GM Racing season review

Pontiac Puts a Wrap on Successful Grand-Am Rolex Season Four championships highlight 2008 season Detroit, Mich., October 2, 2008 -- Pontiac has wrapped up the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 by garnering four ...

Pontiac Puts a Wrap on Successful Grand-Am Rolex Season Four championships highlight 2008 season

Detroit, Mich., October 2, 2008 -- Pontiac has wrapped up the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 by garnering four championships and a lot of steam as the team's head toward the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona in just 112 days.

* Banner Racing wins GT team championship
* Collins and Edwards win GT drivers championship
* Pontiac wins GT manufacturers title
* Stevenson Motorsports Davis and Liddell second in GT championship
* Seven Pontiac wins in GT
* Three Pontiac GT pole positions
* Pontiac GT teams led a collective 658 laps of 1,838 laps run, 36%
* Pontiac wins manufacturer title in Daytona Prototype
* GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing second in Daytona Prototype championship
* Three DP wins for Pontiac
* Five Pontiac DP pole positions
* 17 Pontiac DP podium finishes
* Pontiac DP teams led a total of 571 laps of 2,156 laps run, 26%

Pontiac won its first ever GT road racing championship on the strength of seven race wins by the Pontiac GXP.R. In 2007 it was the Daytona Prototypes (DP) cars that had Pontiac winning the championship in every category for the Rolex Series top class. In 2008 the Pontiac GT teams led the way with Banner Racing taking home the team championship, drivers Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins winning the drivers title and Pontiac taking the manufacturer trophy.

Leighton Reese's Banner Engineering Racing team with Collins and Edwards posted wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock Park and the finale at Miller Motorsports Park. They also graced the podium at Mexico City and Watkins Glen. The worst finish for the team was 11th at Mid-Ohio.

"We led the points with the 07 from Mexico City," Reese said. "We were sitting pretty sassy since Lime Rock. After the weight adjustment we just kind of lost our way. It wasn't because of the weight, because our lap times were still competitive. We had trouble putting a complete race together. One thing or another would conspire to put us down. Whenever our rivals would have a good finish we would get an eighth or 11th. Then at Barber we just had a bad race. The guys had a bunch of issues that made it a tough weekend. The engineers over came the weight admirably. The other teams got stronger and caught us off guard a little. We had big expectations at Montreal. It was no one's fault we came up a half cup of gas short going for a win and not just a finish. The team showed its true potential at Miller. Paul did an awesome job behind wheel, a career drive. We ended up lapping the field. It put a huge exclamation point on the season for us."

"After Lime Rock we got the weight and balance penalty," Edwards said. "The Mid-Ohio race kind of started our skid with the transponder failure causing us to lose two laps. Watkins Glen we had a fourth which wasn't too bad. At Barber we had a front row qualifying effort that sent us to the back for a ride height violation. It was tough to make up the ground. We were leading the championship and couldn't afford to take huge risks. We were in a little rut where we couldn't sacrifice the car, kind of in drive-safe mode. At the beginning of the year we were more aggressive and sticking our nose in there and going for it. We had our competitors making aggressive calls in the pits, which was paying off for them through the mid-part of the season. Even at the start of the season the 57 guys made a pit call which won them the race at Mexico City. They also had some strong mid-season performances that brought them back into the championship. At New Jersey I went off on the second lap of my stint and then we just had to go into safe mode. Everyone around us was running out of their minds. At Miller the car was running good and the track was good for the car. We were able to pull a gap and took a risk with the slicks after the rain, that really paid off. We were more aggressive and we knew we had to be on the podium to win. Everyone had that taste in their mouth going into the race, we were back in early-season mode. No tire issues, no back of the pack and we had a clean fast weekend that won us the championship. The ability of the team came to the front. We never lacked pace, just sometimes some luck."

"We had a good points lead after the Lime Rock Weekend," Collins said. "A couple things hurt us after that. We started being a little complacent and little too defensive as opposed to offensive. The weight and balance penalty hurt us as well. We started dead last in Alabama and just couldn't make up the deficit. We messed up at Montreal, but we were being aggressive going for the win. We ran a little scared at New Jersey. At Mid-Ohio we had the transponder go out because of the rain and to avoid being disqualified we had to pit and change it, that cost us a lap. Put all of that together and that is how what was a 46 point lead to the 57 car after Lime Rock becomes a six point lead going into Miller. At Miller we were supposed to have a third driver but Lawson (Aschenbach) got sick. Paul and I were determined to finish what we started and we came in with a winning plan and attitude, it worked out."

