WATKINS GLEN- Stephen Simpson executed a dramatic jaw-dropping three-abreast daring pass on the backstretch Sunday following a late race restart to rocket from third place all the way to the top spot in a matter of seconds and then soar on to take the checkered flag in the Prototype class of the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International.
The annual IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance event was run on an extremely hot day in the Finger Lakes region. In addition to the Prototype class, the Sahlen's six-hour race Sunday also featured the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM and GTD classes.
Simpson co-drove the winning No. 99 Gainsco JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LMP2 entry to victory Sunday with Chris Miller and Misha Golkhberg. Also victorious Sunday in GTLM were Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT co-drivers Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand as well as the GTD trio of Turner Motorsports BMW co-drivers Markus Palttala, Dillon Machavern and Don Yount.
For Simpson and these same teammates, Sunday's result was major redemption and a reversal of fortune after Simpson was passed for the Prototype win late in the Sahlen's race a year ago by No. 5 Mustang Sampling driver Joao Barbosa with mere minutes remaining. Simpson and his group were left to settle for a very disappointing and bitter second place result.
Simpson was not about to let cruel fate intervene again.
"I wasn't going to let that happen again," Simpson said. "I'm proud of my winning move today."
The late race drama ensued Sunday with about 35 minutes remaining in the Sahlen's contest when Simpson lined-up third for a restart following pitstops behind the leading No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi driven by Jordan Taylor and the No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi wheeled by Juan Pablo Montoya.
As if shot out of a cannon, Simpson went to work quickly, pulling up on the leading pair and by the time the trio reached the backstretch Simpson charged to the lead, one he would not relinquish over the remaining distance.
"Honestly, I think credit goes to the crew," Simpson said. "We had a great pitstop. We decided to not change tires on that pit stop. We thought we could get a good stint and a half out of the same tires. We had a quicker stop. On the restart I think I had a little bit better run. I saw the leading cars going at it and I think they slowed each other down just enough that I got a good run.
"Twelve months ago we were not sitting in Victory Lane and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about those last couple of laps last year almost on a weekly basis and what I could have done different. To pull this off for our guys today is great."
When Sunday dawned, Colin Braun was scheduled to start the No. 54 CORE Autosport ORECA LMP2 entry on the pole in the top ranked Prototype class in the six hour race but when his team made the late decision to start co-driver Jon Bennett instead, by rule, the car had to start at the rear of the 16 car Prototype field. The No.32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2, driven by Paul Di Resta, inherited the top starting spot for the start of the Sahlen's race.
A wild incident occurred on the first lap when the Prototypes of Tristan Vautier, driving the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi and the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi driven by Scott Sharp were involved in a collision at the top of the Esses that also saw Sharp's teammate Pipo Derani receive some damage to his No. 22 machine.
Dane Cameron, co-driving the No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi with Montoya, led the early laps in the Prototype class. Other early race class pacesetters were GTM class leader Richard Westbrook in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing No. 67 Ford GT and Jack Hawksworth wheeling the No. 15, 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 in GTD.
At the three hour halfway mark, following pit stop rotations and driver changes, the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier was leading the Prototype class with Bruno Senna now behind the wheel. Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche RSR in GTLM and Luca Stolz is the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports entry in GTD also found themselves at the head of their respective classes.
In the last half of the race, more pit stops and driver changes took place and when the yellow waved in the final hour, the scene was set for Simpson's dramatic conclusion.