Sheehan has mixed emotions at Thunderhill
Gary Sheehan and the #31 GoGoGear Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8L arrived at Thunderhill Raceway for the final two races of the 2022 USTCC season. Codriver Reza Arsham would miss the weekend due to illness, which put Sheehan on double-duty for the double-header. Arsham/Sheehan came into the weekend just 15 points between the championship leading duo of Gary Trudeau/Dave Brown driving the Red Panther Racing Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8L. The pressure was on as two race wins was the likely scenario for Arsham/Sheehan to finish ahead in the points championship.
Race 1 on Saturday was the first time Sheehan and Brown would race head-to-head in all their combined years racing in Northern California. The two drivers held nine USTCC championships between them through the history of the series. The race was expected to be a good one, and it started out that way.
Sheehan qualified comfortably on the pole by 0.8s, but that advantage disappeared in the race. Brown’s pace was much quicker during the race, and he was able to pressure Sheehan and keep him on defense in the opening laps of the race. On lap three Brown made his move into turn 10. Sheehan left room, but not enough, and the cars made contact. Sheehan continued as Brown recovered from a brief spin. Brown then proceeded to put in some impressively fast lap times and close the gap to Sheehan, but two laps from the end of the race ran out of fuel, bringing the battle to a premature end, and seeing Sheehan cross the finish line in 1st.
Sheehan was given a two position post-race penalty for failing to leave racing room and causing a collision. The final results saw the race win go to teammate Ali Arsham in the sister GoGoGear.com Hyundai Genesis 3.8L, Marion Engelke in 2nd in her Red Panther Mitsubishi Evo, Sheehan in 3rd, Seong Kim in the GoGoGear.com BMW M3 in 4th, and Brown in 5th. This left Trudeau/Brown still in the lead of the Touring Car Championship by 5 points.
After the race, Sheehan was disappointed with his involvement in the collision. “I saw him coming.” Sheehan said. “It was a great late move, and we were too deep for me to defend. I thought I gave him just barely enough room on the inside, but Dave’s video clearly shows that I didn’t. It’s gutting when you realize that you made a mistake out there and effected another driver. I have the utmost respect for Dave and apologized to him when the ruling came down. That’s not the way I race, and I feel terrible about it. My mistake prematurely ended a battle we had both been looking forward to for quite some time.”
Ironically, the contact ended up being beneficial to the Red Panther Hyundai Genesis, as had the pass been clean and Brown gone on to lead, his fuel situation would have still ended his race early, with Sheehan more than likely inheriting the win and leading the championship going into the final race.
For Race 2, Sheehan had once again qualified on pole, with teammate Ali Arsham in P2, and Dave Brown in P3. Everyone was expecting another chance at a tight battle between the color-contrasting Hyundai Genesis 3.8L Coupes. And they got it, just not in the way that was expected. At the drop of the green Sheehan led into turn 1, closely followed by Arsham and Brown. Over the first lap Sheehan slowly opened up a gap, while Brown got past Arsham in turn 3. The race quickly developed into a race-long battle between Brown and Arsham for 2nd as Sheehan continued to open the gap back to the duo. The results were Sheehan with the win, Brown ultimately taking 2nd and Arsham in a very close 3rd after the pair put on what was probably the best Touring Car battle of the 2022 season. The final season points in Touring Car were R.Arsham/G.Sheehan with 800 points, G.Trudeau/D.Brown with 795 points, and A.Arsham/F.Snow with 640 points.
Sheehan was thrilled with his fifth consecutive Touring Car Championship in USTCC. “This is such an awesome result for us this year! This was Reza’s first season in the Touring Car class and what a way to finish! This season has certainly had its challenges, but Reza is fast behind the wheel, is developing and maturing as a driver even faster, and was a great co-driver this year. We worked together well and worked hard to make this happen. Team GoGoGear.com overcame some significant issues with the car this year, both on track and off, and everyone on the team kept their heads in the game. This is the best reward for all the effort this team puts in to keep our cars on the track and performing at their best!”