IT'S ROLEX TIME Round 6.5, The Glen The Rolex Series' (presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 - now, doesn't that look better? Parenthetically speaking? The folks over at the Crown Royal Cask No. 16 distillery probably don't think so, however,...
IT'S ROLEX TIME
Round 6.5, The Glen
The Rolex Series' (presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 - now, doesn't that look better? Parenthetically speaking? The folks over at the Crown Royal Cask No. 16 distillery probably don't think so, however, one rushes to note that "Crown Royal Cask No. 16" now has been mentioned three-times in the span of one, opening paragraph. Motorsports.com rates for larger and more colorful ad space available on request) ... now, where were we?
Ah, yes ... the Rolex Series' GT cars raced at Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day weekend while the Daytona Prototypes rested. This writer wasn't sure how to exactly state the Rolex Series "round" when the GT guys are one-race up on the Daytona Prototype gang as the series heads into Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen. So, six-point-five sounds good to me.
Nevertheless, in Connecticut (2008 GT race No. 6), a solid second-place-running Paul Edwards and his Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R were following Banner sister-Pontiac race leader Ron Fellows when, before Edwards' very eyes, Fellows and all by his lonesome took an off-course excursion.
According to soon thereafter race-victor Edwards, such likely happened due to a difference in race strategies, putting Fellows on older tires and (ol' DC surmises) they simply weren't up to matching what Edwards' tires - connected to Edwards' brain via his foot and other associated anatomy - were able to put on the asphalt.
Having scored three 2008 wins, one has the feeling Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins (who in any paddock anywhere and at any time assuredly marches to a different drummer) apparently have no desire to be again caught-up in a last-season fight for the championship, as was the case in 2007 at Miller Motorsports Park where the top-three GT's undertook their own "toe-to-toe" battle whilst the top-three DPs were famously doing theirs.
Saturday's Rolex GT race is made all the better because defending Rolex Series GT champion Dirk Werner, winless to date in 2008, will be in Farnbacher-Loles' No. 87 Porsche GT3 with co-drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Wolf Henzler - the latter having scored 2005 and 2006 GT-class wins at The Glen.
Though second in driver points - just 19-points out of first - Spencer Pumpelly (who won The Glen six-hour with Andy Lally in 2007) and Tim George Jr. are seeking to reverse an otherwise winless season as Kevin Buckler's The Racers' Group seeks its first victory of 2008 (if one doesn't count TRG Motorsports' recent Craftsman Truck win). On Tuesday, Pumpelly hinted at Lally perhaps rejoining the team for Saturday's enduro.
For 2008, the GT-class "elite" has all but been thrown into turmoil by Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham's Mazda Rolex 24-winning RX-8 along with Stevenson Motorsports' Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, who have countered four top-10's and two wins in their Pontiac GTO.R with 17th and 24th-place finishes at Laguna Seca and Homestead-Miami, respectively.
Introducing 100 pounds of dead weight to the Pontiac models this Saturday might prove a challenge perhaps too difficult to immediately overcome - no doubt making the Pontiac crowd madder than wet hens (that Collins guy, if not GM's Mark Kent, can really sing the blues, too).
Racers - God bless their pea-picking hearts - don't want "just" to win but dominate the action.
Don't we all?
If I had motorsports writing to only myself, readers would be bored to tears - even if I might finally have that Boeing 747 and French chalet for which I've so ardently longed and, assuredly, unfairly denied.
SPEAKING OF THE BLUES
Despite suggestions to the contrary and unlike the 2007 Salt Lake City Sunchaser where his No. 10 SunTrust DP quite literally "flamed" out, Massimiliano "Max The Axe" Angelelli was not at the wheel of the SunTrust transporter when it commenced burning somewhere east of Amarillo, Texas, following May's Laguna Seca race whilst returning to its Indy home.
Given the damage, the hauler likely was aflame for awhile before drivers Larry Harmon and Buddy Johnson even detected it.
I don't know about you, but it is at this point that I'm reminded of the 1987 John Candy and Steve Martin comedy, "Trains, Planes and Automobiles," wherein during one Interstate highway-travel scene the occupants of a nearby car shouted warnings to Del Griffith (Candy) and Neal Page (Martin) who, at least initially, disbelieved the exhortations.
Insofar as can be established, the SunTrust guys weren't "going the wrong way" (nor was anyone yelling anything at them) but the SunTrust rig still suffered an eventual all-consuming fire that, like Griffith and Page's, proved to be yet another "side trip" in the SunTrust team's journey of the last two seasons.
Only, this one was "for real," wasn't comedic and had considerable impact lasting beyond the movie's mere 93-minute length.
Indeed, I don't even see the SunTrust guys "laughing about it, someday."
As a result of the tribulation, a 2008 Rolex 24 fifth-place-finishing and far more familiar silhouette will reappear as the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley DP returns for Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen at Watkins Glen International.
Taking the thought-train back to the 2007 season - when the SunTrust team in earnest started its break from a longtime winning association with Bill and Bob Riley - and even with a decent, 2007 third-place points finish - it's still pretty much been an uphill climb for SunTrust's Wayne Taylor and crew.
>From team members' mid-summer's conversion of a warehouse shell to an expansive shop; to veritable last-minute, off-season prep of two cars for the Rolex 24 (the Toshiba No. 9 Pontiac-Riley with Ryan Briscoe, Kurt Busch and Helio Castroneves finished third in the Rolex 24); and, more so, in 2008 switching to an all-new but now thoroughly toasted Dallara DP chassis, the SunTrust team's members have had to reach deeper than many of us might be capable of imagining.