"We had incredible performances in both DP and GT this year," Steve Wesololski, GM road racing manager said. "The race at Lime Rock was a Pontiac performance infomercial with the cars leading nearly every lap in a GT only event. The season ending race with Paul and Kelly running a fault free race to win the championship in style with an overall GT victory was an impressive way to end the year. The Stevenson Motorsports team had a great year running their GXP.R for the first time. In DP at Mid-Ohio in changing conditions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty had a great race to take the checker. The Riley-Matthews guys had a good start to the season with a win at Mexico City. Pontiac had its best year yet in the series winning the GT team, drivers and manufacturer championship as well as the DP manufacturer title."

Another highlight of the year was the new to the Pontiac fold Stevenson Motorsports and their red-white-and-blue GXP.R. Drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis took to the car and the competition with vigor. The team won races at Mexico City, Virginia International Raceway (VIR) and Montreal. They also stood on the podium at Lime Rock Park, Watkins Glen, Daytona in July, New Jersey and at the Miller Motorsports Park season finale. The duo finished second in the GT drivers standings and team owner John Stevenson vowing to return for the number one GT trophy in 2009.

The GAINSCO Bob Stallings all dominating DP team from 2007 came into 2008 to defend their team and drivers titles. The team started the year with a second place finish at the Rolex 24 Hour and followed that up with a single victory at Mid-Ohio. The duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty also stood on the podium at Daytona in July, Watkins Glen, Infineon Raceway and at the finale at Miller Motorsports Park.

"The highlight of the year was definitely winning in Mid-Ohio," Gurney said. "It was our only win, that's kind of an easy pick. The race had very difficult conditions but we were able to persevere and come out on top. The low point was probably the short Daytona race where I was passed coming across the stripe to the checkered flag when it seemed we had the race in hand. That one hurt! I think only two things changed for us from '07 to '08 and that was the switch to Pirelli tires as well as the series engine rule changes that came at the end of last year. I think Pontiac was unnecessarily punished rules-wise for doing a great job last year. We did struggle initially with the tires but we felt we got a handle on them after a few races. I actually think our team was even better in '08 than in '07 in terms of pit stops and strategy but we really had very little luck. This season could have turned out quite different. I think we could legitimately claim that we were in a likely position to win in Mexico, VIR, Barber, and Montreal but just little things caused us problems."

"Our high point was the win at Mid-Ohio," Fogarty said. "We always strive to win, that is our ultimate goal and on that day we met our objectives. It was a bit of a relief as we had thought we would get a win prior to that, but luck just kept the win from coming, so it was a bit like getting the monkey off our back once again. Unfortunately we had almost too many low points to count, but Barber was a tough one. Once again we were leading after the last round of stops and things were looking good, but we all knew that it was not going to last as I had reported a clutch problem from the very first lap of the race. We knew from the start that things were not going to work-out, even though it appeared from the outside we had things under control. The just became a prolonged bummer."

"The magic that was missing (from 2007) was mostly luck. We just were on the wrong side of it all of '08, and when the competition is so close and the margins so small you simply can't win a championship under those circumstances. The team performed very well all season and we made the most of our given situations, but it just was not meant to be this year. 2007 was magical for sure, and we had all the pieces in place. Changes made to the competition rules between '07 and '08 didn't help us, it took away some of the advantage of having two pro drivers. Like I said, when the competition is so tight anything to shift the balance ever so slightly can have championship implications."

The 2005 series champion Max Angelelli and new co-driver Michael Valiante weathered a season of off track and on track misfortune to post a win at Infineon and podium finishes at Watkins Glen, New Jersey and Miller Motorsports Park. The team was developing their all new Dallara Pontiac starting with the second round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On the return trip from Laguna Seca the team's transporter burned down along with the new Dallara and support equipment. The Grand-Am community surrounded team owner Wayne Taylor and they made the next race at Watkins Glen with last years Riley and proceeded to finish third. The team also drove their Dallara to pole positions at VIR, Watkins Glen and Barber Motorsports Park.

