DETROIT - Team Cadillac driver Johnny O'Connell finished a strong weekend by placing second June 2 in the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac V-Series Challenge GT race on Detroit's Belle Isle. Teammate Andy Pilgrim had a late race incident and was classified in eighth.
O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) was hoping to carry the momentum forward from yesterday when he won the first race of the weekend in his No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. In qualifying this morning, O'Connell ran a time of 1:33.368 to start third, with teammate Pilgrim starting alongside in fourth with a time of 1:33.989. At the start of the race, O'Connell was able to get the power of the 6.2-liter Cadillac engine to the ground and exit Turn Two in second place. Then, between turns two and three the caution lights came on inside the cars and the front runners slowed. One turn later the race went green again. This gave front-runner and eventual winner Randy Pobst's Volvo a gap to O'Connell in second and cost Pilgrim positions as well. The duo pressed forward. On lap nine the first of three caution flags flew with O'Connell in second and Pilgrim running in fourth. The race went green again on lap 14 and then immediately to yellow on the same lap. On lap 20 the race resumed. Pilgrim was able to get a run at the exit of Turn Two and had the Audi of James Sofronas lined up, for the second day in a row, to make the pass on the outside before Turn Three. Sofronas was not going to have the move repeated and took Pilgrim deep into the corner using the Cadillac to help stop the Audi. Andy turned in and was hit from behind parking his No. 8 Cadillac CTS-V in the middle of the corner. Before he could get going, he was hit once again rendering the car immobile. The race ended under caution.
"My game plan was to stay on Randy and get him to over drive his car and make my move," O'Connell said. "I was going to wait another ten minutes and see what I could get. Then we had all of those cautions. It was a shame. I didn't get the opportunity to put the Cadillac in the winner's circle again today. I think we had the stronger car. I was able to get a good start and motor up into second. It was a good day. We gained some manufacturer points on Audi. As we look forward we have to keep that big picture in mind. I am proud of everyone on the team."
O'Connell was confused by the yellow lights after Turn Two on the first lap.
"When I went through Turn Two the caution lights in our car came on. Randy slowed. I got on the brakes and so did Andy and James. Then we got through Turn Three and Randy started going. By then I had spotted him 100 yards, and I thought, I had better get going if he is taking off. None of the corner stations had their flags out. When I looked in my rear-view mirror, there was no Audi and no Andy."
Pilgrim was also baffled by the start. "The start was ridiculous," Pilgrim said. "We came out of Turn Two and everyone was in line and then the bright yellow lights in the car come on, which means a full-course caution. We slow down thinking it is going yellow. Then I kept getting passed by other cars, and I had to go."
Pilgrim was going to try a repeat pass from Saturday's race on the Audi.
"I tried the outside move again," he said. "I had a very good run on him out of Turn Two. I had the car under control and I was set up to make the turn. James couldn't get his Audi slowed down and he hit me. If I wasn't there he would've gone into the run off area."
The Pirelli World Challenge Series will take a month off and return to action at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut July 4-6. The Cadillac V-Series Challenge on Detroit's Belle Isle will be televised on NBC Sports, Sunday, June 16 at 5 p.m., EST