Canadian David Ostella started sixth in the No. 38 Dash Neighborhood/Phillips 66 Prototype Challenge (PC) car for today's round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International. He and teammate Mike Hedlund were confident they could chase down a podium finish in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.
Hedlund took the green flag first and focused on consistent laps in his first race in a PC car. He brought the car back on the lead lap for Ostella to take his shot at the field.
Like the 'mechanical bull' he's been called before, Ostella steadily marched his way from ninth to second during his nearly two-hour stint.
"The race started out great for us," Ostella said. "Mike (Hedlund) did a great job keeping the car out of trouble and getting himself comfortable with race pace. We knew we had a shot at the leaders, so I put my head down and focused on laying down perfect laps."
Teammate, Mike Hedlund faced less dramatic stints in the No. 38. Encountering difficulties in his first hour, the car was more to his liking for his second stint. Hedlund drove the car with grace as he maneuvered it to first place before handing off to Ostella for the final two hours. It was during his final pit stop that Hedlund, in a rush to hand over his hard earned position, received the pit speed violation.
"It was a lot of fun," Hedlund said. "The first stint was a little rough but the second time I was in the car, the car was great. We were going pretty fast there, fast enough. I made a mistake coming in the pits apparently and earned a pit speed violation, which was a bummer, but we fought through that. And then we had some bad luck with a mechanical, and that's racing."
Ostella took the reins for a late race charge, but not before obliging race officials for a violation Hedlund received during the stop.
"Unfortunate to have to do the drive through penalty," Ostella said. "It kind of stunk."
Ostella continued his diligent march, reaching as high as fourth before a power steering failure left him with the task of fighting against a system designed to assist.
"The power steering failure really made the car difficult to drive in the last hour," Ostella said. "Jonatan (Jorge) was giving me as much encouragement as possible to help me keep my head in the game and fight to hold position. We were up to third during the final caution, but had to settle with a solid fourth-place finish. I just can't thank the guys enough. The car was great the whole weekend. I am really looking forward to see what else we can do this year. I know we are capable of winning as a team."
Toronto-area native, Ostella fought to regain position. Coming around Turn 5 he placed the PC car behind a Daytona Prototype car, hoping he could follow what should be a faster car through the turn to gain back third place. Unfortunately the DP car merely became more traffic for Ostella. Finally passing the Prototype class car in Turn 6, Ostella was never able to catch his place on podium.
Team Principal Brent O'Neill, though perplexed by the loss of position during the pass-around, was energized with the fight his drivers showed. The fourth place finish is the team's highest finish since placing third at the 24 Hours At Daytona earlier this season.
"At the end of the weekend to walk away here with fourth was pretty good," O'Neill said. "With Mike (Hedlund) in the car, who did a great job, we had a challenge of bringing in a new guy. With an hour left we lost the power steering and David (Ostella) was hustling the car around without any power steering. We aren't sure what happened at the end there with the pass-around and a car passing us under caution. We'll see if race control does anything about it. Overall though, it was a good weekend."
The PC car will stretch its legs next at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. Qualifying begins at 4:45 p.m. (ET) Friday, July 24 with the Brickyard Grand Prix taking place at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, July 25.