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USCC Point Standings
2014 After Road America
Prototype Drivers
Pos Drivers Total
1 Joao Barbosa 285
1 Christian Fittipaldi 285
2 Jordan Taylor 269
2 Ricky Taylor 269
3 Michael Valiante 267
3 Richard Westbrook 267
4 Gustavo Yacaman 253
5 Scott Pruett 250
6 Ed Brown 233
6 Johannes van Overbeek 233
7 Ryan Dalziel 228
7 Oswaldo Negri Jr. 228
7 John Pew 228
7 Scott Sharp 228
8 Memo Rojas 218
9 Joel Miller 198
10 Olivier Pla 172
11 Tristan Nunez 164
12 Sylvain Tremblay 133
13 Brian Frisselle
14 Eric Curran 124
15 Boris Said 117
16 Alex Brundle 113
17 Tom Long 18
18 Sage Karam 104
19 Katherine Legge 102
120 Max Angelelli 85
21 Brian Frisselle 84
22 Andy Meyrick 82
23 Sebastien Bourdais 67
24 Marino Franchitti 60
25 Tristan Vautier 19 58
26 HoPin Tung 57
27 Jon Fogarty 1 54
28 Gabby Chaves 16 53
29 Simon Pagenaud 52
30 Mike Rockenfeller 51
31 David Brabham 50
31 Scott Dixon 50
31 Tony Kanaan 50
32 Guy Cosmo 46
32 Klaus Graf 46
32 Anthony Lazzaro 46
32 Lucas Luhr 46
33 Justin Wilson 43
34 Byron DeFoor 41
34 David Hinton 41
34 Jim Pace 41
35 Wayne Taylor 33
36 Fabien Giroix 31
36 John Martin 31
37 Alex Popow 30
38 Roman Rusinov 26
38 Oliver Webb 26
39 Kyle Larson 24
40 Frank Beck 23
41 Ben Devlin 22
41 Max Papis 22
41 Bradley Smith 22
42 Jamie McMurray 21
43 AJ Allmendinger 20
44 James Hinchcliffe 19
44 Jann Mardenborough 19
45 Alexander Rossi 16
45 Sebastian Saavedra 16
46 Brendon Hartley 15
46 E.J. Viso 15
47 Memo Gidley 14
47 Alex Gurney 14
48 Scott Mayer 1 3
49 Pierre Kaffer 1
49 Darren Law 1
It's crunch time for ALMS teams

by Greg Creamer
Saturday, August 08, 2009

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Lowe's backed Fernandez car
In both the figurative and literal, it most surely is “crunch time” for the competitors in the American Le Mans Series. But one doesn’t blend well with the other, and it poses a rather significant conundrum for the teams and drivers. Success in one sense may breed failure in the other. It is just this type of stretch in a championship battle that takes the balancing act that competitors face at every event and forces it to the extreme.

In the figurative sense, this is by far the busiest run of races this season. In August alone this weekend at Mid-Ohio kicks off three races in four weeks. Add in Lime Rock two weeks ago, and that’s four in seven. And it is in these types of stretches that championships are won or lost. 

This is when a team can string together a run of success and make a big move in the points battle, perhaps even leapfrog into the lead. A team that is truly hitting its stride, whose mindset is well prepared for the grind ahead and the challenges it presents, and whose collective nerve is unflappable and execution in all facets is near perfect - and repeatable - can find great fortune in the weeks ahead. Especially if they get a little help…

Ah, now there’s the rub, isn’t it? One’s help is usually another’s misfortune, and in the literal sense, “crunch time” is something to avoid at all costs in such a crucial period. And “crunch” doesn’t just mean contact. It includes mechanical breakage. It includes mental breakdown. Brake fade and brain fade.

And in the type of stretch we’re in; the affect of one failure can multiply exponentially over the next races. A big shunt and resultant thrash can take a physical toll on a crew, thereby increasing the chance through a combination of exhaustion, haste and the law of averages of another issue. Or, a simple mechanical failure or puncture or the like that results in a big hit in the points can take a mental toll on the team. And if rattled and distracted, the likelihood of something else going wrong rises dramatically. Ultimately, if a team isn’t up to the task, either scenario can result in crises. And while their competitors may not yet have won, they have already lost.

So, caution is surely the approach, yes? Don’t push the equipment too hard, don’t get too ‘racy’. Simple survival is clearly the best strategy. Keep your nose clean and just accrue points. Just be there at the end of each race. Yeah, that’s it!

But, what if another team is always there at the end of each race as well, and often a spot or two ahead of you? Sure, you’ve come through the stretch unscathed, everyone clean shaven and well rested with no circles under eyes which are bright and clear. But you’ve not only failed to gain in the points, but you’ve dropped further astern and your shot at the championship has slipped away.

We’re back to that delicate balancing act I mentioned earlier. Aggression versus caution, speed versus survival.  It’s not so much WHETHER to make the decision to fight or retreat, but knowing WHEN. And right there is the key, in the beloved term of engineers, to “optimizing” your results during the dog days facing the teams. The KNOWING. Success this August should tilt toward those with experience. 

The knowledge gleaned from having been through this before is invaluable. Sure, there is no doubt those who will ask “Yes, but what about luck?” Granting that there is always that sliver of purely random luck that can skew any strategy no matter how well planned and executed (proof? Patr¢n Highcroft at Lime Rock…), but there is truth in the old adage - or cliché to the jaded - that one makes their own luck. Having been there, done that and preparing for all the known possibilities as thoroughly as possible, is the greatest asset a team can have.

You still, however, must have in that recipe one more crucial ingredient…speed. No matter how solid your experience, prep and strategy, at this level you must also have the pace to outduel your competition, and in both driver and machine. You simply must have the right mix. For classic examples one need only look to both last year and this year at Le Mans. 

In 2008, Peugeot clearly had the speed. Pre-testing and qualifying proved that. But in the race, Audi’s experience generated a flawless strategy, and mated to the package of experience and speed the drivers had (and incomprehensible speed in all conditions of one McNish, Allan in particular!), they pulled off their most stunning victory at La Sarthe.

This year, after last year’s fast but mistake-ridden debacle, Peugeot learned from that EXPERIENCE, reoriented its program accordingly and, in what was surely a key adjustment, realized that sports car/endurance racing experience and not just raw speed in its drivers was vital. Was it just coincidence that the car that won had David Brabham as a pilot? I think not!!

And that points out the most exciting aspect about this next month is that the players in the American Le Mans Series are among the best in the world. When the car takes to the track it is prepped at a world class level. When it comes steaming down pit lane, the crews swarming over them are at the top of the game. And when the drivers decide to not fight for the moment, that adjustment can be in only hundredths of a second. Virtually undetectable in form, but massive in result.

While a team may well not be able to clinch by Augusts’ end, it can certainly keep or haul itself into the hunt. Conversely, it can just as surely take itself completely out of it. This is what multiclass international sports car racing is all about, and the game is afoot! So tune in and witness the wizardry, for it is in a stretch run like this that a team’s mettle is truly tested, and true champions are borne.

Greg Creamer is one of road-racing’s foremost broadcasters and personalities. He has been the play-by-play host for the American Le Mans Series, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Formula 1 and many other motorsport championships. His “From the Booth” commentary will periodically appear on americanlemans.com.

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