PATRON HIGHCROFT EXTEND CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH STRONG PETIT LE MANS RESULT
BRASELTON, GA, Saturday, September 26, 2009: While its championship lead looked shattered among hundreds of pieces of broken carbon fiber on Thursday afternoon, Patron Highcroft Racing bounced back in today's rain-shortened Petit Le Mans to not only return to the track, but extend its lead in the LMP1 championship.
Scott Sharp was able to walk away from the frightening crash on Thursday that destroyed the championship-leading Acura ARX-02a.
Armed with a new tub from Honda Racing Development on Friday morning, the team began a round-the-clock build process that put Sharp, David Brabham and Dario Franchitti back into today's race.
The dramatic build earned the hard-working crew significant adulation from fellow teams and race fans.
After starting from the rear of the grid, the trio finished sixth overall in the "Petit" Petit Le Mans - giving Sharp and Brabham an additional four point buffer in the championship. The Patron Highcroft duo now hold a 21-point lead over Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud.
The race was declared after only 184 of the scheduled 394 laps due to the extreme weather. Peugeot drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny took the overall win.
To clinch the championship, the Patron Highcroft crew now only has to complete 70 percent of the race distance at the final round of the year - the four-hour Laguna Seca event in two weeks.
While today's result extended the team's championship advatage, it also played a part in helping end malaria deaths in Africa through the team's Miles to End Malaria campaign.
Former American Idol star Melinda Doolittle joined the team today in support of the fundraising campaign - singing the national anthem, waving the green flag at the start of the race and joining the team in the pits.
The team completed an additional 457 miles - pushing the season's total to 3,362. With support from the team, Tequila Patron and American Le Mans Series fans, the campaign has now raised $56,784 to tackle the affects of malaria in Africa.
"My guys did a great job and I am very proud that their efforts have made Patron Highcroft Racing into a highly respected race team.
"Ever since we first became a part of the Acura program, we have worked night and day to provide value for them. We were the little team from Connecticut up against the big names.
"My guys share my extreme passion for the sport. We love what we do and we know we must do all we can to provide value for our partners and sponsors.
"They don't take no for an answer. We have worked incredibly hard to hold this championship lead throughout the year and were going to do whatever it took to ensure we came away with points today.
"To actually extend our lead in the championship is a bonus. But the job isn't done, we will be very focused in the final race at Laguna Seca to ensure we complete the task we set to do at the start of the year."