Sometimes it takes a new track like the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to get back on track.Entering the GRAND-AM 200, Bryan Sellers hoped to use the debut of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) at the Austin, Texas-area track to restart his 2013 season. The Braselton, Ga.-resident was able to accomplish his mission by finishing sixth in the No. 46 Trim-Tex Drywall Products/Fall-Line BMW M3 he shares with Mark Boden (Winnetka, Ill.). However, it would take every bit of the momentum they had gained to carry the Team Falken Tire works driver across the finish line when a daring pit strategy call came just a few ounces of fuel too short.
"We needed to leave this event with points, and we wanted to leave with a strong finish. As a team we are better than what we presented in Daytona and we needed a strong run to show everyone that again," stated Sellers. "The sixth-place was also very important to get us back into the championship chase. Although we are still way out of the hunt at the moment, we are at least back in it and giving ourselves an opportunity to compete for the championship."
The former open-wheel racing champion and the Chicago-area-based race team traveled to Austin with expectations of continuing the positive momentum they have shown since late last season. Despite a disappointing finish at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway in January, the Trim-Tex/Fall-Line team knew they had the right combination. The second-year pairing reached that goal with a spirited performance both on-track and in pit lane at the state-of-the-art facility.
"I was slightly worried headed into the race that the racing would be very poor and difficult," Sellers continued. "However, I was thankfully very wrong. The racing was fantastic! The track generated very close and great racing. There were many close calls through the race and it was very exciting. You had to constantly watch your mirrors behind as well as plan what to do going forward. That is one of the things that makes this sport so great to watch and the track really delivered!"
Sellers took-over the No. 46 from Boden just past the 30-minute mark of the two-hour, 30-minute race. With two hours of racing before him, the Ohio-native was eager to join the heated battles brewing on the track. As one-hour ticked past, Sellers had worked the white, red and blue entry to second-place. His final pit stop at one-hour, 20-minutes would drop him back to 16th but the strategy would keep the car out of pit lane after that. The margin was thin but the percentage big enough to roll the dice. With 60-cars across the GS and ST classes, battles raged all around the 3.4-mile, 20-turn facility. Sellers, in the GS class for higher-performance, road-based machines, often found himself embroiled in position battles with other GS cars while fighting through a gaggle of the slower ST entries. It made for great viewing but breath-holding anticipation for how it would all settle in the end.
With 55-minutes until the race finished, the three-time American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race-winner had fought back into the top-10. Three minutes later he had passed three more cars and four minutes after that, he was sixth. A caution flag delayed his progress until the green fell with 30-minutes to go. He took fifth-place within 15 minutes and became entrenched in a nose-to-tail fight for positions third through sixth with 10 minutes left before the finish. Despite being sandwiched between someone's mistake in front of him and someone's over-aggressive move behind, Sellers held his position and kept out of other's trouble. He passed for fourth-place with three-minutes to go.
Sellers entered the last lap fighting for third-place while attempting to keep his pursuers behind. He held fourth entering the final turn but felt the BMW's V8 engine cough, then stumble. As he charged up the hill towards the checkered flag he was passed twice as the engine attempted to run on the remaining fumes of Sunoco race fuel. While disappointing to lose those two positions, it was still a hard-fought battle for the team eager to put its true potential back on display.
Sellers and Fall-Line will travel next to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL. for round three of the CTSCC season. The race is scheduled for Saturday, Apr. 6.
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