Krohn Racing also ran the season with their new Proto-Auto Lola Pontiac DP cars. The green and blue cars showed their potential with podium finishes at Mexico City and Daytona in July. Ricardo Zonta put the car he shared with Nic Jonsson on the pole in the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park.

The Riley-Matthews Motorsports team got out of the box quickly in 2008. The team of Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews posted a win at Mexico City and podium finishes at VIR and Laguna Seca. A late season fade had Matthews finishing 12th in the season ending standings and Goossens in 15th.

Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona


No. 99 GAINSCO finishes second
Banner Racing No. 07 seventh in GT

The defending 2007 Rolex Series champions No. 99 GAINSCO team soldiered back from an early morning gear box change to finish second. This came after they swapped the lead several times throughout Saturday and Sunday morning. The big points paying weekend, sets the Texas based team up for another run at the Grand-Am championship. Drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Vasser drove a great race to be the top placing Pontiac in the DP field.

The four car Pontiac GXP.R contingent had a race plagued with contact. The No. 06, 07 and 72 each had an excursion into the pit road wall. The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsport GXP.R was struck by an out of control DP car. All of the GXP.R racers spent many laps in the paddock for repairs. Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Jan Magnussen battled back from a 20 lap deficit to be the highest placing Pontiac in GT, finishing seventh.

Homestead-Miami Speedway
Riley-Matthews fourth
Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT

Kelly Collins started the No. 07 Banner GXP.R from the pole and led right up to a few laps before handing the car over to Paul Edwards. The yellow hampered race, nine caution periods for 33 laps, kept the teams guessing on strategy. The Banner team performed faultless pit stops and the drivers were able to avoid the on track carnage to win.

The Riley-Matthews Pontiac DP car driven by Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens finished fourth. Matthews started the car from his sixteenth place qualifying position and was able to steer through the early yellows to hand over to Goossens. Goossens put together a great drive through the field to finish fourth, just missing the podium.

Mexico City
Riley-Matthews wins
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 wins in GT

Jim Matthews started the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac from deep in the field. Matthews turned over the controls to Goossens who set about utilizing excellent pit strategy to march through the field to the victory. The Belgian made a competitive pass for the lead on lap 71 and never looked back.

In only their third outing with the Pontiac GXP.R, Stevenson Motorsports won the GT race. Andrew Davis started from the second row and kept the No. 57 Pontiac in the top five. Robin Liddell took over and through a very long run on the track with old tires was able to secure the team's first ever Grand-Am win.

Virginia International Raceway
Riley-Matthews third
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 wins in GT

Stevenson Motorsports backed up their win just eight days before in Mexico City with another victory. Once again strategy separated the North Carolina based team from the field. Andrew Davis started the No. 57 from the outside front row and ran consistently upfront at the beginning of the race. Robin Liddell took over and a late race strategy call to pit for fuel only got the team out of the pits in front. The team showed once again that a balanced Pontiac GXP.R will get excellent tire ware.

In the Daytona Prototype category the Riley-Matthews team continued their consistent season. Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens finished third on the strength of a good start by Matthews and strong last stint by the Belgian. The team was a fixture at the front most of the day with Matthews leading four laps.

Laguna Seca
Riley-Matthews second
Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT

Kelly Collins started the No. 07 from the second row and was able to avoid the early carnage to hand the car over Edwards on lap 48. Edwards proceeded to drive according to strategy as well as miss the wayward cars throughout his stint. The race was marred with eight cautions periods for 32 laps. Edwards was going into the last lap running in second, when the leading Mazda got loose in the Corkscrew and went off the track. The off handed the lead and the win to the Banner team. The win is the second for the No. 07 car, the first coming in the second race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In the DP class the Riley-Matthews Pontiac with Goossens and Matthews once again showed their consistency by finishing second. Matthews started the car and handed it over to Goossens solidly in contention. Goossens used the many cautions to make up track position and put himself in a place to win the race. Goossens was able to get a run on the leader going into the Corkscrew, both cars went off track and when they recovered he was still in second place.

