Nasr qualified the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R. seventh on the DPi grid. Unfortunately, he recorded a faster qualifying time. But, that time was disallowed after he got stuck in the Turn 3 gravel, which brought out a red flag during the 15-minute qualifying session. Nevertheless, Nasr did not waste time putting the No. 31 Cadillac in the top five and he remained in the top five throughout his double stint. On lap 35, Nasr brought the No. 31 machine to pit lane for his second pit stop. That is when Derani got in.
“We had a great opening lap,” Nasr said. “I was able to get past the No. 5 car early in the race and started to chase the 10 car. The pace was good. The No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R handled pretty well. I was able to close the gap and chase down the No. 10 car. I was a little unlucky with traffic. I couldn’t really create an opportunity to overtake the 10. I had two good stints. I could feel that there was a lot pace in the car, but not enough to chase the leaders at that point. So, we kept tracking fourth place.”
Derani’s first stint had him in fifth and locked in a constant battle with the No. 10 Cadillac for fourth position. But, just as Derani came to pit lane for his second pit stop, the skies opened up, heavy rain and light hail began to fall on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn track. Following the stop, Derani returned to the track with four new tires, fuel and set to do battle for the final hour of the race. Unfortunately, under wet conditions, Derani lost braking and his Cadillac slid nose first into the Turn 3 tire wall. The car sustained some front nose damage and it fell from fifth to sixth position.
With about 53 minutes remaining, IMSA race control threw the race’s first full course caution as several cars sustained spins and damage as a result of the torrential rains. IMSA then displayed the red flag halting the race with 42 minutes left. The IMSA race director then decided to halt the race clock at 30 minutes left, allowing the weather to clear. Under yellow, cars returned to the track behind the safety car with 30 minutes remaining. Teams were then allowed to pit and make necessary changes to their cars.
The race went green with a little more than seven minutes to go and Derani had a terrific restart. He quickly moved from sixth to third on the first green flag lap. In fact, he had a real shot at another win as the No. 7 Acura, No. 10 Cadillac, and No. 31 Cadillac ran close through several corners before the downpour started again. On the final lap, the race’s third full course caution flag came out and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express finished third, which is remarkable considering less than an hour before the finish Derani was parked in the Turn 3 tires.
“It was a tough weekend for us,” Derani said. “We started from the back. Felipe had a small mistake in qualifying. We had a tough day and the rain did not make our lives easier. Unfortunately for me, when I got in the car, I was really close to car 10. We were trying to undercut them in the pit. So, I pitted one lap before him. I was really pushing a lot. At that point, the rain came, and I lost my braking and hit the wall. Of course, that changed the whole situation.
“But having said that, with the red flag, we had the chance to put a new nose on the car and be back in the game – even if we lost a few positions. We were able to restart the race with a new nose and try [to win] from there. At that point, my mindset was to try to get the best possible result for the team. I have to say I’m really glad we managed to be on the podium. I wish we could have finished a little further ahead. Sometimes you’ve got to take a good result like this considering how tough the weekend was for us and move on. We scored some good points for the championship. The team did a fantastic job, especially for putting us back in contention on the last restart. Like I said, in my mind, it was about trying to get the best possible result for us. At that time [the restart], the crash was already deleted from my mind and I was thinking about a new restart. I’m glad it all came out well. The Whelen Engineering/Action Express Cadillac car was good today. I want to say thank you to all of my sponsors Whelen, Cadillac, Lucas Oil, and the Action Express team.”
“We made a great pit stops,” Nasr said. “We had a good driver change. Pipo jumped in the car and that’s when things started getting crazy. He was right on the tail of the 10 car most of the time. We had good calls from the team. It all came down to those last 50 minutes of the race. Pipo was able to recover from going off track. The team did an incredible job to put the car together and not lose a lap. And, off he [Derani] went to pick up a podium – finishing third.
“I think it’s great for the championship. Back-to-back podiums shows consistency from our No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. I want to take this moment to credit all of our sponsors, Lucas Oil, and the whole Action Express Racing Crew. It started out as a tough weekend, but we made a pretty nice recovery. I want to thank Pipo for putting his head down and taking the car to third. I think everybody did a great job. It’s time to start thinking about the next one at Road Atlanta.”
With today’s result, Whelen Engineering/Action Express has back-to-back podium finishes and three straight top five finishes through four rounds. Next up, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship travels to Braselton, Georgia and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for a six-hour race Sept. 4 – 6. In 2019, the team won Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta with Derani, Nasr and Eric Curran. The team looks to replicate that effort in September.
Source. Whelen Engineering