Marcelli, Stacy Drive Home Tense Victory in Thrilling Return to Mid-Ohio

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By: Christian Ryan

 LEXINGTON, OHIO - Sports car racing is back in Mid-Ohio, and that is a very, very good thing.

The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge welcomed the discipline back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a late-race battle for the ages as the KohR Motorsports duo of Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy scored a tense win at the iconic circuit on Saturday afternoon.

Their win didn’t come easy, as the No. 60 Ford Mustang had to hunt down and overtake the Mustang of hometown hero and race dominator Patrick Gallagher and teammate Chad McCumbee. Lap by lap, Marcelli picked away at Gallagher’s strong lead, using slow traffic to his advantage. Having already utilized pit strategy to allow themselves the opportunity to be in contention at the end, Marcelli knew that he had to go for it late.

“It was just one of those ‘never give up’ races,” Marcelli said, post-race. “I kept telling myself ‘keep pushing, keep pushing, anything can happen’. ”

Pushing up to a side-by-side battle with Gallagher for the lead, Marcelli wasn’t able to rest on just holding on to the lead with defensive strategy. Instead, the Canadian had to deal with a possible mechanical failure.

“We had a bit of a scare on the last lap,” Marcela recounts. “As I hit the brakes for Turn 1 we had something fail in the front left. I was able to limp it and still cross the line and take the win, but it was certainly a scary moment.”

Watching from pit lane, teammate Nate Stacy felt the surreal anxiety that is watching your car fight for the win without being at the wheel.

“It’s definitely a weird feeling,” Stacy admits. “You don’t have any control over it, but I have complete faith in my teammate… I wasn’t too worried about it, but it definitely was a stressful moment.”

Slowing late, Ohio native Gallagher was unable to fully commit to reclaiming the lead on the last lap as he was facing a mechanical issue of his own.

“I was driving along the outside of him, and was just going from third to fourth just thinking ‘please God, just go to fourth gear’, and I got a false neutral,” Gallagher said, detailing his late-race gearbox failure. “I’m pleased with it, just a little disappointed because it was so close to being something better than what it was.”

Even without the victory, Gallagher was able to stand on the podium before the roar of his hometown fans - his first podium in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Acting as a driving instructor at the Mid-Ohio School, Gallagher is completely ingrained in the DNA of the course and everyone associated with it, and the reaction showed.

“From the guys who work the front gate, to the corner workers, to my family that come out, my friends that come,” he recounted.

Despite regular interaction with the course in a series relatively unfamiliar to the course, Gallagher downplays the notion that his role at the course gave him any advantage over the field.

“These guys are world class, man,” he says of his competition. “You look at the names in this field, there is no home court advantage. They’ve all been here, and it’s only going to take them 10 laps to figure it out anyway.”

Celebrations won’t last long for Marcelli, as the race winner now turns his attention to Sunday’s IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship event. He will enter the Acura SportsCar Challenge at Mid-Ohio with 3GT Racing, hoping to translate the lessons learned in today’s win to tomorrow’s headliner.

“Obviously, tomorrow’s race is a bit earlier,” Marcelli says, acknowledging the changes a difference in track temperature will bring. “In a nutshell, what I learned today was how the tire responds over the course of one hour of green flag racing.”

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