Lienhard Sr. and Theys finish second in the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd ...
Lienhard Sr. and Theys finish second in the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 in the Paul Revere 250 at Daytona.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., July 5 - Didier Theys had his hands full keeping Butch Leitzinger at bay in the late stages of the Jani-King Paul Revere 250 Grand Am Rolex Series race at Daytona International Speedway, allowing Leitzinger's team car driven by James Weaver and Chris Dyson to pad its lead and win the 70-lapper in the wee hours of the morning Friday.
Theys, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and his co-driver, Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Erlen, Switzerland, ended up in second place, just 4.324 seconds behind Weaver's Dyson Riley & Scott Ford #16. Theys and Lienhard Sr. were behind the wheel of their Rolex 24-winning Doran-Lista Racing Dallara Judd #27, which is headquartered in Lebanon, Ohio.
Just like the midnight ride of Paul Revere 227 years ago, the turning point of the race came almost at the stroke of midnight. That's when a full-course yellow waved for a Corvette's fender lying on the frontstretch. Theys had been blazing through the field prior to that yellow, moving up from sixth after the team's last pit stop at 11:41 p.m.
Just four minutes before that last caution waved Theys had taken third place from Elliott Forbes-Robinson, and he looked like he was headed for the front. Indeed, by team manager Kevin Doran's calculations, if Theys would have been able to keep that pace up, the team would have ended up on top of the podium.
Although Theys had about 599 more horsepower with his five-liter Judd engine than Revere had with Deacon John Larkin's borrowed mare "Brown Beauty" and there was no sign of the electrical problem the team experienced at Watkins Glen, the Goodyear tires on the Doran-Lista #27 just weren't quite as good after that last yellow as they were before it. At eight minutes after midnight Theys took second place from George Robinson, but he spent the rest of the race defending that spot from Leitzinger rather than chasing down Weaver for the overall victory.
The battle was a doozy.
"In one way the yellow helped us because the field closed up, but in another way it hurt us because the tires went away after that last yellow," Theys said after the race. "I had to protect myself. I had to brake quite late. He was better in turn six, but I was better in the chicane. He was all over me on the backstretch.
"Our car was fine after our last pit stop on a full tank of fuel, but I just couldn't keep the same pace after that last yellow," Theys concluded.
Theys won the pole for the July 4 holiday classic on Tuesday night with a lap in 1:41.421, which calculates to be an average speed of 126.384 mph around the 3.56-mile infield road course.
When the green waved Leitzinger jumped the start and the Doran-Lista car fell back to fourth place. Eventually Leitzinger was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for that infraction. He appeared to also speed on pit road leaving the pits, but he got away with that one.
That put the Doran-Lista #27 in third place, but by 10:30 p.m. Theys had his car back into second. He passed the Dyson #16 for the lead seven minutes later, so he was the leader when he pitted for four tires and fuel and to let Lienhard take over at 10:53 p.m.
"It was my strategy to save my tires at the start of the race, and it worked perfectly," Theys said later. "They had used their tires up a lot by lap 15 and I still had good rubber, so I could pass them pretty easy. This way Fredy would be in a good position when he started his stint, which was my goal.
"The car worked very well all night; the engine, the gearbox and the brakes were good," Theys added. "It was very slippery because really it was a green racetrack. The rain we had cleaned up the track, so it was very slippery."
A thunderstorm played havoc with the schedule, postponing NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying until Friday morning and advancing the start of the Paul Revere 250 by an hour.
Lienhard, who hadn't competed since the team won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in February, hung stoutly in the top five and was in fourth place when he pitted for four fires, fuel and to let Theys back in the car at 11:41 p.m.
"Right before that pit stop, I got off the course a little in the wet grass," Lienhard related when he climbed out. "That was a close call, but the car is very good!"
After the last round of pit stops Theys had about 20 laps to go and 24 seconds to make up on the leader, the Dyson #16.
"We need one second a lap, Didier, and I think you can do it," team manager Kevin Doran told him over the radio.
He almost pulled it off, but the tire situation on the last restart just a dozen laps from the end changed that scenario.
"It was a good race," Lienhard said after the podium ceremonies. I haven't driven since the Rolex 24 and I had to get used to things again, but I did OK. I hope to run again at the race in Canada, which will be my first race co-driving with my son. Anytime you think you can win and you don't you feel a little disappointed, but it was a super job for the whole team."
"We didn't lose much in the point battle, either," Theys added.
The winning car led 50 laps of the 70-lap race. The Doran-Lista #27 was second in the "laps led" category with 15 laps, while the Dyson #20 led four laps and the Robinson #74 led one lap.
Only four Grand Am Rolex Series races remain: the Bully Hill Vineyards 250 Aug. 8-9 at Watkins Glen, N.Y.; a race at Virginia Int'l Raceway in Alton, Va., on Aug. 29-Sept. 1; an event at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada Sept. 13-15 and the season finale back here at Daytona Nov. 8-10.