Radicals fight for glory at Sebring
The third round of the 2019 season was one full of firsts for the V8 SuperTrucks Championship.
Not only did the series visit Sebring International Raceway for the first time in its history, but its drivers also ran their first Sprint format race of 2019 on March 30.
A sprint race is a longer-length event where drivers had to consider their fuel stragety along with their tire management. Round 3’s race was an approximately 31 miles longer than a normal SuperSprint format, in addition a larger pit window is available to drivers for this event, spanning from Laps 6-20 of the 26-lap feature.
The three-point-seven-mile circuit, most known for hosting the 12 Hours of Sebring every March, features a mix of long straightaways and tight, hard-braking corners. Drivers throughout practice struggled to maintain grip and keep their trucks on the pavement on corner exits.
“This track requires patience and more control of yourself regarding where you can brake, how early you have to brake and how often you have to modulate control,” said Radicals Online’s Sven Cammaerts to RaceSpot TV after the race. “It’s truly a challenge. It’s something that helps your driving etiquette for other cars as well.”
For the first time this season, someone not named Dallas Pataska topped the qualifying charts. Cammaerts recorded a 2:03.791 to start from the pole for the first time in 2019. He outpaced his corporate teammates, Pataksa and Thomas O’Leary, by half a second and six-tenths respectively.
The three Radicals trucks would maintain that pace from the drop of the green flag. Cammaerts, Pataska, and O’Leary pulled away by over a second in the first lap of the race alone after quickly forming a single-file line around the course.
That was in part because of the side-by-side battling behind them. Allusion Motorsport’s Chris Purnell and LEMPELS Racing’s Erik Blixt traded spots for fourth and fifth place heading into the hairpin on the first lap of the event. Then two laps later, Blixt would get a strong exit out of Le Mans and down the Ullman Straight to get the position back. The two drivers would stay within a second of one another for a majority of the first fuel run of the race.
Other drivers though struggled for parts of the race. Swedish driver Danny Sollo was the first truck to pit for tires and fuel in the event while trying a two-stop strategy. The GOTeam Racing member said after the race he decided to change that decision in the middle of the race. Sollo ended up finishing in 12th.
Roger Gregory also had a very rough day on the track. After starting in 16th place and battling for spots inside the Top 15, Gregory fell off the pace. On Lap 11, the privateer’s day would end after hitting the inside curbs. His truck then shot hard to the right, slamming the concrete wall and destroying the front suspension. Gregory would later park in the garage area and finish 19th.
“(The race) was embarrassing for me to say the least. Hopefully, I wasn’t in anyone’s way out there,” Gregory said after the race on the SOR Discord Channel.
Up at the front though, the battle for the lead was becoming intense. After Cammaerts led the first 14 laps, Pataska and O’Leary decided to undercut their corporate teammate. While Pataska exited the pits in clean air, O’Leary had to deal with traffic, losing time and a chance to battle for the lead. About a lap later, Pataska would take the lead after Cammaerts pit for tires and fuel after setting his fastest lap time of the race.
“I knew it was going to be very tough to get out in front of him,” said Pataska. “The one advantage I had on him throughout the week was tire wear. I could get the tires through the stint longer with a little bit more life.”
That one-lap tire disadvantage for Pataska would become a factor though with two laps to go. After Pataska wheel-hopped on the entry of Sunset Bend, Cammaerts would dive underneath the rookie driver. He would get the stronger run on corner exit before taking the white flag. He would pull away by four-tenths of a second to win his second career V8 SuperTrucks Championship race.
It is the first time in 2019 that a driver not named Pataska has come away with a race victory.
O’Leary would finish third, about 12 seconds back. Blixt and Purnell rounded out the top five.
“It was a very challenging race,” said Cammaerts. “Sebring is definitely an easy track, but with the trucks, it’s something different. The competition was on me for the entire first stint. I’m definitely very happy with the win.”
Barber Motorsports Park is another track making it's V8 SuperTrucks World Championship debut this season. Be sure to tune into the action on the RaceSpot TV broadcast of Round 4 on April 13, 2019 starting at 20:00 UDT (4 p.m. EDT).