Detroit, Mich. – With some great driving and speedy pit work, the 2012 Chevrolet GRAND-AM 200 at Belle Isle winning team of Action Express Racing returned to the Detroit podium for the second consecutive year when Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa drove the No. 5 Corvette DP to second place in a hard fought two-hour sprint race through the streets of Belle Isle.
Both Action Express Daytona Prototypes opened the race with a clean start – avoiding the first-lap melee that brought out the race’s first full course caution. The team took advantage to bring both DP machines to pit road for fuel.
Fittipaldi restarted sixth in the No. 5 Corvette with Burt Frisselle directly behind in the No. 9 Daytona Prototype. Working as two cars, but one team, the Action Express duo ran together in line as they worked their way up the order to run fifth and sixth with Fittipaldi chasing down the fourth place No. 3 Daytona Prototype.
Meanwhile Frisselle got caught out while working through GT traffic when a slowing GT machine made contact with the No. 9 Corvette leaving the Daytona Prototype stranded on course with damage as Frisselle was unable to drive back to pit lane.
That brought out the second full course caution of the race and the No. 5 DP took advantage of its sister car’s misfortune, pitting for fuel, tires and a driver change. The Action Express Racing team delivered a blisteringly fast pit stop which leapfrogged them up the order three positions to return the No. 5 to the track second with Barbosa behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, the GRAND-AM officials moved the No. 9 car off track rather than allowing it to be returned to the garage. So the Action Express crew went to work – carrying tools and replacement parts all the way to Turn 5 in order to make the suspension repairs. As hundreds of fans in the grandstand erupted in cheers, the team completed their work and the No. 9 returned to the race with Brian Frisselle at the wheel.
When the field went back to green flag racing with 45 minutes remaining, Barbosa ran second while defending against a pack of hungry DPs following close behind. He continued to run just behind the leader when a final full course caution was displayed, setting up a dash to the finish with less than nine minutes to go in the race.
Once again Barbosa drove masterfully through the Belle Isle streets--both attacking the leading No. 10 Chevrolet while defending fast competitors in close pursuit. As the checkered flag flew, Barbosa took second at the finish and a booked return trip for Action Express to the Detroit podium.
“I’m happy to get on the podium, to get second with Corvettes first and second,” offered team manager Gary Nelson. “It was a tough race to keep that Ford behind us, but I’m very happy for the folks from Corvette and the whole Chevrolet family that were all here today.
The No. 9 car just had a tough break there with a suspension part going out after getting caught up in that traffic. We just charged forward from the beginning. We think those long yellows may have taken away some of the time we could have made. We were kind of saving a little bit for the last few minutes, and it turned out that last long yellow kind of took away our plan. “
Action Express Racing will return to GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series action in two weeks at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course June 13-15. SPEED will carry live coverage of the event.
Christian Fittipaldi, No. 5 Corvette DP: “It’s the second time I’ve been really, really close [to victory at this place] so I guess it owes me one. Maybe next year! But I’m happy that we finally managed to put a whole race together without any problems and I think that the results show that. Hopefully we’re going to work well from here onwards and make up all the ground that we lost at the beginning of the year, and see where we are a couple races down the road.”
Joao Barbosa, No. 5 Corvette DP: “With all the yellows, I never got to play with traffic and try to get an advantage. It’s really hard to pass here. We just needed a good result. We didn’t want to risk a podium or a good result in this race. We’ve had so much misfortune in the previous races and we really wanted to start off right for the rest of the season. This is a great time to turn it around and start getting good results. I’m positive the team can do that and I’m looking forward to the next couple of months.”
Burt Frisselle, No. 9 Corvette DP: “It’s disappointing because you don’t want the little things to beat you, and today one of the little things beat us with GT traffic, and it’s just disappointing. The GT car was slower than he normally would be, and then obviously wasn’t using his mirrors.
And I’m sad that we just can’t get a result for the No. 9 guys. They work so hard and they deserve a good result and it’s just a bummer that it didn’t end better. The team came out to me on track and made the repairs. Outside Turn 5 they were making repairs. And you should have seen this group of guys come out in front of a grandstand, fixing the race car.
They get it back together and the whole stand starts cheering for them. Talk about resiliency, talk about what a great group of guys you want to go racing with. It’s this group of guys and I’m just heartbroken that we couldn’t give them a result that those guys deserve.”
Brian Frisselle, No. 9 Corvette DP: “Today I really have to thank the crew for doing that [going and fixing the car] for me. They worked hard. For whatever reason the officials wouldn’t bring the car back to pit lane, but the crew was able to fix it at the corner, so hats off to them, and hats off to the No. 5 guys for doing such a great job.
It was great strategy by the team—just an all-around solid job. It’s just unfortunate. It’s one of those racing things, but we just got to put this one behind us and look forward to the next one at Mid-Ohio.”
Action Express Racing