Lime Rock Park
Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT

The Banner team had the No. 07 and the No. 06 Pontiac GXP.Rs on differing strategies from the drop of the green flag in what was a caution free race. Jan Magnussen in the 06 Banner Pontiac pitted on the first lap, getting the 45-minute required pit stop out of the way early. Kelly Collins in the No. 07 Banner GXP.R had fallen back to fifth at the start as his strategy was to go the full 45-minutes. Meanwhile in the No. 72 Autohaus Pontiac, Tim Lewis Jr. was leading the race from his pole starting position. Lewis led the first 21 laps before pitting. As the pit stops cycled through the 06 of Magnussen took over the lead on the strength of his differing strategy. Magnussen turned the car over to sportscar legend Ron Fellows on lap 76, briefly surrendering the lead to the 07. When the 07 pitted the 06 took the lead until just three laps remained when Fellows spun in turn two handing the lead and the victory to Edwards.

Watkins Glen 1
SunTrust third
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 second in GT

In what became a yellow plagued race, nine cautions equaling 27 laps, complimented by 93-degree temperatures made it rough on drivers and crew at the track located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Andrew Davis started the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R from the fourth row. The team from North Carolina ran toward the front, led some laps and eventually finished second. The GXP.R teams were struggling with 100lb. weight penalty and no more than 49% weight on the rear tires assigned by the series following the last race at Lime Rock Park. Blistering tires were the order of the day. For Stevenson the second place finish compliments two wins at Virginia International Raceway and at Mexico City.

SunTrust racing got back to their competitive ways by finishing third after six-hours. The team that had to find everything to race including a car, pit equipment, tools, drivers suits and helmets rebounded with a third place finish. Nothing was salvageable from their transporter fire on the way home from Laguna Seca three weeks ago.

Mid-Ohio
GAINSCO Wins
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 second in GT

The race started under threatening skies. The Daytona Prototype and GT competitors started the race in the dry then on lap seven the sky opened up. In what became a rain soaked race with eight cautions allowing only 39 green laps of running.

The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team defended their win from last year at the track located just north of Columbus. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney got back to their winning ways in a renewed quest to defend their 2007 championship season.

In GT Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis finished second. After starting the weekend with setup difficulties the team qualified third and finished the race in second. Liddell was able to lead some laps late in the race.

The No. 07 Banner Racing team of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished 11th. The early part of the race had the 07 running in fourth. When the rain came the timing transponder on the car became inoperable. The officials forced the team to pit twice for repairs sending them down two laps.

Daytona International Speedway
GAINSCO second
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 third in GT

Jon Fogarty started the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac DP car from the front row. Fogarty was able to take over the lead on lap 37. Soon after Fogarty pitted and turned the wheel over to Alex Gurney. Gurney took over the lead again after the pit stops cycled through. The Californian then lost the lead to the 01 on lap 50 and then retakes the head spot on lap 57. A late race yellow flew on lap 61. Grand-Am then took the race green again with one lap remaining. Coming out of the Bus Stop turn and up on NASCAR turn four, the 01 car pulled alongside the 99 and beat them to the checkered flag by .081-seconds to account for the closest finish in Grand-Am history.

In GT Liddell and Davis made a late race run to the front finishing in third. Liddell took over the car late in the race and as teams got caught out by caution flags, good pit work and strategy had the team at the front. In the waning laps, Liddell took over second place and was not able to hold the position on the final restart settling for third.

Barber Motorsport Park
SunTrust sixth
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 fourth in GT

The near 100-degree heat proved to be a factor up and down pit lane playing havoc with tires, engines and drivers. Even with the heat the day started strong for the No. 57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R team. Andrew Davis started the red-white-and-blue 57 from his fourth place qualifying position and quickly went into second place. He turned the car over to teammate Robin Liddell who continued the charge at the front of the GT pack, leading 55 laps. Liddell was leading on lap 91 with only 15 laps remaining. However two caution periods flew during the last 15 laps which eroded the 10 second lead the team amassed. The heat and additional weight of the GXP.R used up the tires of the Pontiac allowing three pursuers to get by during the last two restarts relegating the team to a fourth place finish.

