An early afternoon thunderstorm doused VIRginia International Raceway and the large throng of fans that attended Saturday's Oak Tree Grand Prix, but it didn't dampen Daniel Burkett and Marc Miller's parade.

Miller, taking the wheel after the race had been stopped for 52 minutes due to torrential rain, stormed to the front after a pit stop for rain tires and drove the C.J. Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT 4 owned by Major League Baseball player C.J. Wilson to a 4.509-second win over Ford Shelby Mustang driver Billy Johnson.

The victory was the first win for C.J. Wilson Racing in the Grand Sport class of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the first win for Miller since he won in the ST class at Watkins Glen in 2015.

"It's like winning the championship," remarked Burkett, who drove the opening stint.

"We've had some trouble along the way, and that's just having a new car and the issues that come with that. It just hadn't been our day, but today at VIR, it was our day."

The rain proved difficult for drivers to handle. Burkett called it unnerving.

"When you're a racecar driver, and rain starts beating down on your windshield, it's extremely unnerving," Burkett pointed out.

"You never know if the next corner you go into is the one where it rained the most and you're going to slide off of the track and that's your race. Being the starting driver, it's important that I give the car to Marc with a shot to win."

The early stages of the race was a battle between Johnson's teammate, Scott Maxwell, Burkett, Steve Landy in an Aston Martin, Rob Ecklin in an Aston Martin and Paul Holton in a Ford Shelby Mustang.

With storm clouds approaching and the first raindrops falling, Burkett was the first driver to pit to take on rain tires. Shortly afterward, the skies opened up.

With the rain coming down, Maxwell spun in the Oak Tree Turn and Landy went off of the track in turn four. Maxwell recovered with no damage and after the restart following the thunderstorm, teammate Billy Johnson kept up the battle for the lead.

Miller got a good restart after the red flag for the thunderstorm and quickly drove past Johnson for the lead.

"On the restart, I went into the braking zone," Miller explained.

"It's not that I tried to out-deep him at all. I just used less brake pressure. I made just enough room to get on the inside."

As the track dried, Miller said his car found good forward grip in the corners, allowing him to open up a lead on Johnson.

"I got my breathing room on the straightaways," Miller said, "which is a great thing considering that is where they (Maxwell and Johnson) are usually so strong. Coming off of the tight corners we were so good that it would give us enough breathing room to be able to pad that gap."

With 13 minutes to go in the race, Miller was just over five seconds in front of Johnson, with Trent Hindman in another Porsche Cayman GT 4 in third place. Hindman and Johnson got into a battle for the runner-up spot in the closing laps, opening the door for Miller to increase his lead and roll to the win.

Saturday's win by Burkett and Miller allowed them to cut the gap between them and GS class point leaders Maxwell and Johnson to 20 points.

Gilsinger, Eversley take ST class win

Honda Of America Racing Team co-drivers Chad Gilsinger and Ryan Eversley won the Street Tuner (ST) class in Saturday's Oak Tree Grand Prix.

Gilsinger drove the team's Honda Civic Si into the class lead early in the race and led most of his stint behind the wheel. Eversley sped to the front of the pack after the restart following the rain delay and ran away to a 10.417-second victory over Greg Liefooghe, who teamed with Ari Balogh in the Next Level European Porsche. Eric Foss finished third in a Porsche he started with teammate Jeff Mosing.

Class points leaders Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante continue to hold the top spot, but saw theI lead cut to seven points after a 14th-place finish.

Michimi wins Lamborghini Super Trofeo opener

Shinya Michimi won Saturday's 50-minute Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo race driving a Lamborghini Huracan LP620-2.

The second race of the weekend Lamborghini twinbill was held Sunday morning.

Lazard wins Porsche GT3 Cup opener

Jesse Lazarre won Saturday's Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA race, the first of two races for the series during the weekend.

Lazarre's Kelly-Moss teammate Bill Peluchiwski, was involved in a hard crash at the end of the front straightaway on the third lap of the race and was transported to an area hospital for evaluation.

 

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com