Gurney Holds Off Valiante at VIR
Alex Gurney took the lead on a four-wide pass on Lap 65 of 81 laps in the two-hour, 45-minute Bosch Engineering 250, and then held off Michael Valiante in a sprint to the finish to capture the race at Virginia International Raceway, Round 2 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
The GT race also came down to the wire, with Robin Liddell holding off Paul Edwards by .107 seconds to give the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R started by Andrew Davis its second straight VIR victory. Edwards shared the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R with defending GT co-champion Kelly Collins.
It was the ninth victory for Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, in their 40th start driving together dating back to 2006 at VIR.
Gurney led the final 17 circuits, winning by .705 seconds over Valiante, who was co-driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley started by John Pew. Darren Law and David Donohue, winners of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, finished third in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley.
Valiante and Scott Pruett - in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley -- pressured Gurney throughout the closing laps, although all three cars were unsure of having enough fuel to compete the two hour, 45 minute distance on the challenging 3.27-mile circuit. With 12 minutes remaining, Andy Wallace went off course in the No. 2 Gentleman Jack's Childress-Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford to bring out the fourth caution of the event.
That resulted in a three-lap sprint to the finish, with Gurney trying to hold off Valiante, Pruett, Donohue and Max Angelelli, who was driving the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara. Donohue, Pruett and Angelelli made contact, with Angelelli going off course. Gurney then held off Valiante over the final two laps to take the victory.
"It was a great day," said Gurney, who shared the 2007 Daytona Prototype championship with Fogarty. "This is where we always aim to be. Our guys did some great work over the off season, and did a lot of work after Daytona. We really made some big improvements. It was a typical Grand-Am race - really tough - and I was happy to be up there and winning. It was a great race for Michael Valiante. It was just an unlucky deal for him - I've been sitting in that position before."
Pruett was driving in relief of pole-winner Memo Rojas, who led a race-high 27 circuits before handing over to Pruett.
Valiante led 15 circuits in his second race for Michael Shank Racing.
"I was trying to save fuel, but not enough to affect the outcome of the race," Valiante said. "When the yellow flag came out, we were able to run hard to the end. But Alex had just a little bit more than me, and that made it difficult for me to get by. We had the car to beat for sure, but we came up on lapped traffic that allowed Alex to pull out and take the lead."
Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker took fourth in the Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley, followed by Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger in the No. 77 Doran Racing McDonalds Ford Dallara.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ozz Negri and Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhardt in the No. 12 Penske Racing Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley; Joao Barbosa and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley; Darren Manning and Bill Lester in the No. 45 Orbit Racing BMW Riley; and Guy Cosmo and Scott Russell in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote.
The race was slowed four times for 17 laps. The top eight finishers completed 81 laps, averaging 96.074 mph.
Donohue and Law hold a one-point lead over Gurney and Fogarty, 60-59, heading into the next event, the May 3 Verizon Wireless 250 presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Pontiacs Finish 1-2 in Close GT Battle
Liddell held off Edwards by .107 seconds to capture GT honors, giving the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports/Bryan Mark Pontiac GXP.R its second consecutive victory at Virginia International Raceway.
Edwards and co-driver Collins led a race-high 35 laps in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, but Liddell got by with 12 laps remaining and prevailed in a sprint to the finish.
"To be honest, we didn't have the pace to stay with the Mazda, but we knew the Pontiacs would be strong over the race distance," Liddell said. "We knew Paul would be strong. We knew if we could be consistent and keep the car underneath us we could take charge at the end."
After Liddell made his pass for the lead, Edwards attempted to regain the point. The two cars bumped, Edwards went off course briefly, and Liddell led the remainder of the race.
"Our AC turned into a 200-degree heater," Edwards said. "Robin Liddell was pushing hard, I made a mistake and he took advantage of it. He got by, and I had nothing for him after that."
Liddell was also bothered by the heat, with the duct pushing cool air to his helmet falling off.
"You don't realize how important the driver aids are until you have problems," Liddell said. "It was very hot, and the pace was incredible. We just kept our heads down and kept going."
Nick Ham won the pole in the No. 70 SpeedSource Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 and led twice for 22 laps in the early going. Sylvain Tremblay took over and finished third, .204 seconds behind the class winner.
Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3s took the next two positions, with Dirk Werner and Leh Keen placing fourth in the No. 87, followed by Eric Lux and Wolf Henzler in the No. 86.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ted Ballou and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3; Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub in the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8; Bryce Miller and Dane Cameron in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8; Craig Stanton and John Potter in the No. 65 TRG Porsche GT3; and Mike Forest and Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 32 PR1 Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R.
Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Justin Marks and Andy Lally were involved in a lap eight incident, and came back to finish 15th in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3. The No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 of Emil Assentato was eliminated in that incident.
The top two Pontiac teams now share the GT points lead, with Liddell, Davis, Collins and Edwards all with 60 points each - followed by Ballou and Pumpelly with 57.
NEWS & NOTES
- The green flag flies on Lap 79, with No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley driver Alex Gurney leading No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley driver Michael Valiante. No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley driver Scott Pruett got bumped by No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley driver David Donohue in Turn 1 as the two battled for third. As they tried to both gain control, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara driver Max Angelelli tried to move from fifth to third. Angelelli ran into Pruett, and both drivers spun off the track. Eventually, both drivers made it back to racing under their own power. Pruett fell to 10th, while Angelelli dropped to 11th.
- The white flag flies on Lap 81. No. 55 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley driver Christophe Bouchut tried to take third from No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley driver David Donohue.
- No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty win the race ahead of No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley drivers Michael Valiante and John Pew.
- The victory was the ninth-ever Daytona Prototype victory for Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who were driving their 40th career series race together. The win was also the ninth for the No. 99 team, and eighth track on the Daytona Prototype circuit at which the team won.
- Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was the last track at which the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team had earned a victory, which came June 19, 2008.
- The victory was the first for a Pontiac engine in Daytona Prototype competition since Aug. 24, 2008 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Pontiac now owns a best of 38 overall Rolex Series victories. A Pontiac and Porsche have both won Daytona Prototype races in 2009. In fact, both manufacturers have swept Daytona Prototype and GT victories in the first two Rolex Series races this season.
- Finishing second were No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley drivers Michael Valiante and John Pew. Both drivers won races in 2008 during the final quarter of the season. Valiante was the polesitter at VIR in 2008.
- Third were No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley drivers David Donohue and Darren Law. The pair also finished third in the 2007 Bosch Engineering 250.
- Earning their best career Rolex Series Daytona Prototype finishes were fourth-place finishers Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut in the No. 55 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley.
- Riley Chassis earned the top four positions in Daytona Prototype competition and eight of the top 10. Riley has won all but two Daytona Prototype races since the beginning of the 2007 season.
- Four different engine manufacturers were represented in the top four. The only Lexus-powered car finished 12th with 2008 race winners Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley.
- Eight of the 16 Daytona Prototypes finished all 81 laps of the race.
- Nine drivers in seven Daytona Prototypes led laps in the race: Memo Rojas (27), Alex Gurney (17), Michael Valiante (15), Timo Bernhard (9), Jon Fogarty (4), Darren Manning (3), Andy Wallace (3), Brian Frisselle (2), Max Angelelli (1).
- The GT victory by No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis was the duo's second straight Rolex Series victory at Virginia International Raceway and the duo's fourth victory together. The victory also moved Liddell into a five-way tie for 10th in GT victories with nine and into a six-way tie for 15th in Rolex Series class victories with nine.
- Davis and Liddell's victory was the duo's 10th podium finish dating back to last year's Mexico City 250 victory at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
- Stevenson Motorsports is now the second GT team to win twice at Virginia International Raceway, and Liddell and Davis are the second and third drivers with multiple GT wins at VIR.
- A Pontiac and Porsche now each own one victory in the first two GT races.
- Last year's Rolex Series GT co-champions Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished second in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, as the two combined to lead 35 laps, including Edwards' race-high 28. The two earned fourth in last season's Bosch Engineering 250.
- Third were Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Ham led 22 laps.
- Six different teams have finished on the podium in the first two races.
- Six drivers in five GT cars led laps in the race: Paul Edwards (28), Nick Ham (22), Robin Liddell (14), Kelly Collins (7), Dane Cameron (4), Wolf Henzler (3).
