WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.-Two top-ten finishes at Road America have given Freedom Autosport a boost in points and confidence as they head to round seven of the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Andrew Carbonell and guest driver Nelson Piquet, Jr. finished seventh during Friday's 2.5-hour race at Road America, driving the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. Derek Whitis and Tom Long finished eighth in the No. 25 Mazda MX-5.
Carbonell and Long each drove in the final half of the race, and in the closing laps they were nose-to-tail as they raced with the leading pack of Street Tuner cars. "This weekend was the best team performance of the season. These Freedom Autosport Mazda boys have really hit their stride," says Long. "Andrew and I crossed the finish line together, so it was a great way to end the race for Mazda and the entire team."
The race marked Piquet, Jr.'s GRAND-AM debut. It was also his first visit to Road America. Undaunted, the Brazilian driver went on to take the pole and the victory in Sunday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
"I can't thank Freedom Autosport enough for the opportunity they gave me at Road America," says Piquet. "There is a very talented group of guys behind that team, and I hope to watch them have great success. My pole and win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday afternoon at Road America was truly a dream come true, and I can't thank Freedom Autosport enough for giving me more experience on a track that I had never raced at before."
"I knew when I saw Nelson podium in F1 that he had the potential to be a GRAND-AM driver," team co-owner Whitis quipped after the race. Joking aside, Whitis is taking a serious approach to this weekend's race at Watkins Glen, where he and Long finished third last year. He says, "We had an amazing performance at Watkins Glen last year. Even though the elevations and long straights don't suit our cars, great strategy and pit stops put us on the podium."
Carbonell will once again be teamed up with his usual co-driver Rhett O'Doski in the No. 26 Freedom Autosport MX-5. The pair finished fourth at Watkins Glen last year.
The No. 8 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 will be driven by series veteran Robert Stout and Spec Miata stalwart Mike Collins. Collins is the owner of Meathead Racing, a predominant prep and trackside support organization in Mid-Atlantic Spec Miata racing. The No. 8 will be carrying sponsorship from Sheetz, and the popular convenience store will be doing promotions at Watkins Glen.