In a single moment Shea Holbrook's entire life was altered forever. She went from being on a post race high, to being overcome with the ultimate sense of euphoria with these words, "Shea, you won the Grand Prix of Long Beach - not many people can say that."
Before the race Shea Holbrook was happy to just be at the Long Beach race, and to help host a fantastic Pirelli World Challenge event, and to perhaps attract new motorsports enthusiast to the series.
It was clearly Shea Holbrook's time to shine at the Grand Prix of Long Beach and it was a jubilant moment her entire team shared with her.
"It was an odd feeling because I experienced it differently," Holbrook said. "At first I literally thought, okay… but when the official looked me in the eye and said those words, everything changed. I was living the dream I had dreamt about over the past five years."
The Grand Prix of Long Beach is the largest, most prestigious street race in the United States, and by winning her class, Shea Holbrook became just the second female winner in World Challenge history. Shea Holbrook won in the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car division with an estimated 120,000 spectators watching. She also earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award and the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for improving 14 positions from her 33rd overall spot on the combined class grid.
Shea Holbrook and her team went into the weekend with a healthy dose of awe for simply being in the race at Long Beach. Their goals were uncomplicated - to help host a fantastic Pirelli World Challenge event, attract new motorsports enthusiast to the series, and in particular the touring car division - and to finish in the top-five.
For years Shea Holbrook says she dreamt of winning the race, and the Hard Charger Award, and the Best Standing Start Award - she can cross that off her to-do list now.
"Once again, we had to learn yet another racecar," remarked Holbrook. (In her last race, at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, resourceful thinking and incredible fan loyalty were indispensable in getting her a last minute ride after she crashed her own car in the first race)
Not only did Shea Holbrook become the second woman to ever to win a World Challenge event, she did it in a rented car.
"The practice and qualifying sessions did not showcase our talent. I also knew though, that when it comes to race day, I could pull it together to perform and put the car where it should be. On grid something got into me, it must have been the ocean air. I had an awesome launch off the start and was able to gain a few positions due to passes and an accident. A third of the way through the race I almost lost the car, getting it up on two wheels in the fountain, and as I was in the air I saw camera crews duck. But I completed the pass on Devin Cates in T1 for second place."
"We finished strong and I was able to race in clean air, which allowed me to work on my line, and let off the brakes earlier and roll through the corners. I wasn't sure who was ahead, but I knew I was top-four."
Shea Holbrook's team owner and dad, Jeff, came over the radio and said, "Shea this has been a very good weekend for everyone, you ran constant times with a fast lap of 1.38.93, you had a clean race, and you just finished second place!"
"The cool down lap was the hardest lap of the race because I was screaming, fighting back tears of excitement, and all I could think about was what this means to the team and my family," continued Holbrook.
"I saw so many people running down pit lane as I was getting out of the car. It was absolutely the best moment of my career so far. This experience has been unreal. I accomplished all the goals I wanted to accomplish this year, a top-five finish, the Sunoco Hard Charger Award, and the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award."
It was shortly after that triumphed moment when she was informed by the race official that the race leader, Rafael Navarro IV, in the Volkswagen GTI was disqualified after technical inspection.
"To be told that I was the first female winner since 1996, and that I'd be rightfully claiming the title as the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Grand Prix of Long Beach Winner... I couldn't help but let my emotions out."
With the win, Shea Holbrook becomes the first female World Challenge winner since Melanie Snow captured the S1 class win at Sears Point in 1996.
We asked Shea Holbrook if all the distractions leading up to the race, and the team's reduced expectations, actually allowed her to race and do her thing more clearly.
"Oh most definitely. I knew I had it in me to win the Grand Prix, I just didn't think it would happen this year. I don't want to degrade my ability to be a winner. I've been running with some of my fellow seasoned competitors for a few years now, and I know that my driving ability is up to prime. It was just incredible that we were able to do it in a rented car."
"I saw Lyn St. James before the race, and she reminded me what it takes to be successful in the industry, something I've been working at very hard. It also reminded me how badly I want to make my own footprint in the industry as a female. To be in the category of female winners at Long Beach is breathtaking and extremely humbling."
Shea Holbrook and her team understand that doors have been opened for her with this monumental victory and she says she hopes the opportunities are endless. She adds, "Because I'm now sitting third in the points standing and I want to continue with a full season in Touring Car. I hope to make connections with teams, and potential partners, with my success at Long Beach."
"It was my time to shine! I've had dreams about these achievements. I listen to a certain song, and envision myself actually winning both the Sunoco Hard Charger Award and Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award. It's amazing to say that the whole team accomplished all of this within one weekend, and it couldn't have been done without the support from Honda, Lucas Oil, K&N Filters, and MyPluggz.com."
"This race win means so much, to so many people that are a part of Shea Racing, but this first race win is especially dedicated to my cousin Matthew who passed in 2008 from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Being an advocate for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy has become a huge and life changing part of my life."
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