ADDITIONAL PODIUM AND SELECT POST-RACE QUOTES
Alex Gurney (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley; co-winner, Daytona Prototypes): "It was a great day and this is where we always want to be. Our guys did some really neat things over the off season and after Daytona. We have a new car and a lot of nice detail changes so we have really made some big improvements. The race to me just seemed to be a typical Grand-Am race. Just really intense, so many fast guys and good teams and it is just tough to be up there and get the breaks in traffic and not make mistakes.
Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley; co-winner, Daytona Prototypes): "It was a good stint, I was happy with the car and I kept it clean. I knew that we had something to race with for sure when Alex got in. It was definitely a positive day for the GAINSCO team and we are liking the points situation after this and we are hoping to capitalize on it in the next round nest week at New Jersey."
Michael Valiante (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; second, Daytona Prototypes): "I had a good in-lap and then the crew did a phenomenal job to get me out so quickly, and then I was able to keep the 99 car behind me on my out lap. But we had contact with a lapped car and that damaged the front of our car a little bit so when we caught that traffic, there was nothing I could do to keep Alex from getting the lead. We had a lot of ground to make up after John got knocked off track. We were fast enough to run up front, but just didn't have the speed to get back in front of him. It's tough to be that close and not get the win, but it's still great to get up here on the podium with John, and we'll look to do it again next weekend in New Jersey."
John Pew (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; second, Daytona Prototypes): "What a great comeback! We had an awful start, getting knocked off track twice in just a few laps. That wasn't any fun at all, but the team called a great strategy, we got a little luck with that yellow, and then Michael just drove an incredible race today. Finishing the season with a win last year at Miller was fantastic, but Daytona was a huge disappointment to start this season, so this is much more like it to get back up on the podium today. Thanks to the Mike Shank guys, they never gave up."
Darren Law (No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley; third, Daytona Prototypes): "I'm very, very happy with the outcome of this race. The win at Daytona and the podium here puts us in the points lead, which is what we're aiming to do for the season. It was rough out there; it was very hot and there was a lot of traffic. But I think we were competitive with everybody except maybe 01. The pit stops were correct and the car was quick enough I felt like I could run with anybody. I brought it in in second place, the team did a great job and David fought his way to the front."
David Donohue (No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley; third, Daytona Prototypes): "Pruett just slowed more than I did. I just got into the back of him, pretty hard I guess. I don't know if I locked up (the brakes), but I couldn't go sideways to avoid him because Max (Angelelli) was there. Then they tangled right in front of me and I avoided Pruett when he spun, and Max went off to the left. I don't know why they are upset."
Scott Pruett (No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley; 12th, Daytona Prototypes): "We overcome a tough break on the tire early and Memo ran a great race and the team did a great job in getting us back up front. We were conserving fuel for most of that last stint. We were in a good position in third, I don't really know if I had something for the leaders, but I would have liked to find out. Then we just got blatantly punted going into one on that re-start. I expected more out of (David) Donohue."
Andrew Davis (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R; co-winner, GT): "I tried to stay with the lead pack at the first. We were really happy with the handling of the car. It was a great victory. We were really happy with that.
Robin Liddell (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R; co-winner, GT): "We knew Paul (Edwards) would be strong. We didn't have the strength at the beginning of the stint to stay with the Mazda but we felt if we could be consistent and try to keep the car underneath us we could take charge at the end.
Kelly Collins (No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R; second, GT): "We stayed on the lead lap until halfway. It was really exciting battling out there with Sylvain. He came back real strong. It was good, clean racing. Paul drove a long stint and he did a fantastic job. All told, it was a good day for Pontiac.
Nick Ham (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8; third, GT): "The car was just great. We'd get a lead and we'd get a yellow and then we'd get a lead and a yellow but the main thing was when I got out of the car I was ahead of Kelly Collins. That's really all that matters to me. It was a great race for my team. We needed a good result here and the car is in great shape to go on to New Jersey.
Sylvain Tremblay (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8; third, GT): "I got to see (myself near) a whole bunch of Pontiac rear bumper covers. I got close to them but that was about it. Part of our strategy was it starts here and ends in New Jersey. We left here with a good, strong car and we'll be more competitive there. We worked real hard on speed but we didn't have enough today."
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