Record crowd turned out in NJ for Grand-Am race The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 drew a record crowd for the second consecutive weekend in Sunday's Verizon Wireless 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Only eight days after the Bosch Engineering 250 had a record event attendance at Virginia International Raceway, Sunday's Round 3 of the Grand-Am Rolex Series saw a 30 percent gain despite steady rain at Thunderbolt Raceway, part of the Millville, N.J., racing complex.
"Under these conditions, this was a hearty showing by dedicated race fans," said Kevin Wittman, General Manager of New Jersey Motorsports Park. "The entire Mid-Atlantic region, including South Jersey, is really embracing road racing and this facility. This weekend's attendance is a testament to that."
Many of the Grand-Am Rolex Series drivers competing in the event remarked on the size of the crowd despite the conditions.
"I was really surprised at the turnout," said David Donohue, winner of the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona and fourth-place finisher Sunday in the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley. "Under the yellow flag, I was looking around at the people in the stands with umbrellas, waiting it out in the rain. That was pretty amazing, and my hat's off to them."
The weekend included a capacity crowd for the autograph session, featuring all of the Rolex Series drivers, and a 30-minute Fan Walk where the pre-race grid was open, free of charge, to all spectators.
"The crowd was great," said Brian Frisselle, driver of the third-place finishing No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara. "I couldn't believe it when we were driving around under yellow, the grandstands were completely full. I thought, 'These people are crazier than we are.' I love the track, I love being here, and I'm happy we put on a great show."
Patrick Dempsey, who finished a career-best seventh in the No. 40 El Grado Tequila Mazda RX-8, was pleased by the response of the Millville/Vineland communities.
"I'm seeing a difference in the community itself," said the star of ABC's Grey's Anatomy. "There's a whole new confidence downtown. I know some people don't like the noise, but I think it's a great thing for the community. I think the fan support is really great here. A lot of people came out. I was very happy to sign a lot more autographs, and we ran out of pictures. I think the future for this track is very strong."