Gaples, Blackdog Back on GT America Podium at VIR
Hard-fought, third-place finish for No. 5 Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro
ALTON, Va. (June 18, 2023) – Tony Gaples and Blackdog Speed Shop climbed back on the podium in GT America Powered by AWS on Sunday in the championship’s GT4 category at Virginia International Raceway.
Gaples piloted the No. 5 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R to third in the second of two 40-minute races at VIR. It is the first podium for the Blackdog squad since the season-opening weekend at St. Petersburg (Florida) in February.
It helped offset a seventh-place run in Saturday’s opening round where Gaples was solidly in the top-five but was hit by another GT4 competitor and knocked off-track in the late going. The Camaro began sixth in that round and advanced to fifth at the start. Three full-course cautions in the opening laps prevented the race from getting into a rhythm and Gaples from moving farther up the field before being shoved off the circuit at the halfway point.
Despite that, Gaples set a laptime that was good enough to start fourth in Sunday’s race. He moved up to third at the start and was part of a race-long battle for the lead. The only interruption was for the race’s lone safety car period just prior to halfway, which brought the entire GT4 field back together and erased a nearly eight-second advantage for Gaples over fourth place.
Gaples and the Camaro hung tough under pressure shortly after the restart, absorbing contact at VIR’s second corner but continuing on unabated. The on-going work to get a grip on the Camaro’s Pirelli tires continued to show with Gaples setting times late in the race that were on-par with the two lead cars. He was quicker over the last two laps to finish a second from the lead and end a satisfying weekend.
Gaples, Blackdog Speed Shop and the No. 5 Camaro GT4.R get a break from racing with the schedule resuming at the Nashville street circuit and the Nashville Grand Prix in early August.
TONY GAPLES, NO. 5 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP CHEVROLET CAMARO GT4.R: “It always feels good to make the podium in these races. It’s really tough and competitive this year in GT4. It was extra special today with all the hours of work that the team at Blackdog Speed Shop has put in to get us in the position of contending for podiums and also race wins. The crew, the engineering and all the support means a lot. As a driver, it makes you want to race harder and have days like this where you can reward those guys for the effort they put in. My hat is off to all of them, and this podium is theirs!”
RAY SORENSON, TEAM MANAGER, BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP: “This is a great way to go into a little bit of break in the season. I feel like we finally have this Camaro in a good spot where we’re about as close as we can get to the newer, faster cars in this class. Does that mean we stop here? Not at all. Results like today’s and seeing the progress we’ve made on the car is going to make us push that much more to see where we can find those little gains that can mean bigger things at Nashville, Road America and the rest of the season. But for now, we can go home happy.”