Eric Curran, Boris Said, and the Whelen Motorsports team arrived at Watkins Glen for the second time this season with the #31 Whelen Corvette for the Continental Tire 200; the tenth round in the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. This time though they would be racing on the Cup circuit, eliminating the Boot section of the track.
If there are any track and car combinations that work better than the rest, the Corvette on the fast sweeping banks of the Cup circuit at Watkins Glen International would rank high on that list.
Damp conditions in morning practice on Friday left teams scratching their heads on suspension setup. The Whelen Corvette did not actually turn a fast lap until qualifying, due to the conditions in practice. The track dried out for qualifying and Boris quickly put the #31 on the pole.
The wet morning practice session was exchanged for setup changes and preparation in the paddock to get the Corvette ready for qualifying. To follow up the pole position in qualifying, Curran ran the last practice Friday evening and ended up P1 in that session as well. Eric commented on the situation, "Our Team Fox / Whelen Corvette is always good at Watkins and the Marsh Racing boys worked hard to make sure we kept it at the front."
Race day came and Boris took advantage of the open track in front of him behind the wheel of the Whelen Corvette. Just twenty-five minutes into the race, he had a comfortable buffer of 4.5 seconds between him and the Horton Autosport Porsche that was running P2.
Some short cautions, a driver change, and an hour of track time later, the Corvette and Curran would find themselves in P2 behind the #94 BMW slowly closing the gap of an almost eight second lead.
A late race caution regrouped the field and allowed the #31 to sit behind the BMW, but the #70 Mazda that was a lap down separated the two. The green flag was shown for the final time with minutes remaining in the race, but a no-passing rule allowed the #94 to literally walk away with the win.
"The last yellow flag looked like it would help us get on the bumper of the BMW with a few laps to go but it actually hurt us in the end. The #70 Mazda was a lap down and between Auberlen and I on the restart. By GRAND-AM rules I had to wait until the start / finish line to pass the Mazda. By the time I got around the #70, the #94 BMW was at least ten car lengths out. I chased him down, but we just ran out of time."
"Our #31 Team Fox / Whelen Corvette was great all weekend. We showed how strong our team is, especially after a rough season so far. I am proud of the Marsh Racing guys and all the hard work they have put into this program. A second place podium finish at Watkins is definitely something that will keep us working hard for the rest of this season."
Eric also talked about his endeavors in the stock car side of the weekend, "The Nationwide race in the #53 Team Fox Dodge did not go nearly as well as the Rolex race. The only practice on Friday afternoon was run on a wet track. I was was 3rd quick before the track started to dry, but as soon as we bolted the slicks to the car, NASCAR ended the session early. My first dry laps were in qualifying only three of them. To top off those issues, the engine had a little misfire and the brake pedal was getting soft throughout the day."
Eric did still qualify for the race in 34th. He quickly moved up a number of spots before a car slid off the track in front of him and threw grass into the grille causing Eric to have to pit to avoid overheating. Eighteen laps into the race the engine skip was still there along with the brake issue that was only getting worse. The team decided to end the race early and correct the issues to prepare for Montreal this weekend.
Watch Eric in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series Team Fox #53 Dodge Charger and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series #31 Team Fox / Whelen Corvette this weekend in Montreal.
Follow the Whelen Motorsports team on to the Montreal 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on August 18th for the next round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. The race will be televised on SPEED on 8/18 at 7:00 PM ET.
Be sure to check out the entire photo gallery and the video above from the Continental Tire 200 at Watkins Glen International on the Eric Curran Facebook page.