and, two more extinguishers later, put out the fire and saved the car.  His quick reactions meant the car could race again another day.

But it was still the same day, and soon it was time for the podium-placed #32 Corvette to go back out on the racetrack.  The start of the Rolex 3-hour endurance race was on.   The crew had changed from the Hoosier spec tires used in the Cup races, to Goodyear rubber for the Rolex Series race.  They were going from the SGS class in the Cup, to the GT class in the Rolex.

John Heinricy started the second race (he also ran in the Cup race) and went 39 laps before coming in to hand over the car to Tony Bartone.  Bartone put in 17 solid laps and then gave the car back to Heinricy to finish up.

During Heinricy's first stint, debris on the track had been collecting everywhere when suddenly; another car spit out a chunk of something that smashed a hole in the still-strong Corvette. Heinricy said he saw bits of glass falling from the windshield onto the floor of the car for some time afterwards.

In the end, the Heinricy / Bartone car, which had started at the back of the grid and worked it's way up steadily through the field, crossed the line in 24th place overall, 12th in GT and 15th overall in the combined GTS/AGT/GT standings.

When it was time to pack up for the drive home, this team could look back on an eventful weekend.
·One car hardly got a chance to breath and went home the same way it arrived, sitting quietly in the transporter with nary a scratch on it.
·One car ran a good competitive race, even running in the lead for a time, and picked up a 5th place finish in a field of 62 cars. 
·One car tried to commit suicide by self-immolation only to have a Good Samaritan save it from meeting the big racer in the sky.
·And one car worked its tail off to finish two 3-hour races run back-to-back.  For its trouble it was rewarded with a trophy and a hole in the windshield.

Hats off to Phoenix American Motorsports for bringing so much color and excitement to bear in just one weekend.

This car-racing thing sure is an odd game, eh?  But these guys made the numbers add up.  And they were the only ones to run the full"6 Hours Of Mid-Ohio". 

I guess that means they were 1st overall in that event then, doesn't it?

Through The Esses - Phoenix Motorsports
Updated: January 16, 2006