No. 12 AVS Vasser Sullivan Lexus slips and slides to GTD win at Road America

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You know it’s a strange day when the winning car in a race limps home with damage sustained after the checkered flag.

That’s the kind of race it was for the GT Daytona class (GTD) in the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America on Sunday. Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell delivered AIM Vasser Sullivan its third win in as many IMSA  SportsCar Championship races, coming after teammates Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth captured the previous two events.

Telitz started on the GTD pole in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3, with Montecalvo alongside in the No. 12 Lexus. Bell was able to overtake Hawksworth following the first round of pit stops and the No. 12 remained out front until the skies opened up with less than an hour remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race on the popular 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Heavy rain, hail and lightning forced a 21-minute red flag. When green-flag racing resumed with the rain still coming down, Bell and Hawksworth were still running 1-2. That’s when the real fun began.

Mario Farnbacher made his way from fifth to second on the final restart in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. A lap later, Farnbacher completed a brilliant outside pass on Bell in Turn 12 to take the lead. It was short-lived, however, with the No. 86 going off track on the white-flag lap, opening the path for Bell to retake the lead and hold on for the win.

It was the fourth IMSA win for Bell and maiden victory for Montecalvo. Farnbacher and Matt McMurry finished second in the No. 86, with Telitz and Hawksworth rounding out the podium in the No. 14.

“Farnbacher, he was going big around the outside and got by us kind of easily,” Bell said of the penultimate lap. “We kind of hung in there and I was coming out of the Carousel looking up the road (on the last lap), and there he was sliding out in the grass near the wall. I hit that standing water and thought I was going to lose it.

“I just put my foot down and just started grabbing gears. The Lexus just barely hooked up and I got by him. That’s all it took and then the yellow came out.”

Farnbacher said he battled brake issues in the No. 86 Acura, which didn’t help his effort in the wet.

“I just tried to survive,” he said. “We came in early for rain tires and I think that was the key point, so thanks to Mike (Shank, team co-owner and strategist) and the guys for putting me into the right strategy. That was the reason we finished on the podium. We should have won it, but that’s racing sometimes.”

Bell’s excitement wasn’t complete once the checkered flag waved. As he nursed around the circuit on the cooldown lap, the No. 12 skittered off track and bounced off a concrete barrier.

“If that had happened a lap earlier, we would have lost the race under caution at 20 mph,” Bell said. “That’s how bad the conditions were. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m not sure I could do much else. I was just driving in a straight line as slow as I could go, and it just floated off the track.”

Montecalvo didn’t care how the car looked after the race. He was just happy to get his first win.

“Thanks to Townsend and the crew today to get this win for the 12 car,” he said. “We feel great for the guys. So, for everything to work out for us this race, it feels amazing. Everyone made a phenomenal call in the pits, throwing on the wets at the perfect time, it really worked out for us. It was a great race for us.”

GTD races again on Saturday, August 22 in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.