My hat's off to them.
GRINDING IT OUT, WGI-STYLE
The Rolex Series' second "enduro" of the 2008 season (though the triple-digit temps at Laguna Seca made that 2:45:24.253-hour race feel much, much longer - like about 2:45:24.256) is at hand with Saturday's Six Hours Of The Glen.
The multiple-elevation, 11-turn, 3.4-mile Glen sportycar course is a driver and team favorite and, as a result, brings forth the best from most of them during a race that at various times is both a sprint and a grind.
At this event a year ago, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty scored the Bob Stallings No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac-Riley team's second Rolex Series victory.
When taking a rearview-mirror glance at what the team did in 2007, it takes a moment to realize their Glen victory wasn't just the team's second victory that season but at the time its second victory, period.
As though gliding on invisible rails, the No. 99 car made the 2007 Glen race look little more than a sprint - because that's exactly what the blood-red 99 was able to do each time the green flag flew.
Ironically, eventual 2007 Rolex Series DP driving champs Fogarty and Gurney came into The Glen last year sitting seventh in points. For the 2008 season, the winless duo presently sits third in the championship run. (Yes, "official" points standings show the 99 duo "fifth" in points. This writer disputes the series' mathematical "reasoning" when five (place) and six (drivers) are neither the reciprocal of the other, no doubt leaving Sir Isaac Newton spinning.)
At this time back in 2007, though, beyond a few inaccurate accusations the Gainsco DP had yet to really set the paddock to scratching its collective head (other than head polishing; some thinking such to be the "voodoo Fogarty do") and "seven-post" testing had yet to become an oft-used part of the series' lexicon.
More than a few teams would hop on the posts as the 2008 season emerged and such has helped to considerably, though not solely level the 2008 playing field - although Lexus has supposedly gained something like a gazillion more horsepower (Seniores Pruett y Rojas and their No. 01 Telmex Riley being the greater beneficiaries, of course).
While Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates' (and Tim Keene, who is capably stepping out of talented Ganassi Director Mike Hull's shadow) have showed dogged determination this season, four different DP teams have won races in the Rolex Series' season's first five 2008 races.
Other teams like the No. 58 Porsche of Brumos Racing (David Donohue/Darren Law) and No. 61 Aim Motorsports' (Brian Frisselle/Marc Wilkins) keep knocking on the door, big time.
Kevin Doran's experience (who has more Glen wins, short and long races, than any other active owner) with his Nos. 47 (Burt Frisselle/Gabriele Gardel/Richard Antinucci) and 77 (Memo Gidley/Brian Jaeger) Ford-powered Dallaras can't be discounted.
How about Mike Shank's Nos. 06 and No. 60 cars? The 2008 Rolex 24's entire front row has been consistently quick, with Ozz Negri and Mark Patterson due for a win especially after a dismal Laguna - where the duo once raised eyebrows with a pole.
(Watching "300" the other night, something seemed familiar about the manner in which Spartan "King Leonidas," played by Scot Gerard Butler, carried himself. Finally, it came to me: John Pew, who shares the 06 MSR car with Ian James.)
Folks, there are at least 15 Daytona Prototypes which have a legitimate chance at winning this year's Glen.
Laugh if you desire, but the win at Laguna Seca by the No. 2 SAMAX BMW-Riley (an original Riley, too) of Ryan Dalziel (another Scot; they're everywhere, even in NASCAR) and Henri Zogaib should be proof-positive any team in this series can win - because (with all due respect, Peter Barron) most didn't even remotely consider the Samax team capable of winning at Laguna or, perhaps, anywhere else. Such thought now having been put to rest.
As a result, how can one discount anyone at all from scoring a podium in this series?
THE No. 23 RUBY TUESDAY Porsche-Crawford from Alex Job Racing will assuredly be drawing a crowd this weekend at The Glen.
The highly anticipated new Crawford DP008 design from the (somewhat different) mind of Andy Scriven has for months been the object of much speculation in the Rolex Series' paddocks.
Inasmuch as prototypical racing has long been synonymous with experimentation, one shouldn't expect much from the Ruby Tuesday's Glen visit - except fighting others in getting close enough to see it.
ABESENT SINCE ROUND 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, The Spirit of Daytona's Porsche V-8 (Cayenne) powered Coyote returns to action at The Glen.
Rolex Series' 2003 DP champ Terry Borcheller, Guy Cosmo and Marc-Antoine Camirand will share the driver's seat.
After a surprisingly strong sixth-fastest HMS qualification run the car ran as high as a competitive fourth until Cosmo and car went off-course and slid into one of HMS' notorious and widely disliked gravel traps.
"It was an 'off' of the type that on just about any other track would've maybe knocked a few tenths off his lap but instead at Miami effectively ended our race," Spirit owner Troy Flis said.
"We've been working with both Eddie Cheever on the Coyote and (engine-builders) Lozano Brothers on the engine. We've made some aerodynamic strides that should be favorable at a downforce track like The Glen and great strides have been made in lightening the engine. We're looking to come out with a top-five."
Later - at The Glen (and my thanks to John Saunders and JJ O'Malley for resurrecting it).
DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com