SEBRING, Fla. - Alex Job Racing driver Mitch Pagerey rebounded from a rocky start in Round One of the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama series season by finishing second in Round Two at Sebring International Raceway, as part of the 57th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring event weekend.
Pagerey's weekend started off well. He qualified third for the season opener. Unfortunately, his excitement was short-lived because following post-qualifying technical inspection he learned that his No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 Cup would be moved to the rear of the field due to a technical infraction. Subsequently, he started 20th on the Platinum Cup grid and 32nd overall.
"I was disappointed about the disqualification on one hand, but was excited to start from the back too," Pagerey said. "I enjoy passing and working through traffic. It was time to have fun. Another good thing was that it gave me an opportunity to observe my competition and get good reads on them. This will help at the other venues. Our strategy was to push ultra hard to make up as many positions as possible then hope for a yellow.
So, undaunted by his starting position, Pagerey put on an impressive driving display and moved his way through the field up to sixth. At this point, he had the fourth and fifth place drivers just in front of him when he spun in Turn 17. By the time Pagerey recovered from the spin, he had dropped one spot to seventh, which is where he finished. In addition to earning his first Patrón GT3 Challenge top-10 finish, he also turned the fourth quickest race lap with a 2:12.631 (100.429 mph). This lap time qualified him to start fourth in the Round Two race.
To start Round Two, Pagerey knew he had a quick car. In fact, the Patrón GT3 Challenge rookie knew if he started near the front, he would have a shot to win. But first, he needed to get by veteran racers Martin Snow, Russell Smith and defending series champion Bob Faieta, respectively.
Early on, Pagerey battled Snow and Smith for position, while the pole winner Faieta drove away. Once Pagerey finally got by Snow and Smith, he set his sights on Faieta. Pagerey was determined to catch Faieta and turned the fastest race lap with a 2:11.628 (101.194 mph) en route to chasing him down. Pagerey narrowly missed beating Faieta at the stripe and finished second by only 0.385-second.
"Both Smith and Snow are very quick," Pagerey said. "My problem was that I had never raced with them, so I needed to be cautious. After a couple of laps behind them, I was able to get an idea of how to get around them. We all use the same Yokahama tires and Porsche cars, this creates extremely close racing so it is almost impossible to pass. It is typically the mistake that creates the opportunity to pass.
"The Patron GT3 Challenge is awesome! It was thrilling to be in the winner's circle at IMSA. They really know how to bring the best of everything to racing. All the race fans really make the difference. When I see the people cheering during the race it really pumps me up. I hear them yelling. It is a blast making passes in front of them."
"Mitch did really well," Team Owner Alex Job said. "He really was the star of the show this weekend. First, he put together a very impressive drive from the back of the field to finish seventh in Round One. And then, he followed it up with a solid second place finish in Round Two, almost beating the defending series champion in just his second-ever Patrón GT3 Challenge race.
"Mitch has only been racing for a couple of years. But, I think he adapted very well to the things that happened to him this weekend. I want to apologize to him for the technical infraction that sent him to the back. I was very impressed with how he handled the situation. I know that it had to be tough for him after qualifying so well. Who knows where he would have finished had he started third in the first race. The way he handled that adversity is the way true professional racers handle things like that - you put your head down, drive as hard as you can and get everything you can out of the car. After what I saw this weekend, I think Mitch has the talent to contend for the championship. I know that my engineer Phil Pierce and my entire crew will give Mitch the car he needs to realize that dream."
The Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama series now heads west to Utah and Miller Motorsports Park for Rounds Three and Four May 16-17.
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