Overview of ROUSH in Grand-Am
As you may know, ROUSH Performance participates in Grand-Am's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series. That's quite a long name. So, let's just refer to it as the "CTSCC" or the "Continental Tire Series." The series is arguably the premier road racing series in the U.S. for production based vehicles. Many of the fans find the format particularly interesting because it truly pits manufacturer against manufacturer in cars that are extremely close to those that you can buy in the showroom. This is quite different than many other racing series that have purpose-built race cars with tube chassis (such as in the Rolex series, the Continental Series' sister series). The manufacturers participating in the series include Ford, BMW, Porsche, Aston Martin, Kia, General Motors, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Dodge, Volkswagen, and Honda.
The ROUSH Performance team runs Mustangs in the GS (Grand Sport) class of the Continental Tire Series. GS is in general made up of larger (and faster) sports cars, where the team's Mustangs run against Chevrolet Camaros, Porsche Carreras, and BMW M3s to name a few. The other class in the series is called "ST" (for Street Tuner). ST, on the other hand, is made up of compact vehicles that are somewhat slower than their GS cousins. Given that in most of the CTSCC races are run with both classes on track at the same time, it makes for some pretty exciting racing, especially when you consider the different speeds of the two classes; and the total field size can be very large, as we saw with the 69 cars on track at the 2013 season opener.
The ROUSH Performance team is fielding two full-time cars for the 2013 season: the No. 61 ROUSH Mustang driven by Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr., and the No. 51 ROUSH Mustang driven by Shelby Blackstock and Joey Atterbury. Also running with the team is the No. 49 Mustang, driven by Roly Falgueras and Brian Ortiz. Though the No. 49 ran with the team in Daytona, it has yet to be determined what other races the 49 will run in this year.
It's now been a few weeks since the first race of the season at Daytona International Raceway, and the next race is coming right up (Mar. 2nd at the Circuit of the Americas course in Austin, Texas). Our team's win in Daytona, with the No. 61 ROUSH Performance Mustang, gave that car a great start to the season. The victory made for two wins in a row for the No. 61.
"It really does feel great to start the season at the top of the points chart, and to have repeat wins at Daytona is real accomplishment for the team," says Jack Roush Jr., co-driver of the 61. "However, we have a long season ahead of us, and we will need to make all the right moves going forward to stay in contention for the championship."
The win at Daytona brings the total wins for the team to nine, a record that very few teams have in the series.
However, the victory was somewhat bitter sweet for the team. The No. 51 ROUSH Performance Mustang, driven by Shelby Blackstock and Joey Atterbury, ran fast all weekend. Joey ran third quickest in qualifying, but was forced to start from the rear of the field due to a technical infraction (an oversight that actually should've made the car slower rather than faster). During the course of the race, however, Joey made it all the way up to 4th. Shortly after this point, a part in the driveline failed, forcing him to pit for repairs.
"The race weekend for the No. 51 was a bit of a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs," says Joey Atterbury. "Shelby and I had proven how fast the car was in practice and qualifying. We knew we had a fast racecar, we proved that by going from dead last to 4th before a mechanical problem with the car forced us to pit for repairs."
The part failure didn't stop the 51. As soon as the team found and fixed the problem, Shelby Blackstock took the reins to finish out the race. Unfortunately, the repairs sent the No. 51 several laps down without an opportunity to significantly regain their position.
"We're looking for great things out of the No. 51 Mustang this year. The car and its drivers have both proven their speed. Now, it's up to us as a team to make sure that we prove it in the race results," says Brad Francis, team manager.
Circuit of the Americas Preview
A new track for the series this year will be the new US Formula 1 track in Austin, Texas, titled "Circuit of the Americas" (also known as "COTA"), where the Continental Tire Series will be racing on March 2nd. The track is truly unique for Grand-Am, with its 3.4 miles of road and 20 turns. Some of the unique features include in numerous sharp turns and high speed esses. In an attempt to prepare both drivers and cars, the ROUSH Performance team headed out for a practice session in Austin on February 4th and 5th.
"I really enjoyed running at the Circuit of the Americas. Not only is it fun to drive, but it's arguably the most technically difficult course that we run at," says Jack Roush Jr. "It'll be very interesting to see how things shake out in the race, but I think that there'll be a lot of good opportunities for car-to-car contact here. As always, some of the keys for us will be to stay out of trouble and stay at the front."
"My first visit to COTA was during the F1 weekend where Shelby, Billy and I attended the race," says Joey Atterbury. "The venue is amazing, the track and facilities are top notch, and with how close COTA is to downtown Austin it should draw a great crowd for the race. Driving on the circuit for the first time was an experience, it's a very physical and mentally challenging track that will truly show the speed of both the car and driver in the race. I'm confident that the Roush Mustangs will be up front and fighting for the win, just like last race at Daytona."
The No. 61 Mustang is sponsored by ROUSH Performance, Gary Yeomans Ford Lincoln, Kooks Custom Headers, PWR, BMRS, GoPro, USANA and Mechanix Wear. The No. 51 Mustang is sponsored by Starstruck. The No. 49 Mustang is sponsored by Micasa Ford.
SPEED TV Schedule
Circuit of The Americas - Continental Tire Challenge - Saturday, March 9th at 4p.m. Eastern Time