The SunTrust Pontiac was the highest placing Pontiac powered DP car coming to the checker in sixth place. Early in the race it was a Pontiac juggernaut at the front with the No. 76 Krohn Pontiac, the No. 10 SunTrust and the No. 99 GAINSCO car running one-two-and-three. What started out as a strong day for the Pontiac contingent steadily went away as the laps ticked down.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Cheever Racing second
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 wins in GT

The two-hour timed race became a strategy event for the Rolex Series GT competitors. The lack of a late race caution rewarded the teams that chose to pit on lap 37 of the 69 lap race. The Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 GXP.R was one of those that pitted for gas. The leading cars in the class stayed out, relegating them to mid-pack as they ran out of fuel on the last lap. Robin Liddell took the white flag, one lap remaining, in third position and crossed the line in first as the front two cars sputtered out of fuel. The Stevenson crew adds another win to their victories at Mexico City and Virginia International Raceway.

In the DP class the Montreal crowd witnessed some of the best racing of the season. Cheever Racing had their Coyote came alive for a second place finish. The team's best previous finish was ninth at Daytona in July. Christian Fittipaldi rejoined Antonio Garcia and the team that he has had a history with this weekend to help spark a successful finish.

Watkins Glen
GAINSCO second

The two-hour race started under dry conditions. Some eight laps in the rain began to fall on the front stretch of the track. Some teams decided to pit for rains, but the 99 team persevered on slicks. As the changing weather conditions had team's guessing, the 99 guys stayed on slicks and up toward the front.

The drama started on the reconnaissance lap for the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team. Racing driver Jon Fogarty had a moment on before the green putting the red 99 in the gravel at the Bus Stop. He was extricated and was able to start from his fourth place qualifying position. The duo had the car running as high as second in the race, but were never able to lead. The finish puts Fogarty and Gurney 39 back in the points.

Infineon Raceway
SunTrust wins

The 2.47-mile, 12-turn Infineon road course proved to be the perfect location for the SunTrust team's first win of the season. Michael Valiante started the race from pole position, which he inherited late last night when the original pole sitter was sent to the back following the post qualifying technical inspection. Valiante led every lap of his stint and then turned the car over to Angelelli. He reassumed the lead on lap 45 with a competitive pass on the leader and was never headed since then. The team led every lap of the 102 circuit event except 22.

The win was a special one as the team, owned by 2005 series champion Wayne Taylor, and has endured a difficult season. The team was returning from the race at Laguna Seca in May when their trailer caught fire in Texas and destroyed their first Dallara and all of their support equipment. The team was quick to rebuild and showed the tenacity today to win their first race of the season.

New Jersey Motorsports Park
SunTrust second
Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 second in GT

New Jersey Motorsports Park proved it may take a year of seasoning before it is truly a track that can be liked by all. The fans turned out from the tri-state area to see some of the best action of the year, some caused by the competitors, most attributed to the dust and dirt of this brand new racing facility. Five cautions for 27 laps hampered the speed of the race, with those caution periods used to blow dust and debris from the racing surface.

Andrew Davis started the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R from the front row and maintained second place right up to when he transferred the controls to teammate Robin Liddell. Liddell ran a conservative first part of his stint to let the race settle in. On the second half of his time in the car he began to move forward and took the lead of the GT race on lap 57 He couldn't hold off the charging 67 and with the big picture of the championship looming he ran a fast yet safe race to come home in second. Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins still lead the GT points with 337 in their Banner Pontiac GXP.R, with Liddell and Davis moving into second just five points out.

Valiante started from outside of the front row and by lap six he was in the lead. The No. 10 Dallara led up to the team's first pit stop. Valiante turned the wheel over to Max Angelelli who had some off course excursions but maintained his poise to comeback and finished second. The finish is the second best of the season. The bankers won the race just last weekend at Infineon.

Miller Motorsports Park
SunTrust second
Banner Racing No. 07 wins in GT

In ever changing weather conditions at Miller Motorsports Park the duo of Edwards and Collins were able to defend their race win from last year as well as close the 2008 Rolex Series season as the GT champions. The race had plenty of drama including a rain storm that saturated the racing surface. Collins was caught in the downpour and pitted on lap 77 for a driver change and rain tires under caution. The team then had Edwards return to pit lane before the race went green on lap 81 for slicks and this gave the team nearly a lap advantage on the rest of the GT field and was the deciding moment of the race.

In the Daytona Prototype race the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara driven by Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli finished second. The team had a strong race all day leading 12 laps. At the end Angelelli could not get a break to take the win.

The Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona will be the first race of the 2009 Grand-Am season and will be held January 24-25.

-credit: gm racung

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Teams Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports