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Larry Ott: Paul Fix finds success at The Glen

Watkins Glen -- Paul Fix knew that his first year driving the Ave Motorsports Inc. Riley AR2 LMP3 sports car  would be a work in progress -- rain or shine. That progress continued over the last two days here with much work accomplished and some success found by the team during the annual Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen event.

The phrase rain or shine was very much a part of the equation here.

Fix, 52, of Williamsville and team owner Tony Ave left the world of Trans-Am Series competition behind following last season where the pair had gained much success over the last few seasons. They currently are in their first year of IMSA competition with their brand new Riley AR2.

In the pair of 45 minute IMSA Prototype Challenge races held here this weekend, Fix and his Ave team continued to move the project forward with some fine on-track progress that included both a first place run on Friday and second place in Saturday's contest, both results in the Masters Class of the Prototype Challenge. The Masters Class is reserved for drivers 45 years of age and older.

In Saturday morning's race, when it rained, it poured -- literally. Fix and his fellow competitors had to contend with trying to race on rain tires in a driving rain storm that saw the race run entirely under yellow except for three laps. Fix could only hold on to the wheel while trying to peek through his fogged windshield.

During the near race-long caution period with the race clock running, television captured images of Fix using a rag to attempt to wipe away the moisture and condensation on the inside of his windshield. The race finally went green with just ten minutes remaining in the 45 minute joust but went quickly back to yellow for the reminder of the race. Fix persevered to finished 16th overall and second in the Masters Class.

"You know, I have thousands and thousands of laps here and if I could have seen out of the car I think we would have had a really good race," Fix said. "The car was great when I wanted it to be and when I could see but the fog on the windshield was the limiting factor today. I have to put that rag on a long stick so I can wipe more of the windshield next time this happens."

Friday's race was a much truer gauge of the Ave team's progress because the race was run on a dry track. Fix finished 13th overall  but placed first in the Masters Class.

Fix began his event with two practice sessions Thursday. The first practice Thursday morning produced a best lap of 1 minute, 55.240 seconds. Fix shaved that down to 1:49.350 later in the day. In Friday's race, Fix ran his fastest lap of that 45 minute contest, 1:49.999 on the final circuit of the race.

"We posted our fastest lap on the last lap of the Friday race so that was really great," Fix said. "The car came into it's own. It felt really racy. I won my class so I'm very ecstatic.

"We've done a lot of set-up work and had some challenges at this event. Traffic plays a part to because of the smaller class cars. They have a different top speed. So it makes things a little difficult but we had a great couple of practices all the way up to yesterday's race."

There are certain aspects of The Glen's 3.45 mile long course that suited Fix's car well.

"My car loves the high speed," Fix said. "This car is so aero efficient being a Prototype. It loves from Turn One all the way to the bus stop and even to Turn Six. It just eats that up. It likes the long sweepers -- the high speed. It's made for this type of track."

Fix also enjoyed the fact that The Glen is his home track.

"It's been great here," Fix said. "All of our friends from way back have come by to say hi and wish us congratulations and good luck for the whole weekend.

DERANI TO START ON POLE FOR SIX-HOURS

In Saturday's WeatherTech Sportscar Championship class qualifying for Sunday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, Pipo Derani  claimed both the Prototype and overall pole for Sunday's race with a time of 1:34.405. Derani will co-drive the Tequila Patron ESM No. 2 Nissan DPi with Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel in the six hour weekend headliner.

Derani is replacing Ed Brown in the car this weekend after Brown had to vacate the seat earlier this week due to minor back surgery.

"It's special to give Ed and the whole team pole position," Derani said. "It motivates everyone including us drivers, the mechanics not only here at the track but also back home. It's very special."

Joey Hand was the quickest qualifier in the GTLM class driving his No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT that he will co-pilot with Dirk Mueller. Hand's time was 1:42.507. Andy Lally was best in GTD recording a lap of 1:46.051 in the #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3. Katherine Legge will join Lally in the race.  James French took the PC class at 1:40.049 in the No. 38 ORECA FLM09 car he will share with Pato O'Ward and Kyle Masson.

The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen goes green Sunday at 10:10 a.m.

CONTINENTAL 120 AT GLEN

Dean Martin and Jack Roush Jr., driving the #59 Ford Mustang, emerged victorious Saturday in the Grand Sport class of Continental SportsCar Challenge, Continental 120 at The Glen. Winning the Street Tuner class was the tandem of Mat Pombo and Derek Jones in the No.73 Mini JCW.

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Hamburg native and Watkins Glen president Michael Printup was all smiles this weekend after he and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the new entitlement sponsor for next month's NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race here will be the I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen.

"We've been working on this for eight months," Printup said. " A lot of people know that symbol and know that brand and we're real proud that the Governor and his team stepped up and really helped us out. We've been working on this since we first got together last November."

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