Frontstretch Article: Trent Hindman, Shelby Blackstock Win GT World Challenge America Opener
For the first GT World Challenge America race of 2020 at Circuit of the Americas Saturday (March 7), there was only one car entered in the Silver class. That car, the No. 93 Acura driven by Trent Hindman (pictured above) and Shelby Blackstock, took the overall lead early and drove away from the field to win.
“Big hats off to Shelby here. His first GT3 race and he’s taking home a win. I don’t think most people can say that, so he did a heckuva job,” Hindman said after the race. “We’re really blessed [and] honored to be here.”
“Right at the green flag, we knew we had a good car,” Blackstock said. “We continued to make tweaks after qualifying. Once the green came out, it was definitely the best car I’ve ever driven. We let it do it’s thing.”
In wet conditions earlier in the day, GMG Racing’s James Sofronas claimed the pole in his Porsche. Blackstock qualified alongside. When the green came out, it took less than half a lap for Sofronas and Blackstock to run away from the pack.
Blackstock ran Sofronas hard, attempting to get past. Sofronas had to violate the track limits in the Esses to stay ahead on the second lap. However, Blackstock was able to make the pass stick entering Turn 1 on the fourth lap. Blackstock, whose experience in recent years has been in Indy Lights and what is now the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge’s Grand Sport class, had never driven a GT3 car prior to this weekend. It didn’t show as Blackstock slowly but surely pulled away.
By the time Blackstock pulled in for the mandatory pit stop, he had a 10-second lead on the field. Hindman only continued to expand the advantage. With 20 minutes remaining, the new second Racers Edge Motorsports Acura in a league of it’s own. No one could prevent the silver team from taking victory.
The margin of victory was 21.590 seconds over Sofronas and Jeroen Bleekemolen. The No. 14 Porsche led the Pro-Am class flag-to-flag to take the win there. Third was the Mercedes of DXDT Racing’s Colin Braun and George Kurtz. Squadra Corse’s Rodrigo Baptista and Martin Fuentes finished fourth in their Ferrari, while Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli were fifth in the second Racers Edge Motorsports Acura.
The story of the Am class was Wright Motorsports. In the slightly wet opening qualifying session Saturday morning, Fred Poordad spun exiting Turn 20 coming to take the green on his first timed lap and nosed his Porsche into the wall. The team had to spend the time between then and the race repairing the car. They were forced to start at the rear in this race and will start in the rear of Sunday’s race because they failed to make it out for the second qualifying session.
With only two other contenders in the Am class, it did not take Poordad long to get past them. Only a couple of laps into the race, he was leading. Vital Speed’s Mark Issa was able to back past shortly afterwards and pulled out a four-second lead. Poordad ran Issa back down and passed him for the Am lead right before the pit window open.
Once IMSA Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup graduate Maxwell Root was in the car, it was no longer a contest. Root ran away with the Am class and began battling with the Pro-Am teams in front of him. This is quite the impressive feat for a driver with one career race in a GT3 car (last year’s IMSA Michelin Encore at Sebring). That, combined with Vital Sport’s No. 6 Ferrari dropping off once Rich Baek got in the car, allowed Wright Motorsports to take an easy victory.
Root and Poordad ended up finishing seventh overall after spending the first half of the race outside of the top 10. The margin of victory was a lap over the previous-generation Porsche of Park Place Motorsports’ David Ducote and Alan Metni.
GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Race No. 2 is scheduled to go green at 2:15 p.m. ET. It will be streamed live at gt-world-challenge-america.com. Tape delayed coverage of the race